African countries need to ensure that the health of refugees is protected during the COVID-19 pandemic

Omotunde-EnigbokanAuthor: Omotunde Enigbokan
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

The protection of the right to health for refugees in Africa requires urgent attention, especially in this period when evidence shows that new variants of the coronavirus are spreading. As we celebrate World Refugee Day on 20 June 2021, and against the backdrop of the UNHCR’s theme ‘Together we heal, learn and shine’, it is pertinent that we interrogate how African countries are ensuring that the right to health for refugees, is guaranteed. This is particularly important with the development of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, and in the onset of the administration of these vaccines in Africa.

Challenges faced by refugees in Africa

Existing research underlines the need for heightening refugees’ access to health facilities.  Research further shows that refugees have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. This situation is further compounded by the fact that many refugees live in overpopulated camps or reception centres, where they lack adequate access to health services, clean water and sanitation. This makes them more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.    

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The Cost of Separating Powers

Chris HimsworthAuthor: Chris Himsworth

University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom 

It was reported on 28 April 2021 that authorities in Lesotho could not appoint a new High Court judge because of a lack of funds. While this might have come as a shock to most people, this will not have surprised the authors of the Report on the Independence of the Judiciary in the Kingdom of Lesotho, published only a month earlier in March. Chaired by Justice Zak Yacoob, former South African Constitutional Court Judge, a Working Group of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Lawyers’ Association had aired a trenchant critique of the current condition of judicial independence in Lesotho.

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Using evidence in the time of COVID-19 to reduce health inequalities for Persons with Psychosocial Disability in South Africa

Linda-AjembaAuthor: Linda Ajemba

LLD candidate, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had an unparalleled impact on all spheres of life globally. As with other disasters, evidence shows that while the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic threatens all members of the society, it disproportionately affects persons with psychosocial disabilities. Persons with psychosocial disability refers to individuals suffering from a spectrum of mental conditions that influence their feelings, perceptions and behaviors. A psychosocial disability arises when someone with a mental health condition interacts with a social environment that presents barriers to their equality with others. Persons with psychosocial disabilities are greatly impacted by diverse response measures employed by governments across the globe to curb the pandemic.

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The right to peaceful assembly and the COVID-19 pandemic: a threatened right; an ironic connection

Author: Foluso Adegalu
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

The right to peaceful assembly enables individuals to express themselves collectively and to participate in shaping their societies and can be of particular importance to marginalised and disenfranchised members of society. The right to peaceful assembly entails a legitimate use of the public space. Although the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly is normally understood to pertain to the physical gathering of persons, comparable human rights protections also apply to acts of collective expression through digital means, for example online gatherings.

The right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed under both international and national laws. The right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed under article 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which provides that:

every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to necessary restrictions provided for by law in particular those enacted in the interest of national security, the safety, health, ethics and rights and freedoms of others.

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Lack of consultation led to persons with disabilities being neglected in the COVID-19 response

Author: Maluta Mulibana
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

The South African Government, a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), neglected the inclusion of persons with disabilities in their COVID-19 disaster management response. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the president of South Africa announced a “lockdown” of the country with effect from the 27 March 2020.  According to the “lockdown” regulations, all persons must stay at home, unless they are essential services workers or they go out to access such essential services. Before then, several COVID-19 disaster management committees were established without the inclusion of the disability rights coordinating mechanisms.

While the UN CRPD provides for the consultation of persons with disabilities in its preamble and in article 33 on National Implementation and Monitoring, the government of South Africa neglected the inclusion of its national, provincial and local disability rights coordinating mechanisms, resulting in disability issues being neglected in the coronavirus disaster management response.

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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 right to education: Children with disabilities in The Gambia

Sheriff Kumba JobeAuthor: Sheriff Kumba Jobe
Graduate, Faculty of Law, University of The Gambia

Section 30 of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia states, “All persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities and with a view to achieving the full realization of that right- (a) basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all; (b) secondary education, including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education.”

It is without doubt that the Gambia has been working toward this constitutional provision and has registered a significant gain in the area of education. The enabling environment has been created to make this fundamental right realistic by acceding and ratifying enormous international conventions such as the African Charter on Human and People Rights, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discriminations Against Women, United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child to name just a few; and there are also domestic legal frameworks in addition to the Constitution such as the Children Act 2005 and Women Act 2010 all geared toward promoting right to education among others.

Notwithstanding of the government of The Gambia active role in promotion of children’s rights to education which is translated into the promulgation of the above named laws and building adequate schools in all the four corners of the country. There is yet a huge gap or disparity that needs to be addressed. Children with disabilities in The Gambia are confronted with challenges such as discrimination and marginalisation both in formal and informal institutions. It is therefore urgent to draw the attention of the government into the plight of these children as they equally have right to education as enshrined in the supreme law of the land and the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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