South African “Human Rights Day” and University of Pretoria Campus Tours (UPCT)

Posted on March 21, 2024

By 1958, nearly one and half million South Africans were being convicted under the pass laws every year. The pass laws were the basic method used by the apartheid government to control the movement of black people in SA. The pass laws determined where black people could live and work and the work they could do.

In 1960, two of the political organizations resisting apartheid, the ANC and PAC, organized anti-pass campaigns. The PAC planned country-wide demonstrations for Monday 21 March 1960 which included marches to local police stations, whereby men and women would leave their passes at home and demand arrest. The intention was to make the system unable to operate, as mass arrests would clog the courts and jails with thousands of people. But the protest unfolded differently than the initial plan. In Sharpeville, a township situated between two industrial cities, Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging in southern Gauteng, the police responded to the protestors with violence and by the end of the day 69 people were dead and 180 wounded. Since 1994, what became known as the Sharpeville Massacre is remembered in South Africa annually on 21 March as a national public holiday called “Human Rights Day”.

On 20 of March 2024, a group of in-training tourist guides from the University of Pretoria Campus Tours (UPCT) took an introductory of the University of Pretoria (UP) campus. They were accompanied by former UPCT members, Elmien Viktor and Naz Goolam Mahomed, as their mentors, as well as the Head of Department of Historical and Heritage Studies and founder of UPCT Professor Karen L Harris and lecturer responsible for this Work Integrated learning e module. They visited the Centre of Human Rights as an important stop as part of their campus tour itinerary and learned more about its history and functions. 

The Centre was founded in the Faculty of Law in 1986 and was part of a domestic effort to oppose the apartheid system. Some of its members held meetings with liberation movements beyond the borders of South Africa and were involved in efforts to promote human rights such as conferences and workshops. When the 1994 transition to a new democratic South Africa took place, members of the Centre were also technical advisors to process of writing the South African Constitution. The Centre for Human Rights is an internationally recognised institution and is active in advancing human rights, specifically across Africa. It does this through “education, research and advocacy”. It includes eleven units such as: Children’s Rights, Disability Rights, Women’s Rights and Migrant’s Rights. In 2006 the UP Centre for Human Rights was the recipient of the UNESCO prize for Human Rights Education which is testimony to the contribution it makes to the advancement of human rights and democracy across the African continent, as well as the graduates it produces.

“Human Rights are basic rights and freedoms that all humans should be guaranteed in order for one to exercise the right to liberty and freedom of speech”. UPCT wishes everyone a Happy Human Rights Day!



- Author Written by Sedzani Bokaba & Kagiso Mello

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