Monday, July 28, 2008

Human rights watchdog toothless

Whatever credibility the Human Rights Commission (HRC) may have enjoyed has been dented by chairman Jody Kollapen’s handling of the “kill for Zuma” saga.

The rot started when ANC Youth League president Julius Malema was given a soft landing for making the initial statement: “We are prepared to take up arms and kill for Zuma”.

After a meeting arranged by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the HRC announced Malema had agreed not to use the term “kill” in public. It was satisfied with his response and would not take further legal action.

Well, Malema didn’t take long to cause offence again. He told a funeral on July 13: “We must intensify the struggle to eliminate the remnants of counter-revolution, which include the DA and a loose coalition of those who want to use state power to block the ANC president’s ascendancy to the highest office of the land.”

Malema’s unapologetic reaction to the outcry provoked by this second threat showed just how ineffective the HRC had been in its dealings with him.

Given this background of appeasement the HRC was in a weak position when it went into Tuesday’s meeting with Cosatu Secretary-General Zwelinzima Vavi, who had said in June: “Because Jacob Zuma is one of us, and he is one of our leaders, for him we are prepared to lay (down) our lives and to shoot and kill”.

He did not apologise or retract. Instead there was a mealy-mouthed expression of regret.

By declaring the matter closed , the HRC is failing in its duty to promote respect for human rights. Kollapen’s apparent eagerness to please Zuma supporters could lead to speculation that he wants to be assured of a job in the new dispensation. Let’s hope we are wrong.

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