I haven’t posted in a while been suffering from a noninfectious bout of writers’ block. I also really didn’t know what to write about Human Rights Day. Human Rights Day is annually commemorated on the 21st of March in my country. I figured that South Africans would find this post boring. I mean we all know the details of why we celebrate the day right? And why would it even matter to anyone who isn’t South African? But, then I took a taxi the day before Human Rights Day. For my international readers do note that a taxi is nothing like a British cab or New York Cab in my country. In South Africa we have a large minibus which is more like a shared cab where passengers can get on and off at different stops, the route is also predetermined. Anyways back to my story, so I’m sitting in the taxi on my way to my sister’s place and the taxi guard (person responsible for collecting the fare and screaming loudly out of the window so that people know where the taxi is going to) insists that tomorrow is Freedom Day to the taxi driver. He says it over and over again. I keep thinking that NO it’s not Freedom Day, Freedom day is the day we had our first democratic elections in 1994. Human Rights Day is not the same thing at all. Then on Human Rights Day, I tell my Russian friend Anastasia that it’s a national holiday, and she asks me if I should be congratulated? Her question made me laugh and I realized that I’m getting signs from two people now already that I should blog about this. I’m a Political Studies graduate and maybe it won’t be a dull post after all.
So what is Human Rights Day? It’s the anniversary of the day when protesters marched against pass laws in Sharpeville. The pass laws under apartheid required all Black South Africans to carry a passbook in order to travel into South African cities. This was done to control the Black population, to discriminate, and also to control the influx of Black people travelling around South Africa. This racist law was contested by the Sharpeville protestors on the 21st of March 1960. The march itself was illegal at the time since any opposition against the repressive regime was unlawful. Police responded and shot at protesters, some of them fled but were shot in the back. In total 69 people were killed and 108 wounded. This sparked outrage and another protest in Langa, which was also met with police brutality. Every year the national holiday is held in order to remember that the Sharpeville and Langa protestors gave their lives to fight against apartheid.
Anastasia also asked me what do you do to celebrate it and I said nothing. Very bad I know but, it’s just another day off from work and school for most South Africans. There are often very few events that occur in honour of the victims and survivors of the massacre. This year at least I saw that a few NGO’s around my city where holding workshops, gender, human rights and advocacy events. The human rights occurring daily in South Africa are overwhelming though. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to climb Mount Everest with my super short legs, inherited from my Mom.
We have one of the highest rates of inequality in the world, one of the highest rates of gender violence and our government has been marred by corruption. Not to mention that redistribution of land without compensation has sparked increased racial tension and debates. Australia has offered to provide refuge to South African white farmers in Australia. Many of us are wondering refuge from what? Can you lose land which you took from other people and claimed as your own; is it yours to lose in the first place? Murders of farmers are called genocide which is misleading and disrespectful towards the survivors of genocide. On the other hand, though farm murders are brutal and horrible and no one should be murdered. Farmers and their families should feel safe in their own homes. My city is in the midst of a drought which has been partly brought on by poor management of the city and political infighting around the issue is hampering possible solution efforts. Sharpeville survivors have even come out speaking to the media saying that they are tired of sharing their stories. They are tired of reliving the past when nothing is being done to reduce the poverty levels in South Africa. They are disheartened since this is not the democracy they fought for. It seems like a sad state of affairs.
Yet South Africans are resilient, prior to our 1994 elections leading political experts said we would end up embroiled in a civil war. That didn’t happen we defied the odds. South Africans are good at defying the odds. We have one of the best Constitutions in the world. We keep trying to do better as a nation and racial tensions are debated in the public arena. In other states, racism isn’t addressed at all we at least talk about these uncomfortable issues. Our Fees Must Fall Movement, which calls for free, quality and accessible education, has united students across the country from different backgrounds to work towards a positive goal. The efforts of our student activists have led to no tuition increases and students who cannot afford it will now have their tuition paid by the state. We have the right to protest which is something my friend Anastasia finds interesting. Our ex-President Zuma marred by corruption allegations was forced to resign and with a new President, there’s now a chance for anti-corruption efforts to proceed. Day by day we still continue to fight for our human rights. And where there are continued efforts there is hope. Oh and before I forget did you know that the 21st of March is also international anti-racism day, which has been passed by the UN if you didn’t you do now.
Wishing you happy travels through the journey of life!
xxx Nikki xxx
P.S Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate it so much and really love to read your comments. If you want to comment feel free to, I’m open to criticism and if you want to just chat inbox me. Should I have two separate blogs instead? one dealing with travel the other with politics? let me know what you think.