Civil society mobilises to prevent social media regulation

Expression

In March 2017, the South African State Security Minister, David Mahlobo, indicated that the government is considering the introduction of regulations on social media to combat the prevalence of "fake news and scams". Mahlobo was quoted as saying,

"We are contemplating regulating the space. Even the best democracies that are revered regulate the space".

The Minister acknowledged that such a decision could infringe upon citizens' rights and has promised to hold consultations with various stakeholders. Civil society, however, remains skeptical and has started a #HandsOffSocialMedia campaign organised by the Right2Know movement to raise public awareness of the government's proposed plan and how it could impact citizens' right to access information and free speech. 

Peaceful Assembly

Protests by trade unions and citizens have taken place over the last few months in South Africa, and not all have been peaceful. Xenophobic, anti-immigrant protests erupted on 24th February 2017 in Pretoria and turned violent when immigrants and protesters clashed. These protests are the latest incident in a sharp and worrisome increase in the level of anti-immigrant sentiment in South Africa in recent years 

In March 2017, the National Health Education & Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) went on strike to demand better pay and working conditions. In the process, many child care centres where the strikers worked were left unattended or barricaded, leaving the children without food and medication. 

Association

The Minister of Finance's budget speech in February 2017 caused concern among civil society organisations that fewer government resources would be directed to the sector. Though the sector receives significant international support, civil society has argued that it is crucial for the government to provide support as well, especially given the fact that NGOs do much to alleviate suffering among excluded communities and impoverished parts of the populations. Director of the Southern African NGO Network, Kenneth Thlaka, reiterated the sector's concerns, stating:

"Our government is continuously increasing the burden of care of those who continuously require their services to NGOs, but NGOs are closing down because they are not able to afford and to handle the pressures on the demand for their services, and yet the government is not providing adequate support".