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Human Rights Day 2023 – Mr Muziwakhe Sithebe

This year, we wanted to feature an icon of the human rights movement in South Africa. Mr Muziwakhe Sithebe. A passionate activist for human rights, and a powerful force in the pursuit of justice and equal opportunities for communities in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

We caught up with Mr Sithebe for a brief Q&A session, and these are his answers to our questions.

What does Human Rights Day mean to you?

Human rights day to is a reminder of centuries of human rights violations that were directed to the majority of South African citizens. It took various shapes that relegated status of citizens to subhuman.

What is the state of human rights in South Africa presently?

The state of human rights is relatively not up to scratch despite having constitution decorated by chapter 2 that is dedicated to human rights or bill of rights. The three arms of government are obliged to promote, protect, respect and fulfill all rights enshrined in chapter 2 of the constitution.

It’s a pity that legislatures and executives are in most cases found wanting.

What are examples of human rights violations that you are dealing with?

We are busy applying oversight on human rights violations in the following areas.

1 Housing allocation besieged by unfairness and cronyism

The beneficiaries who were denied occupancy to their houses, cronies were awarded houses by virtue of their Association to housing committees and ward committees. We engaged council on the grievances raised by aggrieved applicants, we later persuaded human settlement to come on board. The meetings didn’t yield prompt responses, we then requested Legal Resources Centre to explore the high court route. In 2017 Pietermaritzburg high court vindicated the aggrieved beneficiaries.

The first respondent Endumeni municipality was was ordered by judge P Dlwathi to remedy the situation, unfortunately, the council ignored the orders.

In 2019 we made our plea to court to invoke section 139 of the country’s constitution so as to enable human settlement as second respondent to intervene as per the above outlined provision of the constitution. The council went all the way to oppose our prayer, unfortunately, judge Amstel vindicated the despised applicants.

Finally on the 17December 2019 judge Khuzwayo ordered that human settlement must lead in attending court orders delivered by judge Dlwathi.

Unfortunately, we are in 2023 orders delivered by Pietermaritzburg high court in 2017 are not implemented which is a direct insult to sections 7 subsection 1 and 2, section 8 subsection 1 of the country’s constitution is disregarded and disrespected by legislators and executives.

2 The water and sanitation is one of the challenges, hence, we approached Umzinyathi district council in 2019 and 2022 we had fruitless meetings.

In July 2022 we approached Legal Aid board with an intention to explore route to high court. The Legal Aid board officials pleaded that they felt to first engage Umzinyathi district council regarding our concern. Umzinyathi undertook to provide response within a week, unfortunately, they received a response after two weeks. The response was quite silent on matters that were discussed.

We then appealed to LAB to take the matter to court. LAB made a commitment to liaise with its unit that is assigned to facilitate litigation.

We are not getting an assistance from LAB hence; we have communicated our frustration with senior office of the above outlined office.

We are hoping that we might see sound developments in due course

3 The matter of public healthcare is one of the areas that we have engaged the district director of health. We have tabled points of importance. The aspects of outdated filling system which need to be replaced by modernized system and other important matters

4 The meeting we had facilitated for stock theft complainants who were not getting any feedback from Investigating Officers. The meetings are ongoing with the purpose of creating conducive climate for access to information. There are challenges being confronted particularly with cas that are written incorrectly.

As a seasoned leader what advice can you give to leaders in government?

The best suitable advise is to strengthen institutions in order to enhance bill of rights, all arms of government are obliged to work towards enhancing a constitutional democracy.

The bill of rights must be monitored by public, the government is called to fund the legal companies that are utilised by public through observation of section 34 and 38 of country’s constitution.

The important aspect is for Legal Aid board to tilt a balance on the service of human rights violations cases to criminal cases. The scale is highly skewed in a constitutional democratic country, each and every criminal alleged suspects the board is quick to provide assistance whereas in human rights violation that is not the case..