This year’s commemoration of Human Rights Day will mark 61 years since the fatal events that took place on 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville where 69 unarmed protestor’s fighting for human rights were shot and killed by the Apartheid police.
And so Human Rights Day provides an opportunity for us as young people to reflect on and remember the sacrifices that those who came before us had to make so that we, as today’s youth can claim and enjoy these rights 61 years on.
In 1996, South Africa’s Constitution was adopted and hailed across the globe as the best the world has ever seen. The most notable section of our Constitution being the Bill of Rights, which guarantees specific basic rights from whence all other legislation ought to find expression.
Yet 25 years since the adoption of the Constitution, many young people continually ask whether our basic human rights genuinely matter to the current government.
Our struggles as young people do not only emanate from the apartheid era, but in fact directly from the human right mayhems of our government.
It cannot be that in a Democratic era, young Michael Komape had to die in a dilapidated pit toilet while at school due to the gross negligence of the Limpopo Provincial Department of Education.
It cannot be that Kutlwano Mkhwanazi, Tshepo Machete and Samuel Maphoso had to die in an open and unattended stormwater trench due to the City of Tshwane’s negligence.
It cannot be that Mthokozisi Ntumba had to die at the hands of the South African Police’s excessive use of force during a protest for access to education, even while he was an innocent bystander.
The unfortunate, yet symbolic death of Mthokosizi Ntumba signifies the need for government to address the many challenges young people face in the pursuit of higher education.
Section 29 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa guarantees our right to further education, which the state through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.
ActionSA Youth thereby calls on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to sort out their internal mismanagement issues and provide the much-needed funding to young and poor students who so desperately need it.
NSFAS cannot continue to claim that it has run out of funds, meanwhile the Auditor-General report has implicated them in over R500million of irregular expenditure, and while failed SOEs continue to get endless bailouts from national government amounting to billions every year.
Young people across South Africa will commemorate Human Rights Day by paying homage to our heroes and heroines who fought against the injustices of our past, however, we will also be reflecting on the current realities we face today.
We will reflect on the fact that 60% of us are chronically unemployed, despite being educated and skilled enough to progressively join the job market.
We will reflect on the rampant scourge of crime that continues to plague our communities.
We will reflect on unrelenting GBV-related crimes that continue in our homes.
We will reflect on how greedy and corrupt politicians continue to rob us of our futures right from under us.
But after reflecting, we will rise in Action. We will rise to reclaim our future and our country.
We will not allow for the continued use of our country’s painful past to be used to excuse today’s injustices.
We will use our time, youthful vigour, and talents to bring about positive change in our communities.
Afterall, the future of our country belongs to us.