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Human Rights for only some, are Human Rights for none – President

20 March 2024

Ahead of Human Rights Day later this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa has reminded the country that “we cannot truly be free until all people are free”. Speaking to the nation through his weekly newsletter, the President said all people, everywhere, have basic rights and should be free to exercise them.

“As we continue to work towards realising the basic human rights of all South Africans, we are reminded that these rights are universal. That all people, everywhere, have basic rights and should be free to exercise them. We are reminded that we cannot truly be free until all people are free,” he said.

President Ramaphosa stressed the importance of being aware of the worsening human rights situation globally.

“When we consider the deteriorating state of human rights and fundamental freedoms in many parts of the world today, we are mindful that we have a moral responsibility to strive for the achievement of human rights not just for our own people, but for all people across the world.

“As we commemorate the tragic events that took place in Sharpeville in 1960, and recommit ourselves to the cause of human freedom, we stand firm in our position that human rights for only some are human rights for none. Let us all continue to advance and protect the human rights of all who live in South Africa,” the President said.

President Ramaphosa further reflected that over the past three decades, the country has worked together to undo the terrible legacy of apartheid.

However, he said, the effects of apartheid persist across society – whether it is in health, educational and developmental outcomes, access to basic services and infrastructure, or in the racialised nature of poverty, unemployment, inequality and exclusion.

“Human Rights Month is an opportunity to assess the progress we have made over the past three decades to advance the Bill of Rights set out in our Constitution, as well as to reflect honestly on where we have fallen short,” he said.

He added that the results of Census 2022 released last year highlight the progress made as a country in giving effect to the rights contained in the Constitution.

The pro-poor policies of the democratic state have lifted millions out of absolute poverty, expanded access to basic services, improved educational and health outcomes for the country’s majority, and broadened participation in economic activity.

“As we head into our country’s 7th democratic election this year, we are further reminded of the fundamental freedoms South Africans enjoy today. These include freedom of conscience and opinion, the right to assembly and demonstration, freedom of association, and wide-ranging political rights.

“We also have a free, independent media that plays a critical role in promoting transparency and accountability.

“We have to stand together united as we work for the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. We should not be in denial about our shortcomings and strive to overcome them with urgency. For millions of South Africans, lack of access to basic services, unemployment and lack of opportunity affect the most fundamental of human rights – the right to dignity,” he said.

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