oa De Rebus - The implementation of socio-economic rights in South Africa

Volume 1999, Issue 378
  • ISSN : 0250-0329



The Bill of Rights makes provision for limited socio-economic rights (second generation human rights) and 'green rights' (third generation human rights) such as trade union freedom (s 23 of the Constitution), the right to housing (s 26), the right to health care, food, water and social security (s 27), children's rights (s 28), the right to education (s 29) and the right to a clean environment (s 24). Besides making provision for these human rights, the Constitution also makes provision for the establishment of state institutions supporting constitutional democracy, of which the most important is the South African Human Rights Commission (ss 181 and 184). The Constitution has been in operation since May 1996. At this stage, it is important to take stock and measure our success in the implementation of these socio-economic rights. This assessment is important in more ways than one, especially in the light of the fact that many lawyers argued strongly against the inclusion of the second and third generations of human rights in a Bill of Rights. The argument was that these rights are not enforceable in a court of law; that they would create unnecessary expectations of food, shelter, health and the like; and that a clear distinction should be made between first generation and other rights, as well as the relationships of these rights to one another.

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