Remembering the Day Human Rights in South Africa Changed

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Solidarity is something that is celebrated world wide. But on this specific day, the 21st March 2019 South Africa has its moment. The month of unity is celebrated every day, although this is the one day where we honor the bravest citizens.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, this year was able to be join in the celebration at Sharpeville, Vereeniging just 50 miles out of Johannesburg to honor the brave soldiers that marched to the police station on the 21st of March 1960.

Human Rights Day 21 March, is a day where South Africans gather in support of the brutal killing of which the police officers shot at a peaceful crowd marching to the police station. Killing 69 people and 180 almost wounded. The march was meant to be peaceful in connection to the rights of all races in South Africa. Without their dompasses (passbooks) the police weren’t eager and hesitant to start all fires on the crowd. Although the crowd came in large numbers, only a few were also able to head back home unharmed.

Robert Sobukwe, an anti-apartheid activist under the Pan-African Congress lead the protest on that day, a day before he wrote a letter to the police commissioner to inform him about the peaceful protest that was to be held on this recognized day, today. On the 21 March, an approximation of 7000 people including women and children headed to the police station without their passbooks. The brutal shooting on the peaceful march became a way for revenge from the black people. Before the blacks could retaliate on the white police officer. The National Party at that time, led by FW De Klerk stated that any protest was condemned illegal. The blacks were able to adhere to the new rule for 5 months and on the 5th of August 1960 protest begun all over again. Leading to almost close to 25000 arrests.

After a group of the Sharpeville citizens marched to the Sharpeville in Vereeniging not holding their passbooks and hoping to come to an agreement with the national police offices. A command was set out to fire the people marching and therefore ending 69 lives. Thousands gathering and burning their passbooks. From this day, a new democracy would start and with the release of the former late President Nelson Mandela in 1994, it was a peaceful unity among all the races. The free to vote, roam around freely without carrying any passbooks begun with the ruling of the new political party named African National Congress (ANC).

Grave site of the 69 who lost their lives

The celebration is in honor of the 69 people that were brutally murdered that day. Every year, South Africans will gather at the site in Sharpeville in honor of the lost lives. This year the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa will also be part of the celebration and honoring those who lost their lives in 1960 March 21. Of which among them were 8 children and 10 women who died.

The Sharpeville incident didn’t only happen in Vereeniging but also happened across other towns including Eastern Cape (Sharpeville Langa) and Western Cape.

Coffins of the 69 allegedly dead bodies came covered and family members were unable to see the bodies of the deceased. The theme song “Senzeni nah” translated (what have we done?) was one of the major songs that brought unity amongst the black group. The passbooks limited blacks from everything. They were unable to vote, live or travel anywhere they wanted. Whenever they had visitors, they were supposed to report it to the police station so that the police officers know whenever the policeman would come to your house.

Even though the Sharpeville incident was against the black people, all ethnic groups celebrate this wonderful day that today has brought us closer together.

The 5 main reasons towards the start of the segregation in South Africa and why it is that we celebrate the 21 March:

  1. Human rights is a tribute to the Sharpeville Massacre.
  2. More than just a protest about Pass laws.
  3. Pan-African Congress spearheaded the anti-pass laws campaign.
  4. African National Congress instituted 21st March as South Africa’s Human Rights Day.
  5. Bill of Rights is the cornerstone of democracy in South Africa.

A day where South African’s are happy to celebrate, where it has been an important day. “Human Rights Day is celebrated on the 21 March in remembrance of the Sharpeville massacre which took place on the 21 March 1960. Parliament’s role on this day is to empower the people so that the democratic processes becomes known to all South African.”

This day is celebrated by the many and has been a day where we all look towards when it comes to celebrating our rights as individuals of a different race. Being a sharp memory of the tragic Sharpeville moment in Soweto. This day is also celebrated together with the youth day that is celebrated every June 16.

Fighting for the democracy is something South Africans will never forget, generations to come because of the hardship that they had to face during the apartheid movement.

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About Author

Lorraine is a South African based junior journalist with Nomad Africa magazine published by 2414 Publishing (Pty) Limited. She is very passionate about travelling and a lover of the African culture. Lorraine had a Diploma in Journalism from Rosebank College in Johannesburg, South Africa and worked as an intern with The Star Newspaper. Fluent in English and other South African languages she is very eager to learn about new cultures and traditions. Though she is still very new in the industry, Lorraine is vibrant and energetic for new travelling experiences.

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