Before 1994, South Africa was the pariah of the world. This was as a result of the government of the day that denied the black majority their right to self-determination, by virtue of the fact that they lacked the ability to determine their political status. They also could not freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. The government of that era systemically excluded the black South Africans from accessing means of production and opportunities for a decent living. This effectively eroded their dignity.
In 1994, the country transitioned peacefully to become a democratic state with a model constitution par excellence. The South African constitution was hailed as the most liberal constitution in the world. The bill of rights enshrined in this constitution, not only included political and civil rights, but socio-economic, cultural and environmental rights that are enforceable by legislation. The country became signatory to the International Human Rights Instruments and Treaties such as International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights amongst many other treaties.
However, 25 years into democracy, the country has very little to show in terms of development. Despite all these rights and a constitution acclaimed to be the best in the world, people remained poor, unemployed and unequal. The World Bank identified South Africa as the most unequal society where the gap between the haves and the have nots is the largest in the world (World Bank Report, 2018). According to a report published by The Economist’s Pocket World in Figures, the country has the highest levels of youth unemployment (57.4%) globally. Furthermore, more than half (55.5%) of South Africa’s population is living in poverty (STATS SA, 2017).