Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My delegation congratulates you on your election to preside over the 11th Cycle of the Human Rights Council (HRC). We are confident that you and members of your bureau will successfully manage the affairs of the Council during the course of this year. Be assured of our support in your collective stewardship of the business of the Council.
South Africa continues with its commitment to ensure the respect for, promotion, protection, and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. South Africa’s commitment to human rights and promotion of human dignity and equality is unwavering. Respect for human rights has been the defining feature of South Africa’s political history. Our struggle in this regard spans over 350 years and therefore the Government and its peoples will never abandon the values it has cherished for so long. Similarly the centrality of human rights and human dignity remains embedded in our foreign policy.
Since 1994, the South African Government has prioritised the attainment of social cohesion and national unity by among others, effectively addressing the glaring challenges of institutionalised racism, injustice, inequality, poverty and unemployment.
In our numerous national reports to the United Nations Human Rights System, in particular the UN human rights treaty system, South Africa has made it abundantly clear that our national struggle is directed at addressing these challenges.
South Africa continues with its responsibility to make all the universally recognised and constitutionally guaranteed human rights realisable for all. In the country’s quest to attain its national ideals, several noteworthy achievements have been registered and challenges encountered. In this milieu, it has been proven that the South African constitutional dispensation and its institutions of governance have matured and stood the test of time.
South Africa’s engagement with the global system of governance is predicated on the respect for the centrality of the Charter of the United Nations, the primacy of the principles of international law, the belief in multilateralism and respect for the rule of law.
The South African Government has continued to promulgate important pieces of legislation aimed at consolidating our democracy, human rights, rule of law and accountability. Chief among these include the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Act and the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act. The implementation of the provisions of these two pieces of legislation has assisted the government to deal effectively with the perpetrators while at the same time ensuring remedies and greater protection for the victims.
Like many countries, South Africa is confronted with the challenge of migration. Recently these challenges have resulted in some of our citizens (mainly the poor) attacking our non-nationals. The root causes which emanates as a result of our historical challenges of poverty, inequality, unemployment and the scarcity of resources. As the government we remain deeply concerned and condemn all forms of violence directed at non-nationals. We have also publicly condemned those leaders who have irresponsibly incited our poor citizens. Those who were implicated in violence against non-nationals have been apprehended and criminal investigations are underway in this regard. In addition and as a response to this reality and challenge, the Government published its White Paper on International Migration which is being finalised and will be presented to Cabinet in March 2017.
(We are also in the process of developing and amending numerous policies and legislation to address the root causes of this problem).
The majority of South Africans continue to be afflicted by poverty and unemployment. To this end, the Government and its partners (business and organised labour) recently agreed on a national minimum wage. There is a general understanding that this is a national minimum wage and does not represent the ideal living wage and will have to be regularly adjusted. Other complimentary efforts have been undertaken by Government in this regard, such as comprehensive social security for indigent communities. Many of the thematic issues reflected upon by the Council in its programme of work remain the preoccupation and priorities of our Government as well.
South Africa appreciates the support extended to it by Member States of the United Nations culminating in our re-election to the Human Rights Council. We will use this opportunity responsibly to champion our flagship programs, all of which are well known to this Council for the benefit of the victims of human rights violations. In particular we emphasize the realization of economic, social and cultural rights globally, as well as the establishment of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent in the Diaspora. We urge this Council to register concrete tangible progress in this regard. I also concur with the Secretary General's remarks on the dangers of the instrumentalisation of human rights.
We continue to share deeply in the vision of the Non-Aligned Movement since the historic Bandung Conference of 1955 that the right to development should be realized for all. In this regard, South Africa strongly believes in the legitimacy of elaborating a Convention on the Right to Development within the Human Rights family of instruments.
In conclusion we would be remiss in our duty if we failed to ensure the realisation of the only right that has been encapsulated in both Covenants, that is the right to self-determination. The on-going violations of the realisation of the right to self-determination of the people of Palestine and Western Sahara remains an issue of serious concern and should remain pivotal to the work of this Council. As South Africans, we cannot claim to be free while the people of Palestine and Western Sahara continue to bear the brunt of occupation, oppression and the denial of their right to self-determination.
I thank you.