South Africa’s human rights legacy will haunt the country for long time

South Africa will be haunted by the human-rights past even longer if the government doesn’t take seriously its pledge of constitutional reform, an influential African group said.

The government on Wednesday over-reacted to a human rights organisation’s information that Germany’s chemical giant Bayer AG might unveil a new acid-dye derived from indigo, a human staple for centuries, in November, and the World Health Organisation warned against a big health scare, according to a letter to the health minister in which the African Centre for Constitutional Development said the two developments “raised genuine concerns about the future of our democracy”.

Thulani Gqwabe, the director of the AUCD, said on Saturday that South Africa’s liberal constitution still regulates health care without consultation with health experts, and that citizens shouldn’t have to rely on the Media Development and Diversity Agency, which is “being used to keep the government in check”.

South Africa’s National Health Agency promised to investigate health impacts on health workers, managers and consumers after it was revealed in the mail from the AUCD to the head of health. The agency’s chief executive, Tshivabo Kagotho, has denied that this was interference in South Africa’s independence and said the letter was not signed by Gqwabe or his organisation.

At least 200 health workers in South Africa and Germany told Gqwabe they felt impelled to go to the public prosecutor for an investigation against Bayer, which has been accused of possible violation of the rights of citizens, managers and consumers.

To determine whether the company’s new product might cause “bioaccumulation” of lead and other toxic substances in the blood, many health experts say they need to use tests that use pink indigo dye, which reflects chemical compounds and exposure levels in the human body.

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The cyanide industry lobby said that patients would not benefit from a new diode containing arsenic for dental whitening purposes because the arsenic toxicity would outweigh the temporary advantages.

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