As Human Rights Day approaches, just like most public holidays in South Africa, people are just looking forward to sleeping in. Meanwhile, load shedding has the nation feeling violated, so braai stands may very well be the best and most practical way to mend our broken hearts. However, the country has gone through so many tragedies in these first three months of the year that I believe there is no better time to remember why this holiday truly exists.
According to parliament.gov.za, “Human Rights Day in South Africa is directly linked with 21 March 1960, and the events of Sharpeville. On that day 69 people died and 180 were wounded when police fired on a peaceful crowd that had gathered in protest against the Pass laws. This day marked an affirmation by ordinary people, rising in unison to proclaim their rights.” I cannot help but be envious of the sense of unity that must have existed during those times. The losses put a dent on this celebration of camaraderie, however the intent remains, all people matter.
South Africa has been plagued with countless tragic murders at the hands of criminals, some of which are teenagers. We have watched a woman being abused on Instagram live, hashtags and all. We have shared in the pain of a growing number of parents whose children go missing in alarming numbers. Let us not forget the fraudulent and rapist priests who have manipulated communities into believing the unspeakable. As we sit and watch the elections approach in our dark homes, it has become increasingly hard to believe in any one political party.
According to the Parliament’s website, “On the day that Human Rights Day was proclaimed an official public holiday, South Africans were asked to reflect on their rights, to protect their rights and the rights of all people from violation, irrespective of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, whether they are foreign national or not / human rights apply to everyone, equally.”
Which begs the question – are we failing ourselves as a nation? Who are we waiting for to save us from this continuous downward spiral? Are we so used to everything being bad that we now pull up a camp chair, pour a drink and watch the madness unfold in front of our eyes?
I say, this Human Rights Day, let’s reclaim our pride, our country and our sanity. As the great Bob Marley said, “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight.”