Marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), President Cyril Ramaphosa has reaffirmed South Africa’s commitment to uphold and champion human rights.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted at a time when the nations of the world were etched with the scars of war. It too is a reminder to current and future generations of what our freedom has been built on.
“Seventy years since it was adopted, South Africa reaffirms its commitment to upholding this pact between the peoples of the world,” said President Ramaphosa.
The President was speaking at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg at a commemorative event marking the UDHR anniversary on Friday.
The declaration was adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948 and on the same day in 1996, the Constitution of South Africa was signed into law by former President Nelson Mandela.
The 70th anniversary of the UDHR also coincides with the centenaries of the late former President Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu.
The UDHR and the South African Constitution share much in common in spirit, principles and values that seek to promote and protect the rights to equality and freedom from discrimination of all people.
Reflecting on this, President Ramaphosa said it was the UDHR that, more than any other international legal instrument, contributed the most to entrenching human rights principles into South African law.
The declaration is an implicit rejection of movements, ideologies and doctrines that seek to divide society through its rejection of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and all other forms of bigotry and prejudice.
Attending the event was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who called on the world over to revive its commitment to human rights.
South African Human Rights Commission chairperson Bongani Majola, who also attended the event, likened the declaration to international customary law and expressed hope that it will influence other countries on the continent and internationally to uphold human rights.
Also in attendance was Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang, who highlighted that human rights must be for the benefit of everyone, particularly the marginalised.
“As we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Right, the rights of Michael Komape and Viwe Jali, who lost their live while making use of a pit latrine as a result of inadequate sanitation at their schools, must be championed,” said Hatang.
These sentiments were also carried by the President, who said while South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, particularly as it relates to socio-economic rights, there is a great deal of unfinished business.
“There is a disjuncture between what the Constitution promises and reality. For example, the right to gender equality promised by our Constitution is rendered meaningless unless the state and all social actors fulfil their obligation to put instruments in place to support the advancement of this right,” said the President.