Remarks by Mr Jeff Radebe, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, on the occasion of the Human Rights Day celebrations, Athlone, Cape Town
21 Mar 2011
Allow me to express my delight at being here today to celebrate this very important day in the calendar of our nation. I will be very brief as we will be listening to the President of our beautiful land address the nation shortly.
This year marks the 51th commemoration of the Sharpeville and Langa Massacres as critical events of the liberation struggle. These events signified the massive protest action by the people of South Africa against pass laws which amongst others led to the banning of liberation movements.
As we meet here today to celebrate this very important occasion, we do so in memory of the many selfless revolutionaries who fought tirelessly so that we may be able to enjoy freedom and democracy. Many unsung heroes and heroines in these beautiful shores of Cape Town at Langa, Gugulethu and many other areas here and across the length and breadth of our country, such as in Sharpeville, made the ultimate sacrifice and gave up their lives so that today we may share in the non-racial society envisioned by the former President Nelson Mandela’s inauguration speech, in which he declared those famous poetic words, “We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity. Never, never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world”.
It was a declaration of a dream where black and white people would live side by side without prejudice, in peace, democracy, justice and the prosperity of all. This was also the basic injunction of the Freedom Charter, which unequivocally declared that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.
Ladies and gentlemen, fellow compatriots, these are the basic reasons on why each year we meet to celebrate Human Rights Day.
On Human Rights Day, 21 March, we celebrate victory over the apartheid system and reinforce our commitment to the universal human rights as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
South Africa is a signatory to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights which outlines the rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled.
We commemorate 21 March to reinforce our commitment to human rights as enshrined in our Constitution to ensure that we realise the objectives of “Working together to Protect Human Dignity”.
These rights include:
- Equality – everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law
- Human dignity – everyone has inherent dignity and have their dignity respected and protected
- Freedom of movement and residence – everyone has a right to freedom of movement and to reside anywhere in the country
- Language and culture - everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice.
In this regard, all our endeavours as a country, without exception, are subject to the rule of law and the Constitutional Court remains the final arbiter in all constitutional (legal) disputes. This is to safeguard the continued hegemony of our constitution and the values and principles that are enshrined in it.
As I have said, I did not intend to be long.
Ladies and gentlemen
Allow me to invite the President of the Republic of South Africa to speak in even broader terms on the meaning of why we are here today!
Mr President, the stage is yours!
Source: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
Issued by: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
21 Mar 2011
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