Letter From The President – Commemorating Human Rights Month

By Fiona Wakelin

In his Letter to the Nation from the Presidency, penned on March 18, H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa focused on Human Rights – recalling that on 21 March, South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day. The purpose of this public holiday is to remind all South Africans of the Sharpeville Massacre that took place in 1960, when police shot dead 69 unarmed protesters who were taking a stand against unjust and inhumane pass laws; this led to the United Nations (UN) Security Council adopting its first resolution condemning violence perpetrated by the apartheid regime.

In 1966 the UN General Assembly declared apartheid a crime against humanity and 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. “For the generations born into freedom it is almost inconceivable that such systematic, deep-seated racism existed, making it all the more necessary for us to reflect on how far we have come in building a country that is nonracial, non-sexist, equal, prosperous and free. Over the past three decades, we have worked together to undo the terrible legacy of apartheid. However the effects of apartheid persist across society – whether it is in health, educational and developmental outcomes, access to basic services and infrastructure, or in the racialised nature of poverty, unemployment, inequality and exclusion.”

“Human Rights Month is an opportunity to assess the progress we have made over the past three decades to advance the Bill of Rights set out in our Constitution, as well as to reflect honestly on where we have fallen short. The results of Census 2022 released last year highlight the progress we have made as a country in giving effect to the rights contained in our Constitution. The pro-poor policies of the democratic state have lifted millions out of absolute poverty, expanded access to basic services, improved educational and health outcomes for the country’s majority, and broadened participation in economic activity,” – President Ramaphosa.

H.E. Ramaphosa then segued into the fundamental freedoms we enjoy in South Africa – represented by our next , 7th democratic election. The adoption of our Constitution in 1996 reflected our commitment to democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights, however, millions of South Africans lack access to basic services, unemployment and lack of opportunity which affect the most fundamental of human rights – the right to dignity.

“As we continue to work towards realising the basic human rights of all South Africans, we are reminded that these rights are universal. That all people, everywhere, have basic rights and should be free to exercise them.When we consider the deteriorating state of human rights and fundamental freedoms in many parts of the world today, we are mindful that we have a moral responsibility to strive for the achievement of human rights not just for our own people, but for all people across the world,” – H.E. Ramaphosa.

“The establishment of the BMA is a significant step towards safer communities, better law enforcement and the growth of our economy through greater trade with our neighbours. Ensuring our borders are well-managed and well-protected is key to the security and development of our country,” – H.E. Ramaphosa.

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