– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase
On the 21st of March, all South Africans acknowledge the revolutionary efforts of past heroes in fighting for equal rights. This year’s Human Rights Month theme is: ‘The Year of Unity and Renewal: Protecting and Preserving our Human Rights Gains” and marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution in 1996. The post-apartheid South African Constitution represents a new era for the rainbow nation, affirming the rights of all people to dignity, equality and freedom.
According to the South African Government, Human Rights Day is significant as it reminds us of the communities of Sharpeville and Langa townships, who initiated a march to protest against racist pass laws. The march took place on the 21st March 1960 and resulted in the loss of many innocent lives. This tragedy became known as the Sharpeville Massacre. South Africans take solace in this key milestone in human rights history as this historical event is a reminder of the sacrifices and struggles made to create democracy.
Observing Human Rights Day reaffirms South Africa’s commitment to the Bill of Rights in our Constitution. The country needed a Constitutional rebirth post-1994 that guaranteed the protection of human rights. We all have the responsibility to be the change we wish to see around us. Making efforts in how we relate to one another in our various communities can assist in creating a progressive society in which we will thrive. As a nation, we need to think about South Africa as we want it to be. Human Rights Day should be an opportunity to build greater social cohesion and strive for socio-economic development, fostering a stronger sense of national identity and pride despite our past.