South Africa’s government has come under sharp criticism on Freedom Day from international human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI) for the violation of its citizens’ rights under the Covid-19 lockdown.
In its 2020/2021 annual report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, the government was rebuked for, among other things, the: use of excessive force by police and the military in enforcing lockdown regulations; exclusion of refugees and asylum-seekers from Covid-19 relief programmes; failure to properly protect health workers with the provision of sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE); misappropriation of Covid-19 relief funds; cancellation of the country’s school feeding scheme which supported nine million children; and inadequate assistance to victims following an explosion of sexual violence against women and children.
The report looked at how countries across the world ensured the protection of human rights while governments tried to contain and deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
AI’s SA executive director Shenilla Mohamed said: “The use of Covid-19 as an excuse to crackdown on human rights is illustrated by police brutality and loss of livelihoods and other violations of human rights. This makes it difficult to celebrate almost three decades of freedom.”
“It is now more than ever that we need the government to put the people first and ensure everyone is afforded their basic human rights.
“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. 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.”