Interviewing of candidates

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


16 September 1998


The meeting consisted of a small panel interviewing prospective Human Rights Commissioners to attend full-time posts at the HRC. Out of ten shortlisted candidates, three will be selected.

The panelists represented only two parties, the IFP and ANC. The chairperson, Ms M Rantho, noted that, save an intern sent on behalf of the DP, absent parties (NP, PAC, Freedom Front) had made no effort to submit an apology. Mr Barney Pityana, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, was also present.

Chair Rantho stated to all candidates that the panelists present have no bearing on the decisive deliberation, rather the interviews were being recorded for the entire Commission to decide.



(Chair) Maria Rantho

Noziwe Routledge

Don Gumede

Sue Van der Merwe


Sue Vos

First Interview: Mr. Thomas Manthata

M Rantho: How will your work with the TRC contribute to the HRC?

Mr. Manthata replied that as a member of the Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee (RRC) his task was to help assess the harm done to victims of apartheid and to decide proper reparations due them. His duties with the RRC required that he work with the Amnesty and Human Rights Violation Committees whereby he, in concert with the other commissions, ran public education programs to raise awareness on human rights. With this background, he thinks he can be of service to the state and the people by getting into the communities to offer guidance and make them aware of their rights.

N Routledge: Your nomination letter says that you have "a strong attachment to African values in church and society", how would this translate into your work at the HRC?

His work at the South African Council of Churches (SACC) solidified his worldview in such a way that links between church and society seemed crucial to empowering people. While working as a SACC field worker, he was able to conscientize workers and prisoners to their human and legal rights, and at the HRC he would like to continue to raise awareness among such groups with lower social statuses.

S. Vos: Do you believe in advancing women’s rights as human rights?

Yes; education has weighed against women in such a way that they have been unable to articulate their rights. He would want to see them better "protected" by granting entitlements to people, such as women, who "we" have been unable to see.

S. Vos: Are cultural rights also human rights?

Yes; they should be realized through legal mechanisms as well as through mediation, conciliation, and negotiation.

S Van der Merwe: What is your vision of a way that you can contribute to the aims of the HRC in a practical way?

We must start to talk about the economic position of non-whites. We must engage them in development so that they can reclaim their dignity. Generally, human rights must be related to their economic needs and aspirations, which need to be identified. The educational crisis in rural areas and townships makes the concept of human rights abstract and removed from people’s realities. Therefore, social organizations in communities must be promoted in order to raise awareness that is relative to real-life situations. These organizations, particularly religious institutions are capable of reinserting values and perhaps deal with political intolerance. Education is tied to poverty issues and, thus, to human rights.

D. Gumede: What issues would you give priority to if elected to the HRC?

Conceiving projects in targeted areas/communities to redress their plight.

Second interview: Ms. Zonke Majodina

M Rantho: How did your interest in human rights develop?

As a clinical psychologist based in Ghana in the 1970s and 1980s, she began working with Namibian and Liberian refugee children. While studying at the Refugee Studies Institute, Oxford, she was exposed to organizations, teaching and research in human rights issues.

S. Vos: Should children with learning disabilities have a right to special treatment regarding education policy and allocations to them as a group?

There are already vast inequalities in education provision. The focus so far has been on bridging these gaps and not much attention has been paid to children with special needs. Teachers are also not trained so special policy-making has little weight if teachers/schools are unable to accommodate new policies.

S. Vos: Bearing in mind the limited capacity of law enforcement in SA, how do you think that the rights of victims and perpetrators should be dealt with?

We do not have enough structures/mechanisms to offer psycho-social help to victims. Therefore, professionals (civil society collectives) should aid in mitigation of trauma. Perpetrators should also have help centers since it is clearly their personal problems that foster their behavior.

D. Gumede: Given your expertise in management of diversity and considering the macro-level diversity in SA, how can we narrow some of the divergent interests of groups in SA toward understanding human rights issues for the benefit of larger society?

The essence of diversity is that everyone has the right to be heard. All groups need to be involved in the formulation of policy. However, due to old adversarial relations between, for example, farmers and workers, communication is often difficult to initiate. The HRC is doing a lot in terms of public education but those efforts need to be strengthened so that awareness is raised further. Rights come with responsibilities for all parties concerned -- this should also be emphasized.

S Van der Merwe: How would you see your role in the HRC?

By contributing all her expertise in a generalized way rather than compartmentalizing herself as a public administrator, psychologist or public educator, she would apply certain emphases as would be relevant per context. She envisages a holistic approach since human rights are indivisible.

M Rantho: Disability is often looked at as a health and welfare problem, should outlooks toward such marginalized groups change?

There needs to be a paradigm shift from the 'victim approach' conceptualization.

Third interview: Ms. Joyce Seroke

M Rantho: How did you become involved in human rights?

Worked all her life with women in community involvement.

S Van der Merwe: HRC seeks to develop a culture of human rights. How can what you learned at the YWCA contribute to this vision?

The YWCA looks at the position of women from a global perspective with a particular focus on the special needs of women at the ground level. She has helped to engage women in public participation processes. Such NGOs can be used, in the absence of bureaucratic agencies, to facilitate issues of redress raised by the TRC and HRC.

N Routledge: With new (post-apartheid) challenges to human rights being faced, how do we show people that they must carry out human rights/good citizenship functions?

It is crucial to bring awareness especially to those who are bearing major injustices, such as rural women. Further, since this has become a culture wherein people have misinterpreted human rights to mean that they are entitled to certain freedoms which violate others, awareness-raising must be a top priority.

S. Vos: Due to your commitment to women's rights as human rights, do you think you really belong with the HRC or with the Gender and Equality Commission?

Issues of human rights are all-pervasive, so her passion about human rights would be well-integrated and tackled in the HRC where women's rights can be placed in a broader context. In addition, she envisages both commissions working in tandem to intensify the solutions.

S. Vos: How would you work on the ground to deal with issues related to old black women?

Welfare system should help them. Moreover, senior citizens should have more outlets for communication of their needs.


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