Social Justice: Reflections on Human Dignity and Equality

  •  Nico P. Swartz    


With regard to new democracies in developing societies, the majority of citizens is less interested in the right to freedom of speech or to assembly and more concerned with having sufficient food to eat, a roof over their heads, education and accessible health care for their children.  The study aims or is triggered by a recent visit to South Africa by the president of Botswana, Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama. In a keynote address at the Drivers of Change and Investing in the Future Awards in Johannesburg, Mr Khama urged states or leaders and the courts to tolerate or rather accommodate the need of the poor and the most vulnerable. If a (new) constitution is to have credibility and command the respect of the people subject to its provisions, it must take account of these demands and reflect them.  In this way, for example, the right to health care and shelter has been recognized. This study asserts that a claim of lack of financial resources by the state is not an excuse for a failure to provide adequate services such as in the cases of Hoffman v South African Airways, Government of the Republic of South Africa v Grootboom and Soobramoney v Minister of Health, KwaZulu-Natal. Because of the chosen research approach, the research results may lack generalisability. Therefore, researchers are encouraged to test the proposed propositions further.  This situation (lack of financial resources) warrants a reflection on the right to equality and human dignity.  If equality is denied to people who have no food, clothing, shelter or access to health services, it follows of necessity that equality cannot be achieved unless all people have adequate food, clothing, shelter and access to health services.  People who are denied access to the basic social and economic rights are denied the opportunity to live their lives with a semblance of human dignity.

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