Human Rights Day was declared a national holiday in South Africa in 1994. It is a bitter sweet public holiday, in which we remember the 1960 Sharpeville massacre but, more recently, it is a celebration of our unique constitution, which gives equal rights to all.
This is what I have read and heard about the Sharpeville massacre. In 1960 the Pan African Congress told black men they should leave their passbooks (ID document) at home and go to the police stations and demand to be jailed for the act of walking around without their permits. The white policemen of the time, saw the crowds of over 5000 black men, panicked and opened fire. The official figure is 69 dead and 180 injured, this includes women and children. Many were shot in the back while fleeing.
Do you know your rights and responsibilities?
South Africa has one of the most forward thinking and progressive Bill of Rights Charters in the world. I decided to look at a few of these rights, from the point of view of the responsibilities that go along with these rights. For a full list of the Human Rights Charter go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_South_Africa
Human Dignity: We all have the right to dignity. This means that we should not be humiliated or degraded in any way and that our dignity should be protected. Our responsibility is to treat people fairly and politely and to respect the elderly. I will take it one step further and say that for children, and in some cases, adults, this would mean we have a responsibility to stop bullying in all forms.
Every day we read about children and adults who are bullied and degraded or embarrassed in public. Today this usually means on social media. The cyber bullying is so bad, that kids as young as 9 or 10 are committing suicide, or murder.
Life: Every person has the right to life, and yet since this constitution was first ratified, the number of murders committed and unnatural deaths have increased significantly. While, in part, this may be due to more deaths actually being reported than during the apartheid era, it is the fact that our youth seem to have lost their respect for the sanctity of human life.
What responsibilities go with this right? This one seems a very difficult right to respect as it means one must not endanger other people’s lives by acting recklessly and not following the law and not obeying the rules. When was the last time you drove along Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg, without seeing an irresponsible driver or pedestrian? Ask the medics who respond to the mini bus taxi accidents where one taxi is carrying 20 people or more! Even stand outside my house and watch! Every few months some idiot is either speeding or on their cell phone and runs the stop street and hits another car?
How about the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV? Did you know that there are people out there who deliberately spread this disease?
Privacy: We have the right not to be searched nor have our houses and possessions searched. Does this only apply to the police? What about the people who break into our homes and search for our possessions in order to make it their possession?
Freedom of Religion: You have the right to follow whichever religion you choose. We are lucky in South Africa that this right is still mostly respected.
Freedom of Expression: This literally means you, or the press, are entitled to say what you want. However, as a responsible person, this should mean that what you say is the truth and does not spread hatred or incite violence against others, thereby infringing on their rights!
Assembly: You have the right to gather and demonstrate against, or for, a cause but these gatherings must be peaceful and demonstrators have the responsibility to ensure that other people’s rights are respected!
Freedom of Association and Political Rights: These go together. You may associate with whomever you please and belong to whichever political party you want to, which does not mean that you can enforce your beliefs on others through intimidation. Each and every South African citizen who is 18 years and older can vote and can, therefore, assert their preferences through an election process to choose a government that aligns with their choices.
Labour Relations: This means you can go on a legal strike. It does not, however, mean that you can force others to strike with you, or to take their lives, if they don’t!
Environment: We have the right to a safe, clean and healthy environment! Really, tell that to the illegally striking sanitation workers! To the slum lords allowing people to rent and live in buildings where the water doesn’t run and there is no electricity!
Housing: Every person has a right to housing; it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that all its citizens are given basic housing or shelter. Is our government meeting this responsibility as well as it should be doing?
Healthcare, Food and Social Security: The majority of our population do not receive this right and sadly, more and more people are falling below the poverty line! Government is supposed to ensure that everyone has access to this right.
Children: Children have their own special rights, including the right not to be abused. This does not mean that they are entitled to a free ride, but rather that they are entitled to receive protection from exploitation.
Education: Everyone has the right to education. This does not mean that you have the right to trash schools and destroy school/college/university or even private property! Your responsibility as a scholar or student is to attend classes and learn, to put into practice what you are learning to ensure a better future for yourself and all South Africans. To ensure in a peaceful and respectful manner that your teachers are giving you the education you have a right to, without endangering the lives and property of others.
NOTE: All these rights can be limited, if it would be fair to do so, to protect the rights of the majority.
Do you know your responsibilities?
http://www.gov.za/about-government/bill-responsibilities, these are directed towards the youth of today, who are the future of tomorrow.
This post is not a political statement and my interpretation of our rights and responsibilities as South Africans, is my own. You have the right to either agree or disagree. Please feel free to share this post!