President urges political parties to respect voters' rights

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kimberley - President Kgalema Motlanthe has urged political parities that will be contesting in this year's General Election to respect the rights of voters as enshrined in the Constitution.

"As we approach the election, we should remember the importance of the principle of political tolerance and social cohesion for our future.

"We should all be committed to free and fair elections and allow all political parties the right to have access to all voters," he said, adding that political intolerance has no place in South Africa.

The President was speaking at the national Human Rights Day event, held in Galeshewe in Kimberley on Saturday, which was attended by more than 3000 people.

President Motlanthe said next month South Africans will be exercising one of their most important rights enshrined in Constitution, the right to vote.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

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.

President Motlanthe told the crowd that respecting human rights was fundamental to a well functioning democracy.

"Human rights and democracy are closely linked. Democracy is rooted in values based on respect for the equal worth of all human beings.

"By the same token, full compliance with human rights presupposed a democratic society," he said, adding that the country's democracy came at a price.

"Many heroes and heroines have paid the ultimate price for us to enjoy the democracy that we have today," the President said.

He said South Africa was celebrating 15 years of freedom and the fundamental human rights based on the values of human dignity, equality and freedom as the cornerstone of the country's democracy.

"It is also the respect, protection, promotion and fulfillment of the principle of equal access to opportunity and the restoration of human dignity that we are celebrating.

"It is imperative that we should remember that one of the objectives of our Constitution is to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person," he said.

The President said it was therefore no coincidence that the Constitution recognises a group of rights referred to as socio-economic rights.

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.

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