BREAK­ING DI­VI­SIVE This Hu­man Rights Day, we again strive for a so­ci­ety free from dis­crim­i­na­tion and one that caters for all within our midst, writes

CityPress - - Voices -

Fol­low­ing our his­toric first demo­cratic elec­tions in 1994, South Africa, a na­tion that was once syn­ony­mous with rights vi­o­la­tions, be­came the bas­tion of hu­man rights.

Since then, we’ve cel­e­brated Hu­man Rights Day on March 21, along with Hu­man Rights Month, to re­mind South Africans about the sac­ri­fices that ac­com­pa­nied the strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion.

This year’s na­tional cel­e­bra­tion will be held in the birth­place of Steve Biko, Gins­berg in the East­ern Cape, where Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma will hand over the me­mo­rial gravesite of Biko to his fam­ily.

It’s been al­most 40 years since Biko died, but his ideals and vi­sion for our na­tion re­main in­tact. Medgar Evers, a renowned civil rights ac­tivist, once said: “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.”

When Biko lay blood­ied and bro­ken on the cold floor of a po­lice cell, the apartheid gov­ern­ment thought they could kill a man and his ideals.

But they failed to re­alise that no amount of bru­tal­ity or in­jus­tice could quell the re­lent­less thirst of a na­tion for free­dom.

Were Biko alive to­day, he would re­joice in our free­doms and our ded­i­ca­tion to hu­man rights.

But he would also un­doubt­edly re­flect that our work is far from done. In one of his many no­table quotes, Biko said: “Change the way peo­ple think and things will never be the same.”

Chang­ing thoughts, along with en­trenched ideas or stereo­types, is key to se­cur­ing an in­clu­sive and pros­per­ous fu­ture for South Africans.

Biko knew in­stinc­tively that chal­leng­ing dam­ag­ing norms and con­ven­tions was cru­cial, with­out a change of thought we would re­main im­pris­oned within our own minds.

There is strong room for an ar­gu­ment that South Africans are yet to fully es­cape our men­tal bonds.

After 23 years of democ­racy we still face the haunt­ing re­al­ity of racism, prej­u­dice, as well as eco­nomic and social in­jus­tices.

We are a frac­tured na­tion, but we How are you con­tribut­ing to break­ing down bar­ri­ers? Do you see this as your re­spon­si­bil­ity? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word BAR­RI­ERS and tell us what you think. In­clude your name and province. SM­Ses cost R1.50 are also a young na­tion still find­ing its feet.

We are faced with dam­ag­ing lega­cies of our past that con­tinue to shape our every­day re­al­ity. The daily early-morn­ing com­mute by mil­lions who travel long dis­tances from their homes to places of work is a con­se­quence of apartheid spa­tial plan­ning that sought to keep the ma­jor­ity away from towns, cities and cen­tres of com­merce and in­dus­try.

Sim­i­larly, the econ­omy is still largely skewed in favour of a small mi­nor­ity, who have been aided and abet­ted by the ben­e­fit of en­trenched mo­nop­o­lies and “old boys’ net­works”. These and other fault lines in our so­ci­ety must be ad­dressed head-on by all of us.

Sim­ply wish­ing them away is not the an­swer – we have to be­come the change we want to see.

Our na­tional pri­or­ity must be to en­sure greater par­tic­i­pa­tion in the econ­omy by his­tor­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged in­di­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties.

The role of busi­ness in this en­deav­our can­not be em­pha­sised enough.

When the shack­les of apartheid came off in 1994, busi­ness and more es­pe­cially big busi­ness was given room to grow and thrive.

Many South African com­pa­nies have reaped the fruits of our free­dom and have over the years grown into strong, multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions.

As pil­lars in in­dus­try we en­cour­age them to use their suc­cess to move the coun­try for­ward as we cre­ate the na­tion we all en­vi­sioned at the start of democ­racy.

When South Africa ben­e­fits, we all stand to ben­e­fit.

Us­ing the Free­dom Char­ter and the Con­sti­tu­tion as our guides, we must strive for a so­ci­ety free from dis­crim­i­na­tion, and one that caters for all within our midst.

These are the hu­man rights and the free­dom that Biko and count­less oth­ers fought and died for.

It is up to us to con­tinue their legacy by break­ing down bar­ri­ers that seek to di­vide us. Muthambi is the min­is­ter of



HU­MAN RIGHTS HERO The legacy of Steve Biko, buried on the out­skirts of King Wil­liam’s Town, and oth­ers who died for a demo­cratic South Africa, should be used to unite the coun­try

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