A cry for help: The COVID-19 pandemic and digital inequalities

Author: Ayodeji Johnson
Communications and Advocacy Intern, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the current unprecedented times. The coronavirus has ravaged the world as it cuts across sex, age, race, class, and ethnicity in its vicious attack. Currently, almost 4 million cases with at least 270 000 deaths worldwide due to the pandemic.[1] The aforementioned numbers are frightening and has caused the world to slowly move away from public and shared interactions to physical and social distancing, isolating in their homes. While the need for this physical distancing is undeniable as a way to potentially save lives, this forced isolation has also meant that work and particularly study has been confined to homes.

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The scourge of homelessness and evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic in the City of Johannesburg

Author: Bonolo Makgale
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Introduction

After confirming the country’s first COVID-19 case on 5 March, South Africa braced itself for a 21-day lockdown, which officially began on 26 March and was initially intended to last until 16 April. The lockdown was subsequently extended to 30 April and has been further extended indefinitely with relaxation of some of the restrictions and some sectors of the economy being allowed to reopen, along with the extension of certain socio-economic relief mechanisms intended to cushion citizens from the hardships that the pandemic is sure to induce. In this light, one of the regulations included a moratorium on evictions, with the understanding that evictions would place vulnerable persons at risk of contracting and transmitting the virus. The provision stipulates: “All evictions and executions of attachment orders, both movable and immovable, including the removal of movable assets and sales in executions, is suspended with immediate effect for the duration of the lockdown.” These regulations were aimed at minimising possible losses of income, particularly among the working class and people in the informal sector.

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COVID-19: How more access to the internet can reduce existing barriers for women’s rights in Africa

Authors: Nelly Warega* and Tomiwa Ilori**
*Legal Advisor, Women’s Link Worldwide
**Doctoral researcher, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

On 17 April 2020, a Twitter user tweeted about a hospital in Lagos that demanded personal protective equipment (PPE) from a woman seeking to give birth at the facility. The incident, according to the user happened at the General Hospital, Ikorodu, under the Lagos State Government Health Service Commission. The PPEs have become important for health workers given the surge in transmission COVID-19 across the world. However, despite the rising demand and scarcity of PPEs, a conversation on the propriety of placing the burden of procurement of PPEs on expectant mothers is vital.

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Digital solutions for African elections in the time of COVID-19

Author: Marystella Auma Simiyu
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

According to the 2020 African election calendar, at least 23 countries had scheduled a presidential, legislative and/or local election. As of 20 April 2020, 10 of these countries including South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, The Gambia, Cameroon, Libya, Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana had been forced to postpone these elections and other electioneering activities due to the risk and uncertainty posed by the COVID-19 pandemic that has upended ordinary socio-economic and political activities.

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A call to action: Protecting women’s rights in Sub-Saharan Africa during COVID-19 pandemic

Author: Juliet Nyamao
Human Rights Attorney, Kenyan Bar

On 31 December 2019, The World Health Organisation (WHO) was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. One week later, on 7 January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed that they had identified a novel coronavirus as the cause of the pneumonia. Following this discovery, China witnessed unprecedented increase in morbidity and mortality rates of victims of the virus. Ultimately, the Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international attention under the International Health Regulations (2005), following recommendations from the members and advisers to International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia.  Although measures were taken to halt international travel the virus had already spread to other regions of the world including Africa.  According to the John Hopkins University Corona Virus Resource Center, the pandemic has had devastating effects in Europe, Asia and the Americas with mortality rate of more than 100,000 people, with a total of more than 1.7 million confirmed cases worldwide.

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COVID-19 and the access to information conundrum in Africa

Author: Hlengiwe Dube
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

As the world grapples with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the disease caused by the novel Corona-virus, Africa has not been spared. Although the rate of infection is still lower than the rest of the world, it is rising steadily. Governments across the world have initiated partial or nationwide crisis management measures including curfews, lockdowns, contact tracing, surveillance and testing  to curb the spread of the virus, which has been coined as measures to flatten the curve’. For these government-initiated emergency measures to be effective in curbing the spread of the virus, the public must comply with the government regulations. Access to information becomes very essential for the realisation of this objective and by extension other equally essential goals such as achieving the human right to health.

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Democracy in times of COVID-19: a time for introspection?

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

My father used to say ‘politics must be conducted in a country which is open, a country which has the space for deliberation and opposing views’. He added that ‘politics must be conducted in a country which is mature’. We find ourselves in challenging times, times in which the openness and maturity of our countries are being tested.

A scale we can use to test the openness and maturity of our institutions is to interrogate (i), the nature our institutions; and (ii) the quality of our institutions. In regards to their nature we can reflect on how they are structured, what they look like on paper, and how they actually function in reality. As regards quality, we can reflect on how institutions respond to stress – how they respond to the demands of the people and whether they are mature enough to understand that when individuals take to the streets in the exercise of their human rights demanding better quality of life, they are not challenging the State, but rather exercise their constitutional right to be heard.

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The AU’s initiative on silencing the guns and human rights: the missing link

Author: Ayalew Getachew Assefa
African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

The African Union (AU) has designated its theme for the year 2020 to be on ‘Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development’. The theme is informed by prior initiative that the Union has established mainly during the occasion of the OAU/AU 50th anniversary, where the Heads of State and Government adopted a Solemn Declaration, in which they expressed their determination to achieve the goal of a conflict-free Africa by ridding, among other things, human rights violations from the continent. Following the commitment expressed through the Solemn Declaration, the Peace and Security Council (PSC), in 2016, developed an AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by Year 2020 (AUMR), which eventually was endorsed by the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments (Assembly) in 2017.

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African Commission’s Revised Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa should be a call to action

DuniaMekonnenTegegnAuthor: Dunia Mekonnen
Almami Cyllah Fellow, Amnesty International, USA

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) revised its Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa to address new technological advances, online activity, and internet restrictions throughout Africa, after deliberating on the draft beginning from April 2018. The Special Rapporteur collected comments from civil society, States parties, and others on the new draft Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa. The Declaration, is based on a series of resolutions adopted by the African Commission in 2012 and 2016.

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A call for an adequate legal and institutional framework in the protection and inclusion of children with mental/ developmental disabilities in Nigeria

Author: Busayo Oladapo
Kenna Partners Associate, Nigeria

According to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), between 93 and 150 million children live with a disability worldwide. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also reports that there are 7 million children with disabilities in Nigeria. With the emergence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006, the scope of disabilities has expanded to include persons with mental, intellectual or sensory impairments. Despite the almost universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which reiterate the inalienable rights of children, children with disabilities and their families all over the world are continually confronted with daily challenges that compromise the enjoyment of their human rights, Nigeria inclusive. With the global rise in the number of children with developmental disabilities, the implication is that in the coming years, a significant number of young adults globally would be individuals with one form of mental/ development disability or the other. Therefore, it is imperative for state parties to be more intentional about the protection and inclusion of children with developmental/mental disabilities for better integration into the society.

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