Human Rights Day – 21 March

Theme for Year 2020: Unity, Socio Economic Renewal and Nation Building

21 March is acknowledged as a National Human Rights Day in South Africa. This day has contributed immensely to the history of human rights in South Africa’s. The historical impetus of this day is dedicated to the freedom fighter that sacrificed their lives against the apartheid regime and segregated system that divided people by race & color. Their bravery was demonstrated 60 years ago, on 21 March 1960 when police open fire and massacred 69 people and 150 injured for peaceful protests against “pass laws” which violated their human dignity. This law enforced severe restrictions of movement of African people, then referred to as the natives, required to carry passbooks- known as “dom pass” whenever found outside the homelands or apartheid designated areas. This became the first state of emergency to be declared in South Africa amid violence, arbitrary arrests, police shooting and tear gassing in black townships throughout the country. This massacre made international headlines as the ANC and former President Nelson Mandela were banned from speaking in public. It was only in 1994 when Constitutional democracy guaranteed the citizens freedom of association, assembly and expression. Human Rights Institute of South Africa – HURISA will join the rest of the country to remember the huge price paid by the Sharpeville freedom stalwart’s for our hard earned democracy. The Constitution also safeguard economic and social rights which unfortunately still remain a major struggle of the poor even in the new human rights dispensation.

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