Sunday, March 21, 2010

South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe Says Honour Sharpeville Victims, Defend Rights

Motlanthe: Honour Sharpeville victims, defend rights


South Africans should honour the victims of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre by protecting everyone's human rights, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Sunday.

Motlanthe said South Africans had a responsibility to protect the Constitution and to honour those who gave their lives in the fight for freedom.

"In effect, this means as public representatives, at local, provincial and national levels, we should always remember the dead because we are their living delegates as they have relinquished their rights to participate in this freedom we enjoy," he said.

"To adequately commemorate the victims and survivors of the Sharpeville massacre and other bloodbaths, we must ensure the progressive realisation of the socioeconomic rights as envisaged in the Bill of Rights." Motlanthe said.

"This means, as government, working with our social partners. We must strive to improve the quality of life of all our people by providing shelter, basic amenities, education, and security."

He also called on citizens to remain patient in the face of slow service delivery.

"The freedom we enjoy today in South Africa means we must exercise our responsibilities diligently so that even those who are aggrieved by [the] slow pace of service delivery will not resort to burning public facilities, such as libraries and schools.

"I believe freedom also obliges communities themselves to take ownership of protecting everyone's human rights and protecting the vulnerable members of our society," he said.

Main threat

However, opposition parties and civil organisations said the African National Congress (ANC) was the main threat to human rights in the country.

"Our constitutional rights are threatened by greed, cronyism, corruption and power abuse," said Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille.

"Our right to live free from fear is threatened by hate speech that incites violence and the government's hired thugs who think they are above the law," she said.

Zille said these threats were not from outside forces and they had nothing to do with the legacy of the past.

"They are recent threats to our human rights. And they come from the ruling party itself," she said.

Civil rights group Afrikanerbond said the government had treated the United Nations (UN) Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) with contempt by not complying with its regulations.

Its chief secretary, Jan Bosman, pointed out that South Africa's report on racism and discrimination was submitted five years late and its second report -- due on January 9 -- had still not been submitted.

"In our celebration of Human Rights Day, we are extremely concerned about the South African government's own commitment to human rights," he said.

'Social explosion'

"It is becoming more and more a government that blindly approves or condones abuses against the Constitution and the Bill of Rights by not acting against any abuse or breach," Bosman said.

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader, Bantu Holomisa, said a radical economic transformation was needed to avert a "social explosion" that South Africa managed to avert with the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) in the 1990's.

"The creation of our economic egalitarian society cannot be left to the vagaries of the market forces that are inherent in current economic policy," he said.

"It is only then that we will be in a position to talk of the realisation of human rights in South Africa ... when everyone reaps the fruits of the economy," Holomisa said. - Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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