South Africans converge at Kimberley for national event

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kimberley - South Africans young and old came in their numbers to the Galeshewe Stadium in Kimberley on Saturday to celebrate 15 years of Human Rights.

South Africans across the country will join in the celebrations on Saturday to mark Human Rights Day, a day to reflect on the struggles endured to achieve democracy and freedom.

The national event, which will be addressed by President Kgalema Motlanthe and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Envy Surety, is attended by various Members of Parliament, government officials, the public as well as traditional leaders.

Arriving at stadium with her grandchildren, Margate Bothman, 77, from Galeshewe Township told BuaNews that the day was very important to her because it symbolises the hardships faced by the people during the historic Sharpeville Massacre on 21 March 1960.

"I can still remember that day, it was day of tears and sorrow, seeing our brothers and sisters being brutally killed by then government polices, but today we are celebrating this day because those are the kind of events that made South Africa a democratic country," she said with a smile.

She added that although South Africa still has challenges, government has made significant progress in ensuring that each an every citizen is entitled to his or her human rights.

South Africans enjoy a world-acclaimed Constitution which includes the right to access to health facilities, education, clean water and housing among others.

Another proud elderly man, Micheal Masinda, 56, said the day means a lot to him and he wished that people could respect each others cultural and religious rights.

"During those days we did know anything about human rights, because we were marginalised by the apartheid system but today we are aware of our democratic rights which allow us to freely express ourselves," he said.

Mr Masinda said he was excited that the national event has been brought to his area where there were still challenges in terms of cultural and religious rights. He believes that the event will create a positive mindset among the people with regard to human rights.

The youth have also come in their numbers to obtain information on their rights and how they could better use them to improve their lives.

A Grade 12 student, Monake Moepe said she was looking forward to learning more about her rights and she will use today's event as a platform to get more information.

She said although South Africa has achieved 15 years of democracy, she feels more can be done to ensure that every citizen enjoys democracy.

"I don't think South Africa has reached that stage where every citizen's right is recognised but I am positive that in the next few years our government will be able to overcome these challenges," she said.

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

Its social grants programme has benefited 15 million people, 95 percent of South Africans now live within 5km from a health facility and have improving access to health facilities and clean water as well as 9.9 million citizens have received houses since 1994.