South African Human Rights Day:
We All Stand Together
“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity” – Nelson Mandela
Human rights are rights that everyone should have simply because they are human. In 1948, the United Nations defined 30 articles of human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It established universal human rights on the basis of humanity, freedom, justice, and peace. Human Rights day is celebrated internationally on 10 December.
The 21 March marks the celebration of Human Rights Day for all South Africans. Human Rights Day is notably one of the most important days in South African history. On 21 March 1960 ordinary South Africans banded together in unison to have their rights affirmed. Human Rights Day serves to recognize the rights of our people and commemorates the lives lost that led to all South African being afforded human rights.
Human Rights Day in South Africa was rooted in the tragic events of the Sharpeville Massacre that occurred on 21 March 1960. During the Sharpville Massacre, the Apartheid police killed 69 people and 180 were wounded while peacefully protesting pass laws. 25 years after the Sharpville Massacre, a twin incident occurred where the apartheid police opened fire on a crowd at an activists funeral. This resulted in what is known as the Langa Massacre.
These struggles of sacrifice and battling oppression resulted in the liberation of the South African Republic from the tyrannical Apartheid government. This induced the onset of democracy in 1994 and the adoption of the Constitution in 1996. The Constitution ensures that the horrifying events of the past will not reoccur by prescribing human rights and dignity for all South Africans.
South Africa’s Bill of Rights details the democratic values of the country. This includes human dignity, equality and freedom. The Bill of Rights conciously addresses the human rights violations of the past such as colonial, oppression and racism. Our Bill of Rights is recognized internationally for being the most progressive and liberal. Our Bill of rights has unique protections against sexism and racism and protections for members LGBTQ+ community who may face unfair discrimination.
The tragic events that birthed Human Rights Day do not take away the elements of celebration from this commemorative event. South Africans celebrate this day by attending online concerts, performances, workshops and interacting with our communities. This helps to further promote the ideology of tolerance and understanding for all people across different cultures, races, religions and beliefs.
For South Africa looking for ways to celebrate here are a few ideas:
Please note that due to the guidelines set out by the government about the coronavirus (COVID-19), some events and/or their details are subject to change in the coming days and weeks.
FREE ENTRY TO SOME NATIONAL GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS
Discover and explore South Africa’s history with free access to certain national galleries and museums on commemorative days. Travelers may get free entry to the Iziko South African Museum, the Iziko South African National Gallery and the Iziko Maritime Centre located at Union Castle House at the V&A Waterfront. Bring along your ID and your mask to explore these museums, subject to COVID-19 prescreening.
ROAM AROUND FREEDOM PARK
This park in Pretoria is a site of remembrance to honour those South Africans who sacrificed their lives while fighting for democracy and human rights. Freedom Park is a landscaped garden and monuments which serve as an ode to freedom and the lives lost. The Park has a Wall of Names where 75 000 South Africans who lost their lives in the fight for democracy have their names inscribed. This is definitely something to behold in person.
READ UP ON HISTORY WITH SOUTH AFRICAN LIBRARY WEEK
For people in Cape Town, all public libraries will pardon fines and overdue books during South Africa Library Week until 22 March. What a better way to commemorate this historical event than expanding your mind by reading about diverse cultures, stories and historical events.
Go to Sharpeville Memorial and Exhibition Centre to commemorate the events of the Sharpeville Massacre and where Nelson Mandela signed the post-apartheid Constitution of South Africa, including the Bill of Rights, on 10 December 1996.