Isaac Mangena
Isaac Mangena

Commissioner Baai — gone too soon

It’s heart-wrenching to lose someone who led a true cause, especially since it involved ensuring poor people have access to basic food.

More so when we live in a world where those who have the power to change things show little or no regard for vulnerable sections of our society.

Gladstone Sandi Baai was a true fighter for the rights of the poor.

Before his death, which came suddenly on Wednesday morning, Baai, a commissioner at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), was leading the fight to promote and protect the right to access to food in the country.

“The right to food is not only inextricably linked to human dignity but goes to the core of human survival,” Baai told United Nations-affiliated human-rights institutions recently.

“The stark reality is that many people in South Africa, and in particular those who are vulnerable, such as children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, the rural poor and women do not have sufficient food and are hungry and starving.”

Baai was born in 1942 in the rural areas of Bizana, Pondoland, in the Eastern Cape. He knew what it felt like to go to bed hungry and wanted to change that. And it’s no surprise that through his work at the SAHRC, he had organised a dialogue on the right to food, which he was scheduled to host later this year.

As I write this, the World Food Programme tells us that one in seven people in the world go hungry tonight and 60% of them are women. Commissioner Baai made it his life mission to do his bit to reverse this unfortunate phenomenon. He was a true soldier who was ready to take on the government on many issues.

It’s sad that like many others before him, this human-rights ambassador left before much of what he fought for: including access to food by children living in the rural areas, access to water by the people of Mpumalanga, access to quality education by learners in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, has still not been realised.

Baai will rest in peace knowing that he won part of the war, it’s upon us to continue the battle against hunger and poverty.

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