Speech by Hon NT Mkhatshwa during Human Rights Day Debate

19 March 2024, Good Hope Chambers

Citizens of our beloved South Africa!
From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free!
These words echo a call for international solidarity.
These words resonate deeply with the spirit of transformation and liberation that runs through the veins of the African National Congress.

Imbued into our DNA is that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinian people.

The Freedom Charter states that there shall be peace and friendship amongst all our people. These values were practiced by millions of people around the world, to build the international consensus that ended the iniquitous system called Apartheid.

Our glorious history of resistance against oppression was watered by the tears of mothers in Lusaka who housed our freedom fighters; powered by students in the Netherlands who successfully launched boycott campaigns against South African products and inspired by the sweet voices of Tracey Chapman, Anita Baker, Peter Gabrial, and many others, risking their careers to sing Free Nelson Mandela.

We are the products and beneficiaries of all of this energy – we call international solidarity. I am a beneficiary of the efforts of activists across the lands, standing up against the apartheid regime in the quest for the liberation of all, for us to equally enjoy all universal human rights in the manner in which we do today.

Born in 1993, on the 20th of August, I am a 30-year-old Tintswalo! I am democracy!
Living the reality of the crystallization of the wars of resistance against colonial conquest, of the formation of the African National Congress and a future espoused in the African Claims which envisioned the bill of rights.

So, as a child of this democracy, as a Tintswalo, one has the responsibility to use their voice to speak truth to power.
Thus, we must remember that our freedom cannot be separated from that of the girl child in Afghanistan, whose right to basic education is being completely denied.

And lest we be tempted to speak in muffled tones on the homophobic laws passed in Uganda, that view members of the LGBTQIA community as lesser human beings.
As we embrace the human rights we enjoy today we are reminded that: umuntu, ngumtu, ngabantu.

Citizens of South Africa, be reminded that change in the course of justice is inevitable. Join me as I reflect on the life of ukhokho wami, umama ka gogo, my great grandmother: Maria Puleng Mthethwa born in 1925, Maria a

South African Native, Sol Plaatjie would say, was not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of her birth

Maria could not attend school, because she had to work at the landlord’s home from the age of nine. She could not play like other children, but had to see to the needs of the farmer’s children. Her family did not own the land they had to labour.

She lived with the fear of torture for not producing a dompas. President Mbeki expresses that the reality of her birth condemned her to a village; circumstances she did not choose confined her to a district. 1 Owning a house was impossible, to be a doctor was beyond a dream.

Maria living through apartheid South Africa and democratic South Africa will attest to the fact that her life changed with the advent of democracy on the glorious 27th of April 1994.

The first democratic election was a turning point in our country’s history, demonstrating our shared commitment to nation building, freedom, social justice and democracy. Determined, our foremothers ended centuries of colonial and apartheid rule and established a new South Africa founded on a progressive constitutional democracy with equal freedoms and rights for all.

It is indisputable that today the lives of millions have improved. We do however acknowledge that “As long as poverty, injustice, and gross

1Paraphrased from “ A Farewell To Madiba! National Assembly, Cape Town, March 26,1999. Speech by Thabo Mbeki”

inequality persists in our communities, none of us can truly rest.” We need to do more; we need to do better and we need to do it together.

Honourable Members in 1994 South Africa had an estimated population of 43 million people; today we are 61 million people.

The freedom charter states that the Doors of
Learning and Culture Shall be Opened.
In 1994: R29,2 billion was allocated to education, this government has deliberately increased that to R480.6 billion in 2024 for education and



● In 1996: only 3,4 million people had a matric; in 2022 14.1 million people are reported by the census as having completed their matric.


  • ●  In 1994: below 1.5 million people had post-matric qualifications in South Africa, with the majority vastly being white South Africans. In 2022: over 4.6 million South Africans have post-matric qualifications.
  • ●  In 2014: the budget allocation towards NSFAS was just over R6 billion funding students through a loan. In 2024: R53.6 billion has been allocated to fund over 1 million young people through NSFAS for free. The freedom charter says: There Shall be Houses, Security and Comfort!


  • ●  In 1994: the budget for health was R2.2 billion; In 2024: the budget for an inclusive healthcare system that all citizens enjoy is sitting at R271.9 billion.
  • ●  In 2002, AIDS related deaths were 191 210; In 2022 Aids related deaths are at their lowest at 85 796. This is a result of the ANC implementing the largest HIV Treatment in the World SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
  • ●  In 1994: only 2.5 million people received social protection, mostly the old aged.
  • ●  In 2024: the budget for a comprehensive social protection system intended to protect the dignity of citizens is R387.3 billion supporting 1.1 million persons with disability, 13.4 million children, 218 111 children in foster care, 4.1 million old aged persons and, further cushioning 18.8 million citizens requiring Social Relief of Distress. As the ANC, we commit to further improve education, health outcomes and various social protections in order to overcome inequality and build the capabilities of all citizens. WATER AND SANITATION
  • ●  In 1994: 14 million people did not have basic water supply services; By 2004, 13.4 million people had access to water.
  • ●  In1993:67%ofSouthAfricanhouseholdshadaccesstocleanwater, this increased to 85% in 2015 and 96% in 2018.


  • ●  Before 1994 a black african boy from the townships of the Eastern Cape would not have dreamt of playing rugby for the springbok national team, let alone be its captain. Today, Siya Kolisi is a world renowned sports man and two time rugby world cup winning national captain.
  • ●  Today Bongi Msomi, a gender non-conforming black women, would not have imagined being the captain of the national netball protea team in the year that South Africa would be the first country on the african continent to host the netball world cup. SCIENCE AND INNOVATION ● Before 1994 I’m not sure that we would have had a 37 year old Dr Sandille Cele acknowledged by the national system of innovation for discovering the covid variant. President Thabo Mbeki over the weekend says anyone who disputes the evidence of progress in democratic South Africa is lying and is in fact not living in this South Africa that we are living in. Unndoing years of oppression that denied custodians of this country their basic rights is of course not going to be an easy one, but to not try would be a crime against humanity. This government commits itself to rise to the occasion yet again, like it’s done in liberating this country and in governing it in the last 30 years.

We must admit our shortcomings so that we chart a brighter future. Citizens feel we have been soft on corruption, do not care about the ordinary citizens and that some of our members have undermined this democracy by advancing their own selfish personal interests.

As recommended by the State Capture Commission, we are putting in place laws, institutions and practices that reduce corruption of any sort and scale. To date, the NPA Investigating Directorate has taken 34 state capture and corruption cases to court, involving over 200 accused persons.

The ANC is committed to restoring trust and confidence as the leader of the National Democratic Revolution and the fundamental driver of socio-economic transformation in society.


Today we reflect on where we were before 1994 and see a stark contrast as we move towards 2024. These areas of progress are testament to the tireless efforts of the ANC in improving the lives of our people.

The ANC calls on all citizens to join us in defending and advancing our freedom.

Born 8 months before the first democratic election, I am a product of the ANC’s commitment to social transformation.

As a young Member of Parliament, as Honourable Tinstwalo, like President Mandela, I am convinced that the real makers of history, the real shapers of this democracy, the real people who will ensure that this democracy upholds their human rights, are the ordinary men and women of our country. It is your participation in every decision about the future that will guarantee true democracy and freedom.

Will this task be easy? No. But, “When people are determined they can overcome anything” – N.Mandela.

I thank you house chair!