As the country celebrated Human Rights Day on Tuesday, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said it had received about 1 000 new complaints in the past year.
Naysayers have argued that since last year, little has happened to improve the situation for many people.
Social grant concerns and scepticism that the old and disabled will be paid at the beginning of next month, plus an upsurge in xenophobic violence, have added to questions.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) staged a protest outside the SAHRC on Tuesday, claiming little had been done to protect the vulnerable from “modern-day slavery and exploitation”.
“Today, across the country, Cosatu will protest to demand that government do more to protect the rights of our most vulnerable workers and citizens,” said spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.
Human Rights Watch posted that despite South Africa’s strong constitutional protections for human rights, public confidence in the government’s willingness to tackle human rights violations, corruption and respect for the rule of law has eroded.
Cosatu said government estimated half-a-million children with disabilities had access to a quality education.
“Concerns remain about police brutality, the treatment of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and recurring outbreaks of xenophobic violence.”
The Institute for Accountability’s Paul Hoffman said there was “not much to celebrate”. The debacle over the SA Social Security Agency was just one example. Corruption and the state’s constitutional responsibility to protect human rights remained questionable.
“Xenophobia that goes unaddressed or is denied … is another manifestation of human rights violations, because it’s denying the humanity of the people who were born here. Fighting corruption is a human rights issue that is not properly addressed; we will have a tendency for the current trend to continue.”
The right to higher education, housing, unemployment and the mental health Esidimeni crisis were cases in point, Hoffman said.