From the large city centres to the rural townships, South Africans are witnessing a nationwide crackdown on their civic rights. Citizensâ€
1. Policing protests
Recently, South Africa has been experiencing a spate of public protests across the country, including the nationwide anti-Zuma marches, #NotInMyName demonstrations against women abuse, Fees Must Fall protests and service delivery related protests (housing, water, electricity) happening in various communities. While the vast majority of the protests are conducted peacefully and within the parameters of the law, there have been many reported incidents of police using restrictive and excessive measures to curb these protests. During the previous yearâ€
2. Intimidation of whistle-blowers
Activists and watchdog organisations often risk harassment, intimidation, detention, injury and death for exposing corruption and speaking out against extractive and development projects in the country. In what was seen as an effort to intimidate civil society groups, the Helen Suzman Foundationâ€
3. Vilification of civil society activists
There is also a growing trend of the vilification of those working in the civil society sector. Senior officials and some members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) have in recent times made unsubstantiated statements alleging that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are backed by Western powers trying to undermine and destabilise South Africa. State Security Minister David Mahlobo claimed that some NGOs are â€œjust security agents that are being used for covert operations.â€ Moreover, according to the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, the ANC has adopted â€œa highly conspiratorial report that claims Western imperialist powers are working through opposition parties, NGOs and hash-tag campaigns such as Zuma Must Fall to force â€˜regime changeâ€
4. Silencing dissent
Those in power tend to deny members of civil society safe space to voice dissent. In particular, the CIVICUS Monitor shows how in an attempt to curtail critical voices, private companies, states and others are restricting active members of the society from speaking out. Investigative journalists usually bear the brunt of this crackdown on freedom of expression.
Journalists Suzanne Venter, Vuyo Mvoko, Sipho Masondo, as well as Mzilikazi wa Afrika are some of the reporters who have received death threats for exposing high-profile corruption scandals. Judicial harassment is also a common tactic employed by those in power to silence dissent. Currently, a subsidiary of Australian mining company MRC, known for its attempts to mine mineral sands at Xolobeni on the Wild Coast, is suing the Centre for Environmental Rightsâ€
5. Proposed non-profit organisation legislation
Although it hasnâ€
So how does South Africa compare to the rest of the world?
South Africa is not the exception. In both authoritarian and mature democracies, civil society rights violations are occurring on a global scale. These legal rights are being violated in 106 countries, where civic space is considered to be Obstructed, Repressed or Closed. Unfortunately only 3% of the world’s population lives in a country where all civic rights are respected and protected.
The views expressed in this article are the authorâ€
Kgalalelo Gaebee is a social activist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She works for CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, which helps monitor and investigate civil society rights violations around the world.