This week in 1994: Democracy 25

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This week we reflect on one of the milestones reached by South Africa’s new Government of National Unity in its bid to ensure that the country’s hard won democracy is protected and its values of human dignity, equality and freedom are respected and upheld.

Parliament’s Justice Select Committee approved the Human Rights Commission Bill on the 10th of November 1994. It was signed into law on the 23rd of the same month.

The Bill sought to regulate the establishment of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the appointment of commissioners and the conferring of powers and duties.

The Act has since been repealed and replaced with the South African Human Rights Act 40 of 2013.

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SAHRC’s Mandate

The South African Human Rights Commission promotes; documents and monitors human and socioeconomic rights.

It also handles individual complaints and initiates probes into claims of human rights abuses.

The commission has dealt with various human rights violation complaints like the water crisis in Hammanskraal and the Vaal as well racism cases, including those against South Africa’s first convicted racist Former Estate Agent, Vicki Momberg and Springbok rugby player, Eben Etzebeth.

It has cited 2016/2017 as a period where it received most complaints about racism and infringements of socioeconomic rights.

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The SAHRC also promotes collaboration between all spheres of government, civil society, academic community and regional and international bodies that support democracy.

Since its inception, the institution says it has contributed to more than 40 major legislation with wider implications for the dignity, rights and well-being of South Africans.