SA marks Human Rights Day

Saturday, March 21, 2009
By: 
Gabi Khumalo

Pretoria - Several events are being held in various provinces to mark Human Rights Day on Saturday to honour those who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom.

The national event is being held in Kimberley in the Northern Cape where President Kgalema Motlanthe is to deliver his keynote address. He will be accompanied by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Enver Surty.

South Africans countrywide observe Human Rights Day on 21 March, recognising the struggles endured to achieve democracy and reinforce freedom.

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

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

South Africa remains committed to constitutional imperatives that are central to the tenets of the Universal Declaration of 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 countrys' heroes who sacrificed their lives for the democracy, which all citizens, regardless of race, age or gender are able to exercise their rights.

Deputy President Baleka Mbete is expected to present a national message of common vision towards a more peaceful, unified and prosperous South Africa at the National Interface Prayer Day in Free State.

Thousands of people are also expected to attend the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government celebration which will also mark the official launch of 11 district human rights forums for the various districts in the province

The core function of these forums is to carry out human rights education and provide a platform where human rights violations can be reported.

Premier Sibusiso Ndebele will deliver his keynote address at the event which will be held at Durban's ABSA Stadium.

Gauteng Premier, Paul Mashatile is also expected to address the masses at a rally at the George Thabe Stadium prior to a five kilometre fun walk and visit to the cemeteries, where he laid some wreaths.

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 knows as a Pass at all times, failing which they would be arrested.

At 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 over 60 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.
While many people are still affected by poverty, inequality and racism, government has made certain gains over the last 15 years.

Through the social grants programme the right to human dignity has been restored with 12 million benefit from social grants, 95 percent of South Africans live within 5km from a health facility and have surpassed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with regard to access to clean and potable water.

To date, the country has met its universal access to primary education targets as stipulated in the MDGs, since 1994, 9.9 million citizens received houses, which enforces the right to housing and have strong representative institutions and an independent judiciary to strengthen and sustain the country's democracy.

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