President Cyril Ramaphosa says over the past year, government, working in partnership with social partners and civil society, has given effect to the principle that human rights are not negotiable.
“We have strived to meet our many obligations under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that is the cornerstone of our democracy. Through the provision of care to the sick and social support to the vulnerable, we have worked together to give effect to the most important rights of our people – the right to life, to health and to dignity,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa made the remarks when he was delivering a national message during the virtual commemoration of Human Rights Day on Sunday.
Human Rights Month 2021 is commemorated under the theme “The Year of Charlotte Maxeke: Promoting Human Rights in the Age of COVID-19”.The theme pays tribute to the 150th anniversary of the birth of liberation struggle heroine and human rights campaigner, Charlotte Maxeke.
Response to COVID-19 pandemic
The President said that, in recognition of the severe impact of the pandemic on people’s livelihoods, government has implemented social and income support measures to support struggling households, workers and businesses.
He said the next phase of the response to the pandemic is to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccine is available to every person in the country.
“We have been able to weather the Coronavirus storm in large part because of the strong culture of human rights in our country. Human rights that were hard-won by the heroes and heroines of Sharpeville and the countless heroes and heroines of our struggle for liberation broadly.
“They were firm in their conviction that freedom for some is freedom for none; and that nobody must be left behind. It was at Sharpeville that President Nelson Mandela signed our democratic Constitution into law 25 years ago. The Constitution is a shade and a shelter for all.
“The Constitution is one law for one nation. It commits not just government but every one of us to the values that were disregarded in the past – of human rights, of fair and decent treatment, of tolerance of difference, and of appreciation of our common basic humanity,” President Ramaphosa said.
Phase of reconstruction and recovery
The President noted that the country is currently in the phase of reconstruction and recovery, and government is working to build a new economy that promises “equal opportunity for all”.
In doing so, he reminded the citizens that this is a struggle for all.
“It is not a fight not for our own piece of bread, for our own job to be saved, or for our own health and safety. It is a fight to preserve our common humanity.
“It is a fight to preserve our common humanity, and it means that we must all work together, whether as government, labour, business or communities,” he said.
“We must rebuild a society that is far better than the one that came before it. We must become a society that is free from poverty, hunger and deprivation. We must become a society where women and children are free from violence, and where their rights are protected.
“We must become a society where young people are able to realise their full potential – where they are not doomed to lives of despair and poverty because they cannot afford an education or because there are no jobs for them. We must be a society of equal opportunity for all, regardless of one’s race, sex, sexual orientation or whether one is able bodied or a person with disabilities.
“We must be a society where quality health care, education and basic services are provided to our people regardless of whether they live in a village in a town or a city. We must be a society where the land is owned not by a few, but where all have access to land for development, for progress and for self-upliftment,” President Ramaphosa said.
Above all, the President said, society must recognise the dignity of every individual and the role of every man, woman and child in building a better future.
Making the Constitution a reality
“As we work to rebuild our economy and our society, we must strive to make the promise of the country’s Constitution a reality in the lives of our people.
“As we work to rebuild our economy and our society, we must strive to make this promise a reality in the lives of our people. Advancing human rights is the responsibility of us all.
“Though we may have our differences on a number of issues, we have far more in common. We share a common goal: to defeat the pandemic. We have a common vision: of a better, more inclusive society.
“Above all, we have a common cause: that of a South Africa of equality, prosperity, freedom and human rights for all,” President Ramaphosa said.
He wished all South African citizens, and people who call this great beautiful country their home, a “healthy, happy and peaceful Human Rights Day”.