South Africa is commonly perceived to have one of the best constitutions in the world, which is supposed to be guaranteed to its vulnerable citizens’ basic rights, but in actual practice, this is far from being factual.
Chapter two of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa reflects around 36 basic human rights, which are supposed to be guaranteed human rights to its poor and vulnerable citizens, of course, these rights are subjected to limitations, but should not equate to a difficulty to access the same rights.
A case in point emanates from the following famous case between one of the well-resourced banks in South Africa, First National Bank (FNB) and its former employees. On August 27, 2017, the Sunday Independent newspaper broke a story of the FNB 4, where FNB unfairly dismissed its employees in 2016 (Siphamandla Masimula, Siphesihle Jele, Xolani Nkosi and Sipho Coka) for exercising their basic constitutional rights of freedom of speech and a right to political affiliation amongst others.
It is with deep sadness to note that even to this date, the above-mentioned former employees of FNB have still regrettably not managed to get access to constitutional justice due to them not being able to get someone who would represent them at the Constitutional court pro-bono.
Obtaining a legal representative would enable them to continue to fight for their basic constitutional rights that were allegedly breached and violated by their former employer.
Since their dismissal, the former employees have struggled to get new jobs because of their unfavorable work history, which means they have been unable to support their families.
This has further led to their homes and cars being repossessed rendering them homeless.
The situation that these ex-FNB employees found themselves in illustrates that the provisions of basic human rights as enshrined in chapter 2 of the constitution are only reserved to be accessed by only those who have access to legal resources. The poor people still continue to only see their rights being reflected only on a piece of paper or only in just a document that is unable to effectively defend them as vulnerable people.
*Opinion piece by Siphamandla Masimula on behalf of FNB 4 former employees who were unfairly dismissed by FNB in 2016