Date: Jul 15, 2020

South Africa: Reports of police opening fire on human rights protestors alarming

In response to reports that police opened fire with rubber bullets on people protesting for their right to safe, sufficient and reliable water in the Eastern Cape last week, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said:

“Amnesty International South Africa is alarmed at reports of the use of excessive force towards people who were protesting for their right to water, a fundamental human right. We repeat our call, once again, that while it is critical and important to ensure that people adhere to the lockdown, the police should not use excessive force against protesters.

As the number of people infected in South Africa surges, and the country has passed 100 days into lockdown, many communities still do not have water with which to wash their hands. Something so simple, yet so important, in protecting against the coronavirus. Each day that passes puts people’s lives at risk, and the government must urgently scale up its efforts to deliver water to communities, and it must do so without any further delays.

Amnesty International South Africa’s Turn On The Tap campaign calls on the government to ensure that the planning and delivery of water is:

  • Transparent with communication and information regarding which communities water is being delivered to, the distance needed to travel to access water, and how much water is being distributed per household;
  • Accountable to its commitments, including ensuring municipalities monitor water levels, so that individuals have access to sufficient, safe and reliable water each day, and are able to regularly wash hands with soap;
  • Progressive, so that equitable access to sufficient, safe and reliable water becomes a reality for all, even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, one in three people in South Africa did not have access to safe, sufficient and reliable water. The time is now for the government to fix this once and for all, not only during the crisis, but always. It must put people first, and ensure that the Right to Water is fulfilled for everyone.”


The South African government is obligated by national and international laws and standards to deliver on the right to water. The national government, acting through the minister for Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, must ensure that water is protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable manner, for the benefit of all persons and in accordance with its constitutional mandate.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this mandate into stark light with many people in South Africa already vulnerable and at great risk of contracting the disease because they do not have access to protective measures including sufficient water to regularly wash their hands. 

Take action here and call on the government to #TurnOnTheTap.


Mienke Steytler, Media and Digital Content Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0)64 890 9224;