March 10, 2020

Frequently asked questions

The following questions will provide clarity on some of the legal terms you will encounter throughout this WiseUp Newsletter.

Question: Does the Bill of Rights apply to everyone?

Answer:  >   Most of the rights in the Bill of Rights make use of the words “everyone” or “no-one”. For example, “everyone has the right to life”. The use of these words are wide enough to include every single person in South Africa, whether that person is a citizen or not.

>     There are certain instances where the rights are limited to a specific group of people. For example, “every adult citizen has the right to vote”. This means that a person who is in South Africa, but who is not an adult citizen, cannot vote.

Question: Which courts can enforce a person's human rights?

Answer: > There are various courts that can enforce a person's human rights and decide on the constitutionality of a law that might limit a person's human rights.

>     These courts are the High Court, Supreme Court of Appeal and Constitutional Court. Some specialised courts, such as the Equality Court, may also decide on constitutional matters in certain instances relating to the right to be treated equal.

>     Even though there are other courts that can hear constitutional matters, the Constitutional Court is the highest court in South Africa and has the final say. This means that if the High Court or the Supreme Court of Appeal declares that a certain piece of legislation is against the Constitution, the Constitutional Court will have to make a final decision on that aspect.

Question: What powers do the South African  Human Rights  Commission (“SAHRC”) have?

Answer: > The SAHRC is a government institution, which promotes, monitors and protects human rights. The SAHRC can investigate, resolve, provide advice to, and assist victims of human rights violations.

Question: What are some examples where a person's human rights have been heard in court?

Answer: >  Some of the more notable cases regarding a person's human rights are as follow:

-      A Hindu student in a school was being unfairly discriminated against as she was prohibited to wear a nose ring as part of her religious practice.  On the other hand, the school allowed other students to wear jewellery proclaiming their religious belief but she was not. The Constitutional Court held that there was an unfair limitation of the student's right to religious freedom and equality, and that the Constitution would not allow for a limitation in this matter.

Answer: >  Some of the more notable cases regarding a person's human rights are as follow:

-      The High Court held that in private cases of succession, a beneficiary had no right to inherit. Any beneficiary mentioned in a person's Will is merely eligible to inherit. Where beneficiaries are limited to only males, a person's right to equality cannot be infringed as they had no right to inherit equally in the first place.

Did you know…The South African Human Rights Commission is a government institution, which promotes, monitors and protects human rights.