“Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.”
Chapter 2 of The Constitution of South Africa contains The Bill Of Rights; This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.”
So let’s deal with human dignity, which is Number 10 of The Bill of Rights:
The word used in The Bill of Rights for the right to human dignity is inherent; inherent as an adjective meaning: existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute.
Based on the meaning, it is safe to assume that dignity is therefore permanent and essential, that it has to be both given, and no one can or should be deprived of it. Much like a birthright! To have dignity respected isn’t a privilege or a gift bestowed upon a person, but should fall under human behaviour and of course, Governments way of dealing with its citizens.
Based on the above explanation of the right to human dignity, how far are we, as a country, including the Government, of implementing or ensuring that we adhere to this?
When The President spoke to us about Covid19 and the “need for the country” to be placed in lockdown, there were certain assurances, (I won’t call it promises) that he made.
He assured us that should we stick together and adhere to the “Lockdown” rules that we would all emerge from it with as little collateral damage as possible.
Whilst I understand, as most people do, that we would have a portion of the population succumbing to the Covid19 virus, we were nonetheless made to believe that it would be “bad,” but never for one moment did I think that it would be this bad.
We had the army deployed during Level 5 lockdown, who was tasked to assist the Government and police in “maintaining law and order,” and to be of service to the citizens to cope with what is undoubtedly something we weren’t familiar with.
Citizens were murdered by the army because excessive force was used, but along with that, were the citizens who were told to roll home, jump like “frogs,” run as fast as they could while being chased, told to stay in the tiny shacks that are their makeshift homes.
Some people were turned away from public hospitals and left in excruciating pain with no pain relief because the hospitals were being “readied” for Covid19 patients. I know this because I was one of those patients.
Then there were the food parcels that were stolen by corrupt Government officials and either used for their households or sold at a profit and poverty-stricken citizens, who hadn’t eaten for days, were left with no answers except empty bellies.
The funds from the Solidarity Fund, aimed at assisting those citizens in dire need went “missing.” Now I don’t know about you, but if the money goes missing in my account, I know it’s gone almost immediately. Granted Government coffers are more than what I could ever have, but someone or several people have to push “Enter,” to release the funds. Within the various Government Departments, there is always a paper trail, as all over the world they use enormous amounts of paper to duplicate forms, and or paperwork. Yet, The President would have us believe that nobody knows anything! I have dealt with Government Departments, and there is always paperwork in duplicate or triplicate.
Now we are told by Social Development that people with temporary disabilities will no longer receive funds. Assuming, of course, that there are funds available for them and it’s not a tactic to stall until more monies are collected.
Many Non-Profit and Charity Organizations have done their bit in trying to assist, and ordinary citizens have gone above and beyond to help where they can.
Given that the few examples indicated above are not even the tip of the iceberg, I have to ask, “Where is the Right to Dignity?”
Is it “dignified,” to beg, borrow or steal to feed yourself, not because you are too lazy to work but because you have been stopped from working due to the lockdown that was implemented?
Poverty was a huge problem in our country before lockdown, before democracy in 1994, because of the laws implemented during Apartheid. It has now become inhuman!
People are dying, both from the disease and lack of nutrition. Where is the dignity that we were promised in the Bill Of Rights?
When and if we ever get out of this lockdown, do we, as ordinary citizens have any recourse to sue the Government for its failure to ensure our human dignity? Do we simply have to brush ourselves off and pretend, yet again that everything is alright and that we are a resilient nation? When does it stop for us, as citizens to be “resilient?” How desperately does Government, (all Government), care about its citizens when there is no forward plan except for us to smile and accept the undignified way we have been treated pre-and during the lockdown?