Human Rights.........a bridge too far?

2016-03-21 15:00

The celebration of Human Rights Day 2016 leads me to ask this question:Is achieving human rights at every level and layer of society attainable or is it  a bridge too far? Is it achievable? We may boast one of the most advanced constitutions in the world but have the foundational values of human rights, freedom,equality and dignity achieved traction yet or are we sliding in the muck towards and over the abyss? Personally, I don't think so. We have seen improvements in provision of housing and socio-economic rights for sure. On the down side we've seen an imploding economy that has our country just above junk status. I reiterate the question: are the foundational values of human rights,freedom,equality and human dignity achieving traction? It was raining in Durban when President Zuma spoke during celebrations to mark Human Rights Day 2016.It was a poignant moment as the skies opened up as they did on 21 March 1960 according to one eye witness and survivor of that massacre. As he described it, it rained for about 15 minutes almost as if to wash away the blood of the martyred. Racism is but one of our failures and it surprised me that an editorial "Human Rights Day" (Daily News 21-3-2016) focused on it as if ridding the country of racism will solve all our systemic faults lines that are ripping our country apart. We need to  be frank and robustly talk and engage at an inter-personal level.

We've not had that dialogue, that TRC type process which would get all the people, both beneficiaries and victims of apartheid together as a first step towards healing our nation. Imagine a mediated face to face meeting would have a beneficial effect if parties are willing to reconcile.

We need to achieve empathy with those who suffered under apartheid, to understand and engage with what makes them bitter even today. Until that happens we will continue to face eruptions such as what we've been subjected to.It should not be so.    

When Robert Sobukwe of the PAC led that march of defiance against a brutal regime , for land, human dignity and freedom it was making a statement that Mandela echoed from the dock during the Rivonia trial. The pass laws symbolized inhumanity and even though we do not have those laws, dare we ask 'has anything changed'?

We can never be a free nation if the foundational values for which 69 men and women gave their lives for remains a pipe dream, when over 40% of employable South Africans have been reduced to junk status by default since government seems incapable of realizing those values beyond the paper which is our Constitution. We can never be free so long as people are denied decent and effective health care in state facilities.We can never be free to celebrate human rights day when our educational system is imploding and mediocrity is fast becoming a swear word. The complaint is legion.

Only free men and women can celebrate as a nation and that , to me, seems a bridge too far.

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