Date: February 7, 2024 Type: Country:

SONA: President Ramaphosa must also prioritise human rights at home

President Cyril Ramaphosa must fulfil his commitment to uphold and safeguard the human rights of all living in South Africa with the same fervour demonstrated in advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people, Amnesty International South Africa said ahead of the president’s upcoming State of the Nation (SONA) address.

In his weekly newsletter on 30 January, following the International Court of Justice’s order on provisional measures in response to South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, President Ramaphosa spoke about the country’s “obligation to stand up for justice and fundamental human rights for all people, everywhere”.

“The president rightly emphasised the obligation of a nation that fought and defeated apartheid to advocate for justice and human rights globally. However, it is imperative that this commitment extends to addressing the pressing human rights issues within South Africa itself,” Amnesty International South Africa Executive Director Shenilla Mohamed said. 

“While the president’s words are commendable, they must be matched by concrete actions, accountability and policies that address the dire situation faced by many in the country. South Africa will be celebrating 30 years since the first free elections in the country, and yet many people are still waiting for basic services such as water, quality healthcare, quality education, and adequate housing. This shows us that access to basic human rights have fallen by the wayside.”  

Amnesty International South Africa continues to call out the government for failing the nation on the delivery of basic human rights. Yet, we are not seeing accountability being taken from the highest to lowest levels of government, nor action to remedy these failures. 

The state of education in South Africa remains a significant concern, with many learners lacking access to quality education and adequate resources. This perpetuates inequality and hinders the potential for social and economic development.

Water issues continue to plague communities across the country, with millions still lacking access to clean and safe drinking water. This is not only a violation of the right to water but also exacerbates health risks and perpetuates poverty. 

South Africa is also grappling with alarmingly high crime rates, including gender-based violence, which disproportionately affects women and girls. It is imperative that the government takes decisive action to address this epidemic and ensure the safety and security of all who live in the country.

“Access to basic human rights remains a pipe dream for many people in South Africa,” Shenilla Mohamed said. 

Further delays cannot be tolerated, President Ramaphosa in his SONA must provide a sober analysis of the situation in the country, take responsibility and present viable solutions that can be implemented without delay.  

“In an election year, we urge against politicking and instead emphasise the importance of genuine commitment to human rights and social justice. We are tired of lip service,” Shenilla Mohamed said. 

“President Ramaphosa and the government he leads must demonstrate unwavering dedication to upholding the human rights of every person in South Africa, in line with the values of human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms as stated in the Constitution.”


President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver his 2024 State of the Nation Address on Thursday, 8 February 2023 in Cape Town. 

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Genevieve Quintal, Media and Communications Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0) 64 890 9224;  

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Amnesty International South Africa office, 97 Oxford Road, Saxonwold, Johannesburg, 2196