Social Justice in South Africa

The final paragraph of my previous blog, ”Heroes and Role Models: Mutually Exclusive or One and the Same Thing?”, included  “We need real role models, … so that our country can return to a true state of morality … to the world.”  This is not quite accurate really as one of the readers of that blog noted.  Pat commented, “I do have to question … whether South Africa was ever truly ethical and moral? Apartheid certainly wasn’t moral and many people in our former govt and captains of industry pillaged the country prior to 1994. Even the colonial behaviour of our forefathers who treated people as slaves and in a paternalistic manner was also not moral.” and I have to agree with her.

Many of us may feel that this current government is more amoral and corrupt than the previous ones South Africa has had and probably way more so than most in the world. This is very possibly because of the transparency clause of the Constitution which requires that leaders in government and business declare their interests and gifts. The Constitution also guarantees freedom of speech and of the press, something which was sorely lacking with the government of apartheid days. Secrecy and power were the order of the day, escalating particularly from 1985 onwards.  Sadly, the current government seems heading in that direction. We have all heard of the ‘Secrecy’ Bill for example. Then there is the latest decision to declare the Nkandla Report ‘Top Secret’. They are passing these laws by writing them in such a manner that they do not completely remove the Constitutional rights by saying that documents may be available on request using the Access to Information Law. But the access is frequently denied or delayed for months or years.

The Constitution also speaks of equality and rights for all but it is not happening in practice. I am always interested to note that political leaders, not only in South Africa, never use public hospitals when they are ill but will expect the majority of the population to do so. I am sure that if they spent one day at one, not even as an inpatient they would be shocked. This discrimination and lack of proper resources is anything but equality and social justice.

The definition of Social Justice is, “The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origingenderpossessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice.” If we are to be treated equally and without prejudice one way is that we all have equal access to facilities and none is above the law. How can it be justice when one man, with half a dozen wives, lives in overt luxury when all round him have no basic amenities such as ablution facilities? How can this one family have their own fully equipped medical clinic when those who live in the area have to travel many kilometres often to be told to come back on another day? Where is the justice?

In the United Kingdom the Departments of Social Welfare and Education are working together on a planned strategy to ensure social justice for all by improving the lives of the poor and needy. Their strategy includes helping troubled families turn their lives around, improving mental health, reducing child poverty and making sure that children are properly supported so that they complete their education, making work pay and so helping people to find and stay in work, helping people recover and become independent if things have gone wrong, working with the voluntary, public and private sectors to deal more effectively with complex problems. This is an all-inclusive and holistic programme to ensure social justice for all the people of the UK. Not only do those who need assistance and encouragement improve their lives but as they become more active members of society, the wealthy will not be subsidising them to the same degree and all will feel pride in the country. One of our biggest problems in SA is that no 2 departments seem able to work together, wasting time and money.

What we don’t need in South Africa is more laws or BEE which allows a few to grow rich while the poor grow poorer. We have enough laws and certainly enough resources for every South African to be on the receiving end of true Social Justice. We need proposed programmes and policies put into practice with NGOs supported financially and actively with honesty, integrity and morality at the basis of all that happens here. That is Social Justice!


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