The South African Government is proud to present its Initial Report on the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

South Africa extends the gratitude of all South African people to the Organisation of African Unity and all its structures, as well as the peoples of the African continent, for the assistance given to the peoples of South Africa in the struggle for liberation from the oppressive apartheid regime.

That oppressive apartheid regime has left South Africa with a legacy of under-development, the magnitude of which South Africans are just starting to appreciate. When the new Government assumed power in 1994, the content of every South African's life was defined by the colour of skin and level of income. Four years later, the discrepancy in development between white and black South Africans still poses a major challenge for the South African Government.

The statistics set out in the Introduction of this Report paint a stark picture of the legacy of the discriminatory practices of the previous Government. With the data available to us, it is quite clear that race, geographic location and gender are the main determinants of who is poor.

Because of this depth of deprivation, 61% of Africans live under conditions of abject poverty, while only 1% of whites are poor. It is this reality that informs South Africa's continued call to the African continent to work closely with South Africa in the development of a peaceful and economically stable South Africa and Africa. It is also within this reality that the South African Government has to address the question of the empowerment of Africans, which remains high on the national agenda, despite all the challenges facing the Government.

Since South Africa emerged as a democracy on 27 April 1994, a new Constitution with a Bill of Rights has been put in place, policies and legislation guaranteeing fundamental human rights have been developed and promoted and South Africa has become a party to many international and regional human rights instruments.

The Government of South Africa, however, recognises that there are still many imbalances that exist in respect of fundamental human rights as guaranteed in the South African Constitution. Thus this Report to the OAU, like the other country reports to the United Nations on women and children, can be used as a benchmark against which future developments can be measured. The next South Africa Report to the OAU will depict further advancement in the protection, promotion and fulfilment of human and people's rights. It will also seek to address the limitations as outlined in the introduction.

South Africa appreciates the scrutiny of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and peoples of Africa of the efforts to work towards entrenching values of the Charter. South Africa is both proud to proclaim it's successes towards the achievement of human and peoples's rights, and mindful of that which still has to be achieved.

A salient feature of this Report is the unavailability of data, or the unreliability thereof due to under- or non reporting. This was particularly so for the period pre-1994. Since then South Africa has been able to establish systems and baseline data in certain areas.

The South African Government therefore wishes to conclude this Report by stating that it acknowledges that the transformation of laws and policies is not enough in a rapidly changing democracy. The Government reaffirms that further action is required in order to translate policies and legislation into fundamental change at the ground level.



  1. The statistics provided in this section below have been obtained from South Africa's country reports on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

  2. Halsbury, vol 10 par 423

  3. The obligations incurred in terms of these instruments are discussed under relevant articles in the report.

  4. Children, Poverty and Disparity Reduction, A Report Commissioned by the RDP Office Page 31

  5. Gender Research Project Bulletin, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Page 7

  6. South African Year Book 1996, South African Communication Service, Page 56-57

  7. Implementation plans of the relevant government departments is attached hereto as an annexure, Progress Report to Cabinet, 1997.

  8. Dlamini " Human Rights in Africa Which Way South Africa"(1995) at Page 90

  9. Dlamini at 91