Black Sash Media Statements

‘Civil society groups say government poverty report is flawed’ - BLACK SASH, Thursday, 16 September 2010

JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT – Community Law Centre; Black Sash; People’s Health Movement South Africa; National Welfare Social Service and Development Forum and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (G CAP SA) 

For immediate release: Thursday, 16 September 2010

Civil society organisations says the progress report due to be presented by government at the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals next week, fails to present a full picture of poverty and inequality in South Africa. Heads of State from almost every country in the world are due to gather in New York between 20-22 September to outline their progress towards the ambitious agreement to halve global poverty by 2015. But organisations including the Community Law Centre; Black Sash; People’s Health Movement South Africa; National Welfare Social Service and Development Forum and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty insist South Africa’s report does not reflect the intolerable poverty and inequality that continues to threaten our young democracy.

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager Phelisa Nkomo says the more than fifty organisational representatives which met in Cape Town yesterday to discuss the report recognised the many positive developments in the country, but remained deeply concerned that the harsh everyday realities of millions of people living in South Africa are not accurately reflected. “We are alarmed that increasing numbers of people are dying from preventable deaths and that so many continue to live in undignified and polluted environments, with little access to basic health care, quality education or decent work. ” says Nkomo.

Coordinator for the Global Call to Action Against Poverty in South Africa (GCAP) Watson Hamunakwadi says there has been very limited civil society participation in developing the MDG report. “Although they represent a very low standard, the MDG’s are important as they provide some measure of accountability and deadlines for countries to realise basic human rights. But sadly, it’s not been enough to effect real change in South Africa as the MDG’s are not binding on government. We want our government to identify an office to lead the MDG process in the country and strengthen engagement with civil society,” says Hamunakwadi.

At the same time as the MDG Summit, the UN will host the annual signing of the ‘International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ or ICESCR. Although Nelson Mandela signed this international UN agreement (which commits its signatories to working towards the rights to social security, food, housing, health, education, work and an adequate standard of living) more than 15 years ago, South Africa  remains one of the few countries in the world who have yet to ratify it. Civil society groups who have petitioned the President and Members of Parliament in recent weeks symbolically ratified the human rights treaty at their meeting in Cape Town yesterday.

Dr Lilian Chenwi, senior researcher at the Community Law Centre at UWC, says ratifying the ICESCR would be a positive step towards achieving the MDGs as it would help hold government accountable. “The treaty includes obligations, monitoring systems and entrenches the value of participation in the process of achieving these rights. It would give individuals and groups in South Africa the opportunity to get justice for violations of their socio-economic rights at an international level. The majority of the rights and obligations of the ICESCR are already guaranteed by our own Constitution which means that failure to ratify is due to lack of political will, not policy concerns, explains Chenwi. 

Professor David  Sanders Chairperson of the Peoples Health Movement South Africa says, “the frightening reality is that in spite of growth in the per-capita GDP of South Africa, the high and increasing level of social inequality means that poverty is actually getting worse or, at best,  stagnating. We are collectively calling on government to entrench the MDG process at local government level and ensure the participation of communities in reaching and reporting on these goals.”

Click on this link to find out more about the Millennium Development Goals and to download the DRAFT MDG COUNTRY REPORT 2010 to be presented at the UN Summit next week.



For interview requests, please contact:

Phelisa Nkomo

Black Sash

072 613 3577

Elroy Paulus

Black Sash


Watson Hamunakwadi


072 620 0801

Sam Waterhouse

Community Law Centre

084 522 9646

Prof. David Sanders

Peoples Health Movement

082 202 3316

For more information, please contact:

Sarah Nicklin 
Black Sash Media Officer
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
073-150 9525