South Africa


National Human Rights Day celebrated through discourse on anti-racism and activism at Constitution Hill

National Human Rights Day celebrated through discourse on anti-racism and activism at Constitution Hill

The final day of the Constitution Hill Human Rights Festival falls on National Human Rights Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse will be announcing the launch of its Water Community Action Network initiative. The Anti-repression Collective, in partnership with the International Labour, Research and Information Group, will be hosting a discussion on ‘The State of Disaster: Past Realities and Future Trajectories’.


Monday 21 March is National Human Rights Day in South Africa. It is an opportunity to remember the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for democracy in the country, according to the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.

Indivisible human rights are included in South Africa’s Bill of Rights, contained in Chapter 2 of the Constitution. They form the cornerstone of the country’s constitutional and democratic democracy, according to Parliament.

“The Bill of Rights also comprehensively addresses South Africa’s history of oppression, colonialism, slavery, racism and sexism and other forms of human violations,” stated Parliament. “The Bill of Rights embeds the rights of all people in our country in an enduring affirmation of the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.”

The day is linked with the Sharpeville Massacre of 21 March 1960, when 69 people died and 180 were wounded after police opened fire on a group protesting against apartheid pass laws. It is intended to commemorate those ordinary people who united to proclaim their rights. 

Monday is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. For 2022, the theme of the day is “Voices for action against racism”. In line with this, the United Nations emphasised the importance of strengthening meaningful and safe public participation and representation in all areas of decision-making to prevent and combat racial discrimination, and reaffirmed the importance of full respect for the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“This simple message can be a powerful vehicle to encourage people everywhere to strengthen and consolidate their voices against racism, to mobilise against all forms and manifestations of racial discrimination and injustice, and to ensure a safe environment for those who speak up,” said the United Nations. “It lends itself towards telling personal interest stories and can feature people and populations from across the world.”

Other international United Nations days celebrated on Monday include World Poetry Day, International Day of Nowruz, World Down Syndrome Day and the International Day of Forests.

On Monday 21 March at 11am, there will be a gathering to “stop the River Club destruction” in Cape Town. Participants will meet at Two Rivers Urban Park on the corner of Liesbeek Parkway and Observatory Road.

The event will include a walk, as well as an interfaith and San and Khoi cleansing ceremony. There will be keynote speakers and a media conference.

At 11.30am on Monday, an event titled “The Big Debate: Amplifying anti-racist voices” will be taking place at the Constitution Hill Human Rights Festival. The event will reflect on the theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as well as on “Anti-racism”, a theme put forward by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. The foundation, together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Regional Office for Southern Africa, will host the debate.

Unlike non-racialism, anti-racism requires members of society to actively dismantle racism wherever they find it, according to the concept note on the debate. 

“This way, anti-racism envisages a whole-of-society transformation that targets racism’s broader institutional manifestations, as well as its granular expressions on the individual level,” according to the note.

The debate will explore how systemic racism has evolved since the transition to democracy; how covert racism and intersecting forms of discrimination manifest today; how one becomes anti-racist; and what the anti-racism journey looks like, including the challenges that may be faced.

There will be six speakers involved in the discourse, including Danaline Franzman, chief director for Social Justice and Participatory Democracy in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; Neeshan Balton, executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation; and Philile Ntuli, commissioner at the South African Human Rights Commission.

Maverick Citizen will be hosting a discussion at the Constitutional Hill Human Rights Festival at 3pm. The discussion will centre around how to become an activist, exploring the ways in which ordinary citizens who wish to be active in communities can put their energy and efforts towards positive change.

Maverick Citizen editor Mark Heywood and journalist Zukiswa Pikoli will be facilitating the intergenerational discussion. Among the activists participating are Jennifer Mothibi of Fight with Insight, Kavisha Pillay of Corruption Watch and Steve Faulkner of the South African Federation of Trade Unions.

On Monday at 5pm, the Defend Our Democracy Campaign will be holding an online public rally to celebrate their first anniversary. The event is titled “Now is the time for democratic renewal and change”.

The discussion will involve an assessment of South Africa’s current political context, as well as an exploration of what is required to ensure a political culture that is people-centred, transparent and accountable, according to the campaign.

Anti-apartheid activist and politician Cheryl Carolus will facilitate the event. Speakers will include Sheila Sisulu, secretariat member of the Defend Our Democracy Campaign and Tessa Dooms, executive director of Rivonia Circle.

Register for the event here.

Tuesday 22 March is World Water Day, an opportunity to celebrate water and raise awareness of the 2.2 billion people who are living without access to safe water. 

“It is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. A core focus of World Water Day is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030,” according to the United Nations.

On Tuesday 22 March at 12pm, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse will announce the launch of its Water Community Action Network initiative (WaterCAN) at a public webinar discussion.

“The WaterCAN project will use an activist citizen science approach that will drive water quality testing by individuals, water forums and community organisations to demand transparency on water quality to hold polluters accountable,” according to a WaterCAN media statement. “WaterCAN will address the lack of accurate and meaningful information, poor monitoring and mismanagement of our water in South Africa.”

The initiative’s first webinar will focus on “Sewage pollution: a violation of human rights”. A panel made up of experts on water, representatives of communities facing pollution and activists using citizen science to solve water challenges will engage with the topic.

Among those involved in the discussion will be Dr Anthony Turton, a professor at the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of Free State; Ntswaki Ditlhale, co-founder and executive director of Triple-P – Partners for People and Planet; Samson Mokoena, coordinator of the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance; and Caroline Marx, environmental head of the Milnerton Central Residents’ Association.

Register for the event here.

At 2pm on Tuesday, the Hanns Seidel Foundation, together with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), will host an online seminar “Unpacking migration challenges in East Africa and the Horn”.

Forced displacement is a major issue in East Africa, and while countries have adopted national strategies to address this, the transnational nature of migration requires a regional approach. The seminar will bring together experts from the region to discuss solutions to migration challenges.

Ottilia Anna Maunganidze, head of special projects at ISS Pretoria, will chair the discussion. Among the speakers who will be present are James Owino, an independent consultant on mixed migration; Shadrack Kivoh from the Refugee Consortium of Kenya; and Dorcas Akinyi, programme head of Kituo Cha Sheria in Kenya.

Those wishing to attend the seminar can register here.

On Tuesday at 3pm, the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation will host the final webinar in their “We Move” series, looking at “Empowerment, cash transfers and social determinants”.

Dr Kawango Agot, director at the Impact Research and Development Organisation, will chair the discussion. Speakers at the event include Dr Chewe Luo, chief and associate director at Unicef, and Dr Elona Toska from the department of social policy and intervention at Oxford University.

Register for the event here.

Wednesday 23 March is World Meteorological Day. In light of weather, climate and water extremes becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, forecasts on what the weather will be are no longer enough. Rather, there’s a need for impact-based forecasts of what the weather will do, in order to save lives and livelihoods.

“Greater coordination between national meteorological and hydrological services, disaster management authorities and development agencies is fundamental to better prevention, preparedness and response,” according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

As such, World Meteorological Day 2022 has the theme “Early Warning and Early Action” in order to highlight the importance of hydrometeorological and climate information for disaster risk reduction.

On Wednesday 23 March at 12pm, NPOwer will be hosting a webinar on stress, exploring how it can be managed both as an individual and as a team.

Register here.

Thursday 24 March is World Tuberculosis (TB) Day. This year’s theme is “Invest to End TB. Save Lives.” The theme is intended to convey the urgent need to invest resources in the fight against TB and achieve commitments to end TB made by global leaders.

“TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers. Each day, over 4,100 people lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease,” according to the World Health Organisation.

World TB Day raises public awareness about the health, social and economic consequences of the disease.

Thursday is also the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims

According to the United Nations, the purpose of the day is to honour the memory of victims of gross human rights violations and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice. The work and values of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador are also commemorated. Romero was assassinated on 24 March 1980 after denouncing violations of the human rights of vulnerable populations and defending the principles of protecting lives and promoting human dignity.

On Thursday 24 March at 4pm, the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS), with support from Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, South Africa (FES-SA), will launch a research report on food couriers titled “I just want to survive”. The report is a comparative study of food courier riders in Johannesburg, Nairobi and Accra.

The research for the report was conducted by SCIS, with the support of FES-SA. It indicates the emergence of a new worker in the digital economy, subject to a new business model based on authoritarian algorithmic management. The launch of the report will be accompanied by a photo exhibition by South African photographer James Oatway.

Register for the event here.

At 4.30pm on Thursday, the Anti-repression Collective, in partnership with the International Labour, Research and Information Group, will be hosting a discussion on “The State of Disaster: Past Realities and Future Trajectories”.

The discussion will reflect on the state of disaster, addressing its failures and the lessons that can be learned. Participants will look ahead to what might replace it, and offer insights on key socioeconomic, health, and security measures needed to address crises in the country and across the globe.

The speakers at the event will include Tim Fish Hodgson, legal advisor on social and economic rights at the International Commission of Jurists; Khululiwe Bhengu, attorney at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI); and Shabir Madhi, dean of the faculty of health sciences and professor of vaccinology at Wits University. Thato Masiangoako, member of Anti-repression Collective and researcher at SERI, will be facilitating the discussion.

Register for the event here.

At 5.30pm on Thursday, the Accountability Lab South Africa (ALSA) will host its annual Meet the Icon (MTI) dialogue series. The series forms part of ALSA’s “Integrity Icon” campaign, which seeks to celebrate those government officials who go above and beyond the call of duty and demonstrate personal responsibility within public service.

For the 2022 series, ALSA has partnered with the Zero Dropout Campaign to highlight the achievements of individuals in the education sector, including the measures they have instituted to curb school dropout and improve overall academic performance among learners.

Guest participants at the event are Principal Mncedi Mtengwana of Solomon Mahlangu High School in KwaNobuhle township, Eastern Cape, and teacher Joyce Buthelezi of Bernard Mizeki Primary School in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal. The discussion will be facilitated by Merle Mansfield, programme director of the Zero Dropout Campaign. The topic is “Creating Safe and Enabling Spaces in Public Schools”.

Register for the event here.

Friday 25 March is the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. 

The transatlantic slave trade was characterised by unprecedented mass human trafficking, degrading economic transactions and human rights violations, according to the United Nations. 

“Behind the facts and figures are millions of human stories. The stories of those who were ripped from their homelands and families. The stories of those who fought against their oppressors. The stories of those who triumphed against all odds to win their freedom. Those stories continue today as people across the globe keep struggling together against the transatlantic slave trade’s most enduring legacy – racism,” said the United Nations.

The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Stories of Courage: Resistance to Slavery and Unity against Racism”.

The International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members also takes place on Friday. 

Hundreds of men and women have lost their lives in service to the United Nations since its inception in 1945. This day thus seeks to mobilise action, demand justice and strengthen the resolve to protect staff and peacekeepers at the United Nations, as well as members of the non-governmental community and the media. MC


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