Community Agency for Social Enquiry, August 1998.

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Table of contents

General knowledge, attitudes and opinions
Opinions about rights
Disabled people
Sources of assistance
Socio-economic priorities



The European Union Foundation for Human Rights (EUFHR) requested the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (C A S E) to conduct research to assess knowledge of human rights among the general public and specified target groups. The seven target groups identified by the Foundation are women, children, prisoners, refugees and (illegal) migrants, disabled people, people with HIV/AIDS, and dispossessed people. The goal of the research is to provide the EUFHR with information that would feed into a media and education campaign to promote human rights in South Africa.

With the Interim Constitution of 1993 and the elections of 1994, basic citizenship and political rights were extended to the entire population. Media campaigns to educate people about their rights were launched by governmental and non-governmental organisations, but levels of knowledge about the range of rights included in the Bill of Rights remain highly uneven among state officials and the general population alike. The extent to which these rights are being implemented by the state, and people have access to them in case of need, is uneven as well.

This project consequently seeks to contribute to the development of a rights-based culture in South Africa and enhance people’s capacity to access their rights. Three broad aims inform the project:



A national survey was conducted in March-April 1998. People in all provinces, residential areas, types of settlement (rural, urban, informal settlements), and racial groups were represented in proportion to the size of their group in the overall population and their geographical distribution. The questionnaires were administered in the languages most commonly spoken by the interviewees. In addition, interviewees were given copies of the Constitution and an explanatory brochure in the language of their choice.

To supplement the information derived from the survey we have conducted 23 focus group discussions with members of the seven target groups. Focus groups aim at allowing participants to discuss issues of relevance to them in an informal environment that is conducive to open reflection and exchange of opinions. Such groups are homogeneous as far as possible in their composition (in terms of race, gender, age, province, type of settlement, and other factors), to prevent the different backgrounds of participants from disrupting the flow of discussion.

For each of the specified target groups, the report covers information regarding the general population’s knowledge and opinions of rights referring to the group derived from the general survey, as well as the outcome of focus group discussions conducted with members of the target group. The latter were asked for their understanding of their own rights, as well as for the issues they wanted emphasised in the media campaign, and what type of approach they would find most useful in raising consciousness about their rights among the general population and their own members.


General knowledge, attitudes and opinions

South Africa’s human rights are enshrined in Chapter Two of the 1996 Constitution, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights. Just over half of respondents (55%) have heard of the Bill of Rights, and 40% have not heard of it. This knowledge is more common among whites (80%), than among Indians (58%), coloureds (51%), and Africans (50%). As can be expected knowledge of the Bill of Rights is more common in metropolitan areas (66%), than it is in small urban areas (57%) or rural areas (36%). There is also a gradual and consistent increase in levels of awareness of it with the level of education, ranging from 13% of those with only 1-4 years of schooling to 89% of respondents with post-matric education.

Human rights education

Of respondents aware of the Bill of Rights, 30% (18% of the total survey) received some kind of explanation about it, though with large provincial variations: the Eastern Cape (17%) and Western Cape (9%) reported the lowest levels of educational activities in this regard. More Africans reported having received explanation (36%) than coloureds (21%), whites (13%), or Indians (12%). Explanations have also been more common in the rural areas (35%), than in small urban areas (33%) and metropolitan areas (27%), possibly reflecting the greater demand among the former. Only a small minority of focus group participants received any information or training regarding the Bill of Rights.

Groups in need of special rights and protections

About four in ten respondents (42%) identified children as the one group of people that need special rights or help to secure and protect their rights. All five women’s focus groups mentioned children as a group requiring special protection and rights. Other groups that received a mention were old people (29%), disabled people (23%), women (15%), the unemployed (6%), the poor (6%), and the disadvantaged (5%). Blacks were mentioned by 12% of Africans and of the total; coloureds were mentioned by 7% of the total but by 32% of coloureds themselves. Whites were mentioned by 4% of the total and by 20% of whites, and Indians were mentioned by 1% of the total and by 50% of Indians.

General understanding of human rights

Survey respondents and several focus group participants offered a range of definitions of human rights, although most were generic, such as ‘the basic rights of people’ (35%). Over a quarter (26%) of rural respondents and 15% of the total sample were unable to provide a definition. Just under half of respondents (47%) reported feeling that some human rights were more important than others, while a third (32%) felt they were all of equal importance.

The most important human rights

When asked what three specific rights were most important to respondents, the following issues received frequent mention: freedom of speech (25%), the right to equality (24%), the right to education (22%), the right to housing (18%) and the right to a job (17%). There were racial and provincial variations. In rural areas, the predominance of socio-economic issues (employment, housing, access to water and electricity) was particularly noticeable, reflecting acute needs in these areas.

Minority/majority rights

Almost two-thirds (64%) thought that minority rights should be protected. Over 80% of whites and Indians supported this notion, but only 68% of coloureds and 60% of Africans shared this view. In rural areas support was even lower (54%). A quarter of respondents did not know the answer, and 21% actively opposed minority rights.

On a related issue, 54% regarded the rights of the community as of greater importance than the rights of the individual. This support was particularly strong among Africans (62%), and in the rural areas (57%). Among all other racial groups the reverse was true, and support for the rights of the community took second place to the rights of the individual (32% supported community rights over individual rights among coloureds, 31% among whites, and 14% among Indians).


Opinions about rights

The survey dealt with a range of civil, political, socio-economic, cultural and linguistic rights, and other rights related issues. The following rights and issues were not dealt with in the context of the specified target groups.

Equality and homosexuality

About half of respondents (49%) agreed that homosexuals should be treated in the same way as everyone else, while 33% disagreed. The support for this position was lowest among Africans (46%, with 36% opposed) and highest among Indians (88%, with only 4% opposed to it). The extent of agreement with the statement was greater among women (54%) than among men (44%), and disagreement consequently was lower among the former (29%) than among the latter (38%).

The death penalty

The majority of respondents (73%) maintained it was a mistake to take away the death penalty in South Africa, and only 14% disagreed with it. Whites in particular felt it was a mistake (88%, with only 7% who disagreed), followed by Indians (85%), coloureds (83%), and Africans (69%, and 16% who disagreed). Support for the death penalty was stronger in metropolitan areas (75%) and small urban areas (74%) than in rural areas (68%).

Right to privacy

Two-thirds (66%) thought that lawyer-client privilege should take precedence over the right of the police to access information, while 14% supported the right of the police in this respect. Support for the right to privacy in this case was stronger among Indians (91%) and coloureds (71%), and weaker among Africans (67%) and whites (55%).

A majority (61%) felt that women must tell their prospective employer about being pregnant, rising to 89% among Indians and 74% among whites. Smaller majorities supported this among coloureds (68%) and Africans (57%).

Freedom of religion, belief and expression

Just over half of respondents (55%) were opposed to the imposition of religious observance on non-believers, as expressed in an hypothetical case of a Muslim boy attending a school with a Christian tradition, who was being forced to attend a Christian service. 30% felt that the school had the right to oblige the child to attend the service. Support for the right to force religious observance was strongest among Africans (34%) and weakest among Indians (3%).

Freedom of expression

Three-fourths of respondents (74%) supported the right of the broadcasting authority to revoke the license of radio stations using racist and violent (or ‘hate’) material, while 16% upheld the station’s right to broadcast. Indians and whites in particular supported the restriction of such speech (95% and 84% respectively), while coloureds (77%) and Africans (71%) were relatively more tolerant of it.

Political rights

Three-fourths of the sample rejected the notion that in a community that supports one political party other political parties should not be allowed to operate, while 13% supported this proposition. Whites in particular were opposed to such restriction of political activity (86%).

A large majority of 88% agreed that voting must be a secret and private matter. A somewhat smaller majority (72%) supported the statement that only people who were born in South Africa should be allowed to vote. This support was stronger among Africans (76%) and coloureds (66%), and relatively weaker among whites (63%) and Indians (27%).

When faced with a choice of one out of three (not mutually exclusive) statements regarding voting, 41% of respondents chose the statement that the right to vote was the most important right of all. An additional 43% chose the statement that the right to vote is important because it lets them choose the government that would help create jobs. However, 16% chose the statement that voting was useless if they did not have a job. This latter view was more common among Africans and Indians (19% each), and less common among coloureds (14%) and whites (3%).

Labour relations

About half of respondents (51%) believe that employers do not have the right to lock workers out of their premises, whereas 29% believe they do have the right to do so. 68% of whites believe that this right exists, whereas only 20% of Indians and Africans share this belief. Only 12% believe that workers have no right to strike (30% of whites, 14% of coloureds, 8% of Africans, and 3% of Indians).

19% of respondents believe workers in the new South Africa have too many rights (the figure for whites is a high of 60%). Only 23% of coloureds, 12% of Africans, and 5% of Indians share this view. A substantial proportion of respondents felt that workers had too few rights (35%), particularly among Indians (43%), Africans (39%), and coloureds (36%). Significantly, only 8% of whites agreed with this assessment.

The environment

Just over half of the sample (55%) maintained that people and jobs mattered more than the environment, and 28% disagreed with that notion. Whites were the least likely to agree (31%), while Indians the most likely to agree (71%). About 60% of coloured and African respondents agreed with the notion.

Racial, cultural, religious and linguistic diversity

Racial, cultural, religious and linguistic diversity was seen as positive by 52% of respondents, with Indians (83%) and coloureds (63%) being the most positive about it. Africans were also rather positive (53%), but whites were the only group among which only a minority (33%) regarded this diversity as positive.

Whites also showed the least degree of interaction with people of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds different than their own. Only 46% of them reported spending time socially with people of other backgrounds (compared to 100% of Indians, 87% of coloureds and 72% of Africans), and 13% reported having family relations of diverse background (compared to 45% of Indians, 42% of Africans and 41% of coloureds). Whites did report spending time in mixed company at work more than other people did, however.

About four in ten respondents would like the Constitution to accommodate customary law to some extent. 46% of whites supported this notion as compared to 39% of Africans, 38% of coloureds and 16% of Indians.



Focus groups were conducted with five groups:

Responses varied between and within groups, but in general knowledge of rights is poor, particularly among African women. Neither of the African groups for instance appeared to be aware that many of their needs (water, food security) were rights. None of the participants had received any human rights education or training. All groups were interested in knowing more about their rights. Rural participants in particular emphasised their dependence on government and external agencies to bring this knowledge to them.

Gender perspectives are not common. Many responses reflect racial experience (and beliefs) and socio-economic circumstances and needs. Several African participants for instance understood rights as a means to protect blacks from whites.

Equality and affirmative action

A quarter of survey respondents said equality was one of the three most important rights. Only 2% specifically mentioned gender equality. A large majority of 82% agreed that men should take equal responsibility and time to look after their children (only 12% disagreed). This attitude was weaker in the rural areas (70%) than in small urban areas (85%) and metropolitan areas (86%). Women agreed with the statement to a greater extent than men did (86% and 78% respectively), and disagreed to a lesser extent (9% and 14% respectively).

80% agreed that employers must employ women if they have the right qualifications, and 14% disagreed. Indians and coloureds were the strongest supporters of the proposition (90% and 85% respectively), Africans (81%), and in particular whites (68%) supported it to a lesser extent. Gender differences were apparent here: 83% of women and 76% of men agreed with the statement, whereas 10% of women and 17% of men disagreed. Most focus group participants viewed affirmative action in terms of race, as opposed to gender. Consequently, several whites, coloured and Indian participants felt that Africans would benefit at their expense.

A very large majority of 90% maintained that men and women should have equal access to land. This was true across all groups, but women agreed with this to a greater extent (94%) than men did (87%). In the rural areas 86% agreed with the statement. These findings are consistent with the fact that only 9% of the sample (11% of Africans, and 12% in the rural areas) felt that traditional law must override the Constitution in traditional areas (implying opposition to gender equality).

Rural women’s views of equality, as expressed in the focus groups were steeped in the contradictions between economic necessity on the one hand, and the dictates of tradition and other practicalities on the other.

Reproductive rights

About three in ten respondents (31%) agreed it was good that the laws concerning abortion were relaxed, and 47% disagreed with it. Africans were the least opposed to abortion (33% supported the relaxation of the laws and 42% opposed it). There were small gender differences in this respect: 31% of both women and men agreed with the statement, and 46% of women and 48% of men disagreed.

Two-thirds of the population agreed that it was a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have children, while 23% disagreed: 87% of whites, 81% of Indians, 80% of coloureds, and 61% of Africans supported this right. Over three-quarters of women (77%) agreed with the statement, compared to 55% of men.

Freedom and security of the person

14% of the survey respondents maintained that it was sometimes necessary for a partner to hit his wife, while 77% rejected this. About a tenth of women respondents (9%) and a fifth of men (19%) agreed, and 84% and 70% respectively disagreed. The level of agreement was highest among Africans (17%) and coloureds (12%), and lowest among Indians (3%), and whites (2%). Several participants in the African women focus groups supported the right of a man to beat his partner in certain circumstances (i.e. if she was a drunkard).

All five focus groups displayed concern with violence against women and rape or abuse in general, although concerns regarding the origin and cause of the threat (external or internal) varied, as did their ideas on how to address the problem. Rural African women remain the most vulnerable and least resourced group in this regard. All groups felt that existing remedial mechanisms were inadequate.


Focus groups were conducted with three groups:

Knowledge levels varied within and between the groups. Discrimination was viewed largely in terms of race with little attention paid to gender issues.

Children in focus groups were unaware that corporal punishment was no longer a legal form of punishment at school. Several coloured and white children felt that it should be allowed. All the groups identified child abuse at home and in the community as a problem. Awareness of remedial mechanisms and how they function is limited, although most participants felt that they had somebody (parent, teacher, neighbour, friend) with whom they could discuss the issue.

Child labour

About a third (34%) believe it is OK for children to work for pay to support themselves and their families. This support is stronger among Indians (60%), and coloureds (40%), than among Africans (34%) and whites (33%). In the rural areas 37% agreed with the statement. With increasing education levels, support for child labour diminishes. Both male focus groups emphasised the importance of education and that it was wrong for children to work. Conversely the female focus group participants placed a low emphasis on education.

Children and decision making

63% supported the right of children to participate in decision making in matters that affect their lives, though the level of support for this was lower in rural areas (51%) than in urban (64%) and metropolitan areas (72%).


Disabled people

Three focus groups were conducted with disabled participants. These were:

The diversity of disabilities inevitably meant that certain categories of disability were not included. Rights knowledge in all the groups was generally poor. Participants raised a number of problems and issues that are directly rights related.

The attitudes of the general population towards the disabled and questions of poverty remain the central problems. Coupled with this is a range of problems with access, which remain major impediments for disabled people. These include employment, transport, housing, health services, social security, education and training.

Proximity to disability

A fifth of survey respondents reported having direct or indirect contact with disabled persons (21% of Africans, 20% of coloureds, 11% of Indians, and 7% of whites). Disability is more prevalent among lower income groups and in the rural areas.

Knowledge of disability

18% believe that someone with a physical disability must also have a mental disability, though 64% disagreed with this notion. Racial variations are marked. Ignorance is higher among African respondents and among those with lower education and income levels. Focus group participants felt that many people did not know how to treat disabled people, and that actions in this regard often illustrated how badly informed they were about disability issues.


About a third (32%) agreed that disabled people were treated fairly and equally in South Africa, and 43% disagreed. Equality issues impact on a large number of issues (such as access) that were raised as continuing problems by focus group participants. Their experience is that the needs of disabled people are rarely considered.

Access to Education

About two-thirds of respondents (65%) felt that a wheelchair bound youth who is refused access to a school which does not have facilities for wheelchairs has had his or her rights violated, and 22% disagreed with this notion.

Disability grant – government and societal responsibilities

Three-quarters of survey respondents considered state pensions to be inadequate and only 15% believed it was adequate. A large majority of 84% of respondents agreed that government spending priorities should focus on the poor (93% of Indians, 90% of Africans, 86% of coloureds, and 52% of whites). 83% agreed that society had responsibility to provide the treatment and facilities needed by disabled people.



Direct access to prisoners was refused by the Department of Correctional Services. Consequently three focus groups were run with former prisoners. These groups were:

A broad cross section of rights issues, some of them general, but most specific to conditions of incarceration, were discussed with each of the groups. Participants have a relatively good knowledge of prison regulations and the privilege system. Their knowledge of human rights, however, is relatively poor. Their focus was primarily on the vertical relationship between prisoner and prison authority, as opposed to the ‘rights’ relationship between prisoners. Participants raised a number of issues, some related directly to rights such as access to medical care, educational opportunities and decent food, and other issues such as visitation rights. Participants also pointed out several problems related to institutional racism.

Participants revealed a high level of ignorance regarding a range of issues that are of fundamental importance to awaiting trial or sentenced prisoners. This included issues such as bail, appeals, etc.

The absence and ineffectiveness of complaints and other remedial mechanisms was a repeated theme in all groups. The role of prison warders, as guardians of prisoner’s rights is central, but according to participants is undermined by pervasive bribery and corruption.

Arrested, detained and accused persons

A majority (69%) maintained that the Constitution gave criminals too many rights (84% of whites, 71% of Indians, 67% of Africans, and 64% of coloureds shared this view). Only 11% of the sample disagreed.

Freedom and security of the person

About a third (31%) supported the use of force by police to extract information from suspects and 53% disagreed with that. Most focus group participants were aware of this right, but pointed out that there was limited protection from abuse, both physical and sexual.


A large majority of 86% of survey respondents opposed bail for suspects in serious criminal cases such as rape and murder. Focus group participants were largely unaware of the reasons for the bail system and believed that it was largely related to one’s ability to pay. 69% were aware that people who had been arrested had the right to say nothing to the police before having seen a lawyer.

Prisoners and legal aid

67% were aware that if they could not afford to hire a lawyer they would be provided with one at state expense (in the rural areas only 58% knew about this right). Most focus group participants were aware of this right, but remained disparaging of legal aid representation.

Prisoners and special needs

Almost seven in ten respondents (69%) agreed that the state is responsible for looking after prisoners who are HIV positive, and 16% disagreed. Focus group participants felt that allowing condoms in prison simply encouraged rape. 77% agreed that female prisoners should be allowed contact visits with their children, and 16% disagreed to that. 61% agreed that disabled prisoners should receive special care and assistance from the prison authorities, and 22% disagreed.



C A S E was asked to look at issues pertaining to (undocumented) immigrants and refugees. Although these are two distinct groups in terms of their character and size, this report examines aspects specific to each group and issues (such as xenophobia) common to both of them.

Focus groups were conducted with the following groups:

Undocumented migrants were generally unaware of their rights, but felt that they would be in a better position to secure and protect their rights if they had valid papers. Refugees had a relatively good understanding of their rights, but were stymied by officials and procedures. They were not aware of their rights regarding administrative actions. Most felt that their rights therefore had little meaning.

Both refugees and undocumented migrants expressed concerns about corruption and physical abuse at the hands of the authorities, particularly the Department of Home Affairs and the South African Police Services. Many were unaware of how procedures and systems were meant to work and felt that bribery was the easiest way to help in many situations.

Attitudes towards foreigners

Over a half of respondents (56%) felt that human rights contained in the South African Constitution were only for South Africans, while 25% rejected the notion. Several undocumented migrants agreed that these rights were only for South Africans ‘because now they are free.’ None of the undocumented migrant group participants were aware of any international laws that addressed their situation.

Just over half (52%) maintained that illegal immigrants caused crime in their areas (55% of Africans, 52% of whites and Indians, and 25% of coloureds). About three-quarters (76%) agreed that foreigners were taking jobs from South Africans, and 10% disagreed. Participants in the focus groups pointed out that in the absence of necessary financial and other assistance, they had to secure an income, which meant working, either for themselves or for employers. Refugees and asylum seekers did not know what their rights were regarding employment. They were aware that documentation was important but felt that even if they had this, most employers would be reluctant to hire them.

Three in ten respondents (30%) agreed that people from other Africans countries also suffered as a result of apartheid, and should therefore be given an opportunity to come to South Africa to work and stay, and 48% disagreed. Focus group participants condemned the fact that many South Africans had so quickly forgotten the assistance that was rendered to them by other countries during the struggle years.

Undocumented migrant and refugee focus group participants repeatedly raised their concerns about the xenophobic attitudes of South Africans and disagreed that ‘foreigners’ were responsible for crime or taking away jobs from South Africans. The refugee group, in particular, felt that their main problem in this regard was the attitude of black South Africans.

Some undocumented migrant focus group participants were accessing socio-economic services such as health clinics and educational facilities. Others were aware of the risks associated with this and were using private services if they could afford them. Refugees and asylum seekers were unaware of their rights regarding access to health care or education facilities for themselves and their families.

Freedom of movement and residence

About two-thirds agreed that foreigners who were in South Africa legally should be free to travel wherever they wished (89% of Indians, 84% of whites, 80% of coloureds, and 58% of Africans), while 22% disagreed with that. Both undocumented migrants and refugee focus group participants expressed concern regarding their freedom to move freely without fear of physical attack.

Refugee or migrant?

About two-thirds (64%) claimed they knew what a refugee was (58% of Africans, 68% of coloureds, 90% of whites, and 91% of Indians). As education levels increase, ignorance decreases. Knowledge levels are lowest in rural areas (50%). Refugee focus group participants felt that negative attitudes towards refugees were largely based on ignorance, a result of South Africa’s previous isolation.

Equal proportions support and opposed the right of people fleeing from persecution or war in another country to enter South Africa (41% and 43% respectively). Rejection of this right increased with higher levels of education (45% with post-matric) and higher income levels (52% with monthly household income of over R7000).



Three focus groups were conducted with dispossessed and landless people. The focus groups comprised the following:

The KwaZulu-Natal group was made up of women who had been displaced from formal settlements as a result of political violence in the area. The Mpumalanga group was composed of women who had previously lived on white farms, but had been thrown off the land and were now living in shacks. The Western Cape group was made up of temporary farm labourers who have worked on various farms in rural areas of the province. All participants were out of work and claimed that they lost their jobs because they found out what their rights were.

All the groups showed a limited understanding of human rights, and much of the discussion focused on conditions and problems that participants faced. The groups from Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal had extremely poor human rights knowledge. Social and economic situations and needs (access to water, education, etc.) were not understood as human rights issues.

The knowledge of all focus group participants about available social security benefits and other available subsidies was poor. None of the women were aware of child maintenance support. Western Cape participants emphasised the importance of raising knowledge levels regarding workers rights.

Housing rights

Just over a quarter of survey respondents (28%) felt that housing was one of the top two issues that should receive government priority (34% of Indians, 31% of Africans and coloureds, and 12% of whites). Only a few focus group participants had heard about the government’s housing subsidy scheme. None had any idea what was required in order to be eligible for it.


Only 37 mentions (out of 2400 possible responses) were given to the homeless as a priority group requiring special assistance or protection.

Land rights, compensation and penalties

A large majority of 86% agreed that people who were forcibly removed from their land should be allowed to get it back or receive compensation for it (91% of Africans, 88% of coloureds, 82% of Indians, and 59% of whites). Support was very strong in the rural areas (89%). Only a few focus group participants were aware that there were opportunities for claiming land. None had any idea what steps they would have to take to access this process.

Almost six in ten respondents (59%) maintained that people who got land as a result of dispossession of others should be penalised (70% of Africans, 29% of coloureds, 28% of Indians, and 20% of whites agreed with this view).

Focus group participants raised issues of access to land, housing and employment as their most urgent and pressing needs. None of the group participants had heard of government legislation to protect people from arbitrary evictions.



Three focus groups were conducted with people living with HIV/AIDS. The focus groups comprised the following:

Metropolitan groups had a good awareness of their rights and available resource mechanisms, whereas the rural female group had very low levels of knowledge and understanding.

Aids awareness

Virtually everyone questioned had heard of HIV/AIDS, and 41% believed they were personally at risk of getting it (47% of Africans, 32% of coloureds, 17% of Indians, and 15% of whites). A very large majority of 92% felt there was an epidemic in Africa, 89% felt there was an epidemic in South Africa, and 56% felt there was an epidemic in their own communities (67% of Africans, 26% of coloured, 22% of whites, 10% of Indians shared that feeling).

Focus group participants pointed out that even though pubic awareness of the virus was high, there were still widespread misperceptions regarding prevention and a poor understanding that the virus itself is not discriminating.

HIV and equality

Most respondents (88%) maintained that people with HIV/AIDS should be protected from discrimination. Focus group participants pointed out, however, that discrimination was rife and that a stigma was associated with being HIV positive.

Equality and discrimination

About three-quarters of respondents (73%) felt that people with HIV or AIDS should be allowed to get medical help, and 14% disagreed with that. 70% believed that people with HIV/AIDS should be treated at a public hospital, and 22% disagreed.

Focus group participants were concerned about the state of the health system in general and the quality of the treatment they were receiving. They also raised concerns about professional ethics of and attitude of some medical staff.

A similar proportion (73%) maintained that people with HIV/AIDS should be allowed to go to school, and 18% disagreed. 60% maintained that people with HIV/AIDS should have access to social services or disability grants.

Confidentiality and disclosure

About four in ten (41%) agreed that people with HIV/AIDS should be able to get a job without being tested for HIV, and 45% disagreed. 54% maintained that domestic workers should be made to tell employers that they were HIV positive and 28% disagreed. Most working focus group participants had not disclosed their HIV status at work, because they felt the negative repercussions would outweigh the benefits.

Confidentiality and disclosure are central concerns for people living with HIV/AIDS and are closely tied to the attitudes of others towards them.


Sources of assistance

Where a right exists on paper there should also be a mechanism to address any violations of that right. Knowing where and whom to go to for assistance to protect rights is an essential component of human rights knowledge. Rights are meaningless if there is only a thin veneer of protection and enforcement of them.

In spite of the existence of laws, regulations and statutory bodies designed to uphold rights, in many instances violations continue. Statutory and non-governmental structures have difficulties in addressing the problem. In the absence of knowledge of rights and the mechanisms available to realise them, violations cannot be recognised and rights cannot be protected. Knowledge of mechanisms and ability to access them are thus as important as the knowledge of the rights themselves.

To examine public notions of rights and what can be done to implement them, we asked people for their likely course of action in case of a range of specific needs:

Watchdog bodies such as the Public Protector’s office, the South African Human Rights Commission, and the Commission for Gender Equality rarely if ever receive a mention in responses to the series of questions above.


Socio-economic Priorities

When asked for the their priorities in terms of government delivery of services, people have mentioned the following (first and second mention combined): jobs (64%), housing (28%), security (28%), health (13%), education (13%), clean environment (8%), pensions (8%), electricity (9%), roads (6%), water (5%), land (4%), and sanitation (4%). In the rural areas 10% mentioned water, and 6% land as priorities.

Broken down by race the picture looks quite different, with a clear dominance of jobs and housing considerations overall, as well as for African and coloured respondents. Education among Indians and security among whites occupy a very high place in the list of priorities. The former is only outranked by jobs among Indians and the latter is the top priority for whites.



Respondents were asked a range of questions regarding four central media, namely television, radio, newspapers and magazines. Questions were asked about access, frequency of use, where and when the medium is accessed, preferred TV or radio channels and programmes, and preferred publications.


Access to Television is relatively widespread in South Africa, although rural people watch TV at a far lesser rate (36%) than people in urban (80%) or metropolitan areas (86%). This is also reflected in the racial breakdown of results: 93% of Indians watch TV at least a few days a week, as opposed to 64% of Africans. Provincial rates vary from 87% in Gauteng and the Western Cape to 51% in the Northern Province.


67% listen to the radio every day, 12% listen a few times a week, and 17% listen seldom or never. Among Africans 81% listen at least a few times a week (69% every day), among coloureds 60% and 50% respectively, among Indians 77% and 56%, and among whites 76% and 68%. 75% of rural women listen to the radio every day.

Very few non-Africans listen to stations broadcasting in African languages, or even to stations identified as African which broadcast in English (such as Radio Metro). Very few Africans listen to white-identified stations, even as a second choice.


57% read newspapers at least once a week (51% of Africans, 70% of coloureds, 78% of whites, and 79% of Indians). 26% read a newspaper every day. 45% of Africans seldom or never read newspapers (compared to 28% of coloureds and 21% of Indians and whites). Newspapers are read more often in metropolitan areas (70% at least once a week) as opposed to urban (64%) or rural areas (31%). The urban-rural dichotomy is also reflected in provincial results: in Gauteng 41% read the paper daily, while in Mpumalanga only 11% do the same.


67% of respondents (74% of women, 60% of men) read magazines. Most people, however, read magazines seldom (45%) or only once a week (35%).

Preferred learning medium

The identification of different media as avenues of learning is linked to a number of socio-economic issues including education and income levels, as well as geographical location and language. Access to written material implies literacy and effective dissemination, and access to TV usually implies access to electricity and to the income needed to buy a TV set. Radio is more likely to be the most common medium of communication in poor rural communities.

When asked for the media from which they learn the most, 44% mentioned TV (61% of Indians, 51% of coloureds and whites, and 41% of Africans). 23% mentioned radio (28% of Africans, 11% of whites, 6% of coloureds, and 3% of Indians). 12% mentioned newspapers (30% of Indians, 24% of coloureds, 11% of whites, and 10% of Africans). 4% mentioned magazines (3% of Africans, 6% of coloureds, 2% of Indians, and 9% of whites).

In the rural areas 28% expressed a preference for TV, 39% for radio, 7% for newspapers and 4% for magazines.

Focus group participants expressed support for participatory and interactive human rights education initiatives.

The development of a human rights culture in South Africa is largely dependent on the development of a broader knowledge base of human rights and the mechanisms needed to access them. It is crucially important in this context to embark on an educational campaign and build people's capacity to exercise and protect their rights. The findings of this project illustrate the challenges that face those working to achieve this goal, and highlight a range of issues, perceptions and attitudes that must be addressed, both at the level of the general population and within the specified target groups. It is hoped that these findings will provide a solid basis for the educational efforts undertaken by the European Union Foundation for Human Rights and a host of other governmental and non-governmental organisations.