Deputy President of the Republic, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe;
NCOP Chairperson, Mr Mninawa Mahlangu;
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and all Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Gauteng Premier, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane;
Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg,
Councillor Parks Tau;
Representatives of Chapter 9 Institutions;
The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, the ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Congo and all Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Leaders of Political Parties;
Veterans of the liberation struggle,
Fellow South Africans,
Dumelang, molweni, abuxeni, dimacheroni, sanibonani nonke muzi wakwethu eSouth Africa kanye nabangani nezihlobo abaphuma kwamanye amazwe abasivakashele.
Siyajabula kakhulu ukuba la, eKliptown eSoweto namhlanje, sizogubha lolusuku lwamalungelo oluntu, endaweni lapho okwaqoshwa khona umqulu wenkululeko, iFreedom Charter.
Lomqulu ungomunye waleyo okwathathelwa kuyo uma sekubhalwa umthethosisekelo wezwe laseNingizimu Afrika ekhululekile.
Uma silapha eKliptown, eWalter Sisulu Square, sikhumbula kakhulu ubaba uSisulu, uXhamela, elinye lamaqhawe ayekhona la e-Kliptown, ngenkathi kuqoshwa umqulu wenkululeko ngo-1955.
Namhlanje futhi sikhumbula onke amaqhawe asala enkundleni, ezikhathini ezakuhlukahlukene, eziningi, ngesikhathi sizabalazela inkululeko.
Compatriots and friends,
On this solemn occasion we extend a special greeting to all South Africans who suffered gross human rights violations during colonial oppression and the apartheid period.
We are happy to join the people of Kliptown and Soweto, and indeed the whole country, to mark Human Rights Day.
Today we also remember amongst many tragic incidents, the horrific events of the 21st of March 1960.
On that day, 69 people were mercilessly killed and scores were injured, as police opened fire on demonstrators who were protesting against the pass laws in Sharpeville.
On the same day, police also shot and killed three protesters in Kwa-Langa in Cape Town and injured many others. Another person was shot at a similar demonstration at the police station in Vanderbijlpark.
We remember these patriots and thousands of others who fell inside the country and beyond our borders, in pursuit of freedom and human rights for all.
In their memory, we worked hard to develop a progressive Constitution of the Republic, which enshrines the human rights of all our people, in a Bill of Rights.
On Human Rights Day today, we urge our people to familiarise themselves more with this supreme law of the land, and appreciate its liberating features.
The Constitution has its roots mainly in four documents or processes – the 1923 Bill of Rights, the African Claims of 1943, the Women’s Charter in 1954, the Freedom Charter in 1955 and the ANC’s 1988 Constitutional Principles for a Democratic South Africa.
In May 1923, at its conference in Bloemfontein, the ruling party the ANC, adopted a resolution on a bill of rights.
It called for equal citizenship, access to resources including land, as well as fair representation in government.
This tradition was further consolidated through the African Claims document adopted in 1943, as a response to the 1941 Atlantic Charter of the European Allied forces after the Second World War.
The ANC, under the leadership of President AB Xuma produced the African Claims as they believed that Africans were equally deserving of the universal rights expressed in the Atlantic Charter.
The African Claims asserted among others the right of people to the government of their choice, freedom of the press and human rights, including socio-economic rights, women’s rights and cultural rights.
Therefore the inclusion of socio-economic rights in the Bill of Rights dates back that long ago.
We are proud that our 1943 Bill of Rights was produced five years ahead of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. South Africa, in particular the ANC as the oldest liberation movement, led the world, so to speak!
Another important document was the 1954 Women’s Charter, which was very specific on the protection of the rights of women and children, and helped to promote women’s rights as human rights.
On 26 June 1955, thousands of delegates gathered here in Kliptown, including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Helen Joseph and Father Trevor Huddleston, to adopt the Freedom Charter.
We welcome to this commemoration, the many veterans of the Freedom Charter process, who attended the Congress of the People gathering here in Kliptown.
The spirit and letter of the Freedom Charter can be seen in the Constitution of the Republic.
The Kliptown pioneers declared 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 revolutionary message proclaimed democracy, non-racialism and the principle of a common nationhood, at a time of the deepening of racism and oppression.
We congratulate the people of Kliptown and Soweto in general, for having been part of this rich political and human rights history of our country.
Compatriots and friends,
Another milestone in the constitutional road map was the publishing of the Constitutional Guidelines for a Democratic South Africa in mid-1988 by the African National Congress, in which the organisation committed itself to the adoption of a Bill of Rights enforceable through the courts.
The initial consequence of this initiative was the adoption of the Harare Declaration by the Organization of African Unity in August 1989.
This document used the Constitutional Guidelines as a basis for outlining the minimum principles of a post-apartheid constitution acceptable to the international community.
It was later adopted by the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations General Assembly. The ANC further proposed its own Bill of Rights for a New South Africa in 1990, with further amendments in 1991 and 1992.
In much the same way that the Freedom Charter was drafted, the Constitution drafting process touched thousands of people across the length and breadth of South Africa, calling upon South Africans to make their voices heard in the constitution making process.
The result was a Constitution that commits us all, individually and collectively, to build a nation based on the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom, through constitutionalism and the rule of law.
Compatriots and friends,
To give meaning to our freedom and to implement the provisions of the Constitution, from 1994, the democratic governments immediately focused on building a new non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
During the first ten years of democracy, Parliament approved 789 laws or amendments to eliminate institutionalised racism from our statute books.
The democratisation of the three arms of the state began – the executive, judiciary and the legislature. Chapter 9 institutions were established to strengthen and protect constitutional democracy and human rights.
To give effect to socio-economic rights, Government, working with the people, has over the years expanded the delivery of social services.
Since 1994, the national housing programme has delivered 2.8 million houses.
This has provided shelter to 13.5 million people, making the programme one of the world’s largest subsidized housing programmes.
By December 2011, we had provided 87% of the rural households with water, and 75% with access to sanitation.
The Constitution specifically mentions social security as a human right. Government provides social grants to about 15 million people, mainly vulnerable groups such as children, older persons above the age of 60 and people with disabilities.
Access to education is being broadened through extending no fee schools, enabling eight million children to obtain free education, and also the conversion of tertiary institution loans into bursaries for qualifying students.
With regards to health, amongst many improvements, a total of 29 hospitals in rural and urban areas are under construction, while 17 others are in the planning and design stage.
These facilities will all include services for HIV and AIDS patients, as we continue to expand HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and support services.
The National Health Insurance system will, in the long-term improve our health care especially for the poor.
Over two hundred and thirty one thousand households gained access to water between 2009 and 2011.
Eighty two percent of households are now connected to the mains
We have done well indeed in a short space of time. However, we are aware that as more people gain access to these socio-economic rights, many more still live in hardship, due to decades of neglect.
Bakwethu, siyazi ukuthi abantu bayayijabulela kakhulu inkululeko. Ingefaniswe nalutho ngokubaluleka kanye nokujula kwayo. Kodwa, siyazi futhi ukuthi indlala nobumpofu kusabhokile. Abantu badinga imisebenzi.
Ingakho-ke sesigxile kangaka ekuthuthukisweni komnotho wezwe, ukuze kukhule amathuba emisebenzi.
We have to grow the economy and improve the general standard of living, in this second phase of our freedom and transition towards a prosperous South Africa.
To achieve prosperity, in 2010 we introduced the New Growth Path framework, and amongst other interventions, announced six job drivers.
These are infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism.
In the 2012 State of the Nation Address, we unveiled an implementation plan for one of these job drivers, infrastructure development. I announced several projects around the country, as part of creating an environment for a better life.
When our people marched against the pass laws at Sharpeville and Langa in 1960, and in other parts of the country, they were asserting their right to work and live in urban areas. They were also reflecting the poverty and under-development in rural areas and then Bantustans.
Our infrastructure plan is intended to tackle the legacy of decades of under-development and to respond to the basic needs of all our people.
The infrastructure revolution is about providing housing, sanitation, public transport and running water in the urban areas for millions of South Africans who are urban residents.
The infrastructure plan recognises that black people are no longer temporary visitors in someone else’s city – they are city dwellers, they have rights.
Infrastructure for development is also about connecting rural communities to economic opportunities through building dams and irrigation systems. It will connect farms and villages to the energy grid and build schools and clinics in rural areas.
Cities should not be the only places with lights and tap water.
Infrastructure is therefore at the heart of how we will change the lives of our people in the next decade, working with our people and many sectors such as the private sector and labour.
I am pleased to announce that significant process has been made by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordination Commission, since the announcement of the strategic integrated projects, now known as SIPS, in the State of the Nation Address.
The Commission has worked hard to prepare a sustainable implementation framework to ensure the delivery and performance of each of the SIPS.
The 20-year plan has been distilled into clear deliverables for this new financial year.
The Commission is also developing a Skills Plan for each major project, setting out the number of engineers, artisans, technicians and technologists we need.
Work is being done with universities and Further Education and Training Colleges to speed up the production of these critical skills.
I will be meeting principals of Further Education and Training colleges next month to discuss skills development.
But we also need government to work more smartly in implementing infrastructure projects. We cannot talk a dam or railway line into existence.
All of us have to roll up our sleeves and get down to some serious implementation work, to produce the platform for development, decent work and growth.
I will be taking this message of improved delivery to mayors, Premiers and national Ministers when we convene a Conference on the Infrastructure plan in mid-April with the three spheres of government.
The important thing is that we are on the move and spreading the message of getting South Africa working.
Last week I opened the Ngqura Port in Port Elizabeth, a large container terminal that will expand the capacity to export goods and support economic development.
The port is now expanding further, with dredging, construction and new equipment being installed.
It will support the Eastern Cape’s growth and development.
Two weeks ago, I joined many to inaugurate the Dube Trade Port in Durban, that is positioning itself as a key logistics hub. The Dube Tradeport is even producing farming products virtually in the airport precinct in order to move fresh produce to different parts of the country and the world.
In a few weeks time I will visit the North West province to mobilise support for infrastructure development.
In the next few months, we will visit different provinces to showcase actual construction projects.
These will include public transport in Joburg, mining developments in Northern Cape, transmission lines in Limpopo, to mention but a few. We will, during these visits, share with our people what we are doing as government to build a better life for all.
We are serious about getting the country working.
We know that we are driving this infrastructure programme during a difficult global recession.
The recent economic recession of 2009 had also affected our country negatively, and about one million people lost their jobs.
However, there are encouraging signs of job creation, with the economy adding 365 000 net new jobs in 2011.
Our infrastructure programme in 2010 saved us from real impact of the 2009 recession.
We are convinced that our infrastructure focus now, will lay the foundation for 20 or more years of growth, improved service delivery and jobs.
We look forward to working with all South Africans to drive back poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Compatriots and friends,
When we speak of human rights we include the rights of all, including persons with disability.
Last year, the United Nations in 2011 declared the 21st of March as World Down Syndrome Day, to promote the rights of persons with Down syndrome, to enjoy full human rights and dignified lives.
We call on all South Africans to pledge solidarity with South Africans with Down syndrome and their families and accord them the respect and understanding they deserve.
We wish all South Africans with Down Syndrome well on this special day.
Fellow South Africans,
We must never take our freedom and human rights for granted.
On this day, let us join hands to celebrate our Constitution and in particular, the Bill of Rights.
Let us celebrate the right to life, to equality before the law, human dignity, freedom and security of the person, freedom from slavery, servitude or forced labour, the right to privacy, freedom of movement, religion, belief and opinion as well as the rights of workers, women and children.
More importantly, let us celebrate the right of being South Africans and of living in this wonderful country, whose people defeated colonial and racial oppression, to build a country that belongs to all.
May God protect our people.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.
Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.
God bless South Africa.
Hosi katekisa Afrika.
I Thank You!