An opinion piece on how the social and economic climate of Apartheid is still affecting the way South Africa is run
By Andrea Green-Thompson
In 1960, 34 years before Apartheid ended, the community of Sharpeville and Langa townships, participated in a nation-wide march against the pass system. They yearned for the day when human rights would be given to all the citizens of South Africa. Decades later, we celebrate Human Rights Day annually on 21 March. It’s a commemoration for the lives that were lost during that march.
For those with privilege, it’s easy to see Human Rights Day as an excuse to take a day off of work or school. However, there are STILL so many people whose rights are not being met at all. How are we are celebrating the rights of South African citizens when majority of the population lives below the national poverty line?
The cycle of poverty after Apartheid
More than half of our population is earning less than R992 a month. This standard of living makes access to basic human rights difficult and sometimes impossible. The laws during the Apartheid era (ended in 1994) are the root cause of the environmental and economic climate of our country. South Africa hasn’t even come close to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) presented by the United Nations (UN). These goals are to achieve the global extermination of poverty, sustainable protection of the planet’s environment and finally, the opportunity for all to be peaceful and prosperous.
Apartheid spatial laws and mine dumps
It also needs to to be acknowledged that the spatial laws of Apartheid had many non-white townships built next to mine dumps. Mine dumps that were not held accountable for the environmental damage they induced. Today, townships are still being affected by the environmental situation in and around mine dumps. It affects the health of the residents and forces them to seek out medical assistance, which they often cannot afford. This prevents many from accessing the basic right to life.
Violence in SA
Violence in our country is not a recent development, so we cannot claim that our citizens have been given the right to personal security. According to Africa Check, violence and crime in our country stems from the attitude people had towards the law during Apartheid. Often, it was seen as an achievement to break the law. As a result of hindered access to education, many still believe that they are passive agents in the system . They may not think to change the way things are done, because it has always been this way.
Perhaps now is the time to have a deeper conversation about the history of our country. It’s time to recognise the journeys of others and make constructive attempts to move forward.