Know Your Human Rights

(Western Cape Government)
budget speech 2012


Human rights are the basic rights everyone has, simply because they are human. In South Africa, this list of human rights is contained in the Bill of Rights, Chapter 2 of the South African Constitution, the highest law in the country. This Human Rights Day, which is celebrated annually on 21 March, make sure that you know and understand your human rights. This will help you defend yourself if your rights are violated.

What is a Human Rights Violation?

If you think any of your rights, as defined in the Bill of Rights, have been violated you can report the matter. For instance, if someone treats you differently because of your race, gender, age or ethnic group, your right to equality is being abused or violated.

The Bill Of Rights

To build a culture of human rights, it is important for every citizen to know their rights and understand their responsibilities. The Constitution protects and promotes human rights for all people in South Africa. The following is a summary of the Bill of Rights.


You cannot be discriminated against. But affirmative action and fair discrimination are allowed.

Human Dignity

Your dignity must be respected and protected.


You have the right to life.

Freedom and Security of the Person

You cannot be detained without trial, tortured or punished cruelly. Domestic violence is not allowed.

Slavery, Servitude and Forced Labour

Slavery, servitude and forced labour are not allowed.


You cannot be searched or have your home or possessions searched without the proper procedures being followed by the police.

Freedom of Religion, Belief and Opinion

You can believe and think whatever you want and can follow the religion of your choice.

Freedom of Expression

All people (including the press) can say whatever they want.

Assembly, Demonstration, Picket and Petition

You can hold a demonstration, picket and present a petition. But you must do this peacefully.

Freedom of Association

You can associate with whomever you want to.

Political Rights

You can support the political party of your choice. If you are a citizen and at least 18 years old, you can vote.


Your citizenship cannot be taken away from you.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

You can go and live anywhere in South Africa.

Freedom of Trade, Occupation and Profession

You can do whatever work you choose.

Labour Relations

You may join trade unions and go on strike.


You have the right to a healthy environment.


Your property can only be taken away from you if the proper rules are followed.


The government must make sure people get access to proper housing.

Healthcare, Food, Water and Social Security

The government must make sure you have access to food and water, healthcare and social security.


Children under the age of 18 have special rights.


You have the right to basic education, including adult basic education, in your own language (if this is possible).

Language and Culture

You can use the language you want to and follow the culture that you choose.

Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities

Communities can enjoy their own culture, practise their own religion and use their own language.

Access to Information

You have the right to any information the government has.

Just Administrative Action

Actions by the government must be fair.

Access to Courts

You can have a legal problem decided by a court or a similar structure.

Arrested, Detained and Accused Persons

These rights protect people arrested, imprisoned or accused of a crime.

The Constitution states that the fundamental rights of all South Africans will be protected and respected. Various government bodies and institutions have been set up to ensure that rights are protected.

If your rights have been violated, you can report the matter to one of the following bodies:

South African Human Rights Commission

The SAHRC will help you if any of your human rights have been violated.

To lodge a complaint, you need to complete the online complaint form.

The SAHRC will usually not be able to help you where:

  • Your case does not involve a violation of any of the rights in the Bill of Rights.
  • Your problem happened before 27 April 1994.
  • Your case is a criminal case and you need a lawyer (in this case, please call the Legal Aid Board on 0800 110 110 or visit their offices.)
  • You have been convicted of a crime and you want to appeal.

For more information, contact the Western Cape Office:

Address: Seventh floor, ABSA Building, 132 Adderley Street, Cape Town, 8000
Tel: 021 426 2277
Fax: 021 426 2875

Independent Police Investigative Directorate

If your rights have been violated by the police, you should contact the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

To lodge a complaint, fill in the complaint form completely and correctly. If you are unsure about any aspect of the complaint reporting process, please follow the guidelines.

You can e-mail your complaint to or fax it to 021 949 3196.

Postal Address: Private Bag X 43, Bellville, 7535
Physical Address: First floor, Fintrust Building, Corner Petrusa and Mazzur Street, Bellville, 7530
Tel: 021 941 4800
Fax: 021 949 3196

Public Protector

If you want to complain about a member of a government department, you should contact the Public Protector.

If you have been unable to solve the problem by talking to the government official and their supervisor, you should write to the Public Protector. The following information should be contained in the letter:

  • The nature of your complaint.
  • The background and history of the complaint.
  • The reasons why you feel the complaint should be investigated by the Public Protector.
  • The steps you have taken to solve the problem yourself.
  • Specific details - names of officials, dates etc.
  • Copies of any correspondence between you and the officials.
  • Your contact details.

In some instances, the Public Protector may require a statement under oath before investigating.

If you need help with the complaint, you can phone the Public Protector's Office. Read more about the Public Protector.

Postal Address: Western Cape Regional Office, PO Box 712, Cape Town, 8000
Physical Address: Fourth floor, 51 Wale Street/Bree Street, Cape Town
Tel: 021 423 8644
Fax: 012 423 8708

Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration

If your employer has violated your rights, you should contact the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) after you have tried to sort the matter out at work.

The CCMA will:

  • Conciliate workplace disputes.
  • Arbitrate disputes that remain unresolved after conciliation.

For more information contact:

CCMA Cape Town Office
Postal Address: Private Bag X9167, Cape Town, 8000
Physical Address: 78 Darling Street, Cape Town
Tel: 021 469 0111
Fax: 021 465 7193/7/87/462 5006


CCMA George Office
Postal Address: Private Bag x6650, George, 6530
Physical Address: 62 Cathedral Street, Cathedral Square 2, George, 6529
Tel: 044 805 7700
Fax: 044 873 2906

Commission on Gender Equality

If you were discriminated against because of your gender, you should contact the Commission on Gender Equality.

When making a complaint, you should try to provide as much information as possible. Complaints are strictly confidential.

For more information contact:

Physical Address: Fifth floor, ABSA Building, 132 Adderley Street,
Cape Town, 8001
Tel: 021 426 4080/3
Fax: 021 424 0549

You can also lodge a complaint online.
More information on lodging a complaint.

Office of the Consumer Protector

The Office of the Consumer Protector (OCP) acts as a "prosecutor" on behalf of consumers in order to bring their complaints/cases before the Consumer Tribunal, which is a special court that hears consumer complaints. There are steps to take before you lodge a complaint with the OCP.

For more information contact:

Physical Address: Ground Floor, Waldorf Arcade, 80 St George's Mall, Cape Town, 8001
Postal Address: PO Box 979, Cape Town, 8000
Toll Free number: 0800 007 081
Fax: 021 483 5872

The content on this page was last updated on 19 March 2014