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The moment President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the country would enter a hard lockdown in a bid to curb Covid-19 infections exactly a year ago today, basic human rights were always going to be in the spotlight.
Did a hard lockdown infringe on our basic rights? Was a restriction by government on freedom of movement, assembly, trade and education justified?
The hard lockdown started on 27 March. Only people performing essential services were allowed out and about. The rest were told to stay at home to prevent the pandemic spreading.
The jury is still out on whether the hard lockdowns really worked as businesses closed the longer the restrictions persisted, tourism was all but destroyed, people died and the economy tanked.
With this in mind, Covid-19 and vaccines justifiably dominated Human Rights Day commemorations this weekend.
On Human Rights Day, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We are working to build a new economy that promises equal opportunity for all. Let us remember that this is a struggle that is far greater than ourselves. We must become a society where men, women and children are free from violence and where their rights are protected.”
He added: “We must be a society of equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, or whether one is able-bodied or a person with disabilities. We must be a society with quality healthcare, education and basic services.”
Ramaphosa insisted we will bounce back from the hardships of the past year, saying: “We have weathered the storm of Covid-19 partly because of human rights in the country. We must recognise the dignity of all individuals and the role of everyone in rebuilding our economy.”
Respect for basic human rights is of paramount importance. Let’s hope the president is right.
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