With March 21 looming, my mind can’t help but wonder what the scenario will be like in this year’s Human Rights Day celebrations. Whether we understand it or not, this day remains a momentous one in our history. In the recent past we have seen top politicians, mainly from the ruling party, elbowing each other for a platform to engage the masses. Mind you, this is not a ‘Mangaung’ .
What will they say this year? Perhaps they will give us a history lesson, or perhaps a monotonous rant as has been customary of politicians. Maybe they will tell the people of Sharpeville what this day means for them. The possibilities of what they could say are endless. I am certain of this one thing though; they will not tell the people of Sharpeville or anywhere else for that matter to embark on mass demonstrations on this day; nor on any other day! The memories of Sharpeville, and more recently those of Andries Tatane and Marikana, are clear examples that we should not demonstrate.
Many people also forget that on 21 March 1960 it was not just the people of Sharpeville that took to the streets. People of Langa and the Vaal going right up to Van der Bijl Park heeded the call! This could not have been achieved without the organizing and mobilizing of people, from students to workers. It is a further testament of standing in solidarity. While the events of this day mark a fundamental attack on the pass laws of the apartheid system, the public today has a further challenge of devising peaceful means of demonstration.
What this means for the politics of today remains to be seen; and the extent to which the politicians and the ruling party are prepared to listen is anybody’s guess. We wait to see how this year’s events play themselves out.