The Human Rights Watch report for 2020 showed that weak domestic and regional institutions have undermined human rights in several Southern African Development Community member countries.

The report said despite commitments to protect human rights in their constitutions South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Eswatinini struggled to promote human rights and failed to play a leadership role in placing human rights issues on the regional agenda.

The report says South Africa has done little to ensure that citizens enjoy human rights. It said economic insecurity, poverty, high unemployment, and inciting rhetoric by government officials, were among other factors that led to xenophobic violence in 2019.

Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch Dewa Mavhinga says the country needs a more human rights-oriented approach in its domestic and foreign affairs policy.

The report also highlight three issues of concern in Nigeria, which include the clampdown of peaceful protests, two bills introduced in 2019 designed to curtail online freedom of expression – and how the Boko Haram insurgency is still impacting on human rights in the country.

Deputy programme director for Human Rights Watch Babatunde Olugboji says this is a crucial year for human rights in Africa, with over 20 countries holding elections including Burundi, Ghana and Tanzania amongst others.

The 652-page 2020 World Report reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries.