Forum to educate KZN communities on Human Rights

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government has launched the district Human Rights Forum in each municipality to educate communities about their rights so they can effectively use government services.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sibusiso Ndebele launched the forum at the Absa stadium during the Human Rights Day celebrations on Saturday.

He urged the thousands of people that gathered at the stadium to make use of the forums.

"I urge you to access these forums, learn about your rights, claim your rights and go out into your community and teach others. We need to make human rights our motto, which we live by, everyday," said Mr Ndebele.

This important day, themed "Celebrating 15 Years of Human Rights", was set aside to remind South Africans and the world that people in South Africa will never again be denied their human rights.

Human Rights Day in South Africa represents a rallying cry around the world, in defence of people's right to protest against unfair laws and to demand their human rights.

The day is being used to honour the country's heroes who sacrificed their lives for the democracy, which all citizens, regardless of race, age or gender are able to exercise their rights.

"Today we are cementing our liberation, to remember all those who sacrificed their lives so we can enjoy freedom, such as Griffiths Mxenge, Victoria Mxenge, Dorothy Nyembe, Monthy Naicker and many others, some of whom would be enjoying the fruits of liberation today, had it not been for the direct brutality of apartheid," said Premier Ndebele.

On 21 March 1960, several marches were organised countrywide to protest against the Pass Laws. These laws forced African people living or working in and around towns to carry a document known as a "dompas" at all times, failing which they would be arrested.

At the Sharpeville Township, in Gauteng thousands of people converged at the local police station and demanded to be arrested. They were confronted by 300 police officers and the scuffle ensued.

Police opened fire on the peaceful protesters, killing 69 and injuring 180 people. These people were protesting against unfair and repressive laws and demanded their human rights, many of which have been enshrined in the Constitution.

As government, the premier said they have implemented several programmes to inculcate a human rights culture in the province such as the office on the status of women and the provincial gender machinery, among others.

"All over the province we are conducting awareness campaigns, encouraging people not only to know their rights, but to take advantage of the institutional structures available to them to uphold their rights and to hold government accountable," said Premier Ndebele.

One of the residents from Umbumbulu who attended the event, Nokuthenjwa Khuzwayo, 75, told BuaNews that she remembers the days of the "dompas".

She said women in those days were very strong and that's how they managed to fight the issue of dompas and won.

"Today people can go freely wherever they like without carrying a dompas," said Gogo Khuzwayo.

Another elderly person Zithulele Shoba said although much has changed in South Africa, there are some challenges facing the elderly people since some of them are still being abused and treated badly by the community.