Amnesty International has today published its Amnesty International Report 2022/23: The State of the World’s Human Rights, and one of its findings is that the right to life and security of the person is still violated daily in South Africa, 29 years after the fall of the apartheid regime.
“Violent crime continues to plague South Africa, and the right to life and security of the person, enshrined in the Constitution as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), is violated daily with murder rates soaring, mass shootings, femicides, and assassinations continuing unabated,” said Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director, Amnesty International South Africa.
Murder rates soared
Murder rates soared with crime statistics for July to September, released in November 2022, showing an increase in murders of 13.6%, compared to the same quarter in 2021. Tragically, there was also an increase of 9.8% in child murders.
This trend continued with the crime statistics for October to December 2022, released in March this year, showing an increase in murders of 10.1%, compared to the same quarter in 2021. Murders of children went down by 9.4% but attempted murder of children rocketed by 23.9%.
Many were killed in mass shootings
The report highlights the killing of 26 people in Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town, between March and June 2022, and more than 20 people dying in two tavern shootings in Soweto and in Pietermaritzburg in July of the same year.
Mass shootings have continued into 2023 with at least 30 people reportedly killed in incidents in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) provinces since the start of this year.
Gender-based violence and femicide continued unabated
South Africa is clearly extremely dangerous for anyone, especially women and girls.
Murders of women increased by 10.3%, with 989 women killed between July and September 2022. Sexual offences increased by 11%, and rape by 10.8%. The most recent quarterly crime statistics showed a 22.1% increase in murders of women with 1,101 women murdered between October and December 2022. Sexual offences increased by 9.6% and reported rape cases by 9.8%.
Despite the adoption of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (NSP-GBVF) in 2019, a national council, intended to ensure that the plan was implemented, is yet to be established.
Later today (Tuesday), South Africa will appear before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland, where it has been reported that it plans to support all the recommendations from other countries to address GBVF.
“This is encouraging but we urge the government not to stop at supporting the recommendations – it must now swiftly implement them, providing adequate financial resources to deliver outcomes of the NSP-GBVF. Simply put – no more time can be lost to protect women and girls,” said Mohamed.
Another concerning finding in the report is that, from July to September last year, cases of abduction increased by more than 100% in South Africa, with 4,028 reported cases. Most of these cases related to hijacking, robbery and rape.
Abduction continued to increase by 58.3% between October and December 2022, with ransom demands making up most of the cases.
Police continued to use excessive force
Well-trained police are key in ensuring a safe environment for all, yet the South African police continued to use excessive force resulting in deaths and injuries in 2022. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate’s (IPID) 2021/22 annual report noted 5,295 new cases which included 3,407 cases of assault, 744 of discharge of an official firearm, and 223 reported deaths in police custody. There were 410 reported deaths as a result of police action, an increase from 353 the previous year.
In July 2022, four police officers were acquitted in connection with the death in March 2021 of Mthokozisi Ntumba, killed while passing a student-led protest in Braamfontein in Johannesburg. No one has been held accountable for his death.
In August 2022, four people were killed during a protest about the authorities’ failure to deliver services in Tembisa, a township in the Gauteng province. The IPID’s investigation into two of the killings, for which the police were alleged to be responsible, continued at the end of 2022. We are still awaiting the outcome of that investigation.
Protection of human rights defenders and whistleblowers still not strengthened
Human rights defenders (HRDs) and whistleblowers continued to be targeted in 2022 with Abahlali baseMjondolo, a movement advocating for basic services for poor communities, losing four activists to unlawful killings in KZN, allegedly in connection with their work. Twenty-four of the movement’s activists have been killed over the last few years, and its activists remain under threat.
In 2022, Amnesty International South Africa also campaigned for justice for environmental activist and human rights defender Fikile Ntshangase who was silenced with six bullets in 2020. No one has been brought to justice for her murder.
The recent murders of State Capture liquidators Cloete and Thomas Murray have demonstrated once again the disturbing increase in extra judicial killings and high levels of crime in South Africa.
The government is obliged, through the Protected Disclosures Act and the Witness Protection Act, to provide HRDs and whistleblowers with protection, and it must transparently and without delay outline how it plans to strengthen protection for whistleblowers and HRDs, as promised by President Ramaphosa in this year’s State of the Nation Address.
“Everyone must be assured that exposing corruption and wrongdoing will not cost them their lives,” said Mohamed.
Continuing impunity for murders
“No-one is safe in South Africa, and the impunity with which killings are carried out is fuelling the flames. Urgent action is needed from the government, including the South African Police Service (SAPS), who have a duty to protect everyone who lives in this country,” said Mohamed.
“They must work to reduce persistently high levels of violence in communities, by taking measures to ensure public safety, through effective, human rights compliant, and accountable law enforcement.
“It is up to the SAPS to conduct thorough, efficient and transparent investigations into all killings, and ensure that the perpetrators are charged in accordance with the law. We can no longer allow horrendous crimes in South Africa to continue with impunity,” Mohamed added. “The justice system must begin to act as a deterrent.
“If the government continues failing to create a safe environment for all, it is violating the right to life and security of the person, and must be held accountable. The buck stops with the government.”
Amnesty International’s annual report further illustrates how impunity is also inflamed worldwide with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an example of what can happen when a state thinks it can flout laws and violate human rights without consequences.
The report underlines the failure of global and regional institutions, including the UN Security Council and African Union, to respond adequately to crimes committed under international law in countries like China, Myanmar and Yemen, as well as on our own continent, including in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and South Sudan.
Regionally, the report highlights how journalists, HRDs and the political opposition faced repression in Zimbabwe and Mozambique as well as Eswatini where prominent HRD and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko was assassinated on 21 January 2023.
South Africa can rise again
“The UDHR was created 75 years ago, out of the ashes of the Second World War. At its core is the universal recognition that all people have rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to life and security of the person,” said Mohamed.
“Every single life lost has value and it is crucial that the government fulfil its mandate to protect the human rights of all, preventing further deaths, and allowing all people in South Africa to live their lives fully, freely and without fear of losing their lives. South Africa too can rise from the ashes.”
Download the full Amnesty International Report 2022/23: The State of the World’s Human Rights here.
The report further outlined that, in 2022, in South Africa:
- Sanitation conditions in public schools were poor.
- The number of households living in informal settlements increased.
- Operation Dudula, an anti-migrant movement, launched in three additional provinces.
- Xenophobic violence resulted in injury and loss of life.
- The authorities failed to ensure that the mining industry complied with standards to prevent human rights violations.
- There was an absence of legislation to hold government and corporate companies accountable to climate commitments.
- Climate change and state mismanagement of infrastructure exacerbated the impacts of two floods in KZN.
- People displaced by floods were unable to access medicine and healthcare while water supplies were disrupted.
For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
Mienke Mari Steytler, Media and Communications Officer (Maternity Cover), Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0) 64 890 9224; firstname.lastname@example.org
Amnesty International South Africa office, 97 Oxford Road, Saxonwold, Johannesburg, 2196