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Protectors or Pretenders? - Government Human Rights Commissions in Africa, HRW Report 2001

South Africa



International Standards: The Paris Principles

Important Factors

Examining the Record in Africa

Innovative and Positive Contributions by Commissions

Regional Iniatives

The Role Of The International Community






    In common with other Chapter 9 institutions, the Commission is financed through the budget of the Department of Justice, an arrangement which the SAHRC has criticized, arguing that it should not be dependent on the executive branch of government in this way. "Despite the provisions of the constitution and our legislation," noted chairman Barney Pityana, "in practice we found ourselves getting caught up in the systems of the civil service."236 The ICD, by contrast, which formally falls under the minister of safety and security, nevertheless has an independent budget voted by parliament. However, the financial and administrative independence of the commission from the executive was clarified and strengthened by the judgment of the Constitutional Court in a case brought by the New National Party which touched on the similar situation of the Independent Electoral Commission, also a Chapter 9 institution.237

    For the year 1998 to 1999, the annual budget for the commission was R.13.2 million [U.S.$2.15 million]; a figure which was allocated without consultation with the commission, and which the SAHRC stated was inadequate for its work. Some NGO commented to Human Rights Watch, however, that the commission might have more funds available for substantive work if it had chosen less plush offices for its headquarters and paid commissioners less generous salaries. In November 1998, the commission announced that it had set up a trust fund, chaired by a high court judge, to raise money from donors and give it more financial independence from government.

    The SAHRC has received technical and training assistance from the U.N., the Commonwealth Secretariat, and human rights institutions in individual Commonwealth countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and India.238 The U.S. Agency for International Development has funded some programs, including a grant of R.1.5 million [U.S.$250,000] to conduct a radio awareness program.239

    Following a needs assessment conducted in May 1995, a two-year technical assistance project to South Africa from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights was put into operation in April 1998, intended to build capacity for the promotion and protection of human rights within government and within independent state institutions. The project offers training and technical assistance to the Department of Justice, the Department of Correctional Services, the police, the army, Justice College (for training for magistrates and judges), the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Fort Hare, and the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights, as well as to the SAHRC. A manager for the project is based at the SAHRC's headquarters in Johannesburg, where he acts as a resource and link to the U.N. for the entire organization. In addition to benefitting from training offered by the project, staff members of the SAHRC have also acted as facilitators for training sessions offered by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights for government departments, and have assisted in developing materials. It is anticipated that the project will be renewed, though on a lesser scale.240

    The Pretoria office of UNHCR has also given support to the commission's campaign to "roll back xenophobia," assisting the commission to appeal for funding from embassies in South Africa and the donor community generally and providing funding to the NCRA, through the SAHRC. Overall, direct U.N. support for SAHRC activities has been modest, and is restricted mainly to logistical assistance, setting up contacts with similar institutions elsewhere in the world, and the funding of some workshops.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2001

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