Mark Heywood, Estelle Ellis, Zukiswa Pikoli and Anso Thom| Maverick Citizen | 28 January 2020 |
One of the unique features of South Africa’s Constitution is the role that it assigns to citizens in ensuring accountable government. We are a ‘participatory democracy’, one where active citizens play a role in ensuring that Parliament and the executive (at every level of government), fulfill the Constitution’s promise of social justice.
The exercise of people’s power in South Africa keeps a focus on the rights to equality and dignity of tens of millions of people who were disadvantaged by 300 years of colonialism and then apartheid. To this end, we are fortunate that we have a vibrant and mostly independent civil society, made up of thousands of organisations, who use advocacy, research, protest, policy development and myriad other means to campaign for human rights.
Recently, Maverick Citizen contacted over 20 social justice organisations to ask them about their priorities for 2020 and how they feel about the year ahead. We focussed on organisations who campaign for good governance and against corruption; for economic justice, budgetary and fiscal policy that fulfills constitutional duties to realise the rights of poor people; for women’s equality rights; and organisations that campaign for specific socio-economic rights such as health, education and transport. We also looked at the critical issue of the climate crisis.
We found that all of the organisations have a sober view of the challenges facing South Africa. Many expressed a growing impatience and frustration with both the government and the private sector, where fine words about equality and respect for human rights are not often matched by action. Others are angry that two years after civil society mobilised and helped to expose, and then arrest state capture, there is little evident progress, or prosecutions in bringing the corrupters to justice.
This is what they had to say.