The African National Congress joins South Africans in marking Human Rights Day today. 21 March will forever remain an iconic day in our country's history, marking as it does the tragic Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 where 69 of our country's men and women perished, and more than 180 injured, in one of the most gruesome acts of the systematic denial of human rights by the apartheid regime. The day is also a day of celebration of the triumph of our people's commitment to human dignity and universal justice against tyranny and disregard for human life. Human Rights Day, like many of the historical days South Africans celebrate, is a struggle against forgetting and a constant reminder that the freedoms we enjoy today were not free.
Key moments in our history such as 21 March should always serve as moments of reflection on the journey we have travelled and the aspirations we are yet to fulfill. Rising from these painful episodes in history, South Africans should use these days to recommit ourselves to the values we collectively said would define our new nation. A non-racial, non-sexist society where all enjoy equal rights. This demands therefore that we all work together to deepen and entrench a culture of human rights and amongst others reject any form of discrimination including xenophobia, religious intolerance and prejudicial treatment on the basis of sexual orientation etc. We must also reject those amongst us who continue to praise colonialism and the systematic oppression of our people, undermining the sacrifices of the oppressed majority of blacks in general and Africans in particular.
The ANC commends government for its dedication of this day to the memory of the life and times of Steve Bantu Biko - one of the greatest heroes of our nation, a gallant freedom fighter and martyr of our struggle. 40 years on his invaluable contribution to the building of a democratic South Africa remains a living testament to the struggles of our people. His resounding words are as relevant today as when he uttered them "In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift - a more human face"
As we celebrate Human Rights Day under the theme, "the Year of OR Tambo: Unity in Action in advancing human rights" may we continue to be inspired by this great son of the soil, Steve Biko and the inimitable Comrade Oliver Tambo to work even harder to realize our pledge to the ideal - preserving the memories of our past and determinedly working together to build our future.
Issued by the African National Congress