The utilisation of socio-economic rights of children to alleviate poverty in South Africa
According to the latest statistics it has been estimated that 72% of South African children, or 4, 6 million aged 0-6, and 12, 3 million aged 0-18 are poor. These children face shortages of food, clothing, and shelter. They also lack access to basic services. It can therefore be argued with authority that basic human dignity and other fundamental rights are denied to these children. In order to facilitate South Africa's development as a democratic state based on human dignity, freedom, and equality, the government has recently confirmed its commitment to eradicate child poverty in particular. The concept of socio-economic rights, more specifically the right of access to adequate housing was introduced through section 26 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. This right entitles everyone, including children to access to adequate housing. In terms of section 26(2) the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures to progressively realise the right. However, as confirmed by the Constitutional Court in The Government of the Republic of South Africa and Others v Grootboom and Others 2000 11 BCLR 1169 (CC), the right of access to adequate housing is subject to the availability of state resources. Section 28(l)(c) of the Constitution expressly conferres upon children an additional right to basic shelter over and above their right in terms of section 26. In this respect it must be remembered that a child's right to basic shelter is subject to the same internal limitations as the other socio-economic rights in the Bill of Rights. The aim of this study was to analyse the possible utilisation of these rights in order to alleviate poverty, while keeping in mind that the Constitutional Court stressed that the realisation of socio-economic rights is key to the advancement of South Africa as a democratic state. This dissertation mainly focussed on children's socio-economic right to basic shelter in conjunction with everyone's right of access to adequate housing. Therefore, when discussing the legislative and other measures taken to implement these rights as a reaction to poverty, focus was mainly on those measures relevant to the housing problem. Further emphasis was also placed on the findings and recommendations made concerning the realisation of housing rights in South Africa by institutions such as the South African Human Rights Commission. In response to the research and findings presented in this dissertation, the following recommendations are made: The South African Human Rights Commission emphasised that the measures implemented to realise socio-economic rights such as the right of access to adequate housing must be done in an integrated and co-operative manner involving all three spheres of government. This lies at the heart of any successful reaction to poverty, thus it can only be stressed that the principles of co-operative government should be included in any measure implemented. Another problem facing the successful implementation of measures to realise socio-economic rights is the prevailing incompetence of department officials. It is recommended that government officials receive the necessary training in resource management and development planning. This would result in more effective development plans to implement measures to realise socio-economic right. Government especially at local level is riddled with corruption and resource miss-management. This problem must be remedied on a permanent basis as soon as possible. It was found that the measures taken to alleviate the housing crisis in South Africa focused mainly on the realisation of section 26, while realising children's right to basic shelter on an indirect basis only. In light of government's commitment to implement the principles of the UNCRC it is submitted that measures should be taken on a progressive basis that cater for the direct realisation of section 28(l)(c). Measures, which is currently taken to realise children's right to basic shelter, was found to be inadequate. This situation should be remedied by amending the relevant legislation and enacting more legislation, policies, and programmes specifically aimed at the children's housing interests.
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