Human rights organisation refuses to observe Human Rights Month

2020-03-25 06:01
Every year in March, South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day because of the Sharpeville massacre which happened on March 21 in 1960.PHOTO: sourced

Every year in March, South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day because of the Sharpeville massacre which happened on March 21 in 1960.PHOTO: sourced

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THE month of March in South Africa is commemorated as Human Rights Month as it serves as a reminder to South Africans about the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for the attainment of democracy in South Africa.

It further sheds light on the Sharpeville massacre, which was an incident that happened on March 21, 1960 in the township of Sharpeville near Vereeniging where police fired on a crowd of black people, killing and wounding more than 250 of them; it was reported to be one of the first and most violent demonstrations against apartheid in South Africa.

Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA) which advocates for the rights of communities who lack basic services, victims of abuse and discriminated, sex workers, drug users, the homeless, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LBTIQ) community and so on; said they will not be observing Human Rights Month.

Speaking to the Fever, Mzomuhle Phakathi of PACSA said the organisation has nothing to celebrate as Human Rights Month serves as a painful reminder of how much structural and social human rights violations people are exposed to.

He added that structural/systemic violation refers to abuse, victimisation and discrimination from government structures and systems.

“The most victimised group are women and young people.

Women face gender-based violence, femicide, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and harassment, unemployment, lack of food security, hunger, forced marriages and witchcraft killings. It is clear that all efforts should be in place to remove the root cause of these injustices. It cannot be business as usual when we have so many young people on drugs, lost, disconnected and disengaged to society. Young people are not recognised in government planning and community and public meetings, their inputs and voices are undermined and unrecognised,” said Phakathi.

He added that programmes that are meant to support young people do not include young people in planning and decision-making; this undermines the potential and ability of young people to drive their change.

PACSA also promotes the rights of unemployed young people looking for opportunities and groups of people that want food security and alternative economies.

He further explained that it is hard for the organisation to observe the significance of this month when rights of people are violated when it comes to funds allocated for delivery of housing, electricity and water are misused and not benefitting the affected groups.

Phakathi added that human right violations also occur when there is unequal distribution of services, where certain communities receive services where neighbouring communities are not; when service fees are unaffordable to the poor and marginalised groups and unfortunately that is still the case in uMgungundlovu.

“PACSA observes the basic human rights as stipulated in Chapter Two of the South African Constitution (Act 108 of 1996). This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa.

It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom,” said Phakathi.

Furthermore, Phakathi highlighted that the organisation which was formed 40 years ago fought against the brutal killings of black people from the apartheid regime.

The organisation did not speak on behalf of the affected groups, but be in solidarity with them while they drove their own change.

The reason PACSA decided no to partake in any Human Rights Month celebrations is because it has become a month to make political statements and historic lectures, while there is less being done to protect and guarantee human rights for all.

Also, Phakathi said organisations like Pacsa have a significant role to play in sensitising communities to be active in municipal planning and decision making to make sure that services are delivered to the relevant communities, equitably.

In concluding, Phakathi said more work needs to be done by civil society to empower people with knowledge of their human rights and how to claim and assert them.

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