Of the cases investigated by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Limpopo those of equality based on racial discrimination are in the majority. This is followed by complaints about hate speech.
Representatives of the commission addressed journalists at a press conference facilitated by Mankese Thema of the commission’s advocacy, research and communication section in Polokwane on Tuesday. She also informed journalists about the composition and role of the SAHRC.
“Each magistrate’s court is also an equality court,” Eileen Carter, Senior legal Officer at the SAHRC in Limpopo explained. “We at the SAHRC in Limpopo have our hands full. The second most prevalent issue is that of disability.”
She explained that certain fields, such as labour and criminal cases, are not investigated by the SAHRC as it is not part of their mandate.
Another issue that is often investigated is hate speech. Carter said many people are not aware what constitutes hate speech.
Carter explained that the equality court is more informal than an ordinary court, with proceedings mostly taking place around a table, where matters are discussed, although the SAHRC also take some matters to court. She said in cases of hate speech one might find that a person mostly pays monetary compensation to resolve the issue. She explained that currently the commission has three cases ongoing in Polokwane, one in Mahwelereng, another in Mokopane and two in Bela-Bela. An interesting case currently before the courts is one of transgender harassment before the Seshego Magistrate’s Court, where certain issues are tested against laws. Judgement is expected in March in this case.
Another important issue taken up by the SAHRC is that of education, and specifically also the non-delivery of books by the Department of Education, an issue which has been before the courts and led to judgment that was given that books should be delivered to schools before the beginning of each school year. The department does not adhere to this judgement. Another issue pertaining to education is that of sanitation at schools, or rather, the lack thereof.
Options to resolve issues mostly are mediation after consultation, but sometimes cases end in court.
Carter advised people to check themselves and engage with each other. “The Act (Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act) and Bill of Rights is for everybody and on all levels,” she said.
Story & photo: NELIE ERASMUS