To March 21, 1960
This past Tuesday 21 March was Human Rights Day, and the 21st commemoration of the launch of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). It was also exactly 57 years since March 21, 1960, when demonstrators in Sharpeville were gunned down by police.
According a government entry, the SAHRC was launched “to promote respect for human rights, promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights, and to monitor and assess the observance of human rights in SA”. And what a time to think about Human Rights?
It looks like the more people are displaced by violence, extreme poverty and environmental disasters, the more nativist and jingoistic the rest of us become.
Suddenly, no country can stand the sight of refugees; and those who are already in are subjected to harassment, violence and sometimes death.
If what happened at Sharpeville taught us one thing, it should have been that no man is an island, entire of itself, to quote from John Donne. Let us do good by those who seek help from us. This past week (17-24 March), has also been SA Water Week, which was designed to increase awareness about the precious value of water to all life forms in South Africa.
We should be particularly concerned in the Eastern Cape, and in Makana, because, as you might have read in these pages, and experienced over the past week, it has been mind-numbingly hot. So hot that most schools have cancelled all outdoor sports.
The Water Week campaign reiterates just three things: reduce; re-use and recycle. We have to reduce the amount of water we consume (which means that a late-night visit to the bathroom for a short-call can do with no flushing till morning).
We all need to figure our little ways of re-using the water we get from the mains. Perhaps re-channelling some of the bath water into the garden? And finally, to recycle.
If we’re recycling whatever we’re using, we need less of whatever it is, and so do the manufacturers, who would need less fossil fuels, which put us in this precarious position in the first place.
Oh, and just in case, the ability to have a little water, is an inalienable human right.
The past week saw two valuable community initiatives that we haven’t had the space to tell you about properly in this edition. They are World Water Day, which was celebrated early in Vukani at a community event hosted by the Unilever Centre for Environmental Water Quality.
And an impressive cleanup by hundreds of pupils from Ntsika Secondary around the school’s perimeter.
They were supported by the new cleaning outfit on the block, Bhopa! (look out for them!), ward councillor Mncedisi Gojela, Grahamstown Residents Association Secretary Tim Bull, Speaker in the Makana Council Yandiswa Vara and of course their principal Madeleine Schoeman who was as hands-on as everyone else.
We’ve got some great photos from both events which we’ll share with you online and in our next edition. Also in our next edition you can look forward to The Big Autumn Break – a guide to affordable destinations and activities on our doorstep for the coming short holidays and long weekend.