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Speech by Amb. Tobias Elling Rehfeld

Speech by Amb. Tobias Elling Rehfeld

Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) National Dialogue

Event. Topic:


Ladies and gentlemen, Chair of the Board Sakéle, Executive Director Corlett, all representatives from the 9 provinces, fellow defenders and promoters of human rights,

My name is Tobias Elling Rehfeld. I am the Ambassador of Denmark to South Africa and it is my great privilege to be here today to congratulate you on the important work done so far in the HURISA provincial dialogues on human rights and to extend my warm greetings to all representatives that have travelled from across South Africa to be present here today.

We are truly honoured that Denmark can be a partner with the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) in the facilitation of today’s launch of the National Report on the 25 th Anniversary of Human Rights and Democracy in South Africa.

Today, we consolidate each of these provincial dialogues into a National Dialogue and Report with all of your input. HURISA has done a fantastic job in achieving this momentous task, and the Danish Embassy is proud to support HURISA in this initiative.

I would also like to thank each provincial representatives here, for your valuable contribution to this report and for keeping up the vibrancy of South Africa’s discourse on human rights.

I am truly both humbled and hopeful being here in the company of women and men, young and old, activist and reformers that have dedicated your time and resources in the promotion and protection of the basic human dignity that all of us are entitled to. The world becomes a better place because of your willingness to fight for what is right and I want to thank you for your dedication and bravery. You do not fight alone but have friends from all over the world.

SA democracy at 25 years

This year we celebrate 25 years of democracy after apartheid in South Africa. 25 years of transition and progression from a systematic discriminatory government that committed gross violations of the fundamental human rights and human dignity of most South Africans

As we look back there is no doubt that South Africa has come a long way since the fall of apartheid. South Africans can be proud of the way the struggle was fought. And you can be proud of the aspirations and courage that let to one of the most modern and liberal Constitution in the world.

Denmark was a close partner in the struggle against apartheid and we have always aspired to be an equally close partner with the new democratic South Africa after the transition. We are partners on a foundation of shared values and a firm belief in the necessity of a strong multilateral system and respect of the human rights of every individual person both at the international and the national level.

We cherish this partnership. A partnership that is as imperative as ever in a time where multilateralism is under threat from many sides and in a time where people lose hope and seek easy and populist solutions to difficult challenges.

According to Freedom House’s 2019 report, ‘Freedom in the World’, democracy and fundamental freedoms of human rights are in retreat. South Africa stands out in this global setting as a free country with a strong belief in the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and a vibrant democracy defended by an independent judicial system, a fearless press and courageous and feisty civil society.

This is truly remarkable on both a regional and the global scale. And the world needs South Africa to stand the ground on the principles of human rights. We need the promises of the Rainbow Nation to succeed. And we need countries like South Africa and Denmark to join forces and defend the multilateral community and the rules based international system.

But one thing is the establishment of the international conventions for the protection of human rights or the excellent South African constitutional framework. Nothing is really achieved unless we also ensure implementation of human rights on the ground.

Despite South Africa’s unwavering commitment to human rights in its Constitution and legal frameworks, progress is needed in the implementation to ensure human rights in every sphere and community. This is true for South Africa as it is true for Denmark. It is a never ending challenge to navigate how to best implement laws that were created in good faith for all our citizens.

Danish cooperation with HURISA

It is these challenges to the implementation of human rights, which make the work of HURISA so relevant and vital to South Africa. The Danish Embassy is proud to celebrating 25 years of HURISA’s hard work to consolidate human rights culture, peace and democracy in South Africa.

Denmark has for decades been a strong advocate of human rights nationally and internationally. We think this is the right think to do. We think it is a moral and political obligation. But we certainly also see it as being in our national interest — as it is in the national interest of South Africa.

Sustainable peace, stability, progress and prosperity of our societies grow when we demonstrate a fundamental respect for the human dignity and for the rights that each of us carry as human beings.

And for that reason, we see our partnership with HURISA as so important as it helps transforming the principles of human rights into concrete action and results out there in the reality of the world.

HURISA’s work to gather information on how the human rights implementation look like on the ground is therefore very important to achieve progress. We need to know how human rights are lived. Are they respected, are they correctly understood, are they thought into new policies?

In order to get this understanding, we need to hear the voices from the local communities. Find out where the gabs are and what the world looks like from the provinces in the country. We need to bring attention to these findings and distribute them and take them to the high level.

Let me on this note just single out two issues to highlight:

  • Poverty and human rights
  • Corruption and human rights

Poverty and human rights

Slow economic growth, growing unemployment, and a consisting ranking as the most unequal country in the world is bound to challenge the implementation of human rights in South Africa — especially the socioeconomic human rights.

Institutions that are meant to provide basic rights like clean water, energy (preferably renewable) and quality health care are unable to provide for everyone if the financial basis does not exist. Without economic opportunities not every household is able to sustain itself, making people more vulnerable to socio-economic issues like high crime and gender-based violence.

The growing youth population in South Africa and on the African continent holds immense potential to move the country and the region forward. But with youth unemployment at about 55%, frustrations will unavoidably run high and there needs to be adequate channels to express this frustration and find solutions.

Denmark advocates for the education and inclusion of the youth’s voice into society as a vital component of growing the economy, establishing a platform for the young generation to be part of finding the right solutions and growing an environment for human rights to be fully implemented.

A very important part of addressing the challenge that poverty presents to the full enjoyment of human rights is to attract investments and private sector actors to South Africa. It is a challenge that the President has clearly outlined and that we at the Embassy of Denmark work hard to achieve.

Corruption and human rights

South Africa holds a position as number 73 on Transparency International’s corruption perception index out of 180 countries. Sliding down this list — 10 years ago is number 55. Denmark is number 1 on the same index. I am not saying this to brag. I am saying it because I have notices how corruption has a significant impact in the trust between citizens and between citizens and public institutions.

Although there is in principle not a direct connection between corruption and human rights, the indirect consequences are clear. Corruption is nothing more than plain stealing. Stealing funds that could have been directed to education, health care, social welfare and protection of the vulnerable.

The many examples of theft of public funds, ofmisuse and highly inefficient use of public funds in South Africa has therefore a very negative impact on the implementation of human rights and the full liberation of the South African people. Corruption is stealing the future of the young South African democracy

It is clear from the revelations from the state capture investigations and the increased political violence that the culture of corruption in some circles have increasingly put pressure on the South African economy, on the rule of law and on human rights like freedom of association and expression.

However, as we have seen during the course of last year, there is hope. The strong judicial and chapter 9 institution, the free press and not least vibrant civil society are successfully pushing for change. Denmark partners with institutions like HURISA to give the support we can to uncover corruption and in that way push for the full implementation of human rights.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The launch of the national report today is taking place under the quite stimulating or some would say provoking headline of “the 25 Anniversary of human rights and democracy in South Africa — celebrating what… ‘?”

To me the answer is quite simple. We may not be celebrating the status quo. But we are celebrating the vision. The vision that binds communities, countries and continents. The vision that the rights and dignity of every human being is something to promote, respect and to fight for. And we are today in particular celebrating the many forces of good, the local voices, the heroes on the ground who face down the challenges and fight for the human rights of your fellow human beings.

So we are very excited that so many of you are here today to share experiences and views from across the country. I and my team will do our best to support and promote your input and the national report in our common strive for the full implementation of the human rights also here in

South Africa.

I thank you!

Category: Latest News

Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) makes inroads in strengthening a stronger voice for accountable human rights response in South Africa.

HURISA Human Rights Forum was identified during the launch of the National Report on the 25th Anniversary of human rights and democracy in South Africa, facilitated by HURISA on 7th August 2019 at Parktonian Hotel in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

This Human Rights Forum was provoked by the communities’ desperation for action beyond dialogue and will serve as a new vehicle to amplify Voices from the ground in keeping communities abreast and engaged on the human rights crisis facing the country and as well as contributing solutions to the crisis, to move forward from promise to delivery.

With this, a new paradigm shift is realised for holding government and communities accountable to human rights in the country. The launch of the national report brought together a diverse grouping of community activists from nine provinces of the country which includes human rights defenders, journalists, academicians, cultural and religious activists, some local municipalities and representatives from provincial government departments.

It was noted that while South Africa’s Constitutional framework is hailed as a beacon of hope and globally acclaimed as a progressive human rights instrument, unfortunately implementation has been thwarted by among others, extreme lack of political will displayed in the flagrant corruption in state institutions, constant breaches of public duties, increasing crime levels, brutal violence and gender based violence.

As for the current and past human rights violations that grapple the country, especially the backlog on service delivery, violation of freedom of association, assembly and expression including the lack of implementation of basic fundamental rights and irregular compliance with national, regional and international human rights obligations have resulted in violent protests that dubbed South Africa as a violent society.

The collapse of state institutions, break down of the rule of law and unaccountable leadership have sparked violent service delivery and the current anarchy in our society including uncontrollable crime. While the scourge of violence against women, children and other vulnerable groups such as People with Albinism, People with Disability, Indigenous Group and Refugees requires concrete plan of action and supportive and competent law enforcement. In addition, substance abuse and crime amongst youth needs urgent attention in efforts to build South Africa’s future.

Unfortunately this bad picture of human rights mostly affects the poor who live in rural communities and whose situation remain unchanged. It is concerning that the suffering of the poor has been increased by the very leaders they have voted in power as many of them wonder why their situation remains unchanged even in the new human rights and democratic dispensation.

For example, many wonder why they continue to use pits toilets, why should children continue to walk long distances to school, and taught in inhuman and degrading school environment characterised by mud and dilapidated schools buildings and as well as the mushrooming of informal settlements.  They question the ruling party for the existence of extreme gaps of inequality between the haves and haves not, including a few privileged enjoying human rights and democracy in the country.

The political deployments, nepotism, violent political intolerance, exoneration of the perpetrators of human rights violations disregard commitment to tackle the past economic and social injustices. This picture negates the hard earned aspiration of a democratic country based on human dignity and freedom. It also attributes negatively on South Africa’s nascent human rights and democratic dispensation.

South Africa as world leader and non-permanent member of the United Nation’s Security Council for the next two years calls for renewed commitment to upholding human rights obligation for upliftment of the poor and disadvantaged. This includes installation of competent and value based leadership at all spheres of governance and community. Furthermore, South Africa’s chairship to the African Union is positive and will need to maintain a good example of human rights and democracy for Africa’s upliftment and to be innovative towards achievement of the African Union Agenda 2063.

A High Level Panel is planned for 10 September 2019, where Retired Justice Richard Goldstone will be in conversation with key legal fraternal and civil society in search of a solution to the worrying state of human rights in South Africa.


For more information contact

Lindiwe Khoza

HURISA Communication and Advocacy

Mobile 063 319 8346



This research explores civil society monitoring of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.10 on
fundamental freedoms and access to information, as well as SDG 17.17 on effective civil society
partnerships in South Africa. In particular, the research examines the five dimensions associated with
SDG 16.10 and SDG 17.17, which are: (1) freedom of association; (2) freedom of expression; (3) access
to information; (4) peaceful assembly; and (5) effective civil society partnerships.Read More


The Enabling Environment National Assessment (EENA) is part of the Civic Space Initiative, implemented
by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
(ICNL), in partnership with ARTICLE 19 and the World Movement for Democracy, with support of the
Government of Sweden.
This report is wholly financed by the Government of Sweden. The Government of Sweden does not
necessarily share the opinions here within expressed. The author bears the sole responsibility for the
content.Read More

Comments Off on 2015 A National Assessment of the Enabling environment for Civil Society organisations in south africa

The Enabling Environment National Assessment (EENA) is part of the Civic Space Initiative, implemented by CIVICUS: World
Alliance for Citizen Participation and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), in partnership with ARTICLE 19
and the World Movement for Democracy, with support of the Government of Sweden.
This report is wholly financed by the Government of Sweden. The Government of Sweden does not necessarily share the
opinions here within expressed. The author bears the sole responsibility for the content.Read More

Comments Off on Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) Statement to Mark the Centenary and Nelson Mandela’s Day

        18 July 2018

Outraged and grieved by the Apartheid discriminatory regime, informed and inspired by the need to prevent their reoccurrence, recurrence, and committed to granting recognition to a fundamental and undeniable truth that all human beings possess inalienable human rights of dignity, Tata Nelson Mandela tirelessly worked to heal the divisions of the past, to promote national reconciliation and to lay the foundations of the South African Nation, which many refer today as the ‘Rainbow Nation of God’.

Now, we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth, after five years of his death and 24 years of the foundation of the non-racial constitutional democracy to which he dedicated his life, we should mostly reflect on his legacy, which is under threat.  This year also is of an important nature at the global level where the United Nations celebrates 70th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, on 10 December 1948.  At the continental level, the year 2018 is dedicated to the fight against corruption, which has ruined our country, and the continent and has rendered our people poor of the poorest.

The 100th Anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth provides all South Africans with an opportunity to renew their commitment to Madiba’s vision of universal principles of inherent human dignity, freedom and justice he underscored during 1963 and 1964 Rivonia Trial, in which ten leaders of the African National Congress were tried for 221 acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the apartheid system. We should remain convicted by his Rivonia trial statement that “never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another”.

This year 2018 also coincide with the beginning of a new era in South Africa, where renewed leadership in government can regain the people’s confidence, especially with civil society organisations that are treated with hostility. Commitment is needed not only by word but by reinvigorated actions to implement and rule based on democratic principles such as equality, justice and freedom as entrenched by Tata Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu who inspired the global community to stand against injustice by sacrificing their lives to build the foundation of this country and reassured the people as beacons of hope.

South Africans will find meaning and purpose in celebration of Madiba’s Day if serious measures are placed to end mysterious killings, murders motivated by political intolerance, corrupted politicians that continue to be in key offices, despite being exposed to be involved in serious corruption cases, such as state capture, persecution of journalists for availing truth to the public and human rights defenders for promoting human rights. Today, the country finds itself in a cross road with different true stories on who we are and who we want to be or should be.  This is because of acts of self-interest, corruption, political murders, poor service delivery, gender based violence, poverty, unemployment, mismanagement that detracted the country from a human rights path charted by Madiba.

South Africans will also find meaning and purpose in celebration of Madiba’ s Day if strong democratic institutions function independently, without fear, favour, prejudice and suspects of gross human rights violation are held accountable. This will ensure sustainability of respect of the rule of law and good governance, and respect for fundamental freedoms such as freedom of association and assembly as well as that of speech and opinion.

As President Obama said in his public lecture yesterday “Should we South African view the hope we had after Apartheid as naïve?”  Madiba was rightly acknowledged by the whole world as one of the greatest leaders of the latter part of the 20th century, with enormous charm, charisma, humility and self-assurance of a born democrat. Mama Graca Machel also reminded us all to be positive as of Obama’s “Yes We Can” vision.

For further information landline: 011 492 1109


Category: Latest News

Comments Off on INVITATION!!! :Launch of three months findings enabling environment for civil society in south Africa

The Research Study examined the state of implementation of Freedom of Association, Assembly, Expression, Access to Information & Effective Civil Society Partnerships in South Africa as provided by United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 16:10 & 17:17.

Speakers include Prof Fikeni Samadoda, Mrs Thoko Mpumlwana, Ms Jayshree Pather, Dr Zonke Majodina, Moray Hathorn & Ms Corlett Letlojane

  • Date: Tuesday, 03 July 2018
  • Venue :Webber Wentzel, 90 Rivonia Road, Sandton, Johannesburg
  • Time: 08:30 to 13:30
  • RSVP: By 25 June to Mamphule Ntladi;, or
  • Tshepo Legodi;

25 May 2018


25 May is historical and a very important day for the people of Africa to reflect on the commitment and dedication of our leaders, forefathers and mothers who formed Organisation of African Unity/OAU, now today the African Union/AU, a continental body that aimed to fight and end colonisation, imperialism, slavery that was so rampant and subjected all Africans to hardship and marginalisation. Their human dignity was stripped off with no rights to property and land.  The African Union has continued to emphasise these values, since its inception, in particular, the AU strives  to  achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the peoples of Africa; (b) defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States; (c) accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent; (d) promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples; (e) encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (f) promote peace, security, and stability on the continent; (g) and promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance.

As we remember this day, we should assess how far and progress African and African leaders made to achieve the dreams of our fore leaders. Today, we have nothing to account for before our fore leaders who sacrificed their lives for conquering independence, freedom and unity.  After several centuries, Africa remains the field of war, conflicts, intolerance, slavery, disunity and a continent which cannot take care of its own children, where most of them are perishing in the Mediterranean seeking greener pastures in Europe or more often being trafficked for enslavement because neighbouring African Countries have closed doors and refused to accept fellow Africans. Their fate is horrific as they get enslaved and murdered in their own land, Africa.

Africa has not accounted for giving its own children, women and young peoples as many women and girls are raped in Africa, under the watch of African Leaders.

The importance of this day is also to reflect on our democracy model after several decades. Africans are unable to establish democratic and independent institutions as envisaged by our forefathers. Existing AU organs and institutions are facing several challenges. Case in point is the Pan African Parliament/PAP, which is established under Article 17 of the AU Constitutive Act to be a continental platform for discussion of important issues in Africa.  The Institution has a new Protocol (Malawi Protocol), which give PAP legislative power to enact model laws on issues affecting African peoples.  Because of lack of political will and commitment from our leaders to ratify the revised protocol, this institution cannot deliver much of what is expected. However, we salute some processes made so far on the reunification of African countries but bringing on board the 55 Member States, including Morocco.   It is also time to reflect on the situation of the illegal occupation by Morocco of the Western Sahara Republic territory, the ever ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Cameroun and Burundi as well.   This has the effect of prolonging implementation of the AU Agenda 2063, which commit involvement of young people and call for the need to profit from the demographic dividend by investing more in the young people.  Peace and security is another important area to double our efforts as we cannot talk about development or a prosperous Africa, when most of the countries, DRC which is gifted in natural resource is plunged into war.

It is also a day that civil society, human rights defenders, national human rights institutions and governments need to popularise in educating the African citizens about its significance to promote democracy, peace and justice. The AU has declared this year as a Year for Winning the Fight Against Corruption. There are several mechanisms in Africa that AU has adopted for accountability, respect of the rule of law and human rights. In respect of Corruption, AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption is relevant for addressing the high scale of corruption, including the Thabo Mbeki findings on illicit financial transfers from Africa. That contribute to exacerbation of poverty and marginalisation of African people.

In South Africa, this year is dedicated to celebration of the centenary of our human rights icon, Tata Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu. They played important roles in contributing towards consolidation of democracy in South Africa and beyond, building of democratic institutions, respect of the rule of law and human rights. South Africa should use this momentum to free the people of this country from the shackles of corruption. The perpetrators of this crime should not only be held accountable, but it should be intensified to recover stolen funds and looted out of the country. The new era is making inroads in tackling this cancer of corruption and should do more so with Civil Society. In this way the path to achieving SDG 16 & 17 which commit states to create safe environments for communities will be realised, including making institutions of democracy conduct their constitutional and legislative obligations independently without fear, favour of prejudice.    South Africa is a state party to AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and should lead in fighting this evil culture internally and across Africa and develop effective laws complaint with AU mechanisms. As Chair of the SADC region and upcoming Chair of the BRICS much need to be done to change the culture of unaccountability, reprisals targeting abiding officials, citizens, in association, assembly, expression of human rights violations and appreciation of human rights defenders for cooperating with national, African and International human rights systems.

While wishing a happy Africa Day, HURISA call for a deep reflection on the Africa model as predefined by our fore leaders and to the idea of Pan Africanism.





Category: Latest News

We, the civil society organizations attending the strategic planning workshop on African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly organised by Human Rights Institute of South Africa from 12-13 April in Johannesburg, South Africa.[1]

DESIROUS of contextualising the predominant “westernised or accepted” human rights norms and frameworks with lived African experiences and challenges;

AFFIRMING the associational character of African within the international instruments and frameworks, and confirm that rights to Freedom of Association and Assembly (FoAA) are African values and need to be understood in an African context;

[1] Civil societies from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, working on human rights, democratic governance & development, women and youth empowerment, legal aid, and litigation to advance the rights of freedom of association and assembly in Southern Africa.

WELCOMING  the adoption of the Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa  by African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights’ Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa during   its 60th Session held in Niamey, Niger from 8-22 May 2017;

DRAWING inspiration from these progressive African norms and guidelines;

NOTING WITH CONCERN the trends of violations of freedom of Association and Assembly in the SADC region, as evidenced by amongst other challenges:

  • Non-implementation of human rights obligations on Freedom of Association and Assembly;
  • Criminalisation of association and assembly through selective application of restrictive laws and failure to implement progressive provisions advancing the rights as provided in national Constitutions and regional and international treaties and standards;
  • Misuse of security and anti-terrorism laws to restrict civic space;
  • Continued violation of Associational and Assembly rights, including through disregard of court orders;
  • Failure to ensure that law enforcement agencies promote, protect and uphold these rights;
  • Cumbersome registration requirements and administrative practices that undermine operations of civil society organizations;
  • Stringent requirements of notification/`permits by police for gatherings and protests and selective application of these requirements;
  • Inadequate awareness by relevant stakeholders on norms and standards that promote freedom of Association and Assembly;
  • Language barriers hindering access to information on norms and standards on association and assembly;
  • Inadequate capacity by citizens to effectively access use these instruments for enjoyment of freedom of Association and Assembly;
  • Restrictive space for civil society interventions to promote freedom of association and assembly;
  • Failure to reconcile progressive cultural practices that advance association with accepted international human rights framework.


COGNISANT of the role played by various stakeholders in promoting and protecting freedom of Association and Assembly, including;

  • The Executive (including oversight Ministries, regulators and law enforcement agencies);
  • The Legislature (parliamentarians at national, regional and continental level);
  • The Judiciary and justice sector stakeholders, including legal practitioners in the public, private and non-governmental sectors, and Law Reform/Development Commissions;
  • National human rights institutions;
  • Local authorities;
  • Community leaders, including traditional and religious leaders;
  • Media;
  • African Union and United Nations human rights mechanisms; and
  • International role players and development partners.


HAVING convened for a one and half day strategic planning workshop on awareness raising and popularization of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa;


MAKE every efforts to engage the identified stakeholders for a broad-based effort to strengthen the right to freedom of Association and peaceful Assembly in the SADC region.

ADOPT the following strategies to address the challenges:

  • Evidence-based monitoring for pro-active advocacy;
  • Capacity building for stakeholders;
  • Public interest litigation;
  • Application of regional and international mechanisms and good practices;
  • Strengthening and reform of institutions and administrative practices; and
  • Policy and law reform.

REMAIN vigilant against threats to freedom of Association and Assembly;

COMMIT to collaborate and to provide support to each other through individual and joint efforts at the national and regional levels to protect and promote these rights.



                                                  Participating Civil Society Organizations:

Associação Justiça, Paz e Democracia (Angola)

DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights (Botswana)

Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa OSISA (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Transformation Resources Centre (Lesotho)

Centre for Human Rights & Rehabilitation (Malawi)

Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) (South Africa)

Freedom of Expression Institute (South Africa)

Human Rights Institute of South Africa (South Africa)

IDEAL (Swaziland)

Lawyers for Human Rights (Swaziland)

Human Rights Forum/ HRF (Zambia)

Women of Zimbabwe Arise! (Zimbabwe)

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (Zimbabwe)

CIVICUS (South Africa)

International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

International commission of Jurists (regional office/ South Africa


The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) hosted a one-and-a-half day strategic planning workshop on 12-13 April, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. HURISA and ICNL participated in and supported the development and ultimate adoption of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa. This workshop was the first at regional level to popularize the Guidelines and develop strategies for their implementation as a means of strengthening enjoyment of SADC citizens’ Association and Assembly rights. –


For more information please contact:

Corlett Letlojane: Executive Director of Human Rights Institute of South Africa.      

Study Group Member on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights: Focal Point SADC Region for NGO Participation in Sessions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights: Tel: +27 11 492 1103.[1]





Category: Latest News

                                     Statement to Mark South Africa’s Freedom Day

                                                              Friday 27 April 2018

                                    Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)


This year freedom day marks a new era in South Africa where renewed leadership in government can regain the people’s confidence by committing not only by word but by reinvigorated actions to hold those accountable for gross human rights violation with impunity, fraud, corruption, and for encouraging the systematic breakdown of the rule of law.

The Freedom and security of the person, which includes the right not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause; not to be detained without trial; to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources; not to be tortured in any way; and not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way, are fundamental human rights which are enshrined under the section 12 of Bill of Rights, which is the cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It promote the rights of all people and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom, which the state must respect, protect, promote and fulfill in accordance with international and regional obligations.

However, South Africa’s human rights record has deteriorated and regressed to the levels similar to the dark era of injustice that targeted individuals as well as associations from exercising their human rights. . The hardship of apartheid specialised in demeaning people’s human dignity and subjected them to inferior living conditions, with poor education and exclusion in politics and from benefiting equitably in the country’s social and economic plans, have not been yet redressed under the new democracy in 1994, which gives promises to restore the people’s confidence in protection by the law and politics. However, there’s little changes made in improving the lives of the marginalised majority of people in the country. Several challenges ranging from the deprivation and deterioration of socioeconomic and human rights to the lack of effective mechanisms to redress communities. In particular people’s lives are degraded due to the downgrading of the country’s economy as well the loss of a world class reputation held by our financial institutions and auditing firms. Inflation has rapidly went up with disturbing unemployment and poverty levels that affect mostly women and youth. Out of population of about 55million, 17 million people is needy and dependent on social and only 15.5million people are employed.This is not sustainable as people who receive social grants are more than those in employment.  This has been exacerbated by the breakdown of the rule of law, where state’s constitutional obligations were deliberately neglected and institutions of democracy undermined for holding officials accountable, especially the executive in impoverishing the country for his personal self-interest.

Today, freedom day importance is its coincidence with the celebration of the centenary (100 years) of Nelson Mandela, Albertina Sisulu and other human rights icons.  The country will also remember the legacy of Mama Winnie’s sacrificial choices in confronting an evil apartheid regime with all its apparatuses. It is through icon like them that made South Africa defeated apartheid. At the continental level, the African Union has declared the year of ‘Winning the Fight Against Impunity”.

This year also is of an important nature at the global level where the United Nations celebrates 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human rights.  In views of the importance of this year,  South Africa should review its trend of retracting from a human rights path entrenched by Tata Nelson Mandela who reassured the people as a beacon of hope and even inspired most from the SADC region as well as the continent and global community to stand against injustice.  South Africans will find meaning and purpose in celebration of Freedom Day if serious measures are placed to end mysterious killings, murders motivated by political intolerance, removal of corrupted politicians that continue to be in key office, despite being exposed to be involved in serious corruption cases, such as state capture, persecution of journalists for availing truth to the public and human rights defenders for promoting human rights. What was more concerning was the emergence of state sponsored actors recruited for defending wrong doings of officials. South Africa does not need to copy apartheid divisive tactics to manipulate citizens from exposing impunity.

During the past era, constitutional powers and mandate of institutions of democracy, such as the Chapter 9 Institutions like South African Human Rights Commission, Commission for Gender and Public Protector and Constitutional Court were under severe criticism and undermined for fulfilling their duties without fear, favour and prejudice. It also worrying that these institutions face amalgamation process. As this continue, fear for rendering these institutions ineffective and CGE subsumed has been raised and little is done to enable them with adequate support to address gender disparity and gender based violence in the country.

While a trend of referring to civil society and human rights defenders as foreign agent for regime change was reminiscence of tyrannical leaders in the region who were sensitive to performance of human rights duties and exposing corruption and noncompliance in the country. Public servants who refused to cover maladministration and fraud also faced arbitrary dismissals, transfers and malicious prosecutions for defending the constitution and rule of law. The new leadership should do everything in its power to end police brutality in demonstrations, protests and assembly. The shooting of a young leaner in the North West Province is condemned and Minister of Police is called to ensure prosecution of all suspects and restore the rule of law, peace and democracy. Communities are desperate to live in safe environment, where service delivery will be honoured by access of water, refuse removal, maintenance of basic necessities such as street lights, functioning of clinics, hospitals, schools and safe transportation.

The continuous high crimes committed to law abiding citizens, who face house break ins, car hijacking, robbery, abductions, brutal sexual violence experienced by women and children call for stronger measures and commitment from police, citizens and victims. The government should attend to the deplorable conditions and squalor for people living in informal settlements such as Diepsloot, Zanspruit, Ivory Park, Kalfontein, Alexandra are exposed to. In these places, people have no infrastructure for sewage and number of 30 community members share a pit-toilet or are subjected to a bucket system. Other areas that need improving is the taxi ranks and taxis, these place are often not well maintained and not cleaned. They are no refuse bins, toilet are often blocked and people forced to relieve themselves on sideways.   Drug trafficking and abuse of young people has perpetuated their vulnerability in crime advancement for survival.

South Africa remain an important country and should use its leadership role in peace mediation in the region and world to fight political intolerance, high crime, murders, persecution of human rights defender and journalists and develop a culture of tolerance, hospitality and acceptance vis a vis our fellow black  African.

While wishing all South Africans a happy freedom day and to all those who have chosen to live in South Africa

The Human Rights Institute of South Africa-HURISA, is calling the new leadership to fast track its commitment to hold the perpetrators of corruption and defend human rights by doing the following;

  • Crack out key criminal activities and remove the culprits of these acts from holding key positions in government. Especially, ensure the arrest and prosecution of fraud, high profile crimes and suspend, remove those mentioned in the state capture allegations from holding government positions
  • Continue to uphold constitutionalism in the country without compromise to the rule of law, human rights and ensuring adherence to the principle of all equal before the law and no one is above the law
  • Address the chronic problem of service delivery, by ensuring implementation of service delivery at local level, prosecute municipalities involved in fraud and abuse of tender opportunities
  • Promote and Protect Freedom of Association, Assembly and Expression by ending violence in protests and ensure police end use of excessive powers and use of life ammunition in protests
  • Ensure Minister of Police effectively, monitors the arrest and prosecution of murders committed in assemblies, protests and demonstrations
  • Ensure restoration of the people’s human dignity, by addressing the phenomenon of squalor in taxi ranks, informal settlements which South Africa had committed to end by 2014 with little progress made
  • End implementation of pit toilets, bucket system in South Africa, especially in marginalised communities
  • Address the high crime rate in all communities of South Africa, where car hijacking, house breaking, abductions, brutal rape of women and young girls has been cultured
  • Discourage recruitment of state sponsored, actors, civil society for defending wrong doings of those responsible to serve the nation
  • Outlaw Ukuthwala and Ukuhlola practices, as recommended by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, also repeal laws that advance discrimination and inequality of women
  • End process for amalgamation of Chapter 9 Institutions, especially the CGE and ensure adequate resources are provided to enable effective impact of their constitutional and legislative obligations
  • Ensure all law abiding officials protection in their office and continue to serve people of this country with scrupulousness characters and honour
  • Uphold and comply with regional and international human rights obligations and ensure citizens have direct access to the SADC Tribunal as well as the African Court on Human and People’s Rights and ICC
  • Ratify Convention Against Disappearances, Opt Protocol on Torture for enactment a law to prosecute all officials who commit this crime
  • Ensure development of a law for promotion and protection of Human Rights Defender’s in the country to perform their duties in line with constitutional and legislative framework, including regional and international mechanisms binding South Africa.


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