Date: Jul 18, 2021 Type: Country:

South Africa: Protect human rights and the rule of law to honour Mandela’s legacy

The deadly riots that erupted last week, following the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma, are a reminder that the government must do everything to always protect the rule of law and human rights in honour of Nelson Mandela’s legacy, Amnesty International South Africa said as the world marks Mandela Day.

More than 200 people have lost their lives during riots in parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng. The riots have undermined the rule of law and affected several human rights including the rights to life, health, food and freedom of movement. Nelson Mandela and other political leaders fought the oppressive Apartheid system, to ensure that all who live in South Africa enjoy these human rights and that all people are equal before the law.

“Human rights are the cornerstone of South Africa’s Constitution. The government must respect, protect, promote and fulfil these rights. Authorities must honour the legacy of former president Nelson Mandela by ensuring that everything he fought and stood for does not go up in smoke,” said Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa.

“It is important that the situation is brought under control and the process of rebuilding and healing begins to take place. The government needs to ensure that everyone is safe, that their human rights are protected, and the rule of law is effectively upheld. Shortly after he walked free from prison in 1990, Nelson Mandela said, ‘To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity’. We remember this today as his legacy is remembered not only in South Africa but around the world,” Mohamed said.


As of 16 July 2021, 212 people had died since unrest and violence broke out in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and 1,692 had been arrested. 

The unrest began after former president Jacob Zuma handed himself over to authorities in KwaZulu-Natal, on the evening of 8 July. This came after the Constitutional Court found Zuma guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months in prison.

Nelson Mandela International Day is commemorated worldwide on 18 July, on the birthday of South Africa’s first democratically elected president. 

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