SA to mark Rights Day dif­fer­ently

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE - BALD­WIN ND­ABA

SOUTH Africa will cel­e­brate Hu­man Rights Day dif­fer­ently due to the out­break of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

At least 150 peo­ple have been af­fected by the virus which has prompted the gov­ern­ment to urge peo­ple and po­lit­i­cal par­ties to avoid hold­ing pub­lic events in their bid to con­tain its fur­ther spread.

Now, po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the coun­try – in­clud­ing the PAC which led the anti-pass march on March 21, 1960, in which 69 peo­ple were killed 60 years ago – have heeded Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to sus­pend the commemorat­ion of the mas­sacre due to the out­break of the virus.

The Sharpevill­e Mas­sacre – now known as Hu­man Rights Day – was due to be cel­e­brated by var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal par­ties at var­i­ous venues in Sharpevill­e to­mor­row.

The Gaut­eng pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment had planned its event at the Cricket Oval Sta­dium next to Ge­orge Thabe, while the EFF and PAC had planned to hold a sep­a­rate commemorat­ion at the nearby Dlomo Dam.

Ramaphosa was due to ad­dress a na­tional gov­ern­ment event in Colesberg in the North­ern Cape to­mor­row.

But fol­low­ing his ad­dress to the na­tion on Sun­day, all par­ties have agreed to sus­pend their ser­vices de­spite their in­di­vid­ual at­tach­ment to the day.

Over the years – es­pe­cially dur­ing apartheid – the PAC dubbed March 21 as Sharpevill­e Day in re­mem­brance of the day their Vaal party leader, Nyakane Tsolo, led a group of men and women to the Sharpevill­e po­lice sta­tion to hand them­selves over for arrest in protest against the car­ry­ing of the den­i­grat­ing dom­passes.

In­stead of ar­rest­ing the mul­ti­tude of pro­test­ers, po­lice opened fire and killed 69 and in­jured scores.

To­mor­row, how­ever, Sharpevill­e res­i­dents will for the first time not pub­licly hon­our this his­tor­i­cal event.

Eight years ago – due to their at­tach­ment to March 21 – res­i­dents in the area vi­o­lently protested against then pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and for­mer Gaut­eng premier Nomvula Mokonyane host­ing the 2012 Hu­man Rights Day cel­e­bra­tions in Soweto.

“Why Soweto?” was writ­ten in large graf­fiti on the wall at the en­trance to the Sharpevill­e Hu­man Rights Precinct.

More than 2 000 Sharpevill­e res­i­dents took to the streets that day, in a protest that turned vi­o­lent fol­low­ing the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to cel­e­brate Hu­man Rights Day in Klip­town, Soweto, and not in Sharpevill­e as they had ex­pected.

How­ever, vil­lagers in the Eastern Cape in Xolobeni have de­cided to hon­our Hu­man Rights Day in their vil­lage to spread the mes­sage to curb the coro­n­avirus.

Xolobeni com­mu­nity spokesper­son, Nonhle Mbuthuma, said the Amadiba Cri­sis Com­mit­tee – which also ac­cepted Ramaphosa’s re­quest – would in­stead go from vil­lage to vil­lage from to­mor­row, for sev­eral weeks, to in­form nearby vil­lagers on how to pro­tect them­selves against coro­n­avirus.

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