Protecting Your Rights | Western Cape Government

Protecting Your Rights


This easy-to-read pamphlet provides information on fundamental human rights and how the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) can assist you if your rights have been infringed.



What is the SAHRC?

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is a national institution. It was set up to support constitutional democracy. It's committed to promoting respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

The SAHRC is made up of a Commission and a Secretariat.

The Commission

The Commissioners are the public face of the Commission. They represent the organisation at national, regional and international gatherings. Commissioners provide guidance in developing the vision of the institution. They do this by setting the priorities and ensuring that the policies, programmes and allocated resources are consistent with their vision.

The chairperson of SAHRC is Professor Bongani Christopher Majola and the deputy chairperson is Mrs Devikarani Priscilla Sewpal Jana. The Commission has up to 8 commissioners, including the chairperson and the deputy chairperson.

The Secretariat

The Secretariat is responsible for the implementation of the organisational strategy of the Commission and is led by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Advocate Tseliso Thipanyane. As the head of the executive, the CEO, with the support of about 150 staff members, carries out the mandate of the Commission. The secretariat has offices in all 9 provinces and a Head Office in Johannesburg.

The Secretariat focuses on 5 strategic objectives:

  • Promote compliance with international and regional human rights related treaties.
  • Advance the realisation of human rights.
  • Deepen the understanding of human rights to entrench a human rights culture.
  • Ensure fulfilment of constitutional and legislative mandates.
  • Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Commission to support delivery on the mandate.


What does the SAHRC do?

The SAHRC was set up by the Constitution to:

  • Raise awareness and develop a culture of human rights in South Africa
  • Educate and train South Africans about human rights.
  • Investigate and address human rights violations and find ways of correcting them.
  • Monitor laws written at all levels of government (local, provincial and national) to make sure human rights are observed.

How to report human rights violations to the SAHRC


If your case is a violation of one of the rights in the Bill of Rights, and it is not the type of case dealt with by another organisation, you can report it to the SAHRC by:

Email the Legal Services Department of the SAHRC in the language of your choice.

Getting a complaints form from the SAHRC, completing it and emailing it to

SAHRC Western Cape
7th Floor ABSA building, 132 Adderley Street, Cape Town 
Tel: 021 426 2277
Fax: 021 426 2875


The bill of rights

To build a culture of human rights, it’s important for every citizen to know their rights and understand their responsibilities. The SAHRC protects and promotes human rights for all the people of South Africa. The following is a simple version of the Bill of Rights. For the full version, please read Chapter 2 of the Constitution.


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. You are free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources.

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

You have the freedom to say, write or print (including the press) whatever you want. This right, however, must not violate anyone else’s right or break the law.

Assembly, demonstration, picket and petition

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

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.


You have the right to have access to adequate housing.

Health care, food, water and social security

You have the right to have access to food and water; health care and social security.


All children have the right to parental care, shelter and food. Children are not to be neglected, abused or forced to work.


You have the right to basic education, including adult basic education and to further education.

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; practice their religion, and use their language.

Access to information

You have the right to any information.

Just administrative action

You have the right to administrative action that’s lawful, reasonable and procedurally 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 content on this page was last updated on 16 March 2021