21 March 2019

South Africa: Your Language, Your Human Right

It is said that when a language dies, a way of understanding the world dies with it.

Addressing members of the public while seamlessly switching between nine of the 11 official languages, President Cyril Ramaphosa said this year's Human Rights Day celebration aims to highlight efforts to conserve and promote indigenous languages.

The Human Rights Day celebration took place at George Thabe Cricket Stadium in Sharpeville, Vereenging, on Thursday.

Ahead of the Human Rights Day commemoration on Wednesday, Vereeniging was turned into a ghost town by taxi drivers who cordoned off the town and called for service delivery in the form of rehabilitated roads and a refurbished taxi rank.

Turning his attention to these issues, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, who accompanied the President and Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the commemoration, - said he noted the concerns raised, stressing that attention will be given to these issues.

Human Rights Day commemorates the 1960 anti-pass march in Sharpeville, which came to a brutal end with the mass killing of 69 unarmed protesters. The march later became known as the Sharpeville massacre.

Ahead of his official keynote address, President Ramaphosa visited the grave and memorial site for a wreath laying ceremony in remembrance of those who lost their lives on 21 March 1960.

He called on South Africans to undo the past by embracing and promoting the country's indigenous languages.

"In our past, languages were used to sow division. Today we can use language as a source of empowerment and pride," said President Ramaphosa.

Highlighting that all rights must be embraced, the President said government is moving with speed to empower and foster respect for the rights of people with disabilities.

"A proposal has been submitted to Parliament to elevate South African Sign Language to the status of an official language," he said.

Additionally, the President said South Africa will sign and ratify the Africa Disability Protocol that seeks to protect and promote the rights of people with disability on the continent.

Load shedding

Furthermore, President Ramaphosa said commitment to human rights requires that all efforts are directed at ending inequality, creating jobs and growing the economy.

With the country experiencing rolling blackouts as result of load shedding by power utility Eskom, President Ramaphosa said restoring reliable power is now one of government's most urgent priorities.

"In 1994, only 36% of the population had access to electricity. Today, eight out of 10 South Africans have electricity in their homes.

"Yet, we are currently facing a severe energy crisis that is having a profound impact on the lives of our people and our economy," said the President.

Despite the crisis, the President said there is light at the end of the tunnel.

"We have confronted difficulties before, challenges that seemed insurmountable, but we have prevailed through working together and never giving up.

"We will overcome the electricity crisis, just as we will overcome unemployment and poverty, crime and corruption," said the President.

Job creation

Outlining government's ambitious drive to channel investment to the country and boost the economy, President Ramaphosa said this would ensure that people's right to work is addressed.

"We are working day and night to make sure that the right to work is fulfilled. People should be able to wake up and go to work," said the President.

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