The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has urged South Africans to use Heritage Day as an opportunity to unite in their diversity, instead of using it to divide.
While many across South Africa take part in Heritage Day celebrations on Tuesday, violations based on the right to equality still persist in the country, the commission’s spokesperson Gushwell Brooks said on Tuesday.
“Heritage Day gives all within South Africa the opportunity to celebrate our diverse backgrounds whilst accepting backgrounds which are different to our own. The diversity we are gifted with, gives us an opportunity to learn from each other,” he said.
The SAHRC was, however, very concerned that diversity had become the source of division and conflict.
“These divisions are observed through the commission’s exercise of its Constitutional mandate to protect, promote and monitor the attainment of human rights as set out in Chapter 2 of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.”
According to its Annual Trend Analysis Report, which records complaints that the commission has received, the highest number of violations it dealt with, involved the right to equality. This was in light of complaints of hate speech the commission received, particularly on social media.
“The instances of xenophobia, hate speech and violations of the right to equality fly in the face of the constitutional democracy we need to foster, a society based on the foundations of equality, freedom and dignity for all,” said Brooks.
“The commission thus recognises that South Africa’s diversity in race, religion, culture, language, ethnicity, social origins and other factors, is a treasure for this nation and will be joining everyone within South Africa in celebrating Heritage Day on Tuesday.
“It is incumbent on all of us to build the social cohesion envisioned by our Constitution and the dream of our democracy.”