The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will launch an investigation into the violence that swept across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July.
Among other things, the commission said on Friday it would examine the effectiveness of the state, particularly the police and security cluster as a whole, in maintaining public order, including the provision of adequate protection for the safety and security of people and property.
The commission said it would probe the underlying reasons that could have contributed to the unrest. It will make recommendations for short-, medium- and long-term measures to be adopted by relevant stakeholders and the state to address the resultant human rights violations and prevent a recurrence of future unrest, including better public order policing.
“The SAHRC reiterates state responsibility in terms of section 7 of the constitution to ‘respect, promote and fulfil’ all the rights in the bill of rights of the constitution. These rights include but are not limited to: equality, human dignity, freedom and security of the person, freedom of movement and residence, freedom of trade, occupation and profession, and various socio-economic rights such as housing, health care, food, water, and education,” the commission said in a statement.
The commission hosted an imbizo on July 23 to consult with the public as part of its effort to understand and respond to the unrest, and subsequent human rights issues.
“The tragic loss of many lives, incidents of looting, destruction of public and private property, and loss of billions of rand to SA’s economy, severely undermines the resolve for South Africans to live in peace and harmony, without fear and want. The events have also threatened fragile relations between communities.
“These incidents of unrest have in turn raised numerous questions and concerns about the state’s ability to protect the public from harm, as well as the state’s ability to alleviate poverty, which is understood to be a factor that fuelled the unrest,” the commission said.
The sentiment shared during the imbizo was that the actions of those who participated in the unrest were in flagrant violation of the law.
The impact of the unrest severely undermined the rule of law upon which the promotion and protection of human rights rest and threatened the stability of our constitutional democracy.
The commission deemed it necessary in terms of its mandate, to investigate and take steps to secure appropriate redress with a view to preventing such a recurrence and in the interests of victims.
“The impact of the unrest severely undermined the rule of law upon which the promotion and protection of human rights rest and threatened the stability of our constitutional democracy, which the commission has a constitutional mandate to strengthen,” it said.
The commission will continue to monitor affected areas and promote social cohesion efforts with a view to restoring peace and stability. It also expressed concern for vulnerable groups such as children and the role misinformation could play in diluting efforts to restore peace and stability.
“Every effort should therefore be made for timely responses to address the consequent impacts of poverty, fear, anxiety and lack of basic services to restore and promote respect for a culture of human rights. In addition, the SAHRC calls for vigilance in order that stability is not again threatened.
“The SAHRC commends human rights defenders who are working tirelessly to restore rights and peace.”