Its head of strategic support and governance, Siyasanga Giyose, told the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services the declaration of a national state of disaster came with “huge human rights implications”.
He said it was important for the commission to engage with the government, adding it had established a “nerve centre” to deal with its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our strategic approach is to ensure that we intervene in terms of human rights issues which arise.”
The SAHRC has also established a Covid-19 committee consisting of more than 400 civil society organisations to monitor and alert it to any rights violations and to work together to resolve the issues.
“We are continuously addressing specific complaints that arise, complaints that are directly related to the regulations,” Giyose said.
He added since the lockdown started on 26 March up until 8 May, the SAHRC had registered more than 200 cases directly related to Covid-19.
“On this, we continuously engage with the National [Coronavirus] Command Centre and strategic stakeholders to ensure that the protection of rights is promoted.”
Giyose said the pandemic had put in sharp focus the key challenges facing South Africa – like inequality, access to services like health care, homelessness, water and sanitation.
He added the right to access to education had been negatively affected by the pandemic as schools had to be closed.
“But what we need to ensure is the recovery plan to ensure that we can catch up so that the right to education is not violated.”
Giyose said the right to food for those living in poverty had been one of the key issues the SAHRC had come across.
“We note also that there have been some reports of corrupt activity around the delivery of food parcels.
“We note the impact of the lockdown on economic opportunities, the issue of salaries, the issues of debt and social relief. There are job losses, massive job losses.”
He added these were issues that would impact negatively on human rights.