President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday cancelled fully-fledged official celebrations of Human Rights Day as South Africa’s coronavirus case count rose to 240.
The disruption is one of many necessary interventions taken by the government to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, now at 240 cases in the country. One of these interventions limits public gatherings to 100 people at a time.
Human Rights Day observes the tragic events of 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville (Johannesburg) and Langa (Cape Town) townships where the apartheid police massacred and injured dozens of people in cold blood.
In Sharpeville, for instance, police opened fire on a peaceful crowd protesting the racist pass (internal passport) laws, killing 69 people and injuring more than 180 in what became to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre.
Ramaphosa, however, took advantage of the subdued anniversary to appeal to fellow citizens to unite behind national efforts to minimise the rapid spread of the pandemic which has affected 240 people in the country, up from Friday’s 202 cases.
“We observe Human Rights Day at an extraordinary time for our country and the world as we battle to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“The threat posed by this formidable adversary has compelled us to take unprecedented steps to protect the most fundamental human right of all – and that is the right to life,” the president said.
Human Rights Day 2020 is themed “The year of unity, socio-economic renewal, and nation-building”.