Know your rights

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually in South Africa on 21st March, and is arguably one of the country’s most important public holidays. The commemoration of this day serves as a reminder to all citizens of the country’s struggle for democracy, and the sacrifices that were made on everyone’s behalf to attain the basic rights of dignity, equality and freedom.

As well as being a remembrance of the suffering that was endured in the days of apartheid, this national day is also a celebration of the rights that everyone living in the RSA now enjoys (and often takes for granted).

One of the most notable celebrations is the Cape Town Festival, which aims to promote tolerance and understanding of diversity through performances, workshops and various artistic endeavours. While other events around the country are designed to draw attention to current human rights concerns, such as racism and police brutality.

A bit of background

Back on 21st March 1960, thousands of unarmed South Africans gathered in a township called Sharpeville to peacefully protest against the atrocious apartheid government and its pass laws, which required indigenous adults to carry a passbook with them everywhere (this allowed the regime to control travel and dictate the duration for which black South Africans could stay in white areas).

However, as the crowd grew in size, tensions increased along with the police presence. 150 armed reinforcements and four armoured personnel carriers arrived, and the police eventually opened fire on the crowd, murdering 69 people and injuring 180 more.

This massacre became a turning point in the struggle for human rights in South Africa, which finally came to a head on 27th April 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected as president. Shortly after his election, Tata Madiba announced 21st March to be Human Rights Day, in order to pay tribute to the people who fought for the freedom of all South Africans.

Know your rights

The South African Constitution protects the human rights of all its citizens. These rights were previously denied to the overwhelming majority of the population, and Human Rights Day thus serves as an important reminder to us all to reinforce our commitment to the Bill of Rights that is specified in the Constitution.

These hard-earned rights stipulate that everyone is equal before the law and thus has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. The bill also includes the right for inherent human dignity to be respected and protected; the right to freedom of movement and residence anywhere in the country; the right to participate in the cultural life of choice; and the right to peaceful protest.

Financial rights?

Likewise, being financially secure and having access to a certain standard of living is also an important goal that all South Africans should strive for. Knowing how to make your money work for you can greatly relieve stress, as well as improve the quality of your life and afford you the freedom of choice.

Protections and benefits come in different forms, and there are ways to make the most of your earnings so that you can live comfortably and look after your family — even after you’ve gone. The key is to be aware of your entitlements, so that you can maximise your benefits and ensure you are protected in the event of any unforeseen circumstances.

The battle against the oppression of apartheid may have been won, but we still need to fight for the right to financial security. Don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting if you wish to discuss any legislative rights that could help to improve your financial situation.

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