A shanty town in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/JACKIE CLAUSEN
A shanty town in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/JACKIE CLAUSEN

On Thursday, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) released a scathing report on the government’s failure to address inequality and poverty.

The organisation’s Equality Report for 2017-18 evaluated the government’s programme of radical socio-economic transformation from a rights-based perspective. It found that the government’s increase of VAT to 15% earlier this year "seriously threatens the human rights of the poor and is not constitutionally justifiable".

One of the key findings was that the Employment Equity Act’s definition of "designated groups" and the country’s system of data disaggregation is not in compliance with constitutional or international law obligations.

"The implementation of special measures in the employment equity sphere is currently misaligned to the constitutional objective of achieving substantive equality — to the extent that implementation may amount to rigid quotas and absolute barriers‚ as opposed to flexible targets‚" the report states. "This practice may inadvertently set the foundations for new patterns of future inequality and economic exclusion within and among vulnerable population groups."

Disabled people are particularly at risk of exclusion‚ warns the report. "Government policy and conduct consistently neglect persons with disabilities‚ who constitute approximately 7.5% of the population."

In terms of the role of private companies‚ the report states: "The private sector is not sufficiently contributing to the transformation of the labour market‚ transformation of the economy more broadly‚ further education in particular‚ or land reform."

The report found that the wealthiest 10% of SA’s population earns seven times more than the bottom 40%. It advised that attention be placed on redistributing the "extreme wealth" accumulated by the very few at the top.

During a briefing about the report on Thursday‚ the commission’s CEO Tseliso Thipanyane said 10% of SA’s population owns 90% of the country’s wealth. Elaborating‚ Thipanyane said about 60% of SA’s black population live in poverty‚ while only 1% of the country’s white population falls into the same economic bracket.