Address at the National Human Rights Day by Premier DD Mabuza at Wesselton, Ermelo
21 March 2010
Thank you, Programme Director
Let me take this opportunity to join the rest of the previous speakers in
welcoming everybody for attending this important day in our political calendar.
Programme Director, allow me also to acknowledge the District Mayor and the Mayor of Msukaligwa municipality as our hosts today and further recognise all Members of the Executive Council, National Parliament, Mpumalanga Legislature, Representatives of the Commission on Human Rights and Gender Equality, Traditional Leaders present here today and all our distinguished guests.
As a point of departure, it will be important for all of us to remind ourselves that every person anywhere in the world, right at the time in memorial, is born with natural rights, which includes, the Right to Life, the Right to Liberty and the Right to pursue Happiness at all times.
The free encyclopedia, Wikipedia, capture this notion far much better when it asserts that: “...all human being are endowed with certain entitlements merely by reason of being part of human society”.
This view is also emphasised by Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights wherein it argues that: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with the reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”
Now, looking at the history of South Africa, it is a fact that the indigenous people of this country were denied the opportunity to enjoy their birth rights as freely and equally as possible by the colonial masters and the apartheid regime for many years.
It is also a historical fact that, brutal force and extreme oppression mechanisms were employed to suppress and undermine these fundamental God-given human rights. The implications of these regimes were huge.
They sowed divisions among people and ethnic groups; they fuel hatred and animosity between and among peace loving societies, families, friends and neighbours. They left scores of deep scars among our people, of which, some are going to take time to heal.
As we all are aware, it is this understanding that urged and motivated our forefathers to stand up and challenge the rule of those imperialists and colonisers by then, using whatever means at their disposal to uproot these evil systems and substitute such regimes with institutions founded on the principles of the rule of law, freedom, justice and peace.
Yes, the vision of our forebears was clear and unambiguous. They intended to create a society that is united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous.
After the inception of democracy in 1994, we saw the issues of, among other things, human rights taking the centre stage in the democratic order. The democratic government ensured that those rights that were fought for over so many years are entrenched in the Constitution of the country - a Constitution that we, as a collective, agreed that it will become the supreme law of the country. All these natural rights are captured in Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Republic.
In addition, through Chapter 9 of the very same Constitution, we established institutions whose primary role will be the protection and the advancement of these hard-earned human rights. Above all, we further committed ourselves to celebrate and commemorate all the important events that defined and capture the course of our struggles – I mean events that changed and left indelible marks in our political landscape. The 21st of March 1960 is one of these historic moments.
50 years ago, our people in Sharpeville marched peacefully and unarmed to a police station to present a memorandum of demands to the powers that may be – a memorandum that demanded a simple thing: the recognition and respect of their human rights by the oppressors. Instead, not all of them came back home on that sad day.
As we are gathered here today, we have come to commemorate those fathers and mothers of Sharpeville and those brave sons and daughters of the soil for their unwavering determination to fight for their birth rights and that of all South Africans, particularly the Black people of this country.
We have come here today to celebrate the fruits and sweat of their struggles. Today we can say confidently that their dreams have started to become true. As alluded earlier, South Africa is a democratic country today – a country that values human rights, the rule of law, democracy and liberties of all individuals and different groupings.
Most importantly, we have also come to reaffirm the vision and mission of our forebears and making it incumbent upon us to advance such vision and mission until they are realised.
Indeed, we have come to recommit ourselves towards pursuing the course of struggles set by our hero and heroines – a direction focusing on defending and advancing the rights of all human beings. Of course, we have come to urge all of us to continue ensuring that those hard-earned human rights remain protected, advanced and developed. Undoubtedly, we have to ensure that the people of this country enjoy civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights without fear and prejudice.
In our past Manifestos, including the current one, we, as the democratic government, ensured the ideals of the Freedom Charter are pursuit with great vigour and determination. In the past fifteen years, we have witness those objectives of the Freedom Charter, slowly but surely, becoming a living reality to our people.
Truly, for us to say that people are enjoying their basic human rights, we will be meaning that poor people and workers have decent jobs and sustainable livelihood, have shelter over their heads, have better education and a healthy lifestyle, not to mention a better life for all people living in the rural areas.
It is this understanding that made the administration of President Zuma to prioritise these issues. As a government, we have already taken some initiatives to ensure that we advance the rights of all people. We have placed education, health issues, rural development, job creation, crime and corruption high on the agenda.
We are going to establish a university and tertiary hospital in the province.
We have started with a rural pilot project in Mkhondo municipality. We will be embarking on huge campaigns on issues of HIV and AIDS. We have taken a very tough stance on people committing crime and corruption. Water, electricity, housing, roads and social infrastructure are also high on our agenda.
As long as people like those whom I visited today are still among us, we shall not rest in our endeavours to make their life better.
We have to continue heal the casualties of violence that happen in this country, in this province, in this region and here in Ermelo. The era of ‘Amakati Amnyama’ and violence between followers of Inkatha and ANC left many casualties here in Ermelo. Many families went through a rough patch.
Therefore, as we celebrate this day today, we, as a people, have to continue to work hard to restore peace, reconciliation and social cohesion among our people. We have to attend to the needs of those casualties born by our harsh history. We have to continue to create a society that must live in peace and harmony all the time.
Issued by the Office of the Premier, Mpumalanga Provincial Government
Issued by the Office of the Premier, Mpumalanga Provincial Government