Address by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of National Human Rights Day Commemoration, Sharpeville, 21 March 2014

Premier of Gauteng, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane,
Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Paul Mashatile,
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Jeff Radebe,
Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MECs,
Executive Mayors, councilors
Mphakathi wase Sharpeville,
Sanibonani nonke.
Siyajabula ukuba nani namhlanje, njengoba sikhumbula usuku lwamalungelo abantu.

We are commemorating a sad day in our history. Here in Sharpeville, on 21 March 1960, the police opened fire and killed a total of 69 people and wounded 180 others. They were protesting against unfair laws and were demanding their basic human rights.

The Massacre laid bare not only the cruel and barbaric aspect of apartheid, but also the clear, systematic, and consistent violation of the human rights of black people in general, and the African people in particular.

The Sharpeville Massacre mobilized the international community to take action against the apartheid government.

As we remember the 69 men and women who lost their lives here in Sharpeville, we must also spare a thought for those who were killed in and KwaLanga in Cape Town on the same day in 1960 and in KwaNobuhle in Uitenhage in 1985.

We also recall thousands others who died in many other massacres and assassinations engineered by the apartheid regime during the period of apartheid colonialism.

When freedom dawned in 1994, thanks to the relentless struggles of the people, human rights became the anchor of the democratic state.

The human rights ethos is entrenched in the Constitution of the Republic and has been a defining feature of our democratic state since the dawn of democracy under the leadership of our founding president, His Excellency President Nelson Mandela.

Madiba and his peers and those before them, laid a foundation for the society that respects human rights, freedom and justice.  

On such a day, we remember and celebrate their contribution to making South Africa a good place to live in.


As we mark 20 years of freedom and democracy this year, it is an opportunity to celebrate all the achievements that South Africans have scored in all walks of life, working together.

We now live in a thriving constitutional democracy with equal citizenship for all and a respect for human rights and dignity.

We will never forget the fact that our compatriots were brutally killed for demanding the right to equal citizenship and not to be subjected to pass laws.

The Constitution in this free and democratic South Africa now proclaims a common South African citizenship. It states that all citizens are equally entitled to the rights, privileges and benefits of citizenship; and equally subject to the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. In the memory of those who lost their lives we must cherish this hard won equal citizenship and rights.

We cherish the fact that we live in a South Africa that is a much better place to live in than it was before 1994.

Impela sesihlala ezweni elingcono kakhulu kune-Ningizimu Afrika yangesikhathi sobandlululo.  Lokhu kungenxa yomzabalazo wabantu baseNingizimu Africa abalwela lenkululeko noma kunzima.


In celebrating human rights day today, we want to single out one good story about South Africa.

We are one of very few countries in the world that decided to include socio-economic rights in the Constitution.

We have worked hard since 1994 to provide access to the socio-economic rights provided for in the Constitution.

It has not been easy because the legacy of apartheid is huge and the backlogs are massive.

Despite that, we believe that as we celebrate 20 years of freedom, our country has a good story to tell. I will mention just a few examples.

The Constitution states that everyone has a right to a basic education, including adult basic education and to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.

Indeed the democratic government has since 1994 worked hard to achieve this goal. In the last five years, more progress was made.

Grade R enrolment has increased from 300 000 in 2003 to around 800 000 to date.

We are happy with this growth and we want to make Grade R compulsory after the elections to prepare our little ones for their school years.

In addition, the percentage of children up to four years old attending early childhood development facilities commonly known as crèches, has increased by 18 percent between 2007 and 2011. 

The percentage of 5-year olds attending ECD facilities has increased by about 25 percent between 2007 and 2011. 

Uhulumeni uxhasa ngo-R15 ingane ngayinye efunda e-creche ephuma ekhaya elingenayo imali.

Government also subsidises registered early childhood centres.

Ezikoleni, izingane ezingu 9 million zinikwa ukudla mahhala uhulumeni ukuze zifunde kahle zingabulawa indlala.

Izingane ezingu 8 million azikhokhi nhlobo ezikoleni zifunda mahhala, ngoba ziphuma emakhaya ampofu.

Lokhu kuyakhombisa ukuthi impela lelizwe selingcono kakhulu manje kunento elaliyilo ngesikhathi sobandlululo.

The number of new teacher graduates doubled from six thousand in 2009 to 13 thousand in 2012, in our move to invest in better delivery of education.

The adult literacy rate has also been increasing steadily over the past 10 years. Illiteracy has decreased from 30 percent in 1995 to 19 percent in 2011. 

We have also improved access to higher education and training.

We want to prepare the youth with skills that will enable them to manage, control and run the country’s modern economy.

Enrolment at Further Education and Training Colleges has grown by 90 percent.

Each year, Government increases bursaries for youth attending FET colleges and funding support to those in universities.

In addition, we are building 12 new FET colleges in rural areas, and are refurbishing two others. We have also responded to the increased demand for university education.

Two brand new universities have been opened in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces.

These are just a few of the measures we have put in place to ensure that more young people obtain higher education, especially the children of the poor and the working class.


The Constitution states that South Africans have a right to good quality health care.

In this regard, we are continuing to improve patient care in our hospitals so that patients and families are looked after in a caring manner.

In the next five years we plan to implement the next phase of our proposed National Health Insurance scheme.

This will enable us to expand the free primary health care programme, improve the management of public hospitals, and reduce the costs of private health care.


One of the best stories of the past five years, is the HIV and AIDS turnaround.

We introduced new treatment and prevention measures which have had dramatic results. We increased the number of people on ARV treatment which improved the quality of life of people living with HIV.

Through the ‘prevention of mother to child transmission’ programme, the number of babies born HIV positive was reduced by 66 percent.

More than 20 million people have taken the HIV test which improves the health status of those testing positive as they now have access to treatment.

Due to all these new measures, the average life expectancy increased to 60 years in 2012. South Africans are healthier and are living longer.

Siyajabula kakhulu ukuthi isifo sengculazi asisabaqedi abantu njengakuqala selokhu uhulumeni aletha indlela entsha yokubhekana nalesisifo ngo 2009.

Imithi isitholakala kalula, kanti abesimame abakhulelwe banikwa imishanguzo ukuze zisinde izingane.

Impilo isingcono kakhulu kwabaphila negciwane ngenxa yemizamo yalohulumeni kaKhongolose.

In the next five years, we will intensify the HIV and AIDS campaign to put at least 4.6 million people on anti-retroviral treatment.

We will also expand male circumcision and HIV counseling and testing programmes.


The Constitution of our country states that everyone has a right to adequate housing.

Over three million free houses have been built, benefiting more than 16 million people.

To further improve the quality of life, about 12 million households have access to electricity, seven million more than in 1994.

Nearly 500 informal settlements have been replaced with quality housing and basic services.

To build on the human settlement successes, Government will further improve the supply of affordable housing.

We also plan to connect an additional 1.6 million homes to the electricity grid over the next five years.

Government will also continue to expand access to clean water and decent sanitation.


Our progressive Constitution states that our people have a right to social security.

Close to 16 million people receive social grants, which are one of the most effective poverty alleviation mechanisms in the country. The majority of the beneficiaries are orphans and vulnerable children.

Other main recipients are senior citizens, people with disabilities and veterans.

Fellow South Africans

While we have done well on meeting needs of the people we know that jobs remain a key challenge.

Progress has been made and employment is now higher than it has ever been, with total employment standing at 15 million people.

More than one trillion rand has been invested in national infrastructure projects which improve the quality of life and create jobs. These include projects to expand electricity, water, sanitation, ports, roads, rail and a lot of other economic and social infrastructure.

More importantly we continue to prioritise youth employment.

In the nine months since the adoption of the Youth Employment Accord which was signed in Soweto last year, youth employment grew strongly.

In fact, 420 thousand new jobs have been created, mainly in construction linked to our National Infrastructure Plan, in the trade sector, government programmes, business services, transport and communication sectors.

Our host province, Gauteng, accounted for about half of the new youth jobs, with two hundred and ten thousand new jobs registered in our host province.

Gauteng has also spent about 120 million rand in youth enterprises. We congratulate Gauteng in investing in our youth in this progressive manner.

The Youth Employment Accord has also promoted the creation of internship opportunities for the youth in national departments, municipalities and state-owned enterprises.

Despite all this progress, made, there are still too many people without jobs. There are many families that are still struggling due to breadwinners being unemployed.

Government introduced the Expanded Public Works Programme in 2004 to fill this gap, to enable people to earn an income and gain skills while waiting for permanent employment.

The Expanded Public Works Programme has created 3,7 million work opportunities for unemployed people in the past five years.

In the next five years, we plan to create a further six million work opportunities through the public works programme.

The National Development Plan that we will implement in earnest after the elections, incorporates economic programmes that are designed to boost economic growth and promote job creation.

The New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plan are two of the instruments that are designed to boost inclusive growth.

We will continue to work with labour and business to promote economic growth and job creation.

We will also continue providing opportunities for entrepreneurship and cooperatives so that our people can engage in income generating activities.


The country’s Constitution states that a person or community dispossessed of property after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled either to restitution of that property or to equitable redress.

Some progress has been made in the past 20 years.

Nearly 5 000 farms, comprising 4.2 million hectares, have been transferred to black people, benefiting over 200 thousand families in the past 20 years.

Nearly 80 000 land claims, totaling 3.4 million hectares, have been settled and 1.8 million people have benefited.

After the elections, government will implement new programmes to improve the pace of land reform, including reopening the lodgement of land claims for those who missed the 1998 deadline.

To promote food security, we will expand the Food for All programme and the food production programmes such as Fetsa Tlala so that households, especially in rural areas, can grow their own food as much as possible.


Our Constitution enshrines the rights of workers.

These include trade union workplace organising, collective bargaining, equal pay for equal work, health and safety, affirmative action, skills development, minimum wages for workers in vulnerable sectors, the right to strike and the right to peaceful protest.

In the past 5 years, government has begun introducing measures to address labour broking and the casualisation of labour to protect vulnerable workers.

We have also worked hard in the past 20 years to promote women’s rights as human rights and the empowerment of women featured prominently in the agenda of government and society in general. This is one of the key achievements of our country.

Women hold prominent positions in Parliament, Cabinet as well as provincial and local government.

However, we need to work harder together to promote a safer environment for women.

The eradication of abuse and violence directed at women and children continues to be high on the agenda of our criminal justice system and society in general.

We know that our people are troubled by corruption and want to see it eradicated in our country.

Government will intensify the fight against corruption in both the public and private sectors.

One of the interventions we are to introduce is to restrict public servants from doing business with government, and to hold them accountable for losses arising from corrupt actions and maladministration.

We will also pursue action against private companies involved in bid rigging, price fixing and corruption in past and current infrastructure build programmes.


We have worked hard together to promote human rights that many paid for with their lives.

We have done even better with regards to promoting socio-economic rights.

But, while we have a good story to tell, there is still a lot more to be done to improve the quality of lives of our people.

We released a 20 year review document this month detailing the progress made and also the challenges that remain.

In the next five years, we intend to work even harder to further improve the quality of life.

We want every household to have water, electricity, access to decent schools, hospitals or clinics and recreational facilities.

We want to build a growing economy which creates jobs.

We want to see all spheres of government functioning efficiently and effectively and serving the people with care and dignity.

We cannot do all this alone as government. We need your support as the community to work with us.

We lost our compatriots to the brutal system of apartheid.

In their memory, let us build our county together, using the lessons of the past 20 years.

Let us move our country forward, working together as all South Africans.

I thank you.

Issued by The Presidency





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