March 7, 2005

Human rights commission slams San rights violations

An enquiry into human rights violations among South Africa's tiny Khomani San population has painted a bleak picture of a community suffering neglect and mistreatment at the hands of local authorities. The findings are the result a yearlong investigation by the Human Rights Commission (HRC), after receiving complaints of alleged police misconduct from the community. While the report acknowledged incidents of police abuse against the San community and called for prosecution of the police officers involved in a murder, it also slated the government for its apparent failure to provide support to this marginalised group, who continue to live in abject poverty.
An estimated 700 Khomani San reside on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in the Northern Cape Province. They have routinely raised their concerns over poor service delivery, the discrimination and sexual abuse their children suffer at school, and the erosion of their language. The human rights watchdog questioned the government's land-restitution programme for the Khomani San, saying the failure to provide basic services constituted a large part of the problems facing the community.
In 1999 the San community achieved a notable success when they successfully reclaimed 36.000 ha of land in the Andriesvale-Askam area of the Kalahari. However, at the launch of the report, HRC chairman Jody Kollapen remarked that post-settlement support from the department of land affairs had been "less than adequate". He pointed out that local authorities had failed to provide water, sanitation, or waste-management on San land, despite receiving funding for this purpose. Among its recommendations the HRC called on the local council to immediately implement the long-delayed Khomani San Settlement and Development Strategy, which recognises the specific needs of this historically marginalised community. Furthermore, it suggested that two external managers - a farm manager and general executive manager - with the land affairs department as overseer, be appointed to assist in developing the land secured, which had been overgrazed and was unproductive.
To improve the communities' access to courts, it was recommended that a circuit or periodic court be established in the Andriesvale-Askham area. The HRC also called on the district office of the Department of Education and Educational Support Services to embark on education and monitoring programmes to deal with child abuse, and ensure that such programmes take into account the needs and interests of Khomani San children. While the South African San Institute (SAS) has welcomed the report, they say much depends on political commitment of local authorities to implement the recommendations. (Rts/IPS)

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