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Prospect of merging the South African Human Rights Commission and Commission for Gender Equality into a single human rights body.

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A decade after the introduction of Chapter 9 institutions supporting democracy, the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee appointed to review these institutions found that all except the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) are generally ineffective and have been unsuccessful in fulfilling their constitutional mandates. These failures were attributable to a range of internal issues and disputes; the most notable being the essence of their independence and how it should be weighed against both their duty to the National Assembly and their position in keeping the executive and legislature accountable. The Committee further revealed that the proliferation of these bodies diminished their effectiveness and accessibility to the public as there was confusion as to which body to approach. The SAHRC and the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) are particularly important in this regard due to their powers to accept public complaints, make recommendations and report on human rights and issues related to gender equality. This thesis builds on the key recommendation of the Committee with a specific focus on the SAHRC and CGE. It seeks to explore how the merging of these two institutions can play an integral role in the enforcement of the Constitution by creating an environment conducive to the furtherance of fundamental human rights. The thesis argues that the interdependence and indivisible disposition of human rights suggests that a single body is best suited to resolve the barriers and disparities that impact several groups and further espouse institutional mechanisms to address human rights violations. The reality that informs the recognition of the SAHRC and CGE is that, although the former has a broader mandate to protect human rights and the latter is designed to resolve gender equality issues; both institutions are structured to reinforce constitutional democracy through promotion, protection and monitoring on the observance of human rights, and gender equality violations. Hence, an integrated human rights body, composed of the SAHRC and the CGE, with more institutional muscle and administrative capacity would achieve a broader reach that would enable it to manage more efficiently with the complaints of ordinary citizens while holding functionaries to account.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.