The South African constitution in its preamble reads, We, the people of South Africa, recognise the injustices of our past… This is an important acknowledgement yet the injustices of the past, however today anomalies of the present register new injustices, if not human rights violations, of a citizenry.
Coloured communities have in recent times expressed their longstanding suspicion of marginalisation and disenfranchisement despite an egalitarian constitution that seeks to confirm a citizenry in equality of humanity. As a result of this claimed suspicion we saw Coloured communities in protest action last week with Eldorado Park as epicentre, though it was not limited to Gauteng ) but went as wide as Port Elizabeth, Helenvale.
This week we heard that the newly established Eldorado Park Interim Steering Committee, a group that was invited to meet with politicians including the Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, the MEC for Human Settlements Paul Mashatile and the Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba, finally accepted our proposed request to bring their existence and claim of housing focus in submission to the already on-going SAHRC process.
The SAHRC process is currently working on May 28, 2017, a mass meeting to be hosted in Eldorado Park. It remains the people’s meeting but the SAHRC will facilitate and chair this gathering. It is important that politicians respect this process and abide by its leadership for a comprehensive way forward.
This is a crucial step in the right direction since this helps us to register the more than eight plausible human rights violations claims we have now termed in group sense as punitive inequality. The SAHRC in its interactions as invited by some Eldorado Park and extended communities confirmed that they have a process underway to ascertain plausible human rights violations that may have occurred over the period of intense violence and looting that has left much infrastructure destroyed.
The meeting raised the Rationale For A Claim of Human Rights Violations by the State, in particular its officials that define the State.
It is accepted that the South African society remains a heavily unequal society. The triplets of unemployment, inequality and poverty hold us ransom and threaten to hold us in such in eternity.
When we recognise that inequality of the South African society we also will argue that this inequality has another ‘created’ dimension that militates our constitutional diaphragm and premise. The case will be made that this inequality is the result of officials who can decide how and where to deny former coloured communities what the constitution rightfully affords all in definition of citizenry. When we talk of former coloured areas, it is in full cognisance that South Africa as a society in principle no more has black, coloured, Indian and white exclusive areas. It is not to argue for this unacceptable practice to continue, it is to ask for the practical reality of how these new communities live and breathe.
The meeting that was called by Minister Sisulu, Mashatile and Mashaba, which took place in Pimville, perhaps was an attempt to prove the insensitivity of the State to engage the communities which became the centre point of the most recent uprisings. The State as led by its Minister did not meet with the communities that raised the issues, it in convenience chose to lump the protesting communities to an umbilical chord evidenced in Soweto. This was clearly insensitive for the protesting communities registered essentially the former Coloured communities.
When we argue punitive inequality, it is in recognition that the most recent usage of the construct was used in the meeting leaders had with the SAHRC. The nature of this inequality is that it is aimed at exacting a penalty for a narrow understanding of exercising of democratic franchise to choose whatever party it chooses.
It therefore becomes punitive for it is aimed at punishing a community for its otherness and otherness narrowly defined in colouredism.
It will be our case to argue that whilst the constitution confirms our equal citizenry the State and its apparatus immanent in people (officials) assumes a convenient liberty to exact this punitive inequality to a particular group defined as coloured.
It is then also convenient to narrow the case of a punitive inequality claim as limited to housing as the only need. Therefore to keep us hostage with a narrow housing claim and not human settlements is to misunderstand that a house is a house because it must function in the sphere of a settlement that inculcates access to health care, essential services, education, recreation, work and business opportunities
To focus on housing as a top-structure for a family is to naysay the fullness of a reality of the marginalisation and disenfranchisement:
What then makes up our claims for human rights violation measurable in punitive inequity?
- As a South African citizenry and people we are still enslaved in identity as race configured and race constrained. The State has adopted these without the consultation of its citizenry or clients. The State continues with this from the history of colonial and apartheid pasts. The State, in denying its citizenry their constitutional right to identify free from the conflated and racialised paradigm of race, commits a human rights violation.
- The State has hitherto failed to present an opportunity for South Africans to self-define. As a people we are denied the right to self define because the State continues to misidentify us in political expediency. The misidentification of people must constitute a human rights violation.
- The right to be heard in a mother tongue in particular at our essential services such as police, health and education is denied when citizens are forced to speak English because those who must serve them at a police station or health clinic simply can’t speak the language the people are comfortable with.
- Whilst the communities claim transformation, the face of the State in these communities appears consciously sensitive in places like Soweto, when it betrays that same sensitivity to have local people present at the state offices.
- The right to job opportunities facilitated through State-sponsored programmes and initiatives, for example EPWP as based in the locality and communities, are denied when external people are brought into a community to benefit from such.
- The right to business opportunities from State-sponsored initiatives for local business remains compromised when projects and business opportunities in the community are given to others from outside.
- The challenge of access to further education, youth from coloured communities appear sidelined to access the same opportunities for development, to attend tertiary and other institutions to qualify to make a living in SA.
- It appears coloured communities do not benefit in the same sense from the reprieves of utility bill exemptions and waivers that areas like Soweto have benefited from on many occasions. This has to constitute a human rights violation.
- Job opportunities in the State appears to be reserved for black Africans, as coloured people are sidelined.
It cannot be that when South Africans access the right to elect their preferred political parties, an official who does not share their choice for a particular party may disrespect that constitutional franchise as base to deny them their citizenry rights to access as enshrined in the constitution.
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine