Biko and the right to happiness

saul_lealAuthor: Saul Leal
Vice-Chancellor Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA)

Stephen Bantu Biko occupies a singular place in South African history, precisely because of the manner in which his legacy affected South African constitutionalism.

Biko fought for equal treatment under the law, and proudly founded the Black Consciousness Movement in order to achieve this goal. Biko engaged in a fearless debate related to the victims of racism and colonialism which encompassed the degradation of self-esteem and the inflicted inferiority complex of black South Africans. Biko’s struggle against white authority in order to promote and defend democracy has left a legacy of ideas which would influence future South African generations, including the sentiment of “one man, one vote”.

In 1970, Steve Biko stated that “in order to achieve real action you must yourself be a living part of Africa and of her thought; you must be an element of that popular energy which is entirely called forth for freeing, the progress and the happiness of Africa”.[1] At the time, Biko was a doctoral student and political activist. He was arrested in August 1977. Biko was kept naked and manacled, and died twenty-five days later from brain damage.

Biko envisioned a more inclusive and deeper interpretation of democracy, as opposed to its purely material application. For him, “material want is bad enough, but coupled with spiritual poverty it kills. And this latter effect is probably the one that creates mountains of obstacles in the normal course of emancipation of the black people”.[2]

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Rising against the silencing of the SADC Tribunal: Tanzania

Gertrude Mafoa QuanAuthor: Gertrude Mafoa Quan
Candidate Attorney; LLM (Multidisciplinary Human Rights) student at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

‘We have created a monster that will devour us all’.

These were the words of Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete regarding the SADC Tribunal. This is at best an expression that is the epitome of the fear of SADC leaders of an existing and functioning Tribunal.

Like in many other regions, the SADC tribunal served as the mechanism through which the region’s dispute could be settled. One of the goals of the treaty was to establish a tribunal (which it did) and that the “[t]ribunal shall be constituted to ensure the adherence to and the proper interpretation of the provisions of this Treaty and subsidiary instruments and to adjudicate upon such disputes as may be referred to it” ( SADC Treaty, 1992, Article 16.1). Perhaps one of its most striking promises was in Article 4(c) which bluntly states that ‘ SADC and its Member States shall act in accordance with the principles of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law’. The implication is that all member States could indeed be held accountable should any of the said principles in Article 4(c) be violated. According to the Protocol on the SADC Tribunal, subject to the exhaustion of local remedies, all companies and individuals may approach the Tribunal to seek remedy if and when a member State has infringed on their rights (Article 15).

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Of Tanzania’s cybercrimes law and the threat to freedom of expression and information

daniel_marariAuthor: Daniel Marari
LLM, International Human Rights Law, Lund University, Sweden

On May 8th, 2015 a press release revealed that the Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete, has signed the controversial Cybercrimes Bill which seeks to criminalize acts related to computer systems and information and communication technologies and to provide for a system of investigation, collection and use of electronic evidence. The said law has serious implications for constitutional and international human rights, particularly freedom of expression and information online and the right to privacy. The most controversial provisions relate to criminalization of sharing of information, extensive police powers of search and seizure, surveillance without judicial authorization as well numerous vaguely defined offences.

It is important to note that that freedom of expression is one of the fundamental aspects of human life. As human beings, we need freedom to develop and share thoughts or ideas about things that happen and influence the way we live. Freedom of opinion, expression and information encourages free debate and plurality of ideas which is important for development of any society. More importantly, these rights are internationally recognised human rights. They are engrained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (art.19), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (art.19) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights 1981 (art.9), all of which have been ratified by Tanzania.

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In the absence of democratic principles, tyranny reigns

thato_motaungAuthor: Thato Motaung
Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

International Day of Democracy: 15 September 2014

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” – William Wilberforce​

When the world celebrated the International Day of Democracy (15 September 2014), I reminded myself of some of the key tenets of democracy, namely: free and fair elections, the rule of law, the upholding of fundamental rights and freedoms — to name but a few. The mention of the rule of law in particular raised red flags in my mind as I pondered where to place Eritrea when choosing between definitions of democracy and autocracy.

The rule of law and the respect for human rights stand as prerequisites to realising democratic statehood. The laws which govern a state are enshrined in a constitution; a constitution sets the parameters for lines that cannot be crossed; the principles by which a state should conduct itself. Where then does one begin to place or reference these barriers in a country with no constitution? Who has legitimacy in decision-making? What legal standards are used? The lines continue to blur…

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Chapter 9 institutions: for the sake of accountability and constitutional democracy

Author: Kenneth Sithebe
Candidate Attorney, Centre for Child Law, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice beneath new generations. – Solzhenitsyn

It is in the wake of the Public Protector’s findings regarding an upgrade to the President Zuma’s private residence in Nkandla that, the importance and our tolerance for Chapter 9 institutions comes to the fore. Having presented her findings to the public, the Public Protector was hailed by some as a heroin to a South Africa that is ridden with corruption, whilst some questioned her credibility and the integrity of her office. It is submitted that these debates are ordinary in a vibrate democracy like South Africa’s and should be welcome. However, what should not be welcome are unsubstantiated remarks aimed at undermining the office of the Public Protector, or any of the other Chapter 9 institutions, namely, the South African Human Rights Commission; the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities; Commission for Gender Equality; the Auditor General; and Electoral Commission. These institutions, as provided for in section 181 of the Constitution, form a cornerstone to the sustenance of democracy and are important for the full realisation of other democratic principles such as accountability, respect for the rule of law and human rights.

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Right to food: A ‘black and white’ choice?

bereket_kefyalewAuthor: Bereket Kefyalew
Freelancer based in Copenhagen, Denmark

The Ethiopian government often associates its developmental ideology with the East Asian model, while at the same time defining itself as a progressive democratic government. Paradoxically, the government defends itself from prodemocracy critics by arguing that food security comes first, then slowly comes democracy. Within this context, I analyse the right to food as a legal concept and how it can be used as a means to achieve food security in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has ratified and adopted the main instruments establishing the right to food such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Covenant on the Rights of the Child; the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women; and the African Charter on Peoples’ Rights. Ethiopia is also bound by international humanitarian law, having ratified the Geneva Convention of 1999 and the Additional Protocols thereto of 1977.

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The Illusion of the Ugandan Constitution

Author: Busingye Kabumba
Lecturer-in-Law, Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC), Faculty of Law, Makerere University; Consulting Partner with M/S Development Law Associates

For the past few years, it has been my privilege to teach Constitutional Law at Makerere, the nation’s oldest University. As it is a first year course, I am one of the first teachers who meet with the young impressionable minds that are similarly privileged to gain admission to the law programme. In the course of class discussions, it quickly becomes obvious that even these fresh minds are cynical about the state of constitutionalism in our country, an impression that is only made stronger when we begin to delve into the text and the promise of the 1995 constitution and to compare this not only with our Constitutional history but with the present reality of how the country is being governed. I try as much as possible in these discussions to refrain from infusing my own views into these debates, my intention being to demonstrate the method of constitutional argument and to encourage critical thinking and reflection rather than suggest that there is a ‘right’ answer – which indeed, many times, there is not. This is often frustrating for the students whose constant refrain is: ‘But what is your view?’

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