I have finally surrendered to Cape Town winter and accepted that it is here. After going to a Cape Malay cooking class, I walked out of my teacher’s house in Bo-kaap to find a massive hail storm–an unusual event for Cape Town. The cooking class I attended is located in a Cape Malay woman’s house, where she teaches tradition recipes. In two classes, I learned how to make chicken curry, roti, samosas, chili bites, and swiss cake rolls.
As you can see in the picture above, the Bo-kaap community is composed of rows of brightly colored houses. The historical Cape Malay architecture remains along with many Cape Malay residents as well. Bo-kaap is one of the few areas where oppressed people where not forcibly removed during apartheid.
According to the Iziko Slave Lodge in Cape Town, many of the Cape Malay people came to Cape Town because they were human trafficked through the slave trade industry. Later, many of the women became indentured servants and worked as domestic laborers. Then apartheid government oppressed Cape Malay people, along with many others, through legislation, which was finally abolished in 1994 with the first democratic election in South African. However, like many formerly oppressed communities, many of the Cape Malay peoples’ rights remain socially and economically neglected and abused.
As the writers of the South African constitution were composing the Bill of Rights, they recognized that not all citizens would immediately have their rights protected. The philosophy they adopted is called progressive realization of rights, which is a gradual reconciliation of past conflict to future equality. There are so many systemic flaws in South African government and social institutions that it would be impossible to resolve all human rights issues in 1994, 2004, or anytime in the near future, realistically. Therefore, rights are categorized in a sort of hierarchy to determine which rights have to be addressed the most urgently. The SAHRC prioritizes children’s rights and other vulnerable groups such as older persons, women, detained persons and disabled persons. However, different human rights violations correspond to the mandates of individual regulatory bodies.
Unfortunately, just because rights are categorized in certain ways, does not mean they are manifested in the intended fashion. For instance, education is not a right that is considered under progressive realization. However, while listening to a lecture sponsored by Equal Education and given from the first Constitutional Court Chief Justice, Kate O’Regan, I learned that many issues educations issues should be immediately realized, but are not. A lack of resources, limited funding, and corruption in government departments create violations of educational rights even in the new South Africa.
While Ms. O’Regan worked intensively for years in building South Africa’s Constitutional Court, she surprised me in her perspective about the role of the court system. She stated that South Africans are often too reliant on the court, especially when other branches of government fail and the courts cannot turn people away (in the same fashion at least). Ms. O’Regan encouraged grass root movements of people first understanding their rights, next recognizing when their rights are violated, and then seeking alternative dispute resolution (ADR) before litigation. Listening to Ms. O’Regan was encouraging to me as a proponent of ADR, but even more insightful was her description of when court cases are appropriate for litigation. She clarified that when cases can represent a class of people or answer questions that are quantitative rather than qualitative, then traditional court litigation is suitable.
Even though winter weather has slowed me down, I’m still finding time to explore Cape Town through cuisine and educational events. The weather has also fostered my creativity in planning my time since I am forced to spend much of it indoors. Here’s to more cooking classes and bookstore human right events!