The South African local government elections and the COVID-19 pandemic

tariro-sekeramayi
Author: Tariro Sekeramayi
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

South Africa’s local government elections, to elect the municipal tier of government, are constitutionally mandated through section 159 of the Constitution of South Africa to take place every five years. These elections were scheduled to take place towards the end of 2021 and have been the subject of great deliberation in the nation. Conducting elections during a pandemic has been the subject of much debate on the continent and worldwide, with certain countries choosing to continue with elections amid the pandemic and others choosing to postpone their elections amid concerns of the risks involved. Nations on the continent that have held elections during the pandemic include Zambia, Malawi, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda and Côte d’Ivoire. Given the extent of the risks of holding elections during the pandemic and mixed calls on whether to postpone or continue with elections in the nation, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa ordered an inquiry commission to determine the nation’s capacity to hold free, fair elections during the initially scheduled period in October.

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Towards eradicating female genital mutilation in Nigeria

DuniaMekonnenTegegnAuthor: Dunia Mekonnen Tegegn
Human Rights Lawyer and Gender equality advocate

Nigeria is home to over 180 million people, 49.4% of whom are female. Along with the rest of the population, the Nigerian female population will experience dramatic increases in size by 2050. As far as violence against women is concerned, federal law addresses sexual violence, physical violence, psychological violence, harmful traditional practices, and socio-economic violence. The law also cites spousal battery, forceful ejection from the home, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, harmful widowhood practices, female genital mutilation/cutting (“FGM/C”), other harmful traditional practices, substance attacks (such as acid attacks), political violence, and violence by state actors (especially government security forces) as offenses.

A 2019 survey on domestic violence found that 47% of respondents had suffered from domestic violence or knew someone who had; 82% of respondents indicated that violence against women was prevalent in the country. Police often refused to intervene in domestic disputes or blamed the victim for provoking the abuse. In rural areas, courts, and police were reluctant to intervene to protect women who formally accused their husbands of abuse if the level of alleged abuse did not exceed local customary norms.

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Child marriages in Zimbabwe and the failure by the State to fulfil its obligations to protect the rights of children

Nqobani-NyathiAuthor: Nqobani Nyathi
Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Introduction

Recently, there have been reports about a 14-year old child who died during childbirth. The reason why such a tragedy happened and may continue to happen is the State’s failure or unwillingness to eradicate child marriages. This article seeks to outline Zimbabwe’s legislative framework regarding child marriages and its obligations in terms of international law.

The legal position

Child marriage is illegal in Zimbabwe as held by Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court. In January 2016, the apex court rightly found that the legislative provisions legalising child marriages were inconsistent with the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The Constitution has fairly strong provisions promoting and protecting the rights of children, including the right to be protected from sexual exploitation or any form of abuse. The Court also observed that historically there has been a “lack of common social consciousness on the problems of girls who became victims of early marriages.”

The fact that child marriages had to be declared illegal through litigation exposes this lack of common social consciousness. Zimbabwe had been clinging to the archaic law legalising the marriage of children in terms of both the Marriage Act 81 of 1964 and the Customary Marriages Act 23 of 1950.

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Why Angola should ratify the African Protocol on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Beyond the legal imperative

Author: Eduardo Kapapelo
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

One of the main objectives of international and regional law is to ensure the widest scope of human rights and welfare. It has been reasoned that when the physical and mental health of individuals is promoted and safeguarded societies have a better chance of establishing peaceful societies in the aftermath of violent conflict.

Some of the earliest literature has identified that a significant proportion of military casualties are psychological. Such literature which has focused heavily from the perspective of soldiers who have had to fight and ultimately kill on the battlefield to a large extent neglected to adopt a wider scope – to include the civilian population who often receives the brunt of such violence in war-time.

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Natural resources: The cause of the permanence of armed conflicts in Africa?

Boubakar-A-MahamadouAuthor: Boubakar A. Mahamadou
Graduate, Swiss Umef University

Africa is undoubtedly a continent rich in natural resources thanks to its subsoil which abounds in 30% of the world’s mineral resources. However, these resources have not allowed the long-awaited development of the continent to be achieved. These resources have also become the main sources of conflict on the continent. Indeed, the presence of significant natural resources on the territory of a State increases the risk of armed conflict. They can motivate secessionist demands, finance rebellions or even stir up violence. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), natural resources are associated with 40% of internal conflicts around the world. It is in this sense that in Africa, we have been witnessing for some time now, the development of an economy of armed conflict.

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Concurrent military deployments in Mozambique and their permissibility under SADC treaty law

Author: Marko Svicevic
Post-doctoral research fellow, South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg

On 23 June 2021, the Extraordinary Summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government approved the deployment of a military force to Cabo Delgado in support of Mozambique’s fight against violent extremism in the province. The approval of the deployment, termed the SADC Standby Force Mission to Mozambique, was a delayed yet surprising response from the bloc to an increasingly volatile situation. The violence in Cabo Delgado is approaching its fourth year now, has resulted in over 3000 deaths, and has internally displaced over 700 000 people.

The SADC deployment seems to be based on the consent of the Mozambican government. What complicates the matter however is that even before SADC was able to deploy, Rwanda has already dispatched some 1000 troops to the province at Mozambique’s request.

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Reflecting on the South Sudan we want: 10 years on after independence

Joseph-Geng-AkechAuthor: Joseph Geng Akech
South Sudanese human rights lawyer and LLD candidate, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Summary

New nations struggle to find their route to stability, and they have the opportunity to learn from those which have already travelled the path towards nation-building. The birth of South Sudan was received with joy, far and wide, as it emerged out of decades of sacrifices for principles that every South Sudanese believe in – justice, liberty and prosperity. The  hard-won new State was born with much hope, but it rapidly became a monster of its own making. Consumed by  senseless wars, endemic corruption and underdevelopment – iniquities which fomented popular resistance and drove the need for secession.

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How would international human rights law deal with a potentially automized future?

Author: Eduardo Kapapelo
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Introduction

In a scene from Jonathan Mostow’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the ‘Terminator’ played by Arnold Schwarzenegger says, ‘Cybernet has become self-aware’. While the context of such words are within a scripted science fiction world, they nevertheless seem to be echoes of a futures we seem to be writing – whether willingly or not.

While Mostow’s ‘killer robots’ or ‘terminators’ –  are essentially autonomous weapons systems sent through time to kill a person seems farfetched and squarely within the realm of science fiction, perhaps it is not life imitating art, but art imitating life. The United States Future Combat System Project which aimed to manufacture a ‘robot army’ seems to have hinted that the future might not be as fictitious as we think.

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Addis Ababa’s City Sovereignty threatened by the new Draft Criminal Procedure and Evidence Law of Ethiopia

Author: Marew Abebe
Lecturer of Federalism at Debark University, Debark, Ethiopia

This is a commentary on Article 25(3) of the Draft Criminal Procedure and Evidence Law (the Draft Law), which the Attorney General of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia distributed to stakeholders to solicit feedback. Article 25(3) of the Draft Law empowers courts of the state of Oromia (one of the ten regional states of Ethiopia) to exercise jurisdiction over some criminal matters that arise in one of the two self-administered city governments of Ethiopia, the capital city of the country Addis Ababa. This commentary explores whether Article 25(3) of the Draft Law is (in)compatible with the Ethiopian Federal Constitution, and concludes that granting jurisdiction to the courts of the state of Oromia over some cases arising in Addis Ababa is unconstitutional. The provision, if not omitted from the final version of the Draft Law, will pose great challenges to the Ethiopian federation.

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Making the right to vote of IDPs a reality: Lessons from Ethiopia

omotunde-enigbokan-Enguday-Meskele-AshineAuthors: Enguday Meskele Ashine & Omotunde Enigbokan

Ethiopia held its national election on 21 June 2021. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) participated in the national election by casting their votes at their place of displacement for their respective constituency of origin through absentee ballot procedure. In certain areas, the government of Ethiopia took special measures such as providing logistic and security safeguard in order to enable IDPs to cast their vote.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) played a pivotal role in ensuring that IDPs participated in the national election, through engaging civic societies that advocated for the voting rights of IDPs.  Furthermore, the EHRC prepared the Human Rights Agenda for Election 2021. This Agenda ‘calls upon political parties to address human rights protection of vulnerable groups including IDPs in their manifesto.’ In addition, the Commission advocated for electoral participation of IDPs by disseminating explanatory materials on IDPs and election, by conducting election monitoring focusing on IDPs’ participation in the national election and by conducting stakeholder’s discussions highlighting the significance of IDPs’ inclusion in the national election.’

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