Media release

Government on celebrating Human Rights Day

20 March 2018

20 March 2018

The National Human Rights Day celebrated annually on 21 March, is a day that is set aside for the nation to commemorate and reflect on the sacrifices that accompanied the Struggle for the attainment of democracy in South Africa. The demise of apartheid ushered in a new constitutional order that acknowledges and guarantees the Human Rights of all those who belong and live in South Africa. 

This year South Africa commemorates Human Rights Month under the theme: “The Year of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Promoting and deepening a human rights culture across society”.

The Minister of Communications, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane, said: “As we usher in our celebrations tomorrow, government reminds each South African that the freedom we enjoy today comes after great conflict and must, therefore, be protected. We honour those, like former President Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu, who fought tirelessly so that we can now enjoy freedom and democracy. As South Africans, we have a responsibility to entrench and inculcate the culture of human rights in all facets of society.”

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa lays the basis for a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous society based on justice, equality, the rule of law and human rights for all. The Bill of Rights, which affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom, ensures that everyone is equal before the law. Remarkable progress has been made since 1994 and indeed South Africa is now a better place to live in.

  • At its meeting in Cape Town last week, Cabinet approved the submission of the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill of 2018 into Parliament. The Bill aims to create the offences of hate crimes and hate speech, and to put in place measures to prevent and combat these offences. It further gives effect to South Africa’s obligations in terms of international human rights instruments.

  • In an attempt to address challenges related to unfair discrimination, hate speech and harassment, government has put in place Equality courts. More courts have been built and Chapter 9 institutions continue to entrench constitutional protections.

  • As part of government’s constitutional education, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, launched a booklet called the Constitution Made Easy for Learners, which was distributed to over 500 000 Grade 12 learners throughout the country. This booklet contains the Preamble and Founding Provisions of the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

“Government encourages the public to jealously safeguard our hard-earned freedom and participate in all available platforms to strengthen our young and thriving democracy. Active participation in democratic institutions and processes is necessary to ensure the effective realisation of our human rights” added Minister Mokonyane.

"We also urge all state institutions and bodies to protect, respect and affirm the rights of citizens in exercising their responsibilities and being of service to our people. The outcomes of the Life Esidimeni Enquiry, as presented by former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, should act as a painful reminder that all those elected or appointed to serve our people must at all times do so with the utmost diligence and consideration of the rights of those we serve as outlined in the Constitution, In the spirit of Thuma Mina, we must act responsibly and be accountable for our actions as civil servants" concluded Minister Mokonyane. 

The recent voter registration weekend on 10 and 11 March – in which over 2.7 million voters participated – was indicative of an active citizenry. Meanwhile, three municipal ward by-elections are scheduled to take place in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and North West on Wednesday, 23 May 2018. 

Voting stations will be open this Saturday, 24 March 2018, and Sunday, 25 March 2018, from 08:00 to 17:00 to allow all eligible voters to register, and for current voters to check their registration details and provide/update address details, where necessary. Government calls on the respective communities to exercise their democratic right and participate in the ward by-elections. Voters are advised to visit: for a list of voting stations.

The 2018 Human Rights Day will be commemorated tomorrow, Wednesday, 21 March 2018, at George Thabe Cricket Sports Ground in Sharpeville, Emfuleni Local Municipality, Gauteng. Deputy President David Mabuza will deliver the keynote address.

Ms Tasneem Carrim
Acting GCIS Director-General
Cell: 082 467 9227

Issued by: Government Communication and Information System

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