DESPERATE: Clean water equals quality of life. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
The right to adequate water and sanitation of poor communities has become the dominant theme as people in the province and the country celebrate Human Rights Month.
In Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth, the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) has already made submissions to the SA Human Rights Commission listing problems where the poor, in areas like Qaqawuli, Extension 6, Ethembeni, Hlalani, Phaphamani, Zolani and Eziphunzana informal settlements, were still condemned to bucket toilets and pit latrines.
UPM spokesperson Ayanda Kota said “people are still subjected to the worst indignities”. “In some areas of Grahamstown, families have died in fires because there was no water to extinguish the fire,” he said.
A spate of incidents across the country, including violent service delivery protests in places like Makhaza in Cape Town and Rammulotsi Township in the Free State, were some of the examples of the poor demanding the government reassess its commitments towards the promotion and protection of socio-economic rights as guaranteed under the Constitution.
“These incidents are a reminder that despite the constitutional provisions and rich jurisprudence in relation to socio-economic rights and the relative wealth of a minority, a significant number of South Africans continue to be denied access to the basic needs of life,” Ebenezer Durojave of the Community Law Centre, said.
Several organisations like the Black Sash, Community Law Centre, People’s Health Movement of SA, National Welfare, Social Service and Development Forum, Global Call to Action against Poverty SA, Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA and Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute, are already holding public hearings for communities to speak out loud on these rights.
During one of the hearings, the SA Human Rights Commission found the government to be in violation of its obligations to respect and fulfil the right to sanitation.
“Our campaign hopes that the public dialogue tomorrow will provide an important albeit rare opportunity for the disadvantaged and marginalised to be heard,” said Elroy Paulos from the Black Sash.