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FHR Papers on Socio-Economic Rights

One of the radical aims of the Constitution, stated in the Preamble, was that a new social order in South Africa should not only establish the right of citizens to live free from all forms of discrimination and abuses of power, but should also ‘improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person’.

One of the radical aims of the Constitution, stated in the Preamble, was that a new social order in South Africa should not only establish the right of citizens to live free from all forms of discrimination and abuses of power, but should also ‘improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person’. Since 1994, one of the aims of successive administrations has been to help secure the rights of ordinary people, particularly those disadvantaged by apartheid, to these new socio-economic rights; right to health, water, housing, food, education, a safe environment, and proper sanitation. But to what extent have these rights actually been secured in the 20 years since the advent of a more democratic society in South Africa? To what extent has the quest to realise them been undermined by the lasting inequities bequeathed by apartheid, and a local and global economic environment that one way or another has come to be dominated by the tenets of neoliberalism?

In 2014, the Foundation for Human Rights began to answer these questions by commissioning a series of papers by South African scholars and experts examining how far the realisation of socio-economic and political rights granted by the South African Constitution have advanced in practice. The papers cover the jurisprudence and practical application of the law in respect of the rights to housing, sanitation, health, education, water and social security.

An overview of the Constitutional Court’s jurisprudence on socio-economic rights has been written by Khulekani Moyo. Two additional papers on the development of political rights cover the issues of the rights to protest, and to freedom of expression. These political rights are profoundly linked to socio-economic rights, for without the right to protest and without public scrutiny of rights abuses, it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for individuals and communities to advance struggles for realising their socio-economic rights. The collection is not comprehensive: it does not include dedicated chapters on the right to food, the rights of women and children, the rights to language and culture, or the right to a safe and secure environment, all of which are outlined in the Bill of Rights.

Click on the links below to read the reports:

For more about our Socio-Economic Justice for All (SEJA) Programme, refer to www.amarightza.org.za.