For the oppressed people of South Africa the commemoration of the twentieth year of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rightsbears a very poignant meaning. In our country the Declaration of Human Rights is a "treasonable" document - a crying indictment of all the practices, policies and laws of the South African State. For our people therefore, the adoption of the Declaration by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 had a special significance. The failure of South Africa to vote in favour of the Declaration was inevitable.
The antagonism of the South African racist regime towards the Declaration of Human Rights is not based on any complicated ideas derived from political philosophy or ideology. The simple fact is that for every section of the Declaration the statute law of South Africa has a provision which contains a direct and express infringement. South Africa has the distinction of being the only country in the world which boldly and unashamedly acts in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as part of its avowed policy.
Twenty Years of Apartheid
1968 sees the end of two decades of apartheid in South Africa. The Nazi ideology which it was the primary purpose of the Declaration to combat, finds its resurrection in the policy of apartheid.
During the last two decades human values in our country sank to primitive levels as elementary human rights were trampled underfoot on a scale unparalleled in recent history. This occurred in open and direct defiance of the United Nations and the entire international community. It is as well to remember that the men in power in South Africa today wholeheartedly supported Nazism and have never repented of it.
The African and other non-white people in South Africa do not enjoy the right to take part in government nor can they vote for representatives who govern. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (passed in 1961) specifically excludes non-whites from any participation in the councils of the State.
They do not have the right to assemble with others and join - or refrain from joining - any legitimate organisation or group. They cannot enjoy a full cultural life in accordance with their artistic, literary and scientific inclinations. On the contrary, the majority of the people are excluded from places of culture or entertainment, from libraries, from scientific institutions.
Our people do not have the right to travel without hindrance within the country or leave the country. The notorious pass laws and the Departure from the Republic Regulation Act prevent this.
Africans do not have the right to a job and in fact are legally prevented from doing a large variety of jobs which are reserved for whites. They have no rights of collective bargaining, and cannot form or join a labour union, even one recognised by the State. Africans cannot agitate and cannot go on strike in order to better their working conditions and pay.
The Bantu Education Act prevents Africans from enjoying the right to education "directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms..." Our people do not have the right to equal opportunity in all fields of life "without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion..." Needless to say, in South Africa it is not permitted to the people to "hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers". Where almost every country in the world seems to be moving in the direction of enlarging the areas of human freedom towards the standard and ideal contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, South Africa has been moving in the opposite direction.
The Great Fight
Naturally the people of South Africa have waged courageous struggles against the infamous system, for freedom, democracy and peace. The reaction of the regime has been a systematic resort to force and terror directed against the masses. Thousands of people of all races, including some of the greatest leaders of men, languish timelessly in jail for the crimes of standing up for justice, human dignity and peace among all their fellow men.
Tribute must be paid to the tireless work of the United Nations and its agencies which have, in and out of season, drawn attention to the infringements of human rights in South Africa and have urged the regime of white supremacy to change its ways. The Commission of Human Rights, the Trusteeship Committee, the Decolonisation Committee, the Special Committee on Apartheid, have all in their various spheres played an invaluable role.
Special mention must also be made of non-governmental organisations such as the International Defence and Aid Fund, whose responsibilities in the sphere of humanitarian causes will increase in the years of conflict in southern Africa. The World Council of Churches, the anti-apartheid movements in Britain and many other countries, Amnesty International and other organisations have also invariably taken a firm stand in support of human rights in South Africa.
Many countries and governments in Africa and in other parts of the world, both East and West, have stood with the oppressed people of South Africa in their struggle for human rights.
Persistent contravention of human rights is a recipe for violent conflict and war. The people can clearly not tolerate the arrogance of the oppressors indefinitely. Already the people have decided to stand up and fight for their rights, arms in hand.
Our fight is for justice. We cannot cease until we have won, as we will in time. And in achieving human rights for all men in southern Africa we will be making our contribution to the fight for human rights and freedom the world over.