'Greatest human rights violation is poverty'

2012-03-21 22:52


Johannesburg - SA Human Rights Commission deputy chairperson Pregs Govender said apartheid police were blinded by fear and hatred when they opened fire on protesters in Sharpeville.

She said in modern South Africa poverty was the greatest human rights violation.

"Sixteen million people, mostly woman, in rural areas have no access to sanitation," said Govender.

She highlighted the unenclosed toilets in the Western Cape and the Free State as examples of post-apartheid human rights violations.

Value human rights

During a Human Rights Day celebration in Kliptown, Soweto, on Wednesday, President Jacob Zuma said South Africans must not take freedom and human rights for granted.

"Let us celebrate the right to life, equality before the law, human dignity, freedom and security of the person, freedom from slavery servitude or forced labour," Zuma said at a Human Rights Day celebration in Kliptown, Soweto.

"The right to privacy, freedom of movement, religion, belief and opinion, as well as the rights of workers, women and children.

"On this day, let us join hands to celebrate our Constitution and in particular, the Bill of Rights."

He said the anti-apartheid protests in Sharpeville and Langa in the 1960s were used to assert people's right to work and live in urban areas.

"They were also reflecting the poverty and under-development in rural areas and then Bantustans.

Legacy of underdevelopment

"Our infrastructure plan is intended to tackle the legacy of decades of underdevelopment and to respond to the basic needs of all our people," said Zuma

The infrastructure plan recognised that black people were no longer temporary visitors.

"They are city dwellers, they have rights," said Zuma.

He said cities should not be the only places with lights and tap water.

"Infrastructure for development is also about connecting rural communities to economic opportunities through building dams and irrigation systems."

Zuma said it would connect farms and villages to the energy grid and build schools and clinics in rural areas.

Human Rights Day was previously known as Sharpeville Day to commemorate the shooting of 69 unarmed black protesters by the police in 1960.

The crowd at Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown burst out in cheers when Zuma walked around the square.

Tight security

Security was tight around him with orange-jacketed marshals forming a human chain around him and his bodyguards pushing photographers away.

Zuma was accompanied by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, Deputy Basic Education Minister Enver Surty and Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane.

A lone protester greeted the morning crowd with a poster at the entrance to the square asking the ANC about its conscience.

"ANC where is your conscience? Sharpeville 21 March 1960," the placard read.

This was in relation to protests in the Vaal, where residents were complaining that the Human Rights Day was being hijacked from them.

They wanted the event to be celebrated in Sharpeville.

Human Rights Day was celebrated in Kliptown, Soweto where the Freedom Charter was developed and adopted in 1955.

The Freedom Charter became a guiding document in the fight for liberation, it also calls for democracy and human rights, land reform, labour rights, and nationalisation.

For all South Africans

Cope leader Mosioua Lekota said Human Rights Day was for all South Africans and not for a particular area.

"When Indians were forcibly removed it was a human rights violation," he said.

He also lamented the absence of political parties at the event,

"This is a national event. On this day we must forget about our differences."

Only the ruling ANC, Azanian Liberation Organisation (Azopo) and Cope were present at the event.

Lekota said political parties must educate South Africans on the fact that human rights were not about the Sharpeville and Langa massacres.

"It is about human rights," he said.

Lekota who defected from the ANC in 2008 to form Congress of the People, the name echoes the 1955 Congress of the People at which the resistance movement developed and adopted the Freedom Charter, said the charter served to consolidate an alliance of the anti-apartheid forces of the 1950 and protect human rights.

A jubilant crowd broke into Zuma's trade mark song, Umshini wami [bring me my machine gun] after Zuma had spoken on Wednesday.


Read more on:    sahrc  |  human rights

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