Chapter 1 - The South African Constitution and Bill of Rights
The protection mechanisms are also called the 'state institutions supporting constitutional democracy' in the Constitution. Chapter 9 of the Constitution creates 7 institutions for protecting peoples' rights and for making sure that the government does its work properly. The institutions are:
Other institutions that also protect people's rights are:
People can also take cases about human rights abuses to the magistrate's courts and High Courts. If you take a case to the magistrate's court or High Court, then you can represent yourself but usually you would need to pay a lawyer to prepare the papers and to send them to court. This costs a lot of money. The protection mechanisms are free, and people can send in their complaint to be investigated without having to go to a lawyer.
The Public Protector represents citizens and watches over the activities of government officials to stop them abusing their powers. The Public Protector is an independent official and is accountable to the Constitution. Public Protector officials must act in a transparent way and must send a report of their activities and findings to Parliament at least once a year.
One person is appointed by the government as the national Public Protector. He or she has a department with staff who do the work in the national office and in the provincial offices.
How is the Public Protector appointed?
A parliamentary committee consisting of one member of each political party in Parliament nominates someone to be the Public Protector and the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces must approve the nominations. The Public Protector will stay in office for 7 years but he or she can be removed from this position by the President on grounds of misbehaviour, incapacity or incompetence.
A provincial Public Protector is appointed by the provincial premier in consultation with the national Public Protector. The person who is nominated must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the provincial legislature.
A Public Protector must:
The functions of the Public Protector
What can the Public Protector do?
The Public Protector has the power to do the following:
A person who is being investigated by the Public Protector has the right to give their side of the story and to be represented at the hearing.
Any person can make a complaint to the Public Protector. If you want to make a complaint you must make an oral or written statement saying:
The services of the Public Protector are free.
The SAHRC promotes respect for human rights and protects human rights. It must educate people about human rights. It can investigate complaints about human rights abuses, it can arrange for someone to have a lawyer to defend their rights, and it can take cases to court.
The SAHRC is an independent body and is only accountable to the Constitution and Parliament. The SAHRC must send a report of its activities to Parliament at least once a year.
The SAHRC consists of a chairperson and 10 members. These members must be South African citizens, fit and proper people, and broadly representative of the South African community. The members are nominated and approved by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. Members of the SAHRC can be commissioners for 7 years.
Anyone can make a complaint to the SAHRC. If you want to make a complaint you must do the following:
The CGE will protect men and women who complain that they have been discriminated against because of their gender or sex. The CGE will also advise lawmakers on laws that affect equality between men and women, and on the position of women as citizens.
The CGE is an independent body and is only accountable to the Constitution and to Parliament. The Commission must send a report of its activities to Parliament at least once a year.
The CGE consists of a chairperson and 7 to 11 members. The National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces nominate and approve members to the CGE. The members of the CGE stay in office for 7 years.
The Commission on Gender Equality Act makes no provision for provincial offices.
These are to:
What can the CGE do?
The CGE has the power to:
The CGE can request any level of government to assist them with an investigation or with any of their functions.
Anyone can make a complaint to the CGE. If you want to make a complaint you must do the following:
The Auditor General is the watchdog of all money that is given to the government and spent by them. The Auditor General checks the accounts of all national and provincial government departments and all local governments to make sure that money is being accounted for.
This commission has been set up to manage elections to make sure that they are free and fair.
Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (Cultural Commission)
This commission was established in terms of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities Act, 2002. Its purpose is to promote and protect the rights of different cultural, religious and language communities. It must promote and develop peace, tolerance and national unity amongst these communities, on the basis of equality, non-discrimination and freedom of association. Since the promulgation of the Act, 18 members have been appointed to serve on the Commission.
This commission used to be called the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA). ICASA exists to monitor all aspects of broadcasting in this country. For example, to make sure that radio and television broadcasts are fair and that they represent the views of South African society.
The Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (the Land Claims Commission) was set up under Section 25 (7) and (8) of the Bill of Rights (the property rights section) to mediate and decide on claims to land made by people who had been forcibly removed under the laws of apartheid. The Land Claims Commission is an independent body that is only accountable to the Constitution and to Parliament. It must send a report of its activities and findings to Parliament at least once a year.
The Land Claims Commission consists of a Chief Land Claims Commissioner and 9 commissioners, one in each province. The Minister of Land Affairs appoints the Chief Land Claims Commissioner and the Provincial Commissioners. There are also Land Court Judges in the Land Claims Court. The President, on the advice of the Judicial Services Commission, appoints the Land Claims Court judges.