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Human Rights Day – 21 March

March 23, 2012

In present day South Africa, 21 March is celebrated as a public holiday throughout the country.  It is the day on which people remember the the Sharpeville Massacre and  celebrate South Africa’s democratic government enforcing equal human rights

The holiday also commemorates the establishment of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The aim of the SAHRC is to promote respect for human rights, promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights, and to monitor and assess the observance of human rights in SA.

The SAHRC was launched on 21 March 1996, marking exactly 35 years after the events of 21 March 1960 when anti-apartheid demonstrators in Sharpeville were gunned down by police.

The Native Laws Amendment Act of 1952 controlled the movement of Africans to urban areas and required all Africans to carry a reference book on them at all times.

Failure to produce the reference book on demand by the police was a punishable offence. The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) proposed an anti-Pass campaign to start on 21 March 1960. All African men were to take part in the campaign without their passes and present themselves for arrest.

Campaigners gathered at police stations in townships near Johannesburg where they were dispersed by police. At the Sharpeville police station a scuffle broke out. The police opened fire, apparently without having been given a prior order to do so. Sixty-nine people were killed and 180 wounded.

But with those days long gone – although of course not forgotten – many South Africans spend the day outside doing some leisure activity, often with a braai, relaxing with friends and family.  We had family and friends over to braai with us and relax around the pool here at Penny Lane Lodge.

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