"The marking of this day was born out of the huge sacrifices made by brave men and women who fought for freedom in the face of extreme brutality by the apartheid regime," said Zuma.
On March 21, 1960, 69 people were brutally killed by the apartheid police and scores were injured, when they were shot at during a peaceful anti-pass protest march to Sharpeville police station.
"The ruthless incident shocked the whole world. Many were also brutally killed in Langa in Cape Town on the same day. They were marching to declare their right to freedom of movement in the land of their birth," Zuma said.
"We are celebrating the life of a liberator, teacher, intellectual, internationalist and unifier who kept the liberation movement together and in focus during the most difficult moments in our struggle." Zuma said Tambo strove for unity at all times and this should "inspire us" to work together to achieve our dream of a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
President Zuma & Deputy President Ramaphosa meeting with the Biko family at the Garden of Remembrance in King Williams Town, Eastern Cape pic.twitter.com/fTzYgygDpl
The president said 2017 was also the 40th anniversary of the brutal murder of black consciousness leader and liberation struggle icon, Bantu Steve Biko. Zuma had earlier addressed scores of people at the burial site of black consciousness leader Steve Biko in King Williams Town.
"This sports ground is the historic venue where his emotionally charged funeral was held. We honour him today on Human Rights Day, because the gruesome and painful manner in which he was treated and his eventual merciless murder by the apartheid state was a gross human rights violation," said Zuma.
"We joined Mrs Nontsikelelo Biko and family earlier this morning to unveil and hand over the Biko monument to the family. The handover marks the launch of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the death of Mr Biko.
"In September, the month of his tragic death, we will join the family, AZAPO and the Black Consciousness Movement in commemorating his life and contribution." Zuma also used the occasion to reassure South Africans that come the end of the month social grants will be paid out to over 17 million recipients.
"We are proud of the progress we have made in extended social security assistance to our people in line with the constitution. Government pays social grants to almost 17 million social grants recipients which is a huge achievement in fighting poverty."
Earlier this week, Zuma apologised unreservedly to all South African's for the anxiety which resulted from the uncertainty over grant distribution.
"Let me take this opportunity to once again assure all those who receive social grants, that they will receive their money at the end of the month," Zuma said to cheering crowds. In 2014, the Constitutional Court found the contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) was invalid but suspended that invalidity until March 31 2017 when South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa was meant to take over with the payment of social grants.
WATCH: President Zuma says government will use all available measures within law to speed up land restitution pic.twitter.com/BGoGP3owC3
The Constitutional Court has since extended the current contract with CPS and Sassa for one year to ensure social grant beneficiaries receive money come April 1.
The highest court in the land last week found that Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini was responsible for the social grants crisis,as she bore the primary responsibility to ensure that the agency fulfilled its function.
In making his address on Tuesday, the President highlighted that both the child support and older persons grants were the two largest social grant programmes with 12 million children and 1.2 million elderly people who benefited from the scheme.
Zuma said that in order to provide further assistance government sought to amend the Social Assistance Act which would enable funeral benefits to the elderly and savings vehicles for caregivers of children.
Schooling and basic sanitation services were was also brought to the fore and the advancement of fundamental human rights for black people, in particular.
"Through the programme [Accelerated Schools Infrastructure delivery programme], we have completed one hundred and seventy schools. To restore the dignity of our learners, government has provided water to six hundred and fifteen schools, decent sanitation to four hundred and twenty five schools and electricity to three hundred and seven schools."
Zuma was accompanied by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and other senior government officials.