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CALS Quarterly Issue 8

- Lee-Anne Bruce

Read the latest issue of our quarterly newsletter – find out about social justice in the time of a pandemic, recent access to info victories and more

With our country currently facing the threat of this year’s coronavirus outbreak, we recognise that the next few months will not be business as usual. Already we have had to close our offices to consultations and events we would usually be organising or participating in (from Human Rights Day commemorations to seminars, workshops and careers days) have rightly been postponed or cancelled. Read our latest update on the outbreak and how it is affecting our work here. We do not yet know the full extent of how the virus will affect all of us, or what the impact will be on our already over-burdened criminal justice system, let alone our under-resourced healthcare system.

We welcome the strong response from government and the measures set in place to combat the pandemic. We are also keenly aware that many of the communities we serve will be highly at risk: without adequate housing or proper access to water, many do not have much choice around avoiding large crowds or undertaking frequent and prolonged hand washing. We know that this time of crisis will throw into sharp relief the need to keep pushing for the realisation of these basic rights, and to dismantle the spatial inequality that requires many people to travel long distances in overcrowded public transport to get to their places of work or to access public services. 

Another key theme emerging at the moment is the importance for everyone in the country to have access to reliable information about the pandemic. We thank all those who are working tirelessly to treat and stop the spread of the virus, and to ensure that our people have the information they need to contribute to this effort in any way they can. During this difficult time, we want to emphasise the importance of staying connected and continuing the struggle to advance social justice. 

Turning to our own work over the last few months, there has also been a focus on this enabling right of access to information. Our team has seen a major victory six years in the making to access reports on incidents in a privately run correctional centre, won the right to know why someone was moved to the country’s only super max prison, and contributed to the ongoing struggle in Xolobeni and other mining affected communities to gain information about the projects that impact them. Similarly, many of our submissions to Parliament and the UN recently have focused on the importance of public participation. Click the image below to read more about these and other recent updates.