Constitutional commissions

South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)
Public Protector

 

South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)

As the independent national human rights institution, the SAHRC was created to support constitutional democracy by promoting, protecting and monitoring the attainment of everyone’s human rights in South Africa without fear, favour or prejudice.

The values of the SAHRC are integrity, honesty, respect, objectivity, the Batho Pele principles and equality.

Each year, the SAHRC requires relevant organs of State to provide it with information on the measures taken towards the realisation of the rights contained in the Bill of Rights concerning housing, healthcare, food, water, social security, education and the environment.

The SAHRC has additional powers and functions prescribed by specific legislative obligations in terms of the Human Rights Commission Act, 1994 (Act 54 of 1994) [PDF]; the Promotion of Action to Information Act (Paia), 2000 (Act 2 of 2000) [PDF], and thee Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 (Act 4 of 2000) [PDF].

The commission has to:

  • promote awareness of the statutes
  • monitor compliance with the statutes
  • report to Parliament in relation to these statutes
  • develop recommendations on persisting challenges related to these statutes and any necessary reform.

The SAHRC is actively involved in ensuring the ratification of international and regional human-rights instruments by advocating for the domestication of human-rights instruments.

At international level, the SAHRC is recognised by the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as an A-status national human rights institution. As an A-status institution, the SAHRC has adhered to the Paris Principles, which are the guiding principles that set out the nature and functioning of a national human rights institution.

The SAHRC deals with a wide range of human rights complaints.

Public Protector

The President appoints the Public Protector on recommendation of the National Assembly and in terms of the Constitution, for a non-renewable period of seven years.

The Public Protector is subject only to the Constitution and the law, and functions independently from government and any political party. No person or organ of State may interfere with the functioning of the Public Protector.

The Public Protector has the power to report a matter to Parliament, which will debate it and ensure that the Public Protector’s recommendations are followed.

Section 182 of the Constitution mandates the Public Protector to:

  • investigate any conduct in State affairs, or in the public administration in any sphere of government, that is alleged or suspected to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice
  • report on that conduct
  • take appropriate remedial action
  • be accessible to all people and communities.

The Public Protector has additional legislative powers contained in about 16 statutes. It must resolve disputes or grievances involving the State through mediation, consultation, negotiation and any other remedies. It also has a mandate to enforce executive ethics, the Promotion of Action to Information Act (Paia), 2000 (Act 2 of 2000) [PDF]; the Protected Disclosures Act, 2000 (Act 26 of 2000) [PDF]; and the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, 2004 (Act 12 of 2004) [PDF].

The only matters excluded from the mandate of the Public Protector are court decisions, judicial functions and matters outside the public sector.