Run on numbers: Personal Finance is closely correlated with human rights

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Independent Newspapers.

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Independent Newspapers.

Published May 11, 2024


Personal Finance is closely correlated with human rights contained in our Constitution and is also provided for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

1. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a document that acts like a global road map for freedom and equality – protecting the rights of every individual, everywhere. It was the first time countries agreed on the freedoms and rights that deserve universal protection for every individual to live their lives freely, equally, and in dignity. No matter what distinctions people have, there is one basic principle that underlies all the rights outlined in the UDHR: that every human being has the same inalienable rights. This means human rights are the same for every man, woman, and child across the world, no matter what their circumstances.

The Declaration outlines 30 rights and freedoms that belong to all of us and that nobody can take away from us. The rights that were included continue to form the basis for international human rights law. Today, the Declaration remains a living document. It is the most translated document in the world.

A concise description of these rights is: -


All human beings are born free and equal.


Everyone is equal regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, politics, or where they were born.


Everyone has the right to life (and to live in freedom and safety).


Everyone has the right to be free from slavery.


Everyone has the right to be free from torture.


Everyone has the right to be recognised before the law.


We are all equal before the law.


Everyone has the right to seek justice if their rights are violated.


Everyone has the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.


Everyone has the right to a fair trial.


Everyone has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.


Everyone has the right to privacy and freedom from attacks on their reputation.


Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and to be free to leave and return to their own country.


Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution.


Everyone has the right to a nationality.


Everyone has the right to marry and to have a family.


Everyone has the right to own property.


Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.


Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.


Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.


Everyone has the right to take part in government and to have equal access to public service.


Everyone has the right to social security.


Everyone has the right to work, to equal pay, to protection against unemployment, and the right to form and join trade unions.


Everyone has the right to rest and leisure.


Everyone has the right to a decent standard of living, including food, clothing, housing, medical care, and social services.


Everyone has the right to education.


Everyone has the right to participate in and enjoy culture, art, and science.


Everyone has the right to a social and international order where the rights in this Declaration can be fully realised.


We have a duty to other people, and we should protect their rights and freedoms.


Nobody can take away these rights and freedoms from us.

2. The Constitution of South Africa contains the Bill of Rights in Chapter 2, Section 7-39. Regarding a citizen, the rights in the bill state the following. The full list can be viewed at

“(1) This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality, and freedom.

(2) The state must respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights.”

“(1) The Bill of Rights applies to all laws and binds the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, and all organs of state.

(2) A provision of the Bill of Rights binds a natural or a juristic person if, and to the extent that, it is applicable, considering the nature of the right and the nature of any duty imposed by the right.

(3) When applying a provision of the Bill of Rights to a natural or juristic person in terms of subsection (2), a court-—

(a) To give effect to a right in the Bill, must apply, or if necessary, develop, the common law to the extent that legislation does not give effect to that right; and

(b) may develop rules of the common law to limit the right, provided that the limitation is in accordance with section 36(1).

(4) A juristic person is entitled to the rights in the Bill of Rights in terms of the Application of these rights the following are important to observe.

the extent required by the nature of the rights and the nature of that juristic person.”

3. Good legislation on paper is worthwhile, yet it becomes of little value if the State does not apply the full force of the law to uphold these rights. We highlight some of these rights.

Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right— “) to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources;” It is a disgrace that gang-related violence in the Cape Flats has still rife for decades. The taxi violence across the entire country flares up regularly endangering innocent commuters. Farm murders continue unabatedly, and political murders in KwaZulu-Natal call for action at the highest level.

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, does not extend to—

(a) propaganda for war.

(b) incitement of imminent violence; or

(c) advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender, or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.

Firing a rifle at a political rally is not acceptable and to deny it happened is cowardly. The statements that if certain parties are excluded from the voting polls, they will burn the province should not be tolerated. The Institute for Race Relations stated, “Members of the new Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party, whose most prominent campaigner is former president Jacob Zuma, openly threaten mass violence if they don’t get their way, there’s reason to worry.”

Every citizen has the right to choose their trade, occupation, or profession freely. The practice of a trade, occupation, or profession may be regulated by law. The latest regulation comes 30 years after the constitution and now requires people working as “property practitioners” previously estate agents, will be required to score at least 40% on the broad-based black empowerment (BBBEE) scorecard. Rights have no substance when they can be changed by an individual office-bearer without proper debate in Parliament.

Housing (1) Everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing. (2) The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right. (3) No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions. The current social housing program is not efficiently managed and adequately financed. The Social Housing Department exists in name, but the red tape has made many practitioners give up and very few units are procured. This right is not realistic irrespective of who governs the country. We need more pragmatism in our efforts in this regard.

Everyone has the right to have access to—(a) health care services, including reproductive health care; (b) sufficient food and water; and (c) social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependants, appropriate social assistance. The current water outages across the country have highlighted the state of disrepair inadequate planning and deficit in funding crucial infrastructure. Large contracts are awarded to foreigners who have recently acquired citizenship under dubious circumstances. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is investigating various corrupt activities in this regard, but the problem is huge, and the government has failed to provide adequate water reserves. We have no food security provision and no plan to ensure that the nation can be fed in challenging times that may occur. Regarding the health issue, the wish list of the government is once again short on a sustainable funding model. The National Health Insurance (NHI) plan is not adequate though. In its current form South Africa’s private retirement industry, which manages around R3.27 trillion in assets, faces significant risks in the implementation of the new two-pot retirement system due to its tight deadline and potential mass withdrawals from funds. Human rights may not be enhanced but curtailed.

Everyone has the right— (a) to a basic education, including adult basic education; and (b) to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible. Zuma has promised free higher education to students below a certain income threshold but that has left us with a R80bn headache. At the same time, there are still schools with a shortage of teachers and many more with inadequately trained teachers. There are many schools still that do not have proper ablution facilities or running water. Free education decisions must include a sustainable funding plan well considered by the National Treasury and must be within a priority plan.

4. Any right is only as strong as the ability and political will of an institution to uphold that right. Often it comes down to the government to provide a human right such as education or safety. When an individual or group complains about the violation of their right the government plays the role of player and referee. The courts are often circumvented by the introduction of new laws and regulations that render human rights ineffective.

Fortunately, voting for responsible leaders functions as a mechanism to hold the authorities to account.

* Kruger is an independent analyst.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.