21 March 2019

South Africa: Human Rights Day - 'Are South Africans Being Given the Opportunity for a Better Future?'

As South Africans commemorate Human Rights Day, historian Dr Gustav Venter says it will be an opportunity for the country to reflect on the accessibility of human rights for all citizens.

Gustav, who was a history lecturer at Stellenbosch University until recently, says while the speech by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday will put out a unifying message, more needs to be done in championing the basic human rights of individuals.

"The question that needs to be asked is what framework we operate in," Venter told News24.

"What should the expectations of South Africans be and are all South Africans being afforded a better future? We need to be concerned with the discourse that is happening 'on the ground' and how South Africans interact daily."

The day is commemorated in remembrance of an anti-pass march at the Sharpeville police station on March 21, 1960. The brutal attack against protesters by police ended with a mass killing of 69 people and more than 100 others wounded.

According to the Presidency, since the advent of democratic governance in South Africa 25 years ago, Human Rights Month has been leveraged as a vehicle to foster social cohesion, nation-building, national identity, socioeconomic development and to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and all related intolerances.

"We are in a critical moment," Venter continued. "There are elections coming up [in May] and there is a lot of uncertainty. The president's message should call for calm and unity at this critical stage of our democracy which has had its fair share of positive, but also a lot of negative."

Venter further said that a marker to see how far the South African democratic project has come is to also look at whether people are being given opportunities to succeed through the jobs and access to the economy.

Ramaphosa is on Wednesday expected to lead Human Rights Day celebrations in Vereeniging, Gauteng, under the theme: The Year of Indigenous Languages: Promoting and Deepening a Human Rights Culture.

The Presidency further said the objective of Human Rights Day 2019 is to amplify efforts to preserve, promote, and revitalise endangered languages, to affirm that South Africa is committed to human rights for all, and to emphasise that the Bill of Rights promotes linguistic diversity and encourages respect for all language rights.

Source: News24

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