16 March 2015
The Eastern Cape will host the main celebration for Human Rights Month on 21 March, Human Rights Day.
“The choice of location is to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Uitenhage Massacre that took place on 21 March 1985 and at the same, popularise the national significance of the day to all citizens of the country,” said the spokesperson for the minister of arts and culture, Sandile Memela.
Human Rights Day was held each year to remind South Africans about the sacrifices made during the struggle for democracy and freedom, Memela said.
The theme this year is “Celebrating the Freedom Charter, Enjoying Equal Human Rights for All”. The programme for the month includes the National Social Cohesion Report Back Summit in Port Elizabeth, in Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, on 30 March.
“The gathering is a follow up event to the summit that was held at the Walter Sisulu Memorial Square of Remembrance in Kliptown, Soweto [in 2012],” Memela said. The Freedom Charter was officially adopted on 26 June 1955 at the Congress of the People in Kliptown.
Delegates from civil society, religious leaders and government representatives will attend the Port Elizabeth summit, where they will review progress and identify stumbling blocks to the nation building and social cohesion programme as outlined in the resolution of the 2012 summit. It will also chart the way forward to speed up the nation-building project.
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa hosted a community conversation on social cohesion at the Youth Centre in Chatsworth, Durban, on 13 March as part of the build-up to the Report Back Summit and to promote a culture of human rights. The gathering discussed xenophobia and ethnicity, and Mthethwa said that the increasing incidents of social ills were a cause for great concern.
Kotane is reburied
Also on the Human Rights Month programme were the reburials of struggle stalwarts Moses Kotane and JB Marks. Kotane was reburied in his ancestral village of Pella on 14 March and Marks would be reburied in Ventersdorp on 22 March, Memela said. Both towns are in North West.
Former national assembly speaker Max Sisulu, former president Kgalema Motlanthe, Kotane’s wife, Rebecca, and several ministers attended the reburial, where President Jacob Zuma described Kotane as a towering figure in the liberation struggle.
The mortal remains of Kotane and his fellow national liberation hero, John Beaver (JB) Marks, returned to South Africa earlier this month from the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, Russia.
Kotane was the former general secretary of the South African Communist Party and the treasurer-general of the ANC when he died of a stroke in 1978 in Russia.
Zuma said the Kotane family and the nation would now have a place to come and mourn. “The people of South Africa and the world will now also have a monument to come and pay their respects to, and draw inspiration from the life of Moses Kotane the fighter, teacher, commissar, and administrator, intellectual, outstanding patriot, revolutionary and giant of our struggle.
“We are filled with sadness but also pride and joy, for we have the privilege of celebrating the life of this highly regarded giant of our struggle for freedom. Kotane gave his whole life to the struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”
Kotane was one of the earliest recipients of the ANC’s Isithwalandwe award, which was bestowed on him in 1975 in recognition of his outstanding contribution and sacrifice to the struggle.
Eastern Cape has a leading place in the struggle. On 21 March 1985, at least 20 people were killed by police during a demonstration in Langa, a township on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, in what has been named the Uitenhage Massacre.
The demonstrators were observing the 25th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre of 21 March 1960.
According to South African History Online, the Eastern Cape is regarded by many as the cradle of black resistance against white oppression. The province was at the forefront of pioneering African political organisations and is synonymous with the emergence of early black political consciousness. It was also the birth place of many of South Africa’s strongest trade unions.
Local historical figures include Govan Mbeki, the political activist and father of former president Thabo Mbeki, as well as political activist Oliver Tambo, and internationally renowned political playwright Athol Fugard.
In 1977, Steve Biko, the anti-apartheid activist, was interrogated and tortured by the security police in Port Elizabeth before he was transported to Pretoria where he died. During the 1980s the black townships of Port Elizabeth saw much violence during the struggle.