Address by President Jacob Zuma to 2016 Human Rights Day Commemoration Moses Mabhida Stadium,Durban
21 Mar 2016
The Premier of KZN, Mr Senzo Mchunu,
The Ministers of Arts and Culture, Justice and Correctional Services, Basic Education and all Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Former KZN Premier, Dr Zweli Mkhize,
MECs, MPs and MPLs,
The Mayor of eThekwini Municipality, Mr James Nxumalo and all Councillors,
The leadership of the governing party and all other political parties present,
Religious, traditional and business leaders present,
Fellow South Africans,
Sanibonani, good day, dumelang, thobela, molweni!
We extend warm greetings to all South Africans and all freedom loving people in our country, on this 2016 Human Rights Day.
Siyanibingelela nonke ngalosuku olubalulekile ezweni lakithi, lokukhumbula nokugcizelela amalungelo abantu.
Usuku lolu esikhumbula ngalo indlela ayecindezelwe ngalo lamalungelo ngeminyaka yobandlululo, kwaze kwabulawa abantu, abanye baboshwa, kanti abanye bayohlala iminyaka eminingi ekudingisweni.
Sikhumbula nendlela abantu abamnyama ababephethwe ngayo njengezinto nje, bengathathwa njengabantu abaphilayo nabanemizwa, abacabangayo nabanelungelo lokuba la ezweni labo.
On this solemn occasion, we acknowledge all South Africans who suffered gross human rights violations during the period of apartheid colonialism, including murder, torture or imprisonment.
In particular, we remember the victims of the Sharpeville massacre, where 69 people were mercilessly killed and scores were injured when police opened fire on demonstrators who were protesting against the hated pass laws, in Sharpeville.
On the same day, police also shot and killed three protesters in KwaLanga in Cape Town and injured many others.
We will never forget incidents such as Sharpeville which demonstrated the heroism of our people who stood up for their rights.
We thank the United Nations for declaring the 21st of March as International Human Rights Day.
This was a powerful recognition of the correctness and just nature of our struggle for liberation.
This year, we have chosen the theme South Africans United Against Racism for Human Rights Day. We have done so due to the need to continue working together to eliminate racism and its manifestations in our country.
Our mission since 1994 is to create a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. This is the task of every South African.
Earlier this year, our country experienced explosions of anger due to racist utterances and writings which reminded South Africans that the vestiges of white supremacy and racism still exist in some sections of society.
It became clear that there are people who still yearn for the past, where black people were treated like second class citizens because of their skin colour.
We know that the majority of South Africans abhor racism and racial discrimination. That is why our theme correctly says that we are united against racism.
The struggle against apartheid was in the main a struggle against racism, which is the notion that one group of people is better than others, and is superior to others simply because of their skin colour.
Successive white governments entrenched racial oppression and segregation which was enforced brutally by force. The apartheid regime systematically divided South Africans and caused untold damage to our country, which will take decades to reverse.
Race determined where people would live or work, which buses and trains they could board, which schools their children could attend and even which pavements they could walk on in some cities such as Pretoria.
The best land was taken away while black people were shuffled into reserves and had to seek permission to live and work in urban areas. This gave rise to the pass laws and the Sharpeville massacre.
Racist South Africa was described eloquently by former ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli in his December 1961 Nobel Peace Prize lecture entitled Africa and Freedom.
”Here the cult of race superiority and of white supremacy is worshipped like a god. Few white people escape corruption and many of their children learn to believe that white men are unquestionably superior, efficient clever, industrious and capable; that black men are, equally unquestionably, inferior, slothful, stupid, evil and clumsy’’.
President Nelson Mandela also described how white supremacy manifested itself in apartheid South Africa in his famous statement from the dock during the Rivonia Trial.
He said; “The lack of human dignity experienced by Africans is the direct result of the policy of white supremacy. White supremacy implies black inferiority.
“Legislation designed to preserve white supremacy entrenches this notion. Menial tasks in South Africa are invariably performed by Africans. When anything has to be carried or cleaned the white man will look around for an African to do it for him, whether the African is employed by him or not. Because of this sort of attitude, whites tend to regard Africans as a separate breed.
They do not look upon them as people with families of their own; they do not realize that they have emotions - that they fall in love like white people do; that they want to be with their wives and children like white people want to be with theirs; that they want to earn enough money to support their families properly, to feed and clothe them and send them to school’’.
Madiba, Luthuli, Tambo, Helen Joseph, Ahmed Kathrada and many others dedicated their lives to fighting racism and racial discrimination in order to end the type of society painted by our two illustrious leaders.
They fought for the society described in the Constitution of the Republic.
Madiba signed the Constitution into law in December 1996 in Sharpeville, and this year we mark 20 years of this historic act.
The Preamble of the Constitution calls upon all of us to heal the divisions of the past and to establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.
A lot has been done since 1994 to promote nonracialism, reconciliation, inclusion and unity.
In this regard, we would like to extend a special message to the black majority in our country.
They were treated as lesser human beings.
They were denied all the rights that human beings in modern civilised societies are entitled to including equal citizenship in their own country and land.
Despite all this, they extended a hand of friendship and agreed on the need to build a united, reconciled and non-racial society.
This was important for the transition to a new society and was an enormous contribution to building a new South Africa.
Namhlanje, sizwakalisa ukuyibonga kakhulu indlu emnyama ngokuvuma kwayo ngo 1994 ukuthi ubuhlungu bengcindezelo nenhlupheko, ikubeke eceleni, ivume ukuxolela abamhlophe ukuze sakhe iNingizimu entsha.
Siyazi lokhu kwakungelula neze, Futhi namanje kusenzima ngoba abaningi bathi isandla esibuyayo esiza nokubuyisana kwabaningi abamhlophe asibonakali. Kuba sengathi umsebenzi wabamnyama kuphela ukusebenzela ukubuyisana. Udaba okumele ludingidwe lolu sibhekane nalo ngqo njengesizwe.
Today we also salute white compatriots who did not allow their position of having been born into privilege, to make them close their eyes to violations of human dignity and crimes against humanity. There are many white freedom fighters who joined the struggle for liberation and contributed to the attainment of freedom and democracy in our country.
We must work harder to eliminate that the view that reconciliation is a one way process where the black majority extends a hand of friendship, but with little reciprocation from their white compatriots.
Indeed, we have done a lot to build a non-racial society.
However, the apartheid damage was deep. There is still a long way to go before we can say we have successfully reversed the impact of institutionalised racism in our country or to remove prejudice amongst those who subscribe to the notion of white supremacy.
We urge all South Africans black and white, to become part of this journey to a new society.
Government has since 1994, worked systematically to reverse the legacy of apartheid and racial discrimination.
We wish to emphasise and reiterate our determination as government to put an end to racial discrimination in all its forms and wherever it occurs.
We must remove vestiges of racism in the workplace, in the education system, the health sector, in the administration of justice and generally in access to government services and in the private sector.
There is continuous provision of basic services such as water, housing and infrastructure, electricity, quality education and health care and basically to ensure that black people live in dignity.
The ending of economic marginalisation is key to the reversal of racism and its manifestation in the economy.
The economy is still primarily in the hands of the white minority in terms of control, ownership and management.
Transformative laws aimed at de-racialising the economy or the workplace have been introduced by the democratic governments since 1994. These include employment equity laws and broad-based black economic empowerment.
Examples of new transformation programmes also include the targeted creation of black industrialists which is aimed at opening up the manufacturing sector to the black community. The business community has responded warmly to this programme.
The land restitution and redistribution programme is also one of the key programmes aimed at reversing the legacy of the country’s racist past.
In memory of those who died in Sharpeville, Uitenhage and Cape Town, and also in memory of millions who have suffered racial oppression and racism in our country, we say today that let us unite to build a South Africa that is free of racism and prejudice.
To achieve this goal, we need to do a few things as South Africans.
We must openly and consciously discuss notions of white supremacy and how it manifests itself. When such views are held by people in positions of power, they undermine the nation’s efforts to achieve an equal and non-racial society.
People must be vigilant and point out instances of racial discrimination in the provision of services in both the private and public sectors, should this exist.
Private companies, religious institutions, non-governmental organisations and state institutions must run campaigns and awareness programmes on the manifestations of racism so that we can eliminate denial and claims of ignorance about how this scourge manifests itself.
It is of critical importance to end the denial and the tendency to downplay accusations of racism and undertake defensive stances. We should also be aware of the fact that some racists use art as a form of expression. We should thus be alert to subtle and disguised racism perpetuated through the stereotyping of individuals or groups of people in the media, through cartoons and satire.
The acceptance of the problem will lead to unity in finding solutions. And solutions must come from all sectors and individuals, and not government only.
There is also a tendency to ridicule those who seek to expose racism or racial discrimination, as a form of defence by those who refuse to acknowledge the existence of racism, or who are racists themselves and want the status quo to remain.
Bakwethu, sithi kuyacaca ukuthi ubandlululo lusekhona ezinhliziyweni zabaningi.
Lokhu kudinga ukubhekwa impela ngoba yikho okwenza ukuthi abantu banganikwa imisebenzi ephakeme ngoba kucatshangwa ukuthi abazi lutho ngoba nje bemnyama.
Sithi ke kumele sibambisane sonke silwe nobandlululo nokucwasana ngebala emisebenzini, kwezemidlalo nezokungcebeleka, ezikoleni nakweziningi ezinye izindawo.
There were calls earlier this year for Government to introduce laws or institutional mechanisms to deal with hate speech and hate crimes.
Government, through the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, has drafted A National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
This Plan emanates from the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action which was adopted at the 3rd World Conference Against Racism that was hosted by South Africa and was held here in Durban in 2001.
The Plan is designed to raise awareness of anti-racism, equality and anti-discrimination issues among public officials, civil society and the general public, mobilizing support from a wide range of people.
This policy framework will encourage the collection of information regarding racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
It will help us ensure that the concerns of individuals and groups encountering racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are not brushed aside or underplayed, and that they are more effectively addressed.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is tasked with coordinating the development and finalisation of this Plan.
A National Action Plan Steering Committee which comprises government departments, Chapter 9 institutions, international human rights agencies, faith based organisations as well as civil society organisations has been established to enable wide consultations on the Plan.
Once final, the Plan will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Commissioner for Human Rights. It will form the basis for the development of a comprehensive policy framework against the scourges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
To complement the National Action Plan, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is finalising the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill which is expected to be tabled in parliament by September this year.
The law is intended to make hate crimes and hate speech a statutory offence.
We urge all to participate in the shaping of this important legislation.
We are aware of the fact that government cannot legislate against racist beliefs and prejudice. Solutions will require the consciousness and willingness of those who harbour such harmful beliefs to educate themselves about human rights and equality.
They need to assist themselves to understand that those who look different from them, are not inferior.
It also requires that we educate our schoolchildren and the youth about the non-racial society we are building. Government has begun programmes of promoting patriotism and a national identity already amongst our children.
Symbols such as the national anthem, the national flag and the preamble to the Constitution are being promoted in schools.
Government, through the Department of Arts and Culture, is developing a non-racial heritage architecture in the country. A major new project, the Liberation Heritage Route is also to be implemented, and will feature sites of significance in all nine provinces.
Statues of our liberation heroes are being erected while their graves and other important sites are being declared national heritage sites.
We are pleased to announce here that government will build a statue of the late Co-President of the United Democratic Front, and one of the leading stalwarts of our liberation movement, Mr Archie Gumede, in Durban.
This will be a fitting tribute to a patriot who dedicated his life to the attainment of liberation in this country.
The country experienced horrific attacks on foreign nationals in April last year in parts of Durban and parts of Johannesburg. The majority of South Africans spoke out strongly against the attacks.
They reaffirmed our country’s support of human rights and dignity for all.
We hosted the inaugural Africa Month programme in May last year and are planning for the second Africa Month celebrations this year to promote peace and friendship amongst South Africans and fellow Africans. Xenophobia has no place in South Africa and will not be tolerated.
When we speak of human rights we include the rights of all including compatriots with disabilities. The United Nations in 2011 declared the 21st of March as World Down Syndrome Day.
We call on all South Africans to pledge solidarity with South Africans with Down syndrome and their families and accord them the respect and understanding they deserve.
We wish all South Africans with Down Syndrome well on this special day.
We have set ourselves on a mission to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
We are building a South Africa in which nobody will be discriminated against because of the colour of their skin, in the provision of services and opportunities by both the public and private sectors.
As we proceed with this mission, we are guided by the words of our beloved Former President Nelson Mandela who said:
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.
“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
As South Africans, we say no to racism and racial discrimination.
We say no to xenophobia
We say no to prejudice and intolerance.
I wish you all a meaningful Human Rights Day!
I thank you.