The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC or Commission) commemorates Youth Day on Sunday, the 16th June 2019, along with the rest of the people of South Africa.
Youth Day marks a day of remembrance, when at least 176 people - mostly youth in Soweto – were killed in protests against the imposition of the policy of Afrikaans as the sole means of instruction in schools. This year marks the forty third anniversary of this dark chapter in South African history, but it now gives us an opportunity to reflect on the rights we need to protect, promote and attain on behalf of the youth, including children.
The Commission is deeply concerned by the marked increase in violent incidents involving children, reported on in the media. The Commission is shocked at the death of Daniel Bakwela, aged 16, at Forest High School in Turffontein, Johannesburg; along with the injuries sustained by fellow learners in a violent confrontation during Youth Month, at the commencement of Child Protection Week, on the 3rd June 2019.
This tragedy and the numerous other reported cases or incidents of gangsterism, drug abuse and neglect – particularly directed against children and youth – require the joint action of all South Africans to realise the rights as set out in section 28 of the Bill of Rights, Chapter Two of the Constitution, which provides for the rights of children. Chapter Nine Institutions such as the SAHRC, government, civil society, faith based communities, business, academia and the rest of society should galvanise to create a society which places the interests of the child first.
The struggle of the youth of forty three years ago was for equality and for basic human rights which in turn create an opportunity for advancement out of poverty and into a better life. The struggle of that generation has immensely contributed and culminated in the Constitutional Democracy and Constitution South Africa has today. May we all honour that struggle and bring these hard-earned rights to fruition for future generations.
Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission