South Africa is not a war torn country and unlike many other African countries, all South Africans are citizens of an independent state. It is with this in mind that I’d like to reflect on what Human Rights Day means in South Africa.
In a democratic South Africa, it means we all should share in the basic human right to life, first and foremost. It also means or rather symbolizes the right to freedom which was not afforded to non-white people during Apartheid rule of our country.
Now our Bill of Rights which is contained in the Constitution is the cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. The Constitution has provided for the establishment of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) of which the aim is to promote respect for human rights, promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights, and to monitor and assess the observance of human rights in SA. The SAHRC was launched on 21 March 1996, 35 years after the fateful events of 21 March 1960 when demonstrators were gunned down by police. In Apartheid South Africa, this day became known as “Sharpeville Day”.
Even though South Africa has loosened its shackles of its past woes, the country is grappled with other difficulties like the current energy shortages, the crime statistics and our shaky political system. But as opposed to deflating a young person’s positivity, I remain optimistic under the circumstance because life as we know it, is ever-changing, and South Africa’s persistence to change and develop will only allow our country to grow for the better. That is what I choose to celebrate and commemorate on 21 March 2008 on Human Rights Day in SA.