Maverick Citizen

CIVIL SOCIETY WATCH 20-24 MARCH

This week – Human Rights Day, Constitution Hill festival and talk on undoing epistemic injustice in health

This week – Human Rights Day, Constitution Hill festival and talk on undoing epistemic injustice in health
Tuesday 21 March is Human Rights Day in South Africa. The theme for Human Rights Month 2023 is “#LeaveNoOneBehind - walk for your rights”. (Photo: iStock)

The upcoming events this week are largely centred on South Africa’s Human Rights Day, celebrated under the theme ‘Consolidating and Sustaining Human Rights Culture into the Future’. The Constitution Hill Human Rights Festival, open to the public on 25 and 26 March, is an opportunity to hear experts from all walks of life comment on social issues, while the 17th Annual Human Rights Lecture at Stellenbosch University will provide insights into undoing epistemic injustice in health.

On Monday, 20 March, Part A of the matter of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and Others v Eskom and Others was heard in the Pretoria High Court.

Aside from the UDM, applicants in the case include the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), the Health Workers Indaba Trade Union, Build One South Africa, the IFP, the South African Federation of Trade Unions and Democracy In Action, according to a Numsa press release.

“The case is divided into two parts, being Part A – for interim relief – and Part B – for final relief. In Part A, the applicants submit that the manner in which the government has responded to the crisis of load shedding is unconstitutional and breaches several constitutional rights. The applicants argue that load shedding has become a pressing human rights concern. The government’s response has undermined the fundamental rights of citizens,” according to Numsa.

The applicants are seeking an acknowledgement from government of the state’s duty to prevent “the humanitarian catastrophe which has been directly caused by load shedding”, stated the union. They are further demanding a general exemption from rolling blackouts for specific sectors of the economy and social services, such as health, education, police stations, courts, small and medium enterprises, agriculture and food production and telecommunication services.

Tuesday 21 March is national Human Rights Day.

The theme for the day is “Consolidating and Sustaining Human Rights Culture into the Future”, according to a press release by the Presidency.

“Human Rights Day in South Africa is historically linked with 21 March 1960, and the events of Sharpeville. On that day, 69 people died and 180 were wounded when police fired on a peaceful crowd that had gathered in protest against the [apartheid] Pass laws,” states the South African government information page on the event.

“This day marked an affirmation by ordinary people, rising in unison to proclaim their rights. It became an iconic date in our country’s history that today we commemorate as Human Rights Day, as a reminder of our rights and the cost paid for our treasured human rights.”

Tuesday is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The 2023 theme of the international day focuses on the urgency of combatting racism and racial discrimination, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

“Seventy-five years ago, for the first time, the international community agreed on a set of common values and acknowledged that rights are inherent to every single human being and not granted by the state. These rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a blueprint for international human rights norms,” according to the United Nations (UN) information page on the event.

“The UDHR states that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms, without distinction of any kind, such as race and colour, among others. However, racism and racial discrimination continue to affect people all over the world.”

On Tuesday, 21 March, at 11am, a 2023 Human Rights Day commemoration will be held at the De Aar West Stadium, De Aar, Northern Cape. President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the keynote address at the event.

“As part of the democratic dispensation, South Africa observes March as Human Rights Month to promote respect for basic human rights for all and restore and uphold human dignity in line with the Bill of Rights,” according to a press release by the Presidency.

“This period also honours those who fought for liberation, and celebrates the many rights guaranteed under the Constitution, and which are the basis for building a united and inclusive, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.”

For more information, contact Vincent Magwenya, spokesperson to the president, on 082 835 6315. 

On Tuesday at 12pm, a conversation between Advocate Thuli Madonsela, former public protector, and Ndavi Nokeri, the reigning Miss South Africa, will take place at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg. This event will be the first in Constitution Hill’s “We, the People in Conversation” series for 2023.

The theme of the discussion is “On seizing our power to make the Constitution real”.

Register here.

On Tuesday at 2pm, the Justice for Miners Campaign is opening its exhibition, “Mining Bodies”, at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. The opening will involve a dialogue on “The unpaid debt of genocide, why are mining companies still not paying Just Compensation?” 

The exhibition will run until 27 March.

“Commissioned by the [Nelson] Mandela Foundation and created by Breathe Films in 2019, the exhibition utilises audio and video to draw viewers into horrors of gold mining in South Africa. The exhibition draws attention to ongoing large-scale human rights abuses committed by gold mining companies and compensation agencies as a result of their failure to pay for the illnesses and deaths they cause,” according to the event description.

The panel discussion will focus on the contemporary relevance of the key themes of the exhibition. 

“Although the Tshiamiso Trust was set up with R5-billion to pay compensation on behalf of mining companies, its failure to do so effectively produces grave human rights violations in South Africa on a daily basis.  These violations are condoned and enabled by the equally scandalous failures of South Africa’s statutory compensation system for lung diseases,” stated the description.

On Tuesday at 3pm, the Kemp and Sachs families are hosting a memorial for Stephanie Kemp at Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre, 71 Toby Street, Sophiatown, Johannesburg.

Kemp was an anti-apartheid activist, author and politician. She was married to fellow anti-apartheid activist Albie Sachs from 1966 to 1980. She passed away in March 2023. 

Read in Daily Maverick: “Stephanie Kemp, 1941–2023 – A fierce patriot and warrior of the South African Struggle

The memorial can be attended virtually here.

On Tuesday at 6pm, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and the Anti-Racism Network South Africa are hosting a panel discussion on “Racism: The Global Threat to Peace and Democracy”. 

Speakers include Kirsten Bokenkamp, communications director at the Global Project against Hate and Extremism; Abigail Noko, regional representative of United Nations Human Rights South Africa; Justin King, regional education coordinator for Show Racism the Red Card; and Breitner Tavares, associate professor at the University of Brasilia.

Register here.

Wednesday 22 March is World Water Day. The 2023 observance is about accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis.

“Dysfunction throughout the water cycle undermines progress on all major global issues, from health to hunger, gender equality to jobs, education to industry, and disasters to peace,” according to the UN information page on the event. 

“Water affects everyone, so we need everyone to take action.”

On Wednesday, 22 March, a three-day national conference on the Constitution, hosted by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, will kick off at the Gallagher Conference Centre, Midrand, Johannesburg.

The conference will run until 24 March.

“The conference will be looking at Constitutional implementation and development while charting the way forward on how to build on the gains of South Africa’s democracy,” according to the event description. 

Topics of discussion will include:

  • Land reform: restitution and distribution;
  • governance and electoral reform;
  • Corruption and its impact on constitutional democracy and human rights;
  • Reflections on the state of constitutional democracy;
  • Transformation and building of an independent judiciary; and
  • Effectiveness of the legislature in advancing constitutional democracy.

On Wednesday at 9am, the Institute for Economic Justice, through its partner organisation the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, is hosting a workshop to discuss Professor Clara Mattei’s latest book, The Capital Order.

“The workshop’s primary objective is to use insights from Prof Mattei’s book and experiences from civil society and economists in South Africa to think broadly about how we can understand, or challenge, austerity as conceptualised in the capitalist order and consider how we can build alternatives to austerity,” according to the event description.

The workshop will be hosted at The Forge, 87 De Korte Street, Johannesburg, and via Zoom.

Register for online attendance here.

On Wednesday at 11am, the Hanns Seidel Foundation, together with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), is hosting a seminar on the topic, “Who needs a seat at the climate change table?”

“The climate crisis is one of the most pressing issues confronting Africa. Over the past decade, it has become a key global issue generating reams of research reports, policies and media stories,” according to the event description.

“Women and youth are deeply affected by climate change, yet their potential as powerful stakeholders and change agents is often overlooked in climate policies and decisions.”

Speakers at the event include Aimée-Noël Mbiyozo, senior research consultant on migration for ISS Pretoria, and Adenike Oladosu, director and founder of the I Lead Climate Action Initiative and youth delegate to COP25 and COP26, Abuja. The discussion will be moderated by Ottilia Anna Maunganidze, head of special projects at ISS Pretoria.

For more information, contact Aimée-Noël Mbiyozo on [email protected].

Register here.

On Wednesday at 12pm, Daily Maverick is hosting a webinar titled, “The Trailblazers: In conversation with Mesela Kope-Nhlapo”.

Business Maverick’s Ray Mahlaka will be in conversation with Kope-Nhlapo, CEO of the African Rail Industry Association.

“We take a look into Mesela Kope-Nhlapo’s journey as a trailblazer in the African Rail Industry. You’ll get the chance to learn about this industry, its challenges, and the opportunities that it presents,” according to the event description.

Register here.

On Wednesday at 1pm, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’s WaterCAN, in association with Lawyers for Human Rights, is hosting a webinar with the title, “Clean water is everyone’s human right”.

“With high levels of industrial and government pollution, our water resources are at risk, and it’s time to take action. As concerned citizens, we need to be the eyes and ears that monitor our water resources and hold polluters accountable,” according to the event description.

“During this webinar, we’ll explore the importance of whistleblowers and how they can play a critical role in protecting our water resources. We’ll also delve into the impact of industrial and government pollution and discuss what can be done to address this urgent issue.”

Speakers at the event include Mark Heywood, editor of Maverick Citizen; Dr Ferrial Adam, WaterCAN manager; Ian Erasmus, a Sasol environmental whistle-blower; and Palesa Maloisane of the Environmental Rights Programme.

Register here.

On Wednesday at 6.30pm, the 17th Annual Human Rights Lecture is taking place in the Old Main Building at Stellenbosch University.

The event is being hosted by Professor Sandra Liebenberg, HF Oppenheimer Chair in Human Rights Law, and Professor Juanita Pienaar, acting dean of the Stellenbosch University Faculty of Law.

The lecture is being delivered by Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to health. The talk is titled, “Who Believes Black Women? Applying the Right to Health Framework to Undo Epistemic Injustice”.

Register here.

On Thursday, 23 March, at 11am, the Campaign for Free Expression, the Progressive Health Forum and the Institute for Security Studies are hosting a seminar on the limits of free speech in the public health sector, titled, “South Africa’s silent killer: stifling dissent and public disclosure”.

The Campaign for Free Expression will be launching a new report on the subject at the event. The event will take place in the ISS Conference Room, Pretoria, and via Zoom.

“Public health workers are severely constrained in their ability to speak out about the corruption and maladministration that is driving health institutions towards collapse. Those who try to do so are faced with disciplinary action, intimidation or death,” according to the event description.

“Free speech and access to information are vital for holding governments to account. However, a new report by the Campaign for Free Expression on the limits of free speech in the public health sector uncovers how the public service regulatory framework worsens the problem.”

A panel at the event will be made up of Professor Alex van den Heever, chair of social security systems administration and management studies at Wits School of Governance; Professor Ebrahim Variava, adjunct professor at Wits University and head of the department of internal medicine at Klerksdorp Tshepong Hospital, North West; and Hanifa Manda, project manager for the Campaign for Free Expression and the Young African Leaders Fellow 2021 at the School of Transnational Governance, European University Institute. The discussion will be moderated by Gareth Newham, head of justice and violence prevention at the ISS.

For content-related enquiries, contact Hanifa Manda on 064 673 9874 or [email protected], and for logistics-related enquiries, contact Helen Chanda on 012 346-9500 or [email protected].

Register for online attendance here. For in-person attendance, RSVP to Helen Chanda.

On Thursday at 12pm, Daily Maverick is hosting a webinar titled, “Blow the Whistle: How the corrupt use legal tactics to retaliate against whistle-blowers”.

Maverick Citizen editor, Mark Heywood, will be in discussion with Avani Singh, attorney of the high court of South Africa, and Mthabisi Moyo, anti-corruption and HR governance principal consultant.  

“Together, they will seek to expose the ways in which the law has been used to react against whistleblowers and look into how it can be used to work in punitive manners against those who seek to uphold ethics, accountability, and public integrity,” according to the event description.

Register here.


Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations


On Friday, 24 March, at 10am, the first day of the Constitution Hill Human Rights Festival will begin at Constitution Hill, Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The events on this day are not open to the general public, but rather intended as a skills-building opportunity for civil rights organisations and stakeholders.

Workshops will be held on a range of topics, including democracy, the environment, the youth unemployment crisis, education and collective leadership.

On Friday at 10am, SECTION27, in partnership with the Centre for Child Law, will launch an online tool, “The Michael Komape Sanitation Progress Monitor”, to track progress made by the Limpopo Department of Education to “eliminate unsafe and undignified sanitation at public schools throughout the Limpopo province and install safe and decent sanitation facilities”.

“The Michael Komape Sanitation Progress Monitor, named after the five-year-old learner, Michael Komape, who drowned in a pit toilet at his school in Limpopo in 2014, will be launched at the Human Rights Festival held at the Constitution Hill… As part of the festival, SECTION27 will also host an exhibition to commemorate the life of Michael Komape from 25 March at 10am to 26 March 6.30pm, and an information stall about the work of the organisation,” according to the event description.

The launch of the monitor will take place in the Women’s Jail, Conference Room Two, at Constitution Hill.

For more information, contact Pearl Nicodemus on [email protected] or 082 298 2636.

Register here.

On Saturday, 25 March, at 10am, the Constitution Hill Human Rights Festival will open to the public.

Constitution Hill has partnered with Daily Maverick to present the 2023 Human Rights Festival under the theme, “Seize The Power!” 

The festival will run until Sunday, 26 March.

“This year [the festival] takes place at a time of growing anger and frustration at human rights violations in South Africa and across the world. But it’s also taking place at a time when people are mobilising, rebuilding communities, and experimenting with alternatives, searching for solidarity,” according to the event description.

“The two-day festival is designed to showcase the work of social justice movements in South Africa which have been instrumental in promoting and advancing human rights. The Human Rights Festival provides a fantastic opportunity for social justice organisations and movements to meet, learn, debate, and persuade.”

Entrance to the event is free.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Seize your power at the Human Rights Festival 2023

On Saturday at 12pm, there will be a “Queer Lit Salon” at 98 Commissioner Street, Marshalltown, Johannesburg. The event will involve a series of discussions, moderated by Mandla Lishivha, author of Boy on the Run.

The discussion topics include “Queer storytelling”, “Queer love” and “Unsilencing queer knowledge”. 

Buy tickets for the event here.

On Saturday at 3.30pm, the Social Policy Initiative (SPI), in partnership with Unicef and Wanaya Visual Productions, is launching a new documentary on the R350 Social Relief of Distress grant which government introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is called A Decent Path.

The launch will take place at the Constitution Hill Human Rights Festival in the Women’s Jail, Conference Room Two, at the Constitution Hill precinct.

“South Africa has a highly progressive constitution that guarantees human rights to all. However currently more than a quarter of all South Africans live in hunger and over half of all South Africans live in poverty. South Africa is also the most unequal country in the world, with extreme wealth and poverty living side by side, as the movie shows,” according to the event description.

“The story of the R350 grant is a documentary about what the R350 Covid grant meant to recipients and how a universal Basic Income Grant could transform our future. Directed by Diliza Moabi… the documentary captures the stories, hopes and disappointments of R350 grant applicants and beneficiaries as the policy unfolded.”

The screening will be followed by a short panel discussion with Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu; Christine Muhigana, the country representative of Unicef; Isobel Frye, executive director of SPI; and Diliza Moabi.  

For further information contact The BUZ Factor at 083 263 6991 or [email protected]. DM/MC

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