Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma is expected to lead the national commemoration of Human Rights Day on Tuesday.
The Presidency on Sunday said the main commemoration event will be held in King Williams Town in the Eastern Cape Province.
The annual event is organised to celebrate the country’s human rights tradition and to honour those who sacrificed immensely for the achievement of liberation and democracy of South Africa.
The commemoration will this year be held under the theme: “The Year of OR Tambo: Unity in action in advancing Human Rights.” This, the Presidency said, will celebrate the contribution of a national icon and hero, Oliver Reginald Tambo, in advancing unity in the struggle for liberation.
“The commemoration of Human Rights Day originates from the tragic Sharpeville Massacre that took place on 21 March 1960 when 69 people were killed by the apartheid police during a peaceful protest march,” said the Presidency.
The 1960s were characterised by systematic defiance and protest against apartheid and racism across the country.
On 21 March 1960, the community of Sharpeville and Langa townships, like their fellow compatriots across the country, embarked on a protest march to protest against pass laws.
The apartheid police shot and killed 69 of the protesters at Sharpeville, many of them shot while fleeing.
Many other people were killed in other parts of the country. The tragedy came to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre and it exposed the apartheid government’s deliberate violation of human rights to the world.
“The highlight of the 2017 commemoration will be the honouring of Black Consciousness leader, Bantu Steve Biko,” said the Presidency.
This year marks 40 years since the brutal murder of Biko by the apartheid state.
President Zuma will join Mrs Nontsikelelo Biko and family at his [Biko’s] home town in Ginsberg, to unveil the grave site and memorial of Biko.
President Zuma will also officially handover the memorial grave site of Steve Bantu Biko to the Biko-family.
“This will be done in celebration of his contribution to the struggle for liberation and human rights for all in the country.”
The President will after the unveiling proceed to the main commemoration event in King William’s Town.
Protecting human rights
South Africa’s Constitution is hailed as one of the most progressive in the world. The Constitution is the ultimate protector of citizens’ Human Rights, which were previously denied to the majority of citizens under Apartheid.
Government and citizens commemorate Human Rights Day to reinforce its commitment to the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
The rights include:
- Equality – everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
- Human dignity – everyone has inherent dignity and have their dignity respected and protected.
- Freedom of movement and residence – everyone has a right to freedom of movement and to reside anywhere in the country.
- Language and culture – everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice.
- Life – everyone has the right to life.