The Parliament of the Republic of South Africa joins the entire nation in commemorating Human Rights Day under the theme "The year of indigenous languages: Promoting and deepening a Human Rights Culture". The Presiding Officers of Parliament Speaker Baleka Mbete of the National Assembly and Chairperson Thandi Modise of the National Council of Provinces, say this year's commemoration calls for honest reflections on progress made and challenges still faced in the country march towards full realisation of human rights.
They said the Human Rights Day declared after the advent of democracy, seeks to remind everyone of the supreme sacrifices made 59 years ago, when 69 unarmed black South Africa laid down their lives while peacefully demanding the end to apartheid and granting of full human rights to all. The apartheid police on 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville, responded with unimaginable brutality, using live ammunition to mow down peaceful marchers against inhumane influx control measures including pass laws, leaving 69 people dead and over 180 maimed. They paved the way with their blood, for the ultimate realisation of freedom and democracy in April 1994, the ushering in of a world acclaimed constitution that guaranteed human rights for all people in South Africa.
Since then great progress was made in entrenching human rights, with Parliament being at the fore front of such efforts, changing millions of people's lives for the better. Challenges that threaten this progress continue to emerge including violence against women and children, corruption, poverty, inequality, unemployment. Parliament appreciates a series of interventions to deal decisively with these challenges through multi-faceted strategies. Parliament's role also continues to be re-affirmed as levels of holding the executive and various other social players including the private sector accountable, continues to grow from strength to strength.
Parliament's bold steps which included the commissioning of the High level Panel to asses the impact of laws passed since 1994 in relation to people's access and enjoyment of basic and socio-economic rights, has produced ground breaking objective evidence on where gaps are, which are now included in the 5th Parliament's legacy report with recommendations for the 6th Parliament to deal with.
"We trust that these inalienable rights of citizens, including citizens indigenous languages, will be central to efforts of the 6th Parliament, to set and drive a new and accelerated rate of affirming of citizens' rights. It is a historical obligation to push for the realization of these rights for all including the vulnerable segments of our society. We dare not fail, for the future generations look up on us to make a difference and build a South Africa envisaged in the National Development Plan, a South Africa of our dreams", said the Presiding Officers.
The Presiding Officers urged everyone to reflect, recommit, advance, protect and defend gains made in affirming human rights including human dignity, peaceful existence, equality and freedom, as the nation celebrates 25 years of freedom and democracy.
Issued by: Parliament of South Africa