Southern Africa human rights failings flagged
Publish date: 20 January 2020
Issue Number: 856
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Human rights in Southern Africa are being undermined by weak domestic and regional institutions, Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted at the launch of its World Report 2020 in Johannesburg last week. This is despite the fact that most countries in the region have committed to protect human rights in their Constitutions. The Mail & Guardian reports that it listed SA, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and eSwatini as countries 'of key concern'. Dewa Mavhinga, HRW’s Southern Africa director, said regional hegemon SA needs to take a more prominent role in protecting human rights in the region. 'It’s a huge disappointment. Southern African countries struggled to improve protection of social, economic and political rights over the past year. SA, with its strong institutions, needs to show leadership in promoting rights in the region,' he said.
The lack of successful prosecutions for xenophobia-related crimes in SA has been highlighted in the report. TimesLIVE says the report highlighted last year's violence targeting African foreigners and their businesses in March and September. The violence affected parts of Durban, before outbreaks were reported in Pretoria, central Johannesburg and the surrounding areas of Germiston, Thokoza, Katlehong, Alberton, Alexandra and Malvern. The report says government's five-year national action plan to combat xenophobia, racism, gender-based violence and discrimination, and address the cycle of violence, 'fails to address a key challenge fuelling the problem: the lack of accountability for xenophobic crimes'. 'Virtually no one has been convicted for past outbreaks of xenophobic violence, including the attacks in 2019, the Durban violence of April 2015 that displaced thousands of foreign nationals, and the 2008 attacks on foreigners which resulted in the deaths of more than 60 people across the country.' After the violence in Durban in March last year, 'police did not make any arrest following the looting and destruction of foreign-owned homes and businesses, during which some foreign nationals were killed and several others seriously injured', said the report. It said the 91 people arrested in connection with the attacks on foreign truck drivers, 'were charged only with minor traffic offences, and the Minister did not describe any clear steps police would take to stop the violence and protect truck drivers and cargo'. In the 652-page World Report 2020, its 30th edition, HRW reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries.