HUMAN RIGHTS DAY CELEBRATION

THEME: "Human Rights through development"


ADDRESS BY

Mr LPHM Mtshali MPP
The National Chairman of Inkatha Freedom Party
And Premier of KwaZulu Natal

Curries Fountain Stadium - Durban: MARCH 21

Mr Master of Ceremonies; the Reverend Minister who opened this ceremony with a prayer and other religious leaders present; members of the Royal Family and Amakhosi present; distinguished guests; Honourable Ministers and Honourable Members of the National Parliament and of the Provincial Parliament; Izinduna, Mayors and Councillors present, my brothers and sisters.

Today we gather in Durban to celebrate Human Rights Day and the remarkable progress that has unfolded in South Africa over the last ten years. South Africa has emerged into the sunlight from the dark night of a society in which colour, class and ethnicity were manipulated to sow discord and division and erode the sacred principle that all people are equal before God with innate irrevocable rights.

Today we also honour those across the political divide who are not here today because they laid down their lives for the sacred principle of human rights and the innate worth of each individual. We remember the words of Jesus Christ, 'blessed are the peacemakers.' We thank God for them, for they have 'written poetry in our souls.'

Human Rights Day for me, perhaps more than anything, celebrates the glory and dignity of the human spirit to endure seemingly impossible and insurmountable circumstances. The human spirit can be likened to the gentle flame of a candle shining as a light in a dark place or of a delicate flower that opens to embrace the sunlight, refusing to be extinguished - fragile but incorruptible.

In the words and spirit of the interim Constitution, South Africans have worked:

'To transcend the divisions and strife of the past, which generated gross violations of human rights, the transgression of humanitarian principles in violent conflicts and the legacy of hatred, fear, guilt and revenge.'

It is richly symbolic and appropriate that we are celebrating Human Rights Day in a province which until relatively recently was subject to gross human rights violations on an unprecedented level. The province was a by-word here and abroad for strife and human rights violations.

As recently as 1995, the Human Rights Commission issued a special report titled: 'KwaZulu-Natal - another dangerous year.' Though there are still sporadic incidents of human rights violations in the province, the vast majority of people have rejected violence and chosen peace and reconciliation.

You who are gathered here today are partners in that process, building a new KwaZulu-Natal in which the rights of all are recognized and in which one group does not seek to extinguish the rights of another.

The IFP shares today with all South Africans pride in the process of reconciliation that is taking place; the tentative steps of nation-building and the nurturing of a sense of national purpose and renewal. And notwithstanding the imperfection of the exercise, we also welcome that progress has been made in placing on record the human rights violations of the past. Unfortunately, of course, such an exercise by its nature will always be subject to human error, bias and subjectivity.

In another society far away, also torn apart by a legacy of totalitarianism and tyranny and now healing the divisions of the past, one of its most famous poets reminds us that, 'The struggle of man and power is the struggle of man against memory.'

An understanding of human rights though cannot be defined and limited to the meaning of the incident-based monitoring of breaches of civil and political rights for the touchstone of human rights is human dignity and, more specifically, the right of every individual to live in dignity.

The Bill of Rights states that 'every person shall have the right to respect and the protection of his or her dignity.' The sacrosanct principle of human dignity provides the framework in which all other fundamental human rights are realised and recognized. A person can only flourish when they live in dignity.'

For South Africans, the right to human dignity represents drawing a line under the apartheid era and provides the yardstick in determining if we have achieved human rights for all our people in the fullest sense. The sad reality is the vast majority of our people do not live in dignity.

I heard many people rightly talk of South Africa having a "Rolls-Royce" Constitution and Bill of Rights, and indeed if one looks across the world, they are second to none. These documents, which are embedded with the sacred principle of human dignity, will remain devoid of their real intent, when the majority of our people remain disadvantaged by the legacy of the past. That legacy is alive and with us today in the form of abject poverty, a dire lack of opportunities, spiraling crime and despondency.

That is why the IFP believes that the fruit of our hard-won political liberation cannot be truly tasted until the development of every single individual in our nation is urgently secured. The preamble of the IFP Charter for Development that we adopted last year, states that we believe: 

'That development holds the key to the true liberation of the people of South Africa.'

It is significant to note that as we adopted this charter last year, 2001 will mark the implementation of the new vision of the Human Rights Commission in which they will focus on all the rights contained in the Bill of rights.

Let us for a moment consider some of those rights: 

  • The right to freedom and security of the person - a person cannot be detained without trial, tortured or punished cruelly. Domestic violence against women and children is not allowed;
  • The right to health care, food, water and social security - government has an obligation to provide access to food and water, health care and social security;
  • The right for people to gain access to proper housing;
  • The right to basic education;
  • And, of course, justice, cultural and spiritual rights. There are also, for example, rights for people living with HIV, to live in dignity.

When human rights are viewed through this wider perspective, it is self-evident that human rights in the fullest sense have not been realised for the majority of South Africans because of the lack of development.

At the beginning of the new century, securing full human rights for all will be the struggle to work towards the complete liberation of all our people from poverty, ignorance for lack of education, experience and exposure, unemployment, lack of resources, insufficient health care, criminality and violence.

Only developmental government will be able to provide the framework to achieving full and total human rights. The IFP pledges itself anew to provide developmental government for all where it governs to fulfill the spirit and intent of the principle of human dignity. That principle will always underpin how we shall govern.

Today, I have spoken about rights, your rights and the responsibility upon government to provide development to give life and expression to those rights. However, I must tell you that with those rights you possess, come responsibilities. Rights cannot exist independently from responsibilities. Together they form a social contract that forms the basis of a free and fair society. Rights confer responsibilities upon each and every-one of us citizens.

Self-help and self-reliance are twin responsibilities that run parallel to the government's obligation to provide developmental government. President Kennedy, forty years ago, famously exhorted the American people:

"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

Today on Human Rights day, I ask you to consider what you can contribute to the development of our society. Can you volunteer to provide assistance in adult learning classes? Can you work with young people teaching them the message of family values, abstinence and safe sex in the fight against HIV/AIDS? Can you become involved in Community Policing Forums and neighborhood schemes to mobilize the community against crime?

These are just three examples, but they illustrate how everyone has a responsibility and can contribute to achieving full human rights for all.

Let us work together in partnership to that most noble cause.

May God bless you.

 

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