Rights group, Amnesty International South Africa, says the use of COVID-19 as an excuse to crackdown on human rights as illustrated by police brutality and loss of livelihoods makes it difficult to celebrate the 27 years of democracy in the country.
The rights group says Freedom Day in South Africa comes at a time when the impact of COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating in most respects.
“It is now more than ever that we need the government to put the people first and ensure that everyone is afforded their basic human rights,” says Amnesty International South Africa Executive Director, Shenilla Mohamed.
Amnesty International’s annual report, which looks at the state of human rights around the world, found in 2020 that the COVID-19 pandemic had laid bare the massive systemic inequality worldwide that denied many their basic human rights. In South Africa, the report highlighted the increased use of excessive and lethal force by security forces, with some 115 people dying in police custody, the soaring cases of gender-based violence and xenophobic social media campaigns.
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It also highlighted how children faced significant inequalities and hardship in the public education system, the risk health workers faced during the pandemic because of a lack of PPE, the restricted access of women to sexual and reproductive health services, and the fact that millions of people did not have access to safe drinking water.
“It is clear that in the past 27 years while there has been some progress in changing poor people’s living conditions, the major problem has been tackling service delivery and inequality. The fact that many people are still taking to the streets to demand basic service delivery shows that a lot still needs to be done,” Mohamed says.
“People will never experience true freedom until and unless they are able to have dignified and safe lives where their human rights are respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled,” she adds.
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