Mahikeng, Wednesday 26 March 2014 – Brand South Africa, in the fourth Play Your Part/Sowetan Dialogue on Wednesday 26 March 2014, hosted a robust discussion on fundamental human rights and the responsibility of citizens in our country.
Participating in the discussion at the Mmabatho Civic Centre were the Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission – Advocate Pansy Tlakula, Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission – Advocate Lawrence Mushwana, Southern Africa director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch – Ms Tiseke Kasambala, and Ms Folusho Mvubu of the Department of Public Service and Administration responsible for Service Delivery Improvement Support.
In the discussions, Advocate Tlakula invited participants to reflect on South Africa’s journey towards a human rights culture over the past two decades. In this, it is important to counter-balance, amongst others, rights and culture. “We must also remember that values are important in building societies. The protection and safeguarding of human rights should not mean we lose core values like respect and discipline. Perhaps we need to have a very deep conversation on these issues,” said Advocate Tlakula.
Meanwhile, the issue of human right and culture was also brought into focus by Ms Kasambala. “What is however important is the fact that human rights are important to protect all human beings and South Africa has created an enabling culture for this,” said Ms Kasambala.
Advocate Mushwana advised the audience that the Human Rights Commission has prioritised the education of citizens about their rights because one cannot protect and defend what they do not know. “With each right comes a responsibility.” Awareness of your rights is also crucial to strengthen our reconciliation and build a cohesive society which will contribute to active citizenship.
Saying that human rights are intrinsically linked to responsibility – in how one exercises these rights in addition to ensuring that the human rights of others are protected – Ms Mvubu of the Department of Public Service and Administration,also stressed that an informed and responsible citizenry is key to an active citizenry which is essential to the implementation of the National Development Plan.
Comments by the panel were followed by thought provoking insight from the audience including, despite our differences we are essentially all human beings. This means that while it is easy to demand our rights, we must as human beings, first and foremost protect the rights of our fellow human beings. Legislation can only go so far in ensuring a redress of our country’s past inequalities – we must each play our part in making society safe for ourselves and others.
A strong theme that emanated from the conversation was that a human rights based culture is our collective responsibility. Government cannot create this society on its own. We must all work together to achieve an equitable, human rights society. This is a challenge to society as a whole as we commemorate 20 years of democracy.
The discussion concluded with the sense that while South Africa has come a long way in 20 years, much work remains to be done to build a human rights based culture strongly rooted to the principle of responsibility based rights. Let us all play our part in this quest.
Note to Editors
The Constitution of South Africa can be accessed at: http://www.gov.za/documents/constitution/1996/a108-96.pdf
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