Human Rights Day

Today, the 21st of March, we are celebrating Human Rights day in South Africa.

The history behind this day is not a pleasant tale, but it is an important one which is part of our culture and heritage. It has shaped who we as South Africans are today.

In order to understand what happened on this faithful day we need to understand the laws which governed the country on 21 March 1960, during the apartheid area. Law stated that government needed to control the movement of black people, thus all black South Africans we required to carry a pass on them, to “prove” that they were allowed to enter a “white area”. Failure to produce this reference book on demand by the police, was a punishable offence.

On 21 March 1960 between 5 000 and 7000 people gathered  outside Sharpville police station offering themselves up for arrest for not carrying their pass books. A peaceful protest turned into a bloodbath when a scuffle broke out and part of a wired fence was trampled, allowing the crowd to move forward. The police opened fire, apparently without having been given a prior order to do so, and gunned down the crowd. 69 People were killed and 180 more wounded. It was later found that the majority of people who were killed were in fact running away and was shot in the back.

Four days later the government banned black political organizations, many leaders were arrested or went into exile.

Since 1994, 21 March has been commemorated by all South Africans as Human Rights Day, and President Nelson Mandela chose Sharpeville as the site for the signing into law of the Constitution of South Africa on 10 December 1996.

Human Rights Day is but one step to ensure that the people of South Africa are aware of their human rights and to ensure that such abuse never occur again …


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