21 March marks another day in the celebration of the Human Rights of all South Africans. This day is indeed significant as it signifies the long battle in the fight for democracy and equality which automatically enshrines and guarantees the right to dignity, equality and fairness.

Of course, it is a day when we remember the contributions of our parents, grandparents and generations before them who had the will to democratise South Africa and ensure that South Africa belongs to all who live in it.

Bill of rights (ss 7-39)

  1. Rights
    1. This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.
    2. The state must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of rights.
    3. The rights in the Bill of Rights are subject to the limitations contained or referred to in section 36, or elsewhere in the Bill.


  1. Application
    1. The Bill of Rights applies to all law, and binds the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and all organs of state.
    2. A provision of the Bill of Rights binds a natural or a juristic person if, and to the extent that, it is applicable, taking into account the nature of the right and the nature of any duty imposed by the right.
    3. When applying a provision of the Bill of Rights to a natural or juristic person in terms of subsection (2), a court-
      1. in order to give effect to a right in the Bill, must apply, or if necessary develop, the common law to the extent that legislation does not give effect to that right; and
      2. may develop rules of the common law to limit the right, provided that the limitation is in accordance with section 36 (1).
    4. A juristic person is entitled to the rights in the Bill of Rights to the extent required by the nature of the rights and the nature of that juristic person.

As workers, we have the right to human dignity, equality and freedom. We as workers must demand that we are treated within this framework. Our struggle heroes made great sacrifices for us to be given the dignity, equality and freedom that we deserve so we should never for one moment let them down.

The following poem, that won first place in a South Africa Human Rights Day competition, by Sabelo Khumalo, age 12, and from Tsogang, Secheba, shows us what we have to celebrate as South Africans:


South African Human Rights Day By Sabelo Khumalo

A day when people rise up in spite of shame

As we cried, our tears were a sign of the freedom we gained Though at the beginning, we were treated in a mean way

We even went to crush rocks that held the freedom we gained We were kicked, shoved, pushed for the color of our skin

We were made to use dirty toilets, oh what a shame Like we had some type of disease

Sharpville 1960, as our youth assembled for the freedom we gained Streets filled with the blood of fighters with strength

At last the rocks were crushed, the wounds were healed, and The tears were now tears of joy

As we danced, our spirit was regained by the sunshine that lighted in our eyes


Let us conclude by a profound quote of one of the greatest men (President Nelson Mandela) in South African history: "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

Have a super duper Human Rights Day! Treat those around you with the respect, dignity, and equality that you

want to be treated with. Make everyone feel special…


Compiled by Dr Nirmala Gopal

National Office Bearer for Gender and Transformation