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70 years of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights not yet Uhuru


CANGO Secretariat 2018-12-10

The International Human Rights Day 2018 which falls every year on the 10th December extended the year-long campaign to honour 70 years of the foundational human rights instrument known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which came into effect in 1948.

The Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO), funded by the European Union (EU), in conjunction with the Council of Swaziland Churches (CSC) and the Commission on Human Rights, Public Administration/Integrity commemorated this day of reflection in honor of the late Dr Joshua Mzizi through an annual lecture on human rights known as the Joshua Mzizi Memorial Lecture: International Human Rights Day at Ezulwini on Monday 10 December 2018. The 2018 theme for this day was, “In 50 years of Human Rights in the Kingdom of Eswatini; #StandUp4HumanRights”.

In her opening remarks of the two-pronged event: the High-Level Breakfast Meeting on Human Rights Day where both the European Union and the United States Ambassadors to the Kingdom of Eswatini were present; as well as the Joshua Mzizi Memorial Lecture where Professor Simangaliso Kumalo of the University of KwaZulu-Natal was the key note speaker, the Chairperson of the Human Rights and Governance Consortium who is also the Executive Director of the Family Life of Swaziland (FLAS) Ms Zelda Nhlabatsi unquestionably put into context why this date is important.

She said; “The year 2018 has seen a number of stakeholders engaging in human rights protection initiatives. A number of studies have been undertaken and reports are available, providing us with a status on the Human Rights situation in the Kingdom. This is good, but not enough.

This document has led to the making of structures, policy and legislative reforms of many nations such as the Kingdom of Eswatini including the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, Children Protection and Welfare Act (2012), Sexual Offence and Domestic Violence Act (2018), National Gender Policy (2010), Disability Policy (2012), National Education and Training Policy (2011) and the national social development policy, among others.

“But it is saddening to realise that after 70 years, Eswatini is still characterised by a high prevalence of human rights violations, ranging from all kinds of violence to evictions and the absence of freedom of expression,” Nhlabatsi said.

Concurring with the Chairperson, the CANGO Executive Director Emmanuel Ndlangamandla said that 70 years is a long time to still not have all fundamental rights realised for all.

“There are many people who still go to bed hungry. Children lose their lives needlessly due to poverty and neglect. Death occurs within the oceans as millions search for better lives whilst many countries are so eager to close their borders. Many women and girls are victims of gender-based violence. We see the harassment of journalists in countries which are regarded as democracies. This promissory note remains but a promise because the Constitution is largely not enforced due to the lack of political will. This had led to some believing that the 1973 Decree is still supreme,” Ndlangamandla said.

“We see atrocities committed against innocent children, women, the elderly in full view of the global community and against the spirit of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular,” Ndlangamandla said.

“This followed many years of campaigning for a Constitution which has a Bill of Rights. Let us enforce them. That is why we in the NGO sector celebrate the late Dr Joshua Mzizi of Magele in Hlathikhulu,” he said.

Her Excellency Esmeralda Hernandez Aragones, the EU Ambassador Eswatini said echoed that while adopted 70 years ago, the Declaration (UDHR) was still as relevant today as it was in 1948. She also urged for this human rights framework to legally bind all nations.

“The European Union is founded on the shared determination to promote peace and stability and to build a world founded on the respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” she said.

She also said the EU external work is guided by the same principles which funded development projects also integrate whether ‘civil, and political, economic, social or cultural’, ensuring that these implement the human rights-based approach.

“The work of Dr Joshua Mzizi, one of the prominent human rights defenders in the Kingdom of Eswatini, is indeed outstanding and challenges many of us to follow suit in defending the rights of the poor, vulnerable and marginalised people of our society.”

“If you follow Freedom House’s Freedom in the World Report, you will see the sobering news that the number of countries counted as “free” has declined over the past decade, while the number of “not free” countries has grown… If it were 1948, I would not be addressing you as the U.S. Ambassador, first because Eswatini was not yet an independent country and second because the U.S. had no senior female career diplomats at that time.” – U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Eswatini.

(Commentary is supplied by CANGO. For more information and interaction, please contact