Johannesburg - Human Rights day marked a sad day in South African history, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.
“We are commemorating a sad day in our history,” he told thousands of ANC supporters gathered at the George Thabe Cricket Pitch in Sharpeville, Vereeniging, south of Gauteng.
“Here in Sharpeville, on 21 March 1960, the police opened fire and killed a total of 69 people and wounded 180 others.”
“They were protesting against unfair laws and were demanding their basic human rights.”
Zuma said the incident laid bare not only the cruel and barbaric aspect of apartheid, but also the systematic and consistent violation of the human rights of black people.
“The Sharpeville massacre mobilised the international community to take action against the apartheid government.”
He urged the thousands at the stadium to also spare a thought for those who were killed in Kwa-Langa in Cape Town on the same day in 1960 and in KwaNobuhle in Uitenhage in 1985.
“We also recall thousands of others who died in many other massacres and assassinations engineered by the apartheid regime during the period of apartheid colonialism.”
He said the Constitution was the country's defining feature under the leadership of former president and struggle icon Nelson Mandela.
“Madiba and his peers and those before them, laid a foundation for the society that respects human rights, freedom and justice.
“On such a day, we remember and celebrate their contribution to making South Africa a good place to live in.”