human rights day south africa
Photo: Twitter/Nathi Mthethwa

President Cyril Ramaphosa has wished all South Africans a reflective national Human Rights Day and called on all citizens to unite behind the national effort to minimize the rapid spread of the Coronavirus.

human rights day south africa
Photo: Twitter/Nathi Mthethwa

“We observe Human Rights Day at an extraordinary time for our country and the world, as we battle to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19.

“The threat posed by this formidable adversary has compelled us to take unprecedented steps to protect the most fundamental human right of all, and that is the right to life,” said President Ramaphosa.

South Africa annually observes Human Rights Day in remembrance of the tragic events of 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville and Langa. In Sharpeville, police opened fired on a peaceful crowd protesting the racist pass laws, killing sixty nine and injuring more than 180 people.


Today marks 60 years since the Sharpeville Massacre.

“Regrettably this year we are not observing this day as we usually do by gathering in our numbers as we do with our national days. The prohibition of gatherings over 100 people is for the health and safety of all,” the President said.

The disruption is one of many necessary interventions, taken by government to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“The right to life, to health and to economic activity is under threat from a virus that has necessitated that we dramatically alter our behavior as a nation. It further demands us to look at ourselves and the world around us in ways we have not imagined,” said the President.

He said that South Africans can draw great strength from the way in which they have pulled together as a nation working together closely with all sectors of society.

“If this Coronavirus is to leave any positive legacy, let it be that it brought all of us closer together not just for survival in this moment but for our future together as a nation that is destined to overcome this challenge.

“As we work together in the best interests of our country, South Africa, today, the events of Sharpeville and Langa on this day sixty years ago remind us of a time when the majority of citizens enjoyed no protection or recognition by the state and were deprived of their fundamental right to dignity,” said President Ramaphosa.

Human Rights Day 2020 takes place under the theme – “The year of unity, socio-economic renewal and nation-building”.

The President described this year’s theme as a profound call to action to all to play their part in ensuring the recovery of every compatriot by the Coronavirus as well as the recovery of the economy from the deep effects of this global pandemic.

“Let us be inspired today by the certainty that inspired the people of Sharpeville and Langa: that they would overcome. They did overcome. And so will we,” the President said.

On social media, South African poet Athol Williams posted a simple but powerful message: “60th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre. 240 people shot, 60 killed. Our political freedom came at a high price, treasure it.”

Minister of Culture, Nathi Mthethwa tweeted: “As we commemorate #HumanRightsDay let us appreciate the sacrifices made by liberation struggle hero & PAC Founder, Robert Sobukwe – who was at the forefront of the anti-pass campaign that led to the Sharpeville protest on 21 March 1960. We salute the son of the African soil.”

Sources – SAnews.gov.za, Athol Williams