Survey on constitutional, human rights released

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has released the Baseline Survey’s final sample, which will provide government, civil society and the public with vital information in order to assess where South Africans stand on constitutional and human rights awareness.

The survey is a part of the multi-year programme called “Socio-Economic Justice for All” (SEJA), which aims to contribute towards the promotion, protection and realisation of socio-economic rights.

The programme, in partnership with the Foundation for Human Rights, is funded by the European Union.

According to the Department of Justice, the SEJA programme is premised on a rights-based approach to the long-term eradication of poverty, in which people living in poverty are empowered to assert their constitutional rights as active members of society.

The Baseline Survey’s final sample consisted of nearly 25 000 interviews and provides insightful and very useful information on a number of issues - all of which are highly relevant and of much interest in the country at present.  

These issues include the public’s general mood about the country, land and property, levels of constitutional awareness, attitudes towards the Constitution, civic and political engagement, sex and sexuality, foreign nationals, human rights and attitudes towards democracy in the country.

According to the department, the aim of the survey is to ascertain levels of awareness of human rights and the Constitution and to identify barriers to entrenching a human rights culture in South Africa.

Constitutional, human rights awareness 

With regards to constitutional awareness, the respondents were asked if they had heard of the Constitution of South Africa and if they had heard of the Bill of Rights in Chapter 2 of the Constitution.

Slightly more than half, 51%, of respondents, had heard of either.

Male respondents were more likely at 55% than their female counterparts, who stood at 47%, to have heard of either the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

With regards to the race of respondents, whites were the most likely (68%) to have heard of either, followed by Indian/Asian respondents (61%). 

While the majority (56%) of coloureds had heard of either the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, less than half (48%) of black African respondents had heard of either.

Speaking at the release of the report, Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Michael Masutha said: “What this tells us is that there is still an enormous task ahead of us in raising levels of constitutional and human rights awareness. If persons or communities are not even aware of their rights, how can they possibly enforce them?”

Land issue 

The respondents were also asked on the issue of land which is the subject of much debate and discourse in the country currently.

Almost 72% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that land should be returned to black people where it was taken away.

As one would expect, there were differences across the races.

While 77% of black Africans agreed, this was true for 63% of coloureds, 61% of Indians and 45% of whites.

However, despite these levels of support for returning the land to black people where it was taken away, 75% of all adults agreed that no-one should be allowed to take their land away from them or their families.

Minister Masutha said this confirms that there is no simple solution to land reform.

The Minister reiterated the words of President Cyril Ramaphosa that government is "… going to handle this matter in the way we've always handled difficult issues in our country: by dialogue, discussion, engagement - until we find good solutions that will take our country forward… South Africans must, therefore, navigate this issue, not by fear or distrust”.

Civil engagement


The respondents were also asked about civil engagement and the data found that some 56% thought that contacting their local councillor was very difficult. The highest proportion of respondents (88%) thought that contacting a Member of Parliament was the most difficult.

Some 76% thought it was difficult or very difficult to challenge a violation of their rights in court, while 82% thought it was difficult or very difficult to approach the Constitutional Court.

Some 82% thought it was difficult or very difficult to lodge a complaint with a Chapter 9 body, like the South African Human Rights Commission or the Public Protector.

Minister Masutha said what these figures show is that people generally feel that enforcing their rights is either difficult or very difficult. 

“More than two decades after the dawn of democracy, this shouldn’t be so. In fact, active citizenship is a fundamental pillar of the NDP and goes to the heart of the developmental state.”

This is why the Baseline Survey is so useful, the Minister said.

“The information will greatly assist in helping us, as government, to focus and tailor-make our policies and programs where they are most needed and where they can have the biggest impact,” Minister Masutha added. -

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