Lecture on Human Rights by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini
Zuma, at the Lesedi Youth Advisory Center, Vereeniging, 2 June 2007|
Director: Councillor Maipato Tsokolibane
Councillor Mlungise Hlongwane, Executive
Mayor of the Sedibeng District Municipality
Councillor Busi Modisakeng, Executive
Mayor of the Lesedi Local Municipality
Representatives of the Umsobomvu Youth
Representatives from the National Youth Commission
of youth structures in Gauteng
Representatives of Political Parties
Business and Religious Representatives
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for inviting me to deliver this
Memorial Lecture on Human Rights and to celebrate the opening of the Lesedi Youth
Advisory Centre. I have been asked to speak about the importance of human rights
in the world context and within that to locate our own history as a people.
have been a few significant milestones in the global struggle for the recognition
of human rights. This history is important especially for the youth of our country,
since it offers us a lens through which to view where we have come from and where
we want to go.
We can only improve our lives and that of a broader humanity
if we know our history, if we are fully aware of the extent of the horrors of
the past, and the abuses of power. Only this knowledge can enable us to put systems
in place, principled positions and practices, which prevent such situations from
ever happening again.
As we seek to understand the past and to claim the
present and the future, we need to learn the lessons that previous generations
have bequeathed to us.
We need to acknowledge that a lot of work was done
even in the 19th century to promote and to enshrine human rights. The women's
movement for emancipation gained a lot of ground in the late 19th century, although
most countries only accepted universal suffrage in the 20th century. Similarly,
the struggle against slavery and racism in the 18th century was an important step
towards an acceptance of equality between peoples, but it would take the work
of a different generation to take this struggle even further.
In the twentieth
century, the struggle for the recognition of human rights in the world reached
a new height with the adoption of the United Nations (UN) Charter.
of the UN Charter
More than 60 years ago, the countries of the world gathered
on the shores of San Francsico to adopt the United Nations Charter.
opening words of the UN Charter put the adoption of the charter into its proper
context - this was the aftermath of the Second World War and the leadership sought
to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war".
so doing, they recognized that there was a need to establish an organization with
a global reach to ensure full respect for fundamental human rights, to establish
conditions under which justice and the rule of law could be upheld. They called
for the promotion of social progress and better quality of life for larger freedom.
was an important turning point in world history, because through this founding
charter, fundamental recognition was given to the importance of human rights on
the globe and with this, came the right to criticize and censor those countries,
who violated human rights.
According to the Charter, for these ends, there
was the collective need to
- to practice tolerance and live together
in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
- to unite our strength
to maintain international peace and security,
- to ensure, by the acceptance
of principles and the institutions of methods, that armed force shall not be used,
save in the common interest, and
- to employ international machinery for
the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.
General Assembly of the UN in 1948 went a step further with the adoption and proclamation
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The preamble of this important declaration
recognized the "inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of
all members of the human family" as "the foundation of freedom, justice
and peace in the world" and acknowledged the need for a world in which all
would enjoy "freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want."
Indeed, this was regarded as "the highest aspiration of the common people."
stood out was the acceptance that this Declaration would be a "common standard
of achievement for all peoples and all nations."
The first article
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity
and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards
one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
Among others, the Human Rights
Declaration gave everyone the right to life, liberty and security. It said that
every human being has the right to enjoy life free from fear or want. It outlawed
slavery and torture, arbitrary arrest and detention. It promoted the rule of law:
"All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination
to equal protection of the law."
It allowed freedom of movement within
the borders of the state, the right to a nationality, the right to own property,
the right to freedom of expression, the right to work and the right to equal pay
for equal work, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to education
which "shall be free" in the fundamental stages."
also embraced democratic governance so that "the will of the people shall
be the basis of the authority of government", and so that there should be
elections and universal and equal suffrage.
Most importantly is that the
Declaration offered protection: "Everyone is entitled to a social and international
order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully
The struggle for South Africa
Our own struggle for
liberation as a South African people showed how segregation and apartheid could
deny fundamental human rights to our people, how at each and every point of the
way, rights were eroded and taken away.
As early as May 1952 Nkosi Albert
Luthuli highlighted that:
the past thirty years have seen the
greatest number of laws restricting our rights and progress until today we have
reached a stage where we have almost no rights at all: no adequate land for our
occupation, our only asset, cattle, dwindling, no security of homes, no decent
and remunerative employment, more restriction to freedom of movement through passes,
curfew regulations, influx control measures; in short we have witnessed in these
years an intensification of our subjection to ensure and protect white supremacy."
Luthuli also highlighted The Group Areas Act, Industrial Laws, the Separate Amenities
Act, the suppression of freedom of speech, the land laws and the pass laws (that
denied freedom of movement), as well as the laws promoting separate education
as denying the rights of black people.
He boldly asserted that the ANC
represented the true and fundamental aspirations of African people and that their
aspirations and views "conform to the United Nations Charter and the International
Declaration of Human Rights."
In 1963 speaking to the Special Political
Committee of the UN General Assembly, comrade OR Tambo pointed out that:
cannot believe that this world body, the United Nations, could stand by, calmly
watching what I submit is genocide masquerading under the guise of a civilised
dispensation of justice. The African and other South Africans who are being dragged
to the slaughter house face death, or life imprisonment, because they fearlessly
resisted South Africa's violations of the United Nations Charter and the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, because they fought against a Government armed to
the teeth and relying on armed force, to end inhumanity, to secure the liberation
of the African people, to end racial discrimination, and to replace racial intolerance
and tyranny with democracy and equality, irrespective of colour, race or creed."
this manner began a process in which international support was garnered for the
South African struggle, yet it was only in 1976 that OR Tambo addressed a full
plenary meeting of the General Assembly on the South African struggle. He appealed
to those present that:
"We are in the forefront of a struggle in South
Africa whose victorious outcome is demanded not only by our people but also by
the imperative of world peace. We have come here and spoken to try to get the
rest of humanity that loves freedom and peace to renew its pledge in word and
deed to support our people until power is restored into their hands."
statements that the leaders of the ANC propounded in international platforms were
also true to one of the most important documents of the South African liberation
movement; and that is the Freedom Charter.
In line with the UN Human Rights
Declaration, the Freedom Charter declared that
· that South Africa belongs
to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim
authority unless it is based on the will of all the people;
· that our
people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form
of government founded on injustice and inequality;
· that our country
will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying
equal rights and opportunities;
· that only a democratic state, based
on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction
of colour, race, sex or belief;
The Charter went further in not only recognizing
the reality that was the experience of black South Africans, but it also sought
to generalize and universalize rights, in this way attacking the very foundations
of apartheid thinking and giving equal rights to every one across the board.
is very important because it chose not to discriminate but rather to build a common
and shared foundation in which all people could feel that they were active participants
in building something new. It outlawed racism, it gave everyone equal rights and
it also promoted democratic practices and indeed the strengthening of democracy
at every level. It also addressed the deep-rooted sexism in South African society
by insisting on the equality of women.
· Every man and woman shall have
the right to vote for and to stand as a candidate for all bodies which make laws;
people shall be entitled to take part in the administration of the country;
rights of the people shall be the same, regardless of race, colour or sex;
bodies of minority rule, advisory boards, councils and authorities shall be replaced
by democratic organs of self-government.
In the late 1970s and early
1980s when representatives of the liberation movement appeared before the UN,
they used their presence to press the UN for economic sanctions against apartheid
South Africa. The World Council of Churches took the important step in declaring
apartheid "as a crime against humanity". This was a watershed moment
because it represented what had become a widespread perception and condemnation
of the apartheid system as criminal - as a human rights violation even in its
thinking and as a threat to international peace.
The events that took place
in 1960 in Sharpeville with the killing of 69 black marchers and the injuring
of more than 300, together with the realization that most of the deaths were as
the result of shooting in the back, led to a greater consciousness in the world
community about the realities of apartheid.
The brutal state response to
the peaceful marches and struggle of the youth in 1976 gave further impetus to
the view that apartheid had to go. The subsequent deaths in detention of our leaders
and the imprisonment of thousands of people brought the horror of apartheid home
to the international community - as innocent school children were killed by heavily
However, while mass international support for a free South
Africa grew, it would still be another decade before South Africa gained its own
liberation with the first democratic elections held in 1994 and the adoption of
the New Constitution in 1996.
Enshrined in the Constitution was the Bill
of Rights, the objectives of which were in line with the UN Declaration of Human
Rights. The Bill of Rights gave every South African full equality before the law,
but it also sought to define 'equality' and to set the parameters of that equality.
Thus it states that:
"Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment
of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative
and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons,
disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken. The state may not unfairly
discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including
race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour,
sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language
The Bill of Rights also gave rights to the Child. It states
"Every child has the right
to a name and a nationality
to family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative
care when removed from the family environment;
to basic nutrition, shelter,
basic health care services and social services;
to be protected from maltreatment,
neglect, abuse or degradation;
to be protected from exploitative labour practices;
to be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that
for a person of that child's age; or
place at risk the child's well-being,
education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development."
a country where in the mid seventies, the children and the youth had taken it
upon themselves to lead the struggle for freedom, it was very important that the
rights of a child be spelled out. The catalyst that had brought about the youth
uprising of 1976 was the widespread rejection of the education system. The Bill
of Rights went on to recognize the importance of access to education that would
take into account "Equity, practicability and the need to redress the results
of past racially discriminatory laws and practices."
went even further with the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
(TRC) to investigate gross violations of human rights.
As a country, we
also demonstrated our support for non-racialism and for a world free of racism
by hosting the UN World Conference Again Racism, Xenophobia and All Forms of Intolerance.
This important event took further the struggle for full equality of all the world's
people and for a more inclusive world.
Solidarity with human rights struggles
The struggle for a human rights culture had also suffered setbacks
in the late 1970s with popular and democratically elected governments replaced
with dictatorships. The abuse of human rights took place in a number of such countries:
Pinochet regime in Chile that took over in a coup in 1973 unleashed human rights
abuse on its population. Later the Chileans had their own commission to investigate
this human rights abuse.
- In Argentina the military junta killed thousands
resulting in cases of human rights violations being brought later to the courts.
In Argentina we witnessed the added dimension of campaigns to trace missing activists
and civilians who it seemed had disappeared; and it took organizations of mothers
and especially women affected by this to put great pressure on the state and the
- In Nicaragua similarly a right wing government
took over that inflicted human rights abuses against its own people. In this case
as in some others, children were also used to torture others. In the period that
followed this country had to put in place programmes to rehabilitate this youth
who had been forced to work an evil and injust system.
- In South East Asia
military juntas also abused human rights. The world also turned its attention
to these places to try to halt the human rights violations that were taking place.
Leone experienced 11 years of brutal armed conflict during which the people suffered,
as civilians were murdered, women and girls used as sex slaves and adults and
children were abducted and used as forced labour or fighters.
- The people
of Liberia also experienced immense suffering under the military junta and the
war that followed. On Monday the trial of former President Charles Taylor for
war crimes commences in the Hague.
In all these places, it has only
been that after the restoration and / or establishment of democracy that these
countries could begin to address the human rights violations that had taken place.
1994 South Africa has chosen to champion the rights of others whose rights are
still being trampled upon, including the right to self-determination.
Hence South Africa continues to give support to the people of Western Sahara and
the Polisario Front in particular in their struggle for self-determination.
We continue to support the struggle of the Palestinians for self-determination
and the right to live in their own state in peace and freedom. We continue to
speak out against the abuse of the rights of Palestinians by the Israelis and
to call upon the Palestinians themselves to unite and to address the future together
and to engage in dialogue.
· In the same period in which we attained
our own freedom, Rwanda was in the midst of an internal struggle for power in
which almost a million people mainly of Tutsi background but including progressive
Hutus were killed in a terrible genocide. In the aftermath of this horrific period
in Africa's history, South Africa supported the new government of Rwanda in its
efforts towards national reconciliation and took up the training of this country's
civil servants, among other partnership projects.
· We continue
to press for an end to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan and are working
within the AU and the UN and calling for a hybrid force to be fast-tracked for
the speedy resolve of the problems of this region. The conflict has spilt over
to neighbouring Chad where it is reported that the militia have attacked civilians.
to home in Zimbabwe, President Thabo Mbeki has been mandated by SADC to facilitate
dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition so that they can begin to
address the crisis in this country.
- The situation in Myanmar has also
warranted our attention as part of the international community.
- We are
at present on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations where we are also
making our voices heard about human rights violations.
- We also have faith
in the UN Peacebuilding Commission and its capabilities to assist countries coming
out of conflict and to help them on the path to post-conflict reconstruction.
recent years, we have also seen once again the violation of human rights of those
who are imprisoned or held in detention in Guatanamo Bay and other detention centres
spread through the world. The situation in Iraq also continues to bring suffering
to the people of this country and the region.
It is important in all these
instances that the promotion and protection of human rights should not be seen
in isolation, but rather as dependent on permanent peace and sustained development.
concur with Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, when he states that:
notion of larger freedom also encapsulates the idea that development, security
and human rights go hand in hand
.Not only are development, security and
human rights all imperative; they also reinforce each other. This relationship
has only been strengthened in our era of rapid technological advances, increasing
economic interdependence, globalization and dramatic geopolitical change. While
poverty and denial of human rights may not be said to "cause" civil
war, terrorism or organized crime, they all greatly increase the risk of instability
Annan supports his view by giving examples where it
is clear that human rights go hand in hand with other related concerns:
if he can vote to choose his rulers, a young man with AIDS who cannot read or
write and lives on the brink of starvation is not truly free. Equally, even if
she earns enough to live, a woman who lives in the shadow of daily violence and
has no say in how her country is run is not truly free. Larger freedom implies
that men and women everywhere have the right to be governed by their own consent,
under law, in a society where all individuals can, without discrimination or retribution,
speak, worship and associate freely. They must also be free from want - so that
the death sentences of extreme poverty and infectious disease are lifted from
their lives - and free from fear - so that their lives and livelihoods are not
ripped apart by violence and war. Indeed, all people have the right to security
and to development."
In our country even thirteen years into our new
democracy, our quest is to strengthen our democracy and our human rights culture.
We do so with the understanding that development must go hand in hand with democracy.
That the right to education, the right to shelter, the right to security, go hand
in hand with the development agenda.
In this regard, we also recognize the
importance of the rights of youth to education, to shelter, to recreation, to
security, to employment and equal opportunities, to nutrition and health services,
the right to equality, the right to freedom of expression and assembly, the right
to a vibrant cultural life.
Thus we have established the National Youth
Commission. We have also seen the single largest investment made to youth development
in our country through the Umsombovu Youth Fund - which is also the main partner
to the municipality in this youth advisory centres initiative.
seen massive investments in education and in grants for children whose parents
cannot support them. We have seen the start of Public Works programmes and other
opportunities where youth can come on board as cadets and interns to learn new
skills so as to be better placed to get employment or to make their own path through
Yet we need to acknowledge that after 13 years,
there is still a long way to go for our youth to fully benefit from our freedom.
There is still no free education. Our youth still bear the brunt of unemployment,
therefore they cannot see to their own livelihood.
We need to take seriously
our efforts in looking after youth, giving them love, care and compassion, security
and access to education.
We should socialize our children in a way that
they will respect people's rights.
This is important because what society
gives youth, youth in the future will give back to that very society. One can
judge a country on how it treats its youth. The youth are the most important present
and future resource. An investment in youth is an investment in the future. Therefore
we need to focus on this investment especially in education, in skills and in
But with the rights that youth are entitled to also come obligations,
duties, and responsibilities.
- The first priority is of course that
of learning and acquiring knowledge and skills through education. This is important
because it is not sustainable to build a country with skills that come from outside.
In all professions we need more than what we have - we do not have enough doctors,
- Secondly, youth should also take responsibility
in living clean and healthy lives free of drugs and alcohol abuse.
should act responsibly in terms of awareness of HIV/AIDS and protecting themselves
and fortifying their relationships.
- Youth need to use their
energies and creative capacity to excel in sports and in the arts and in cultural
- Youth must be involved in political organizations
and other structures in civil society so that they actively shape the new world
that will inherit.
- Youth need to promote peace and a caring
society, so that no youth inflicts violence upon another at school, so that drug
taking becomes a thing of the past.
- Young people need to take
advantage of the political space created by our democracy. They need to defend
the gains we have made and further advance them because youth rights are human
rights and human rights are youth rights.
- Youth need to defend
the rights of women and children and further accelerating the struggle for gender
equality. Our young people need to learn and practise the values necessary to
guide our society for the attainment of a truly non-sexist, non-racial and democratic
- The previous generations spent their energies fighting
for freedom, but the struggle now for development must continue with the same
- Part of the obligations that comes with this is a civic
responsibility to work within communities to improve the lives of others.
there are energetic young people in a community, they should ensure that everyone
in that area has an ID, that everyone who qualifies can access the necessary grants,
that everyone can get access to information about public services and opportunities.
have always been able to see the world with new eyes and to add value to our lives.
The way in which we approach development can be enhanced by creative and innovative
strategies that our youth can help to devise.
Every generation takes
it upon itself (according to Frantz Fanon, the important Pan-African intellectual)
to discover its mission. We would want the present generation of youth to take
its place firmly in supporting the agenda for our country and continent's development.
own development also is connected with the development of other countries in our
region and of the continent as a whole. Part of the responsibility of youth is
to interact with others in the region and on the rest of the continent.
of working in this society involves taking a keen interest in developing the African
continent. I believe there are opportunities for our youth to interact with young
people all over the continent and the African Diaspora with the aim of shaping
the future of the continent and understanding the interconnection between themselves
where they are and that of youth everywhere.
One of our greatest challenges
is ensuring that we continue to entrench the culture of human rights with the
understanding that youth rights are indeed human rights. This should translate
into youth taking a stand about youth involvement in conflict, as child soldiers,
as prostitutes, as the victims of trafficking, so as to defend their rights as
the youth and in defence, broadly speaking, of human rights in general.
youth forums and networks they should amplify their voice against such abuses
and continue to create space for youth development. There should be initiatives
such as Youth in Dialogue.
We also have a critical role to protect children's
rights and to expose any wrongdoing in our communities that undermines the rights
of the child.
Our youth should also take the lead as well to make certain
behaviour in our communities socially unacceptable.
At this Lesedi Youth
Centre, the youth should constitute a critical mass of activists for social change
and broad transformation and offer their support in the implementation of some
of our programmes.
For some of this may appear to be a difficult task.
But you need to be aware that only you, through own efforts, can bring about changes
to your lives, to those of your community and the country as a whole.
am reminded of the words of the author, Ben Okri, in his book called In Arcadia.
tells us the story of someone who dies and finds himself at Heaven's Gate. He
tells the following story:
"A mysterious person meets you at the entrance.
You ask to be admitted. The mysterious person insists first on a conversation
about the life you have lived. You complain that you had no breaks, that things
didn't work out for you, that you weren't helped, that people brought you down,
blocked your way, that your father didn't love you, that your mother didn't care,
that economic times were bad, that you didn't have the right qualifications, that
you didn't belong to the right circle, that you weren't lucky, in short you pour
out a veritable torrent of excuses. But for every excuse you bring forth the mysterious
person points to little things here and there that you could have done, little
mental adjustments you could have made. He gently offers you examples of where,
instead of giving up, you could have been more patient. Tenderly, he shows you
all the little things that you could have done, within the range of your ability,
your will, that would have made a difference. And as he offers these alternatives
you see how perfectly they make sense, how perfectly possible the solutions were,
how manageable. You see how, by being more alive to your life, and not panicky
and afraid, things could have been so much more livable, indeed, quite wonderful.
suddenly see that you could have been perfectly happy all the time you were perfectly
miserable. That you could have been free instead of a prisoner. That you could
have been one of the radiant ones of the earth. That living could have been fun.
It could have been worthwhile. That life could have been a playground of possibilities.
It could have been a laboratory of intelligence and freedom. Experiments in the
art of astonishment
. Living is the place of secular miracles. It is where
amazing things can be done in consciousness and history."
As Okri explains,
it is our mindsets that have to change. We need to learn to make adjustments to
set us free. We need to be confident to do amazing things and to make possible
what seems now to be impossible.
Let this centre be a playground of possibility.
Let the youth here do amazing things.
For only in this way can we actually
say that we have travelled and have made a distance on the journey towards our
freedom as a South African people.
Only in this way can we fulfil our dreams
of an African renaissance.
I thank you.