20 March 2012 – Corruption Watch urges you to report complaints so you can hold the country's leaders accountable and take back your rights.
South Africa’s Constitution is world-renowned for protecting every basic human entitlement through its Bill of Rights, which “enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom”, reads the Bill.
It is the responsibility of the state to “respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in [it]”.
People need only to glance at a newspaper or TV bulletin to see that South African’s most basic rights are being infringed upon on a daily basis.
This is further confirmed by Corruption Watch (CW) receiving 500 complaints in its first month of operation, ranging from bribery and inconsistencies in education provision and housing allocation, to elected officials misusing public money for their own benefit.
Corruption is a deep-rooted scourge threading its way into the fabric of South African society, and unless it is reported and watched, it will continue to deprive the country’s citizens of their rights.
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis says: “Corruption perpetuates discrimination. For example, this happens when only those who are able to pay a bribe are given essential medicines in a public hospital and those who cannot afford backhand payments are left to go without.
“It prevents the full realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. It also leads to the infringement of numerous civil and political rights,” he adds.
Corruption Watch’s role is to provide a platform for the public to report their experiences and therefore hold their leaders accountable.
“This platform is intended to amplify the voice of the public against corruption,” Lewis says.
“CW will also investigate some of the cases reported to it, further report them to the law-enforcing authorities and follow up to make sure that wrong-doers are arrested and jailed.”
Ahead of Human Rights Day on 21 March, CW looks at some of the complaints it has received and how these have eroded basic human rights:
A Soweto community member reported that RDP houses in Pennyville are being sold instead of allocated to needy families.
A community liaison officer and project manager tasked with allocating these houses have been selling them to people who don’t qualify to occupy them.
As stipulated in the Bill of Rights: “The government must make sure that people get access to proper housing.”
An incident involving Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) saw a group of individuals having a number of their rights violated.
For 45 minutes these individuals were victimised and then requested to pay a R500 bribe.
According to one of the men involved, a group of seven men left a bar in Rivonia on 28 February 2012. Their driver was sober. “Moments after going around the corner, a police car pulls us over and demands a full vehicle and personal search”.
“This was not done particular[ly] well as they didn’t look in the back. It was really a harassment exercise,” he recalls.
“Nothing [was] to be found illegal, however there were bottles in the car … they harboured on this, and kept on alluding to a drinking in public charge, all a load of rubbish in itself.”
The man says the police officers then threatened to charge them and put them in the van for “obstructing justice and not respecting the police”.
“This was because I commented that they didn’t have their names or any identifiable markings on their uniform, and when we asked for ID, they said they don’t carry it. There was no intent to take us to Sandton Police Station as I suggested.”
When asked how his encounter with JMPD infringed on his rights, the complainant said: “I realised the same feeling of helplessness that I did when I was hijacked previously, except the hijackers knew what space they operated in – these are police with a mandate to prevent the exact thing they did.
“Also it just emphasises the complete lack of control our authorities have on their own security systems.”
What made it worse, he said, was the fact that his overseas clients were present during the incident and were looking to invest in the country.
When asked if he considered reporting the incident, he said: “Yes, I was told I could lay a charge at the police station and would have to substantiate it. I was also told it was fruitless as the chief in charge is an accomplice. Also the inconvenience that I was told would result from appearances, whether I could prove it, who said what … would result in this been drawn-out and time consuming.”
During this episode, the group’s human dignity and privacy rights were violated. The Bill of Rights states: “Actions by the government must be procedurally fair”, “Your dignity must be respected and protected”, and “You cannot be searched or have your home or possessions unlawfully searched”.
The parent of a pupil at a primary school in southern Johannesburg reported an incident that happened in August 2011, alleging that the principal of the school withdrew approximately R330 000 from the school bank account, but did not use the money for its intended purpose of funding books and covering maintenance costs.
The parent established this from an official at the school, but says that the incident was “an open secret whispered about at the school”.
He reported it anonymously by phoning the Gauteng department of education (GDE) and was promised that action would be taken. The official who first informed him of the episode also laid a formal complaint.
“The GDE district officials visited the school when the complaint was laid. The principal was asked to account for what the money was spent on in this meeting and he could not,” the parent said.
But, according to the parent, the district failed in its duty as it did not hold the principal accountable and the result is a shortage of books and lack of maintenance, leaving school toilets blocked and dirty.
“I just hope this matter can be dealt with in a decisive manner and act as a lesson to all schools in our area.”
This incident infringes on children’s rights, as well as the right to education.
“Children under the age of 18 have special rights, like the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect and abuse,” reads the Bill.
It also states: “You have the right to basic education, including adult basic education, in your own language (if this is possible).”
This is not an isolated incident. According to Lewis, a large number of the complaints coming through to CW are about education. “There seems to be misuse of funds at school governing bodies’ level and within districts.”
“This means there are many children whose right to education is simply undermined by those who misdirect school funds to their own pockets,” Lewis said.
Another area of concern is public hospitals. “We have also received a number of reports about badly-managed hospitals where patients have no access to food, water or even essential medicines. In all these cases people’s rights to dignity, equality and freedom are gravely undermined,” he says.
To report an incident to Corruption Watch, click here.