We commemorate Human Rights Month annually in March to remind South Africans about the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for the attainment of democracy in South Africa. Human Rights Day on 21 March falls within this period.
In celebration of Human Rights Day today (21 March), we asked a few staff members from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (NAS) to share their views on human rights.
Mr Kishen Mahesh, Medical Scientist and responsible for academic support in the Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology is of the belief that our most basic human rights include but not limited to, the right to life, equality, and dignity, freedom of expression, healthcare and basic education. He also thinks that we can evoke a greater sense of UBUNTU among fellow South Africans, in that I am because YOU are. We might be able to live in a better, safer and more understanding country that sees diversity as an advantage in growing this great nation's future. One that celebrates our differences, be it ethnicity, gender or sexuality. The only race we are is HUMAN.”
Prof Sheryl Hendriks, Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development says, “The right to food is the most essential (and often ignored) right as food is core to our survival and the advancement of society. Far too many people in SA are not able to claim this right, especially in the era of the COVID pandemic. To change this in SA, we need to recognise that this right, as well as the right to nutrition for children, are prescribed in our South African Constitution. South Africa's public and private sectors need to work together to ensure the continuity of essential programmes such as school feeding programmes, Early Childhood Development and feeding programmes and the provision of social grants and food for work programmes for those unable to provide for themselves, particularly in difficult times such as in the COVID pandemic,” emphasised Prof Hendriks.
Mr Renaan Thompson, First Technical assistant in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences / FABI and a PhD student, unequivocally believes that the right to life, freedom and dignity is our most basic human rights. “By speaking up and acting upon what goes against our basic human rights. Also by standing up against all forms of discrimination and by treating the next person the way you would like to be treated.”
Ms Kabelo Seerane, Human Resource Officer for NAS says, “The most basic human right to me is Life. The preservation of life in South Africa can be ensured through intensive intervention programmes that are aimed at educating and addressing socio-economic issues that exist in our communities.” She also believes that harsher punishments by the Law also need to be enforced.
Dr Carel Oosthuizen, Senior lecturer, Department of Zoology and Entomology and NATHouse (Faculty House) Guardian also believes that our most basic human rights are that we are all free and equal with the right to be treated fair. “If we all work together in unity and we all honour these three basic human rights to the bone, then all the other human rights and societal problems would resolve themselves.”