Wednesday, March 21st, is Human Rights Day in South Africa, a national holiday. It’s a time to commemorate the struggle against apartheid and to face any new challenges to equality.
To learn more about it, VOA reporter Delia Robertson tells VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua that Human Rights Day has its roots in an infamous government crackdown.
“They chose March 21st because it is the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. On that day, 69 people were killed and about 180 more were injured when police opened fire on demonstrators at Sharpeville, south of Johannesburg. Most of the people injured and killed that day were shot in the back,” she says.
The demonstrators were protesting South Africa’s pass laws. Robertson says, “These were laws that required black South Africans or in fact any South Africans who were not white to carry a document, which identified them. And which said where they may live and work and in what parts of the country they may be.”
Asked whether the connotation of Human Rights Day has changed over the years, she says, “I think the purpose of it these days is to support and underpin the Bill of Rights in the constitution. And highlight those areas in the country and those issues in the country where much work still remains to be done to ensure that all South Africans are able to live equally and fairly in this country.”
The VOA reporter says those issues include jobs ands access to health care.