People gathered at the South African flag on the Donkin Reserve to commemorate #HumanRightsDay. Picture: @AtholT/Twitter

Port Elizabeth – Doves were released as a symbol of peace as residents from Nelson Mandela Bay commemorated Human Rights Day at the Donkin Reserve and Vuyisile Mini Square on Tuesday.

On March 21, 1960, a total of 69 civilians were killed by police while protesting against pass laws at the old Sharpeville Police Station.

In Nelson Mandela Bay this day also marked the fateful day of the KwaLanga massacre where about 35 people were shot dead when police opened fire on a crowd of funeral-goers on the anniversary of the Sharpeville shootings in Uitenhage’s township of Langa.

Speaking at the event, Executive Mayor Athol Trollip said that South Africans needed to refocus on the unity of purpose, the commitment to redress, reconciliation and growing the country’s economy to create jobs and develop communities.

“There’s still one thing missing, that intangible magic that brings us together as a people. We are still segregated, especially under pressure, which is why this administration is determined to turn townships into suburbs to redress spatial apartheid in our City. Today, I’d like us to mark this important day which represents all the sacrifices made by so many people to give birth to the new South Africa,” said Trollip.

The day was characterised by the hoisting of the South African flag by members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), the singing of the national anthem as well as a walk from the Donkin Reserve down Nelson Mandela’s Route 67 to City Hall.

A lecture was delivered on the “Struggle significance of Human Rights” by Professor Janet Cherry, from the Nelson Mandela Bay University.

Cherry reminded all present that “Human rights day belongs to all of us, not to any political party. Human rights are universal and can only be valid if they are universal. It is not a project of decolonisation or something that belongs to a certain political party”.