Africa

'S. Africa should do more to address apartheid legacy'

President Cyril Ramaphosa reaffirms country’s commitment to uphold and champion human rights

07.12.2018
'S. Africa should do more to address apartheid legacy'

By Hassan Isilow

JOHANNESBURG

Although South Africa has made some progress in correcting the legacy of apartheid, it has not been fast enough, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday.

“We know that for those who are still afflicted by poverty, by the legacy of dispossession and by underdevelopment, our progress has not been fast enough,” Ramaphosa said in a keynote address during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

He said the burning issue of access to land and ownership has brought the reality into sharp focus that government still has to extend the property rights enshrined in the Constitution to all South Africans. 

Land is a sensitive issue in South Africa, where the majority of the natural resources remains in the hands of a few whites. The commercial farms that produce the majority of the food in the country are mostly owned by the white, as well.

On Tuesday, the national assembly adopted a report recommending the constitution to be amended for land expropriation without compensation.

Ramaphosa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has the largest number of legislators in the parliament. But the main opposition Democratic Alliance says it will take the matter to court.

Ramaphosa said the land debate has raised the issue that certain provisions of the Constitution may need some amendments to fulfill the obligations of the same Constitution.

He said although South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, there is a great deal of unfinished business. 

“For example, the right to gender equality promised by our Constitution is rendered meaningless unless the state and all social actors fulfill their obligation to put instruments in place to support the advancement of this right,” he said.

The president also reaffirmed the country’s commitment to uphold and champion human rights.


Minimum wage law

Speaking at a separate event in Johannesburg, Ramaphosa announced that the law of minimum wage will be effective from January 1, 2019.

The lowest pay will be 20 rand per hour ($1.42), or 3,500 rand per month ($250).

Ramaphosa who signed the bill into law last month said no worker in the country will be paid below the minimum wage.

“It is a great achievement for a young democracy that is striving to overcome a legacy of poverty and severe inequality,” he added.

The prime minister said his government has heard the voices of those who say the starting minimum wage level is too low.

“We agree. It is far below what we would want workers to earn,” he said, adding it was meant to improve incomes of the lowest wage earners and also sustain and increase levels of employment.

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