The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights

South Africans can be proud to be part of a society that is built upon powerful principles of fairness and equality.

Vuyokazi Mpela
Vuyokazi Mpela - Claims Manager
19 March 2019 | 4 minute read
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South Africans can be proud to be part of a society that is built upon powerful principles of fairness and equality.

In particular, the Bill of Rights, that forms part of our Constitution, is the legal protector of our rights. The Bill of Rights is described as the “cornerstone of our democracy”. It enshrines and preserves the rights of all people in our country. It affirms, essentially guaranteeing, the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

The Bill of Rights lists essential rights to be protected

  • These include the right to life, dignity and the right to freedom and security.
  • Slavery or forced labour is illegal.
  • People are also guaranteed the right to privacy, freedom of religion, belief and opinion.
  • Language and culture rights are protected and freedom of expression, movement, as well as association is stated.
  • Various political rights, such as the right to vote, are upheld, as are those related to citizenship and labour practices.
  • The Bill of Rights is also concerned with the environment and ensuring it is kept healthy for all.
  • Rights related to education, property, housing, health care, food, water and social security are ensured.
  • Access to necessary information is upheld.
  • Access to courts,fair police practices and administrative decisions are ordered.
  • Special mention is made ofchildren and their rights.

Yet, there can be a gap between an idea and how it is works out in reality. This is where the law can play its part.

After all the Bill of Rights ensures that: “Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law”.

The SAHRC (South African Human Rights Commission) is responsible for promoting and educating people about human rights. It also deals with complaints about when people feel that their rights have not been respected. The organisation reported that the right to equality remains one of the rights that is most violated in South Africa.

According to a media statement from the SAHRC, the second most common complaint is about unfair labour practices, often linked to unfair dismissals.

Another common complaint is about an ongoing lack of access to health care, water, food and social security. People have also told the SAHRC about cases where they believe that their right to just administrative action has not been upheld. This means that the people believe decisions made by government departments like the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Social Development have been unfair. Finally, other people have complained that their rights have been violated in connection to arrests and detention (being held in jail).

Do Right with Social Media

Most of the cases related to people believing that their right to equality has been violated, are about discrimination. People report being the victims of offensive comments with racial overtones. People have a right to be treated with dignity and these cases go against this right. Often these cases involving offensive comments, are related to social media posts.

Therefore, it is important to note that we all have a responsibility to make sure that what we post on social media does not harm another person’s human rights.

Freedom of expression allows a person to hold opinions without interference (someone trying to stop them). A person is allowed to seek, receive and impart share information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Yet this right is often abused or misunderstood. Hate speech is not allowed. If one does not understand the balance between freedom of expression on the one hand, and the protection of the human rights of the other, then there can be serious consequences.

Here are some key points about social media and protecting human rights:

  • If you publish a social media post and it affects a single individual, you, as the author and any person who comments can potentially be sued for defamation. The affected person can claim damages as well as lay criminal charges against you.
  • When content of a post or comment offends a larger audience or community then the author can face a complaint at the SAHRC.
  • If your employer finds out, and your post is considered harmful to your company’s name or reputation, you can even face disciplinary action.
  • You can also face legal consequences for sharing any malicious or damaging content, even if you are not the author.

With Legal&Tax you're not alone

Think before you post, tweet or make social media comments. We are your companion in making sure you understand your legal responsibilities when it comes to using social media.

Disclaimer: The content of this article was correct at the time of publishing, but the legislation or underlying information forming the basis of this article may have changed. You should always speak to a qualified Legal&Tax advisor before making any decisions.

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