On Monday, South Africa will be commemorating Human Rights Day under the theme of Anti-Racism. This annual public holiday is to remind South Africans of the sacrifices made during the struggle, mainly the Sharpeville massacre, and to celebrate progress made since then. QINISO MBILI spoke to young people from Durban to find out what the concept of human rights means to them.
Kwandokuhle Njoli, 21, student, Durban CBD
Human Rights Day is a great initiative to celebrate the lives of all the heroes who fought in the struggle for us to enjoy a better South Africa. It can also be used to remind those who continue to undermine others’ rights that what they are doing is injustice. Sadly not many people really take this chance to reflect on our past, they just get happy that they don’t have to go to school or work. For us Africans, the issue of human rights sometimes is not as simple as it may be for other cultures. There are some practices in our culture that contradict human rights and it is hard to have to choose between the two because you value yourself but also you can not totally discard culture as it forms part of your identity. I think the most important human right for each and every person is the right to shelter.
Nomcebo Ndimande, 25, unemployed, New Germany
Human rights are the backbone of the notion that we are all equal. If we have equal rights, then there is no need for some to treat others as lesser human beings. Although all these sound good in theory, I believe in our country they are not practised correctly. Inequality is the number one symptom of this disease, everyone has a right to dignity but how dignified can you be while you are struggling to find a job. For me, the most important human tight is the right to education because it has the power to develop you into a better person.
Ndumiso Mkhize, 21, student, uMlazi
Human rights day should be celebrated and not looked at as a day of sorrow. Our heroes died for our happiness and that is exactly how we should honour them, by expressing what they fought for. Some like to say this day should be mourned, I am strongly against that because we already have enough sadness and bitterness in the country as things stand, so this should be one day to look at the successes and the long way we have came. The issue of human rights versus culture is very complicated and it is hard to take one definite stance on it because under culture there are many different practices, some I feel should be stopped as they extremely violate people’s rights but some are just subtle in violation but I feel people should be always able to choose if they want to do something or not.
Nosipho Nyide, student, 22, Glenwood
Human rights get violated everyday all over the world and in some cases nothing happens as a consequence to that. Human rights day only happens once a year and I believe this is not enough to change anything. When someone undermines your human rights it is when they don’t see you as an equal person to them and they use that for their own benefit in one way or the other. Also, the government needs to do more to teach people about their rights because some people don’t even know what their rights are and in this case, they end up being taken advantage of. Even I don’t know what steps to take when my rights get violated.
Xolani Shabalala, 22, Durban CBD, self-employed
My problem about human rights is that they are not equal. Some are more equal than others. How is it that one person can earn hundreds of thousands per month while someone else doesn’t even know where they are going to get their next plate of food from? People’s human rights get trampled on so easily because they are poor and hungry so they end up not caring about rights. I wish the government could use this day to try and develop the poor economically. It’s very nice to have rights but you are not going to eat them. There is no “right to eat” or anything of that sort, so why should hungry people care about rights? Rich people have more rights than the poor.
Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity