Despite the harsh cold weather conditions, Orange Farm community, Gauteng, filled a Multipurpose Centre to its capacity when the department took celebrations of the 20 years of the Constitution to the area on 1 June 2016.
The department, together with the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) hosted the celebrations as part of nationwide commemoration the Constitution after it came into motion on 4 February 1997.
It was then signed in Sharpeville as a commemorative gesture and in remembrance of the people who died during a peaceful demonstration against the vicious pass laws on 21 March1960.
Explaining the purpose of the day, Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister, Mr John Jeffery said the aim of the dialogue was to promote awareness of constitutional rights and encourage marginalised and vulnerable communities to use their rights to enhance their livelihood.
The deputy minister highlighted that it is important for people to know the Constitution and their rights as it strengthens respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
”The protection and promotion of human rights cannot be left to government alone, communities must also play their part and demonstrate active citizenry to strengthen our Constitution,” said Deputy Minister Jeffery.
“The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and no other law or government action can go against its provisions. Therefore, it is important that each person has their own copy so that they know and understand it,” he added.
Foundation for Human Rights Deputy Director, Mr Hanif Vally shared similar sentiments with the deputy minister, saying that the Constitution is an important document that every South African citizen should have.
“Arrangements were made to translate and print the Constitution in 11 official languages. In our outreach programme last year, we distributed the Constitutions to about 6000 public schools around the country. All these initiatives indicate that this document is an integral part of our societies,” he said.
A community member, Mr Jacob Kotelang, expressed gratitude to the department for choosing to celebrate the Constitution with his community. The event was also used as a platform for community members to ask questions about their rights.
Some of the questions were centred around the attacks on foreign nationals and the kind of support that the government is providing for them. In reply, the deputy minister assured the community that the Constitution protects everyone, including those residing in South Africa.
Mr Jeffery made a commitment to return to the Orange Farm community to ensure that all concerns raised are properly addressed. Copies of the Constitution were also handed to community members at the end of the dialogue.
Text as at Tuesday, 7 June, 2016