Thousands of South Africans descended at George Thabe Cricket Pitch in Sharpeville, Gauteng to commemorate the Human Rights day on Friday, 21 March 2014. The theme for this year's Human Rights Day was “Celebrating 20 years of changing lives through human rights”.
Many screamed, ululated and sang when President Jacob Zuma’s name was mentioned. Justice Minister Jeff Radebe reminded the crowd why they had gathered at the stadium. “The democratic government declared March 21 Human Rights Day to commemorate and honour those who fought for the liberation and the rights we enjoy today. South Africa's Constitution is hailed as one of the most progressive in the world. The Constitution is the ultimate protector of the people's Human Rights, which were previously denied to the majority of our people under Apartheid” he said.
This 54th commemoration of Human Rights Day was about reinforcing the commitment of the government and its people to the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
These rights include:
- Equality – everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
- Human dignity – everyone has inherent dignity and have their dignity respected and protected.
- Freedom of movement and residence – everyone has a right to freedom of movement and to reside anywhere in the country.
- Language and culture – everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice.
- Life - everyone has the right to life.
President Zuma, and Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor, gave smart ID cards to 12 survivors of the massacre. Before Zuma addressed the crowd, a group of bikers rode past in front of the stage, in salutation to the president.
The 1960s were characterised by systematic defiance and protest against apartheid and racism across the country. On March 21 1960, the community of Sharpeville and Langa townships, like their fellow compatriots across the country, embarked on a protest march to protest against pass laws. The apartheid police shot and killed 69 of the protesters at Sharpeville, many of them shot while fleeing. Many other people were killed in other parts of the country. The tragedy came to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre and it exposed the apartheid government's deliberate violation of human rights to the world.
Emfuleni Local Municipality, Sedibeng District Municipality together with Gauteng Government hosted various activities throughout the Human Rights Month to remind all South African to continue working together to uphold the culture of human rights. Human Rights come with responsibilities and we all have the responsibility to build a society that respects the rule of law. Whether we are at the work place, within communities, at schools, or with our partners and children, we all need to demonstrate the kind of responsibility that we would like to see in our country's future.
By Florence Mafoko