Today, March 21, South Africa marks the Human Rights Day.
On this day in 1960, 69 people were brutally gunned down by police officers from the apartheid regime amid an anti pass protest action at the old Sharpeville police station.
As part of the day’s event, Gauteng Premier led the Human Rights Day commemorations in Sharpeville – where wreaths were laid at the Phelindaba graveyard around 7.30am.
The wreath laying was also attended by supporters from various political parties including the ANC and the PAC.
Premier Makhura told community members that despite the fact South Africa has made notable advances, the country still has a long way to go.
“We live today in a democracy with all its faults but we’re free and we live in a free society. We still have a long way to go. We’ve come a very long way but we still have a long way to go as we still have too many of our people without houses and living in poor conditions.”
On colonialism, Makhura told the crowd that there was nothing good about colonialism – his statement is a sharp contrast of Western Cape Helen Zille’s tweets last Thursday, where she postulated that colonialism wasn’t all that bad.
“We don’t want leaders who believe that colonialism was good – [because] colonialism was bad. To those who thought colonialism was good, I invite them to come to Sharpeville and speak to the families of those people who died on that day. There was nothing good about apartheid, colonialism and imperialism,” Makhura said.
The premier said he wants to see a country where every human has dignity, and where no race feels superior to the other.
He also thanked the Pan Africanist Congress for setting its political differences aside and spending the day with the ANC led government.
President Jacob Zuma was also not left out in the celebration. Zuma, along with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, attended the official Human Rights Day celebrations in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape.
This year’s Human Rights Days, notably, celebrates the life of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko who died 40 years ago after he was beaten to death by police at the age of 31.
Zuma laid a wreath at the newly revamped memorial grave site of Biko, adding that history such as his death should not be repeated.
He used the Human Rights Day commemoration to reassure South Africans that social grants will be paid by 1 April, saying the crisis over the payment contract have now been resolved.
“The child support and older persons grant are the two largest grants programmes, with 12 million children and 1.2 million older person benefiting from the social grant.
Let me take this opportunity to once again assure all who receive social grants that they will receive their money at the end of the month,” he said.