Human Rights Day

The political and socio-economic rights enshrined in our Constitution must be realised in practice

Tuesday 20 March 2007

The march will take place on 21st of March (Human Rights Day). It will start at 10 am at the Library Gardens in central Johannesburg and end at the Constitution Hill in Braamfontein.

Forty-seven years ago, on 21 March 1960, the apartheid police force killed 69 people and injured many peaceful protesters who were struggling against the apartheid pass laws and apartheid in general. The commemoration of the Sharpeville Massacre became to be known as Sharpeville Day. Sharpeville Day is now called Human Rights Day, a day on which South Africans are supposed to celebrate achievements around all aspects of human rights.

Continuing with the struggle traditions of Sharpeville, on 21 March 2007, the APF, the Coalition Against Water Privatisation (CAWP) and other organisations belonging to the Social Movements Indaba will be marching to the Constitutional Court in support of community demands for the full realisation and enjoyment of both political and socio-economic human rights, especially as applied to freedom of expression/assembly and the provision of quality, accessible free basic services such as water/sanitation, electricity, housing, education, health and housing.

Access to, and full enjoyment of, social and economic rights for South Africa’s poor remains in a crisis situation. The real unemployment rate, even as defined by the government, is at 40%. The gap between the highest income earners and the lowest is widening. The poor continue to be affected and infected with HIV/AIDS. In 2006 it was estimated that about 6 million South Africans are infected with HIV/AIDS. Women are the most infected and affected. The government’s ARV programme covers only 17% of those suffering from HIV-AIDS.

The housing crisis continues despite government’s promises of eradicating shacks. Since 1994, shacks and shanties have been growing at an average of 140 000 a year. Even the institutions that serve big business concede that government’s promises of freeing South Africa from the shackles of shacks by 2014 remains another utopia. Despite the land summit and its promises, land distribution remains in the starting blocks. Education for working class and poor students continues to be in tatters.

The march will also highlight the constitutional rights legal case against water privatisation and the installation pre-paid water-meters that is being brought by the CAWP, with the support of the APF, the Freedom of Expression Institute and the Wits’ Centre for Applied Legal Studies. This case has been built up over the past two years and will soon be set down for a hearing in the Johannesburg High Court. We fully expect that this case will make its way to the Constitutional Court because the case raises fundamental constitutional rights issues around the provision and enjoyment of basic services such as water. The case seeks to have pre-paid meters declared unconstitutional and the provision of the free basic amount of water raised to levels necessary for the full realisation of personal and productive needs. This means the reversal of the privatisation/ corporatisation programmes of the Department of Water Affairs, Johannesburg Water and all those companies and utilities that are violating our rights to water.

The march of the 21st of March will start in the Library Gardens and end at the Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, where the constitutional court sits. It has to be remembered that in 2003 the APF had planned the same march but the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police stopped the march on counterfeit grounds. As a result of that a number of APF members were either prevented from marching or arrested illegally. This time the APF and other formations from areas like Khutsong, Soweto, the East Rand and the Vaal will be going back to the Constitution Hill to reclaim the right to freedom of expression as well as social and economic rights. The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police have been informed well in advance about the march and any attempt to prevent the march and/or arrest participants must be seen as a unacceptable and direct attack on fundamental human rights.

For more information, please contact the APF office on 011 339 4121, Silumko on 0721737268 or Mondli on 0843773003

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