South African celebrate Human Rights Day today, Tuesday, March 21. The Nelson Mandela Foundation said that it observed‚ with a heavy heart‚ an alarming rise in the number of South Africans who daily forgo their human rights.
This was despite protections guaranteed by the Constitution.
“Paramount to this is the right to life which is taken away from many by simply being neglected and left to perish due to starvation‚” said a statement by the foundation‚ adding that 26% of households in the country lived with hunger.
“While speaking out against an imperfect system is a right that should be exercised‚ South Africa runs the risk of only paying lip service to its societal ills. Individual and collective action can and will change this path.
“We need to look at how we lift the ink from the paper of our constitution and ensure that its promises deliver in the everyday lives of the people of this country.”
Twelve million people suffered from food insecurity with four million of those on the brink of starvation. “It cannot be enough that those who have the luxury of throwing away leftovers think the job of exercising humanity in an effort to restore dignity is the exclusive duty of state machinery.”
The foundation said there was a need for “shared political responsibility between government and corporate South Africa”.
On-going social unrest and institutional mismanagement were not isolated incidents. They were part of a continued legacy of inequality and poverty in the country.
The foundation urged South Africans to “mimic the mothers and fathers of its democracy and stand up for those” who do not enjoy human rights.
“Where a young girl is not able to attend school because her family cannot afford sanitary towels‚ lend a hand. Where racism rears its ugly head‚ call it out and stand in its face as a soldier of respect and dignity. Where a human being is being chastised simply because of their sexuality‚ let us call these actions out‚” said the foundation.
“On this day in 1996‚ as we marked the second anniversary of Human Rights Day post the advent of democracy‚ President Nelson Mandela reminded us ‘Our drive for human dignity and basic rights is premised on the development of our country and the improvement of the living conditions of the people. The freedoms whose virtue we are extolling will be meaningless in the face of grinding poverty and underdevelopment.’
“These words still ring true today‚ as they did 21 years ago. It remains in our hands to make a difference.”