The Eastern Cape is gearing up for the commemoration of this year’s Human Rights Day in King William’s Town where President Jacob Zuma will be joined by thousands of people who will observe the day at Victoria Grounds.
On Monday, workers were busy putting final touches at the venue where scores of people are expected to gather from 9am on Tuesday. King William’s Town is the birth place of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko who died in a prison cell in Pretoria in 1977. This year marks 40 years since his murder at the hands of the police.
Government said this year’s Human Rights Day will used to honour Biko as well as another struggle veteran, Oliver Reginald Tambo, the longest serving President of the governing party, the African National Congress.
The commemorations will this year be held under the theme: “The Year of OR Tambo: Unity in action in advancing Human Rights”, celebrating the contribution of national icon and hero Oliver Reginald Tambo in advancing unity in the struggle for liberation.
President Zuma, along with Biko’s wife, Nontsikilelo, will unveil a memorial at the gravesite in Ginsberg, before the President proceeds to the main Human Rights Day celebration which is at the city centre.
The commemoration of Human Rights Day originates from the Sharpeville Massacre that took place on March 21, 1960 when 69 people were killed by the apartheid police during a peaceful protest march.
Meanwhile, the people of King William’s Town have expressed joy over the decision to hold the event in their town and to celebrate their hero Biko.
“We are very humbled by this decision by the government to remember Steve Biko in this way and to bring the Human Rights Day to our town. It is something that is really appreciated. It also shows that the sacrifices made by people like Biko as well as the Eastern Cape’s contribution to history is appreciated,” said local community leader Michael Makhuphula.
Local businesses are also hoping to gain from the event with hawkers on Monday already seen preparing to move their stands near the venue.
Freedom Park pays tribute to international communities – 21 March 2017
Human Rights Day is a significant day to South Africans for remembering not only the 69 people, who were killed during the Sharpeville Massacre, but all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for South Africa’s freedom, says Freedom Park Chief Executive Officer Jane Mufamadi.
“Our struggle was waged under the four arms, one being international solidarity, and therefore, in honouring those who sacrificed, we also pay tribute to the international communities that made the sacrifices and supported us,” Mufamadi said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a ceremony to memorialize the Swedish International Solidarity to people of South Africa during the liberation struggle, Mufamadi said it is an open secret that the Swedish people contributed greatly for the attainment of freedom and that they also continued to support South Africa even in preparing the country for the first democratic elections.
“We are also aware that Sweden has been supporting efforts aimed at ensuring that we do not forget links forged during the liberations struggle,” Mufamadi said.
Mufamadi said documentaries, books and even archival material in institutions like the Nordic Africa Institute bears testimony to that.
The Freedom Park has been involved in the project of the Memorialisation of Swedish Solidarity during the liberation struggle since 2014.
According to Mufamadi, the project resulted in a number of activities which include, amongst others, meetings in South Africa with the former Swedish Ambassador Anders Hagelburg as well as having meetings in Sweden.
“We signed the MOU with Kalmar lans Museum and we are already implementing some of the programmes,” he said.
Swedish Ambassador Cecilia Julin said she was excited to be in South Africa representing Sweden, a country that supported South Africans during the struggle for democracy.
“It is pertinent to be here at Salvokop honouring the people that fought the battle, some of whom paid the ultimate price,” Julin said.
Ambassador Julin said Sweden is proud to have contributed to the downfall of the apartheid regime.
As part of the event, a wreath laying ceremony was conducted at the Isivivine at the Freedom Park and a moment of silent was observed in remembrance of those people who died during the struggle against the apartheid regime.
Also at the event, Freedom Park CEO was presented with a list of Swedish names of people who died during the struggle to liberate South Africa from the apartheid regime.
In total, the list contains 55 names and according to Mufamadi, the Swedish government will bring more names to be inscribed at the Wall of Names at the Freedom Park.
In 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called the Sharpeville Massacre the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. Courtesy of SAnews.gov.za