Maverick Citizen


This week — Human Rights Day, Constitution Hill festival, and critical unequal society discussion

This week — Human Rights Day, Constitution Hill festival, and critical unequal society discussion
Several Civil Society actors from across South Africa gathered to honour human rights defenders and whistleblowers who lost their lives in recent assassinations. (Photo: Lerato Mustila)

South Africa commemorates Human Rights Day, celebrated under the theme ‘Three Decades of Respect for and Promotion of Human Rights’. The Constitution Hill Human Rights Festival, opens to the public from 21 to 24 March, with programmes for activism, dialogue, art, culture, exhibitions, books, poetry, film, children’s corner, and live music, while the 18th Annual Human Rights Lecture at Stellenbosch University will provide insights on ‘Realising Socio-Economic Rights in an Unequal Society’. 

On Monday 18 March, a three-day national conference on Human Rights in South Africa, hosted by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, will kick off at the Birchwood Conference Centre, Boksburg, Gauteng.

“This year, South Africa celebrates 30 years of Constitutional Democracy and Human Rights. As we reflect on this significant milestone, Minister Ronald Lamola and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development are convening the National Conference to assess the progress and chart a way forward in advancing human rights since 1994”.

DOJCD Poster

The conference will run until 20 March and will:

  • Reflect on 30 Years of South Africa’s transformation agenda and efforts toward promoting democracy, development, and human rights;
  • Consider the extent to which progressive realisation of human rights has over the years been promoted through economic policies and budgeting priorities;
  • Evaluate governance measures established to strengthen national structures, institutions, and civil society that promote and safeguard human rights; and
  • Unpack our national, regional, and international actions and policies in strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights following international human rights standards.

The conference will be live-streamed on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development YouTube channel and daily updates will be available on their social media platforms: X and Facebook.

Follow this link to join the Conference Webinar here.

Webinar ID: 863 9673 3294

SU Human rights lecture poster 2

On Tuesday 19 March at 6.30 pm, the 18th Annual Human Rights Lecture is taking place in the Old Main Building at Stellenbosch University.

The event is being hosted by Professor Sandra Liebenberg, HF Oppenheimer Chair in Human Rights Law, and Professor Nicola Smit, Dean from the Faculty of Law

The lecture is being delivered by Justice Jody Kollapen. The talk is titled, ‘Realising Socio-Economic Rights in an Unequal Society’.

TAC March poster 3

On Wednesday 20 March, the Treatment Action Campaign and TB Accountability Consortium will be marching to the National Department of Health in Pretoria, calling on the government to declare tuberculous a national emergency.

“With 54,000 deaths annually South Africa has a TB crisis! The government is failing to make it a priority,” read a tweet from TB Accountability Consortium.

Youth capital poster 4

Also on Wednesday, at 9:30am, journalist Nickolaus Bauer and Youth Capital will ask political parties about their youth unemployment plans and accountability measures.

“According to the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey, 6 in 10 young South Africans between the ages of 18 and 34 are unable to make an income. What’s more, 8 in 10 of those young people have never had a job. South Africa’s youth bulge can decide where the country is headed next, by casting their vote”

Register here.

Thursday 21 March is National Human Rights Day

The theme for the day is “Three Decades of Respect for and Promotion of Human Rights”,  according to a press release by the Presidency.

“​​The history of Human Rights Day is grounded in the Sharpeville massacre that took place on the 21 of March 1960, where apartheid police killed 69 anti-apartheid protesters. The 1960s were characterised by systematic defiance and protest against apartheid and racism across the country. On 21 March 1960, the community of Sharpeville and Langa townships, like their fellow compatriots across the country, embarked on a protest march to protest against pass laws. The apartheid police shot and killed 69 of the protesters at Sharpeville, many of them were shot while fleeing. Many other people were killed in other parts of the country. The tragedy came to be known as the Sharpeville massacre and it exposed the apartheid government’s deliberate violation of human rights to the world.”

Human Rights Day also honours 35 people who were killed on 21 March 1985 when apartheid police targeted community members after a funeral at Uitenhage/Langa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the keynote address at the 2024 Human Rights Day commemoration to be held at the George Thabe Stadium, in Sharpeville, Gauteng.

March for system change poster 5

Also on Thursday from 10am at Darling Street parking in Cape Town, youth, civil society, and concerned citizens from across Cape Town and surrounding towns and settlements will come together to call for deep systemic change — for people, planet, and future generations.

“In line with Human Rights Day 2024, we will urge leaders to urgently address the interlinking injustices we face, from energy, water, food, land, and housing, an end to gender-based violence, and a call for global solidarity,” read the event description.

Find out more here.

Thursday is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The 2024 theme of the International Day is “A Decade of Recognition, Justice, and Development: Implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent”.

“Racial discrimination and the legacies of slavery and colonialism continue to destroy lives and curtail opportunities, preventing billions of people from enjoying their full human rights and freedoms.

This year’s theme is linked to the International Decade for People of African Descent, which spans the timeframe from 2015 to 2024. In proclaiming this Decade, the international community is recognising that people of African descent represent a distinct group, whose human rights must be promoted and protected,” according to the United Nations (UN) information page on the event.

From 21 March to 24 March,  the Constitution Hill Human Rights Festival will take place

‘The 6th edition of the Constitution Hill Human Rights Festival aligns with the 30th anniversary of South Africa’s Democracy, paying tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for freedom, especially during the Sharpeville Massacre on March 21, 1960,” read the event description.

The public can look forward to programmes that showcases activism, dialogue, art, culture, exhibitions, books, poetry, film, children’s corner, and live music.

The festival is free to the public and opens at 10h00 each day with free undercover parking.

Find the full programme here.


On Thursday at 12pm, Vali Moosa, Mbali Baduza, and Justice Albert “Albie” Sachs will participate in a dialogue to promote the Constitution.

“The main objective of the panel discussion is to create an interactive dialogue to reflect on and commemorate three decades of democracy in the Republic of South Africa. The interactive dialogue also aims to capture the latest trends, statistics, lived realities, and diverse opinions from the curated panel and the public who will be participating,” read the event description.

More information here.

Friday 22 March is World Water Day

The theme is ‘Water for Peace’.

“When water is scarce or polluted, or when people have unequal, or no access, tensions can rise between communities and countries. More than 3 billion people worldwide depend on water that crosses national borders. Yet, only 24 countries have cooperation agreements for all their shared water,” according to the (UN) information page on the event.

“As climate change impacts increase, and populations grow, there is an urgent need, within and between countries, to unite around protecting and conserving our most precious resource. Public health and prosperity, food and energy systems, economic productivity and environmental integrity all rely on a well-functioning and equitably managed water cycle”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: As Rand Water warns of wider system collapse, Soweto and Johannesburg taps still dry

Con Food poster

On Saturday at 2pm, there will be a discussion on how South Africa’s food system decides who gets to eat and who does not at the Constitution Hill Human Rights Festival.

“Mzansi has enough food to feed everyone, but soaring food prices mean many people go to bed hungry. Who is responsible for this? Who decides who gets to eat and who does not? What’s driving hunger in the country? Join Palesa Ramolefo, Manakhe Chiya, Mikateko Mafuyeka, Dr Katherine Hall, and Paula Proudlock as they tackle questions on who needs to be held accountable for the hunger crisis and, most importantly, what we should do about it,” read the event description.

On Saturday 23 March at 12pm, there will be a theatre production titled ‘Vote for Me’ at the Constitution Hill Human Rights Festival.

“Vote for Me” is a new original production where teens get to construct the leader they desire, in an interactive piece presented by a powerful theatrical partnership.

“As South Africa celebrates 30 years of democracy, do the under-18s care about this historic milestone? Teens may not have a political vote in this year’s polls, but as influencers and followers, they are voting — and leading — all the time. Let this theatre production propel us into optimism as a new generation inherits the future,” read the event description.


Sunday 24 March is World Tuberculosis Day

“Each year we commemorate World TB Day to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of tuberculosis (TB) and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.

The date marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease,” according to the the (UN) information page.

An estimated 54,200 people in South Africa died of tuberculosis (TB) in 2022 and around 280,000 fell ill with the disease, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2023 Global TB Report. DM


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