South Africa is marking 27 years of freedom at a time when the impact of COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating with respect to a whole range of human rights especially social, economic and cultural rights.

“The use of COVID-19 as an excuse to crackdown on human rights is illustrated  by police brutality and loss of livelihoods,  and other violations of  human rights. This makes it difficult to celebrate almost three decades of freedom,” Amnesty International South Africa Executive Director Shenilla Mohamed said.

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“It is now more than ever that we need the government to put the people first and ensure that everyone is afforded their basic human rights.” 

Amnesty International’s annual report, which looks at the state of human rights around the world, found in 2020 that the Covid-19 pandemic had laid bare the massive systemic inequality worldwide that denied many their basic human rights.

In South Africa, the report highlighted the increased use of excessive and lethal force by security forces, with some 115 people dying in police custody, the soaring cases of gender-based violence and xenophobic social media campaigns.

It also highlighted how children faced significant inequalities and hardship in the public education system, the risk health workers faced during the pandemic because of a lack of PPE, the restricted access of women to sexual and reproductive health services, and the fact that millions of people did not have access to safe drinking water.

The global health crisis brought to the fore the continuing poor state of service delivery in the country and the resultant inequalities.

“It is clear that in the past 27 years while there has been some progress in changing poor people’s living conditions, the major problem has been tackling service delivery and inequality. The fact that many people are still taking to the streets to demand basic service delivery shows that a lot still needs to be done,” Mohamed said.

“People will never experience true freedom until and unless they are able to have dignified and safe lives where their human rights are respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled.”

Core public services such as water and sanitation, housing and electricity are still a dream to many South Africans, owing to poor service delivery by the government.


Freedom Day is a national day in South Africa and is celebrated annually on 27 April. It celebrates freedom and commemorates the first post-apartheid elections held on that day in 1994. The elections were the first non-racial elections where everyone of voting age from any racial group, including foreign citizens with permanent residency in South Africa, were allowed to vote. Previously, under the apartheid regime, non-whites had only limited rights to vote.


For more information or to request an interview please call Amnesty International South Africa’s Media and Communications Officer Genevieve Quintal on +27 64 890 9224 or email [email protected]