President Cyril Ramaphosa will this afternoon deliver a national message during the virtual commemoration of Human Rights Day.
Human Rights Month 2021 is commemorated under the theme “The Year of Charlotte Maxeke: Promoting Human Rights in the Age of COVID-19”.
The theme pays tribute to the 150th anniversary of the birth of liberation struggle heroine and human rights campaigner, Charlotte Maxeke.
This year’s commemoration also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Constitution of the Republic into law. The constitution is regarded as one of the most progressive and transformative constitutions in the world as it enshrines the rights of all people in South Africa and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.
Human Rights Day has its origins in the events that unfolded at Sharpeville and at Langa in the Western Cape on 21 March 1960, when apartheid security forces cracked down on peaceful marches that opposed pass laws that had been imposed on black South Africans.
On that day, an anti-pass march at the Sharpeville police station came to a brutal end with the mass killing of peaceful protesters. Later that day, in Langa, police baton-charged and fired teargas at the gathered protesters, shooting three and injuring several others.
The Sharpeville Massacre, as the event has become known, signalled the start of armed resistance in South Africa and prompted worldwide condemnation of South Africa’s apartheid policies.
The objective of the 2021 Human Rights Month is to contribute to the transformation of the nation’s memorialisation project by recognising women who contributed significantly to the nation’s liberation struggle, and bring to the fore the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, and how these have further disadvantaged the poor in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It also aims to foster social cohesion, nation building, national identity, socio-economic development, end to racism, Afrophobia xenophobia and homophobia.
This themed month also seeks to place issues of public health at the centre of the human rights agenda and create awareness, through educational programmes, dialogues and public engagements, on the importance of human rights.
The Human Rights Day commemoration will be live streamed on the government’s social media platforms and broadcasted on major TV news channels at 12pm.