human rights festival 2023 seize your power
Constitution Hill in Johannesburg will witness the 5th Human Rights Festival 2023 which is going to take place from 24 to 26 March. There are no / zero fees for the public in this festival.
Along with music, poetry, literature, and art, the festival will focus on human rights issues.
I will start the news with the words of Swazi lawyer Thulani Maseko. What he said is really scary.
“There can be no doubt that the struggle for human rights is very costly at a personal level and at a family level. But the question is whether you should stop struggling and focus on the narrow interests of your family and yourself. Which is very difficult for one to do, because all my life I’ve been with many of my friends trying to fight for a better society. You find yourself having no choice but to continue and bear the consequences.”
He may have thought, at the time, that even though his fight for human rights in Eswatini was perilous, it was not fatal. This makes them haunting.
No one could have imagined that such a soft-spoken, peaceful man would meet a violent death when cowards shot him in his home on 21 January 2023, despite how perilous the struggle was.
On 21 March, we will celebrate Human Rights Day
On 21 March, we will celebrate Human Rights Day, a commemoration of past and present struggles for human rights.
It was Maseko’s experience as a law clerk to the late Chief Justice Pius Langa at South Africa’s Constitutional Court that prepared him for the struggle for human rights. Despite being codified in one of the world’s most respected constitutions, human rights remain so elusive even though they continue to be the subject of so many battles at the Constitutional Court.
It is likely Maseko contributed to Justice Langa’s judgments – especially since he was a citizen of the world’s last absolute monarchy – which contributed to our understanding of transformative constitutionalism, according to him, meaning “to heal the wounds of the past and guide us to a better future.” In my view, transformative constitutionalism is based on the idea that we must change.
Constitution Hill is a place that reminds us of the inevitability of change.
The Constitutional Court is also a site that has been transformed from a colonial and apartheid prison into the home of the guardian of the Constitution.
From protests to litigation, Constitution Hill serves as an arena for change. It is a place defined by human rights activists of the past, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Robert Sobukwe and Winnie Mandela, and activists of today, such as Maseko and his generation.
In 2019, Constitution Hill’s Human Rights Festival was born out of the courage, wisdom, and inspiration of these human rights activists. It was conceived as a space to fully consider the state of our humanity and contemplate the ways in which we need to change, in the words of Langa, to transform our world.
In this moment, what should we, the people, do in response to the history of Constitution Hill, the work of the Constitutional Court, and the legacy of people like Maseko?
According to the festival’s message, we must seize our power and direct it toward ensuring that the rights enshrined in the Constitution are realized for all.
Several organizations in our region work tirelessly to make quality education and healthcare, a healthy environment, housing and shelter – and so many other human rights – a reality for everyone, but especially for those who are marginalised.
Constitution Hill’s highest court often decides these human rights battles.
During the festival, active citizens have seized the tools provided by the Constitution to hold state and private power accountable and provide much-needed space to understand, beyond the legalese, the nature of these human stories that often become court cases.
A reminder of the importance of community and solidarity in achieving human rights is also included in it. It takes more than one person to change oppressive systems that rob us of our natural rights, so leaders like Maseko traveled the world to cultivate communities that would join their cause.
In a world that would have us believe we live in apathetic times, seeing this community’s work showcased at the Human Rights Festival is encouraging and galvanizing.
In the midst of these tragedies and setbacks, the festival aspires to bring alive the values Maseko fought for brighter than ever. Festivals, and all the people who participate in them, remind us of the work that has been done, but also what more needs to be done. Art and culture and insistence for rights will be the main points on which attention will be drawn in this human rights festival.
So Are you ready for this?
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