Follow Mandela's example, says Human Rights Commission

Poverty remains a barrier to human rights in South Africa. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Poverty remains a barrier to human rights in South Africa. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

International Human Rights Day, celebrated annually on December 10, could best be upheld by following the example of Nelson Mandela, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Tuesday.

"[We] call on everyone to commemorate International Human Rights Day to advance the human rights legacy of former president Nelson Mandela, and promote and protect the rights and dignity of all people everywhere," spokesperson Isaac Mangena said on Tuesday, the day of Nelson Mandela's memorial service at FNB Stadium south of Johannesburg.

South Africa has made some progress towards realising human rights since 1994 – in areas such as housing, health care and economic growth – but problems remain.

"For the commission, the work related to mining activities and the impact on socioeconomic rights; questions on poor service delivery and its impact on water and sanitation ... speak to the need to increase our attention on addressing the impact that business has on the realisation of human rights," he said.

Mangena said other barriers to universal human rights were poverty, with its direct bearing on access to socioeconomic rights, and deterioration of the environment. A clean environment helps people get access to food and water, which in turn is critical to dignity and health.

Human trafficking is also a major concern, Mangena said.
"Often, individuals are not able to exercise their right to security because states are not able to enforce protective laws that are aimed at addressing abuse, especially against women and children," he said.

"As we celebrate 20 years of working for human rights, let us ensure that every person living in South Africa is treated with equality and with dignity. This is what makes us all human."

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