Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
20 October 2010

Open letter to Premier Helen Zille on Janet Love

Open letter and statement on Janet Love

As constitutional lawyers, legal academics, human rights and social justice activists who have worked with Janet Love while she has been the National Director of the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), we are surprised and dismayed by Premier Helen Zille’s implication that she will not act independently of narrow party politics in her capacity as a human rights commissioner.

During the last five years, Janet Love has been the National Director of the LRC. In the face of a gradual decrease of grant funding for human rights work, she has fought to secure its survival. Despite competition from the private sector and the LRC’s inability to pay competitive salaries, she has succeeded in attracting talented lawyers to continue the LRC’s long tradition of human rights litigation and advocacy.

Under the leadership of Janet Love, the LRC has fought fearlessly for the rights of the poor and powerless, without favour to the ANC or any other political party. During this period, the LRC has for example undertaken the following litigation and advocacy:

  • The Nyathi case, in which the National Government was challenged for its failure to satisfy court orders made against it, prompting censure from the Constitutional Court;
  • Numerous successful challenges to the maladministration of the social grants system, particularly in the Eastern Cape;
  • The successful challenge to the constitutionality of the Community Land Rights Act; Advocating against the Traditional Courts Bill; Opposing the threatened eviction of the residents of Joe Slovo settlement in Cape Town;
  • Representing Paul Verryn and the Methodist Church refugees in the face of unrelenting pressure from the City of Johannesburg authorities and the South African Police Services;
  • Challenging the government’s policies in relation to the provision of free basic water;
  • Representing Earthlife Africa in its fight to ensure that the PBMR project complied with basic administrative and environmental law principles;
  • Challenging the ‘political pardons’ process being undertaken by the President; and
  • Challenging the prosecutions policy of the National Prosecuting Authority on the basis that it unconstitutionally undermined the independence of the NPA from the National Executive.

That record speaks for itself. It shows that Janet Love has not hesitated to promote human rights by litigating against and criticising government at all levels, whichever party is in power.

We are therefore concerned that Ms Zille has criticised the SA Human Rights Commission in a manner which does a grave injustice to someone who has repeatedly demonstrated her commitment to human rights in South Africa. In the process, she has also undermined the LRC, which is one of South Africa’s oldest and most widely respected human rights organisations.

Signatories

1. Adv Geoff Budlender SC

2. Adv Richard Moultrie

3. FatimaHassan

4. ZackieAchmat

5. GavinSilber

6. AdvWimTrengoveSC

7. AndrewFeinstein

8. Professor Halton Cheadle

9. Bishop Paul Verryn

10.Gerald Kraak

11.Professor Jonathan Klaaren

12.Professor Hugh Corder

13.Professor Pierre de Vos

14.Adv Nasreen Rajab-Budlender

15.Asha Ramgobin

16.Jacob van Garderen

17.Adv Steven Budlender

18.Adv Stuart Wilson

19.Dr Jackie Dugard

20.Judge Kathie Satchwell

21.Dr Rachel Wynberg

22.Doron Isaacs

23.Nathan Geffen

24.Audrey Elster

25.Lindiwe Tukani

26.Judith February

27.Professor Richard Calland

28.Zubeida Jaffer

29.Rose Williams

30.Reynaud Daniels

31.Ashraf Mahomed

32.Advocate Adila Hassim

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