Human Rights Day Celebrations

Speech by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Mrs Hazel Jenkins, on the occasion of the unveiling of the memorial for the Upington 26 and the launch of Operation Pula Nala on Human Rights day on 21 March 2011 in Upington.

I am particularly elated to celebrate with you Human Rights Day, which is one of the most important days in the history of our country and indeed on our calendar of national events.

21 March marks the unprovoked and merciless massacre of defenceless young activists, children and elderly men and women in Sharpeville and in several other African townships, such as Soweto and Langa by the apartheid police force, under the instruction of the heartless minority regime.

On this day we recognise the human rights of our people and commemorate the tragic loss of life on March 21 1960 in Sharpeville, when our people were gunned down during their protest against the pass laws – laws that prevented our people from freedom of movement which constitutes a basic human right.

Our people did not flinch in the face of the brutal onslaught against innocent civilians but waged a heroic struggle to liberate the masses from the grips of the tyrannical and oppressive apartheid junta.

Ladies and gentlemen, since attaining democracy in 1994 and adopting our constitution in 1996 our government has had an obligation to ensure that we promote and fulfil the rights of our people; importantly that includes the progressive provision of basic services such as water and sanitation. The Preamble of our constitution reads that” we the people of South Africa, recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”

This preamble instructs all of us to respect the inherent dignity and human rights of everyone in our mother land, South Africa, and work together to build it.

It is therefore no surprise that we have built a vibrant, fully functional Constitutional democracy and occupied our rightful place in the community of fully fledged nations.

We have well-established institutions that support democracy and protect the rights of our citizens, such as the Office of the Public Protector, the South African Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Auditor General, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities and the Gender Commission.

Without fail, national general elections are held every five years to enable South Africans to choose a government of their choice and this is conducted by our efficient Independent Electoral Commission.

We have a Parliament that is vibrant and holds the executive to account.

We have an independent judiciary which is a trusted final arbiter in all disputes in our society. We have a media whose freedom is enshrined in the Constitution.

Programme Director, this 51st anniversary marks a significant milestone in the history of the struggle against apartheid and colonialism in South Africa and on the rest of the African continent. The massacre represents a watershed moment in the history of South Africa because it triggered a number of events which intensified the struggle against apartheid. These events include the banning of liberation movements and the declaration of the first state of emergency.

Ladies and Gentlemen, of critical importance today is the fact that this important historical moment is shared with the group of people known as the Upington 26. Equally, these compatriots have dedicated their lives to the ultimate service of our people - sacrificing and serving our people through struggles for the betterment of South African society at large and the Northern Cape in particular.

Their so-called crime was to rise up against the brutal, repressive system of apartheid which had for many years sought to deprive, and succeeded in depriving, the majority of South Africans of their basic human rights and decent living.

These heroes and heroines put their lives on the line to ensure that all South Africans, amongst other things, enjoy the right to education, the right to work and the right to economic opportunities, the right to decent shelter and the right to health and sanitation services.

It is because of their undying spirit and fearless struggles that we are here today to enjoy this Human Rights Day.

The people of Sharpeville, Soweto, Langa, Boipatong, Bisho and Upington had had enough, and waged a courageous war against the infamous system, in order to win freedom, democracy and peace.

As observed by world icon and former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela that “There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires”.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today we are offered an opportunity to celebrate the selfless contributions of many people out there who defended human rights; those who stood up for and promoted justice, dignity and respect. Today marks an important reminder of our right to live free from discrimination, exclusion, oppression and violence.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are gathered here to recognise these icons - heroes who throughout their lives championed the vision for a non racial, non sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. They were fighting for a just South Africa where all of us can live in peace, dignity, tolerance and enjoy equal human rights.

It is important to recognise that respect for human rights is intimately linked to social and economic development. Giving women equal rights to work and own property helps boost the economic prospects of a country. Allowing citizens to voice their views freely and peacefully about matters that concern them helps promote tolerance and stability. And taking children off the streets and into schools, and protecting them against abuse, exploitation and trafficking is one of the most effective ways of investing in the future.

It is therefore unacceptable that after 17 years of our democracy, that we find that many South Africans are still denied the right to basic services.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this year, our country, South Africa, is observing Human Rights Day, 21 March, under the theme, “Working together to protect human dignity for all”, as a way of calling on all South Africans to unite in the protection of human rights for people’s dignity.

Human rights mean that young people must be empowered and skilled to gain the necessary experience to enter into the job market. We must also endeavour to involve them in community based nation building activities so that they could become catalysts of change and development.

Human rights also mean that women must be included in the mainstream of society, both in the public and private spheres. We must at all times strive to eliminate all forms of discriminatory and repressive laws against women to restore their dignity and human rights. Women must enjoy equal opportunities and equal representation.

It also means that the elderly must be taken care of and treated with respect, dignity and compassion.

Ladies and Gentlemen, when our first democratically-elected government decided to make Human Rights Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.

We did so knowing that the struggles against the injustice and inequities of the past are part of our national identity; they are part of our culture. We knew that, if indeed our nation has to emerge from our divided past of hatred and conflict, we had to acknowledge those whose selfless efforts and talents were dedicated to this goal of a non-racial democracy.

Former President Nelson Mandela once remarked that “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another”.

Friends and Compatriots, the Deputy President of South Africa Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe steadfastly stated that “To adequately commemorate the victims and survivors of the Sharpeville massacre and other bloodbaths, we must ensure the progressive realisation of the socio-economic rights as envisaged in the Bill of Rights. This means that as the ANC-led government, working with our social partners, we must strive to improve the quality of life of all our people by providing shelter, basic amenities, education, and security.

In this regard, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Executive Council of the Northern Cape Provincial Government remains cognisant of the fact that largely through the efforts of the Governing Party, the African National Congress, our country has become a better place to live in.

Since the dawn of democracy on 27 April 1994, South Africa has achieved much. The progress we have registered in various facets of human endeavour thus far, clearly demonstrates that under the auspices of the ANC-led government, South Africa is a country with a bright future.

Since 1994, Government as a whole has built millions of homes, provided water and electricity, quality education and better health care. More jobs have been created, social grants have been provided to the poor, and various opportunities have been created that were not there before. In spite of these achievements within 17 years, we sincerely acknowledge that there is much, much more we need to do.

It is therefore within the context just outlined that the Executive Council is unequivocally committed to address developmental challenges in our home province in the most structured and expeditious manner possible. To this end, both Government and the Ruling Party have unconditionally acknowledged the crucial role that local government has to play, in accordance with its constitutional mandate, to advance the standard of living of our people.

Taking all the developmental factors into account and within the parameters of our official political obligations, we, as the elected public representatives constituting the Executive Council of the Northern Cape Provincial Government, are justifiably proud to launch our unique provincial government campaign termed “Operation Nala” on Human Rights Day in tribute to the sacrifices made by the Upington 26 and scores of unsung heroes and heroines who contributed immensely in our struggle for liberation. In essence, “Nala”, a word derived from the Sotho language, means prosperity.

Operation Nala will in the main, endeavour to expedite our township revitalisation and rural development initiatives. It will accord a thorough assessment of the objectives and functions of the municipalities both within their current and historical contexts. Development and the work associated therewith must be balanced and coherent, thus Operation Nala will examine the extent of development in our townships and rural areas in an effort to tilt the scale to address major service delivery and related backlogs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Operation Nala is about interfacing, assisting and enhancing the capability and capacity of local municipalities to make a positive difference and deliver the necessary services to our people.

Given the above, the Northern Cape Provincial Government, in collaboration and co-operation with municipalities and organised local government, initiated a programme that is aimed at addressing wide-ranging township revitalisation and rural development projects.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the following broad eight point plan, while not being exhaustive, will inform the objectives of Operation Nala:

• To foster greater co-operation among all spheres of government for better service delivery;

• To build changing and developing communities;

• To set the province on a sustainable growth path;

• To create work, expand jobs and fight poverty;

• To foster community participation in the affairs of local government;

• To compile a basket of community projects that needs to be monitored on an ongoing basis;

• To develop checks and balances for sustainable community development and track the progress thereof; and

• To provide social protection, fight against crime and corruption.

In effecting the above functions in a caring and expeditious manner, Operation NALA will create the conditions necessary for the improvement of the quality of life for all our people in the Northern Cape.

In this regard, municipalities are obliged to undertake the following:

• Refuse removal at illegal dumping sites in townships;

• Creation and strategic placing of communal waste bins in townships and rural communities;

• Keeping the streets clean;

• Maintaining township cemeteries in a clean and proper state;

• Fixing blocked drains in townships;

• Proper maintenance of street lighting and changing street bulbs to more eco- friendly and energy-saving ones;

• Creation and maintenance of sporting and other recreational facilities in townships and rural communities;

• Fixing of potholes and paving of streets;

• Demolition of unused structures that pose both a health and a crime risk;

• Clearing of open veld spaces; and

• Regular water and electricity meter reading.

Ladies and Gentlemen, with the launch of operation NALA, we certainly will make a decisive shift to meaningful socio-economic transformation in the Northern Cape. Operation NALA will set in motion a very deliberate programme that will inevitably ensure that the benefits of our political liberation are shared, amongst all the Province’s people.

We cannot and will not fail them in our collective goal to overcome poverty. To this end, the Northern Cape Provincial Government will strive to engage every role player in our provincial economy as it is our sincere hope that this Provincial Government leaves a lasting legacy for our people, thereby drastically altering the recent course of history.

I now wish to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to take part in the forthcoming Local Government Elections so that we further entrench our democracy at a local level. Local Government and communities face major challenges- reducing unemployment, more access to better quality services, overcoming the legacy of apartheid spatial development, strengthening community participation, and building effective, accountable and clean local government.

This local election represents another opportunity for communities to use their power to take forward these priorities.

Go out and Vote! Together we can build better communities.

In conclusion allow me to again quote from the words of Tata Madiba when he said “I hate racial discrimination most intensely and all its manifestations. I have fought all my life; I fight now, and will do so until the end of my days. Even although I now happen to be tried by one, whose opinion I hold in high esteem, I detest most violently the set-up that surrounds me here. It makes me feel that I am a Black man in a White man's court. This should not be, I should feel perfectly at ease and at home with the assurance that I am being tried by a fellow South African, who does not regard me as an inferior, entitled to a special type of justice.”



I thank you
Baie dankie
Ndiyabulela

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