Human Rights Day Commemorations Ignore Parts of History

Calling it Human Rights Day is akin to sanitizing, limiting and even forgetting parts of South African history, said panelists at a human rights day lecture at USKAR on 20 March 2019.

“It saddens me that some of the history we are hiding, hides the values, virtues and victories of the African people,” said Seth Mazibuko. Mazibuko was one of the most prominent members of the Soweto Uprising and is Chancellor of the June 16 Youth Development Foundation.

Mazibuko was speaking at the event held at Eden Grove Blue by USKAR’s Office of Equity and Institutional Culture. Londiwe Mntambo, a Master of Arts Candidate in Political and International Studies said it should be called Sharpeville Day., “There is something very valuable about memory that evokes, from one’s being, the reality of what happened on that day,.” she said.

The 21st of March was dubbed Human Rights Day in 1994 in remembrance of the 69 people killed by the Apartheid Police in Sharpeville. Four people were also killed in Langa on the same day.

According to Parliament, it became an iconic date in South African history that commemorated the day as a reminder of the cost paid for the rights that all citizens now have.

Nkosinathi Mzolo, Seth Mazibuko and Londiwe Mntambo discussing the importance of Human Rights in South Africa

Nkosinathi Mzolo, Law Lecturer at USKAR explained the importance of understanding that Human Rights cannot be taken from people and cannot be limited by the State or anyone else.

“Our laws need to be preceded by equity in order to effectively address the issues of dire poverty and inequality,” he said.

“Law that fails to be sensitive to the space within which it functions will simply perpetuate inequality.”

A trend analysis by the South African Human Rights Commission released in 2018 showed that race, disability and ethnic or social origin are the most common grounds of discrimination reported to the commission. Discrimination on the grounds of disability and ethnic and social origin, respectively, were the second and third most common types of discrimination.

The Office of  Equity and Institutional Culture will hold another panel discussion on the 22nd of March to mark the end of Human Rights Week.