Address by Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the Human Rights Day, Sharpville on 21 March 2018

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21 Mar 2018

Deputy President, Hon. DD Mabuza.

MEC Mazibuko.

Social Cohesion Advocates.

Councillors present.

Honoured guests.

Members of Media  

It is once again a great honour and privilege that I too add my voice on this day on the commemoration to mark Human Rights Day.

Today, we are gathered here to commemorate the contributions made by our predecessors in the fight for our freedom. We celebrate their efforts under the theme: The Year of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Promoting and Deepening a Human Rights Culture Across Society.

We are in this region because it is here where the gross violations of fundamental human rights took place. This community, where on March 21st 1960, scores of our people paid the penultimate price when they elected to heed the call of their leaders to protest peacefully against the draconian pass laws.

This year marks the centenary birth of two of the finest South Africans, President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and Ma Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu.

We also observing the 40th anniversary of the untimely passing of that eminent African Scholar and a leader of our people Professor Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe. A man who led the March on that fateful day of the 21 March 1960.

We shall draw inspiration from the work they did during their life time.

The progressive world community shall join us in celebrating the lives of these giants of our liberation struggle.

As we remember March 21st 1960, it would also be proper that it is not seen in isolation but rather seen through its proper socio-historical context. The events in Sharpeville on that fateful day were a culmination of mass defiance against apartheid oppression, with the pass laws as one of the reminders of this crime.

Apartheid oppression took many forms as it sought to permeate all areas of life. Not only was the relation between the oppressed and the oppressors marked by unequal economic relations – wherein the oppressed worked, tilled the soil and sold his / her labour to the full benefit of the oppressor.

I thought it would also be most opportune to speak about the human rights project itself and whence we come as a nation. In other words, since the advent of democracy in 1994 and the enactment of this Constitution in 1996, where are we in terms of promoting and deepening a human rights culture across society. The Bill of Rights in this context sets out a basic framework for us on which we can make an assessment,

We know that when it comes to participation in the economy, most women still eke out a living in the informal economy – mostly in low level paying job and in unskilled jobs. We know that the youth and women bear the biggest burden when it comes to unemployment. Hence, while women constitute a majority in the population stakes, their total contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is still far below 50%.

As government, we have continued to make resources available to the many empowerment schemes aimed at empowering women so that they contribute optimally to the country’s economy. In terms of affirmative procurement, it remains our duty in ensuring that all those who do business with government comply with minimum requirements, including involvement of women in the ownership, control and management of the means of production.

We are however concerned that as the country continues to see a notable progress in this regard – notwithstanding the fact that more still needs to be done, there has been lukewarm uptake in the private sector. The private sector for example, still lag far behind the public sector on the Employment Equity front, despite some very deliberate legislative and policy measures in place.

There is also a growing body of empirical evidence that suggests that discrimination at the workplace on such grounds as race and gender continues unabated in some industries in the private sector. The Human Rights Commission 2016 report attest to this and situates it within socio-historical divisions of the past, with resultant income inequalities principally along the contours of race and gender. The Human Rights Commission continues to engage all sectors in abating workplace discrimination.

As government, we will continue to protect our Chapter 9 institutions charged with the responsibility to support our  constitutional democratic project, and these includes the various Commissions that remain at work in advancing the ideals of our constitutional state.

I thank you.