The human rights and freedoms underwritten by the Bill of Rights in Chapter 2 of the Constitution of South Africa are features of civilised life for which many progressive movements including the CIVIC MOVEMENT have striven throughout history and the Rights can greatly assist humane developments in our society.
Their publication, however, serves as a powerful reminder of the extent to which basic human rights in our country exist, at times, regrettably, on paper alone. The CIVIC MOVEMENT aims to change this during 2021 and make sure that in each community where it is active, the rights improve life for all.
The right to freedom of expression, for example, is in our case somewhat illusory. Tens of thousands of our citizens are prevented from working in their own fields of expertise for the sole reason that they hold views differing from official ones (centralised government), and are discriminated against and harassed in all kinds of ways by the central authorities and global public organisations. Deprived as they are of means (money) to defend themselves, they become victims of a virtual apartheid.
Hundreds of thousands of other citizens are denied “freedom from fear” as well as the “right to education”. Countless young people are prevented from studying (deprived of access to tertiary institutions) because of their distance from learning institutions and the serious lack of public transport such as trains and subsidised bus service.
Even worse is the fear of being cancelled. Learners so easily get in trouble for their own views or even those of their parents. Innumerable citizens live in fear of their own, or their children’s right to education being withdrawn if they should ever speak up in accordance with their convictions. Cancel culture is wrong. Freedom of expression is right.
Any exercise of the right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print” or “in the form of art” specified is followed by extra-judicial and sometimes even judicial sanctions, often in the form of criminal charges.
Freedom of public expression is inhibited by the centralised control of communication media who practices self-censorship and dutifully publishing the narrative of official cultural institutions. There is even a department of arts and culture and a department of communications to keep control of the airwaves and wayleaves essential to the free flow of information. No philosophical, political or scientific view or artistic activity that departs from the narrow bounds of official ideology or aesthetics is allowed to be published; no open criticism can be made of abnormal social phenomena; no public defence is possible against false and insulting charges made in official propaganda.
The legal protection against “attacks on honor and reputation” clearly guaranteed by the Right to Dignity is in practice non-existent: false accusations cannot be rebutted, and attempts to secure compensation or correction through the courts is too expensive.
Little open debate is allowed in the domain of thought and art. Many scholars, writers, artists and others are penalised for having legally published or expressed, years ago, opinions which are suddenly condemned by those who hold political power today.
Freedom of religious confession, emphatically guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, is continually curtailed by arbitrary official action; by interference with the activity of churchmen, who are constantly threatened by the refusal of the state to permit them
the exercise of their functions, or by the withdrawal of such permission; by financial or other transactions against those who express their religious faith in word or action; by constraints on religious training and so forth. One instrument for the curtailment or in many cases complete elimination of many civic rights is the system by which all national institutions and organisations are in effect subject to political directives from the machinery of the ruling party and to decisions
made by powerful individuals.
The Constitution of the Republic, its laws and legal norms do not yet expressly regulate the form or content, the issuing or application of such decisions; they are often only given out verbally, unknown to the public at large and beyond its powers to check; their originators are responsible to no one but themselves and their own hierarchy; yet they have a decisive impact on the decision-making and executive organs of government, justice, trade unions, interest groups and all other organisations, of the other political parties, enterprises, factories, institutions, offices and so on, for whom these instructions have precedence even before the law.
Access to the Constitutional Court is limited to only the most expensive advocates, with no way that a normal citizen can access. Where organisations or individuals, in the interpretation of their rights and duties, come into conflict with such directives, they have little recourse to non-party authority, since the ruling party actively works to smear such organisations.
The only way forward for the Civic Movement is at the Ballot Box.
Let not this opportunity to defend our Constitutional Freedoms go astray and never again allow it to be limited by a dictatorship. Win the local elections one ward at a time. Join the CMOSA Someone Campaign today.