Statement by Minister EN Mthethwa on the occasion of the launch of Human rights Month, Parliament, Cape Town

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01 Mar 2018

Programme Director:

Members of the Media

Ladies and gentlemen

I extend my warmest greetings to all of you present. We have gathered here to advance the cause for peace, social progress and economic justice for all our people. A task that we should not take light. For us to be where we are, others laid down their lives. 

Today we stand on the shoulders of those giants, freedom fighters who unflinchingly prepared the ground for our freedom.

Speaking of those who sacrificed for our freedom, this year, we shall celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of two of the greatest leaders this country, this continent and the world has ever known – President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and Ma Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu.

Two days ago, marked the 40th anniversary of the untimely passing of that eminent African scholar, political activist and a leader of our people, Professor Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe. Who was amongst the leaders, who led the campaign against the pass laws.

These are important milestones in the history of our nation. 

We shall pay tribute to the contribution that they made, over the course of their lives, to the struggle for freedom and the cause of building humane social relations across the globe.

We should draw lessons and inspiration from their lives as we confront the challenges of the present. We should use this historic occasion to unite our people and rebuild our country.

We should use these occasions to inspire us to intensify our efforts to realise their vision of a united South Africa in which all live in peace with equal rights and opportunities.

A Caribbean scholar and political activist, Marcus Garvey once warned us that: 

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. 

So it is important for us to remember our history and events that shaped our society so that we do not repeat the mistakes committed by the past generations.

 The theme for this year’s human rights commemoration is:

“The year of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: promoting and deepening a human rights culture across society”.

Despite the efforts of our government and the people of our country to consign poverty and white privilege to history, the resilient fault lines of poverty, unemployment and inequality stubbornly persist. 

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.

We shall work to rekindle the vision of a democratic society in which all citizens have equal opportunity to determine their own destiny.

As we have gathered here, we should be keenly aware that, South Africa represents the most acute manifestation of most of the social fault-lines that define humanity’s current challenges: race, class, gender and geographic location. Income inequality and inequitable distribution of assets are at their most intense. Poverty and unparalleled opulence live cheek by jowl.

Therefore our efforts at fundamental change represent a social experiment which resonates with humanity’s progressive endeavours. As in the past when it touched the conscience of humanity, South Africa is a giant social laboratory, the success or failure of whose undertakings has global implications.

The realisation of the Constitutional injunctions is the task of every citizen and various sectors of our society across the board. All of us without exception we should put shoulder to the wheel.

Thank you.