21 March 2012 - Hundreds of people gathered to mark Human Rights Day in Kliptown, Soweto today and reflect on the progress that has been made in ensuring basic human rights for all South Africans, as enshrined in the Constitution.
Today also marks 52 years since the Sharpeville massacre. On 21 March 1960, police opened fire on a crowd of people peacefully demonstrating against the pass laws. A total of 69 people were killed.
"Had it not been for those protestors, we wouldn't be here as a country. I wouldn't be studying at the tertiary institution of my choice and my parents wouldn't live wherever they wanted to. Today we have endless opportunities because of them. This is reason enough for me to honour those fallen heroes and heroines," said Khosi Sibisi, a 25-year-old from Soweto of the events in Sharpeville.
Victor Zwane, 22, from Pimville told BuaNews that it was important for the youth to learn about the historical events that shaped the country we enjoy now.
"I feel like as the youth we sometimes forget the significance of such days. It's not about opening up old wounds, but we must reflect and remember our history so that we can move on as a country," said Zwane.
Human Rights Day was celebrated at the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication in Kliptown under the theme: "Working together to promote unity in diversity and human dignity for all".
The theme calls on all South Africans, in the spirit experienced during the drafting of the Freedom Charter, to rally together and realise goals envisaged in the Constitution.
Kliptown was a hive of activity from early in the morning, ahead of the arrival of President Jacob Zuma, with crowds gathering to catch a glimpse of him.
The President kicked off events by taking a walk through the 10 pillars at the Monument of the Freedom Charter. He then lit the Freedom Charter Torch in recognition of the fact that the Freedom Charter was signed at Kliptown.
He was accompanied by his Deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe; Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe; Deputy Basic Education Minister Enver Surty; Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and representatives from political parties.
In her welcoming address Mokonyane paid homage to the "sung and unsung" heroines and heroes of South African history.