Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day is more than just a public holiday. It commemorates one of the most important pillars of our democracy and our Constitution, the Bill of Rights.
We remember the struggle and sacrifice made by thousands of people who marched for equality and basic human rights.

Why is 21 March Human Rights Day?

Father holding baby

On 21 March 1960, hundreds of South Africans took to the streets to protest against pass laws, which required black South Africans to carry a document of identification at all times. Failure to present your pass on demand would lead to arrest and detention.

What started as a peaceful protest turned deadly when police opened fire and killed more than 60 people, injuring 180 others. These people were protesting against unfair laws, and were demanding their human rights for all, which are now enshrined in our Constitution.

What happens when your rights are violated?

The following organisations in our country will be able to help you if you feel your rights have been violated in any way:

•    South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)

To lodge a complaint with  the South African Human Rights Commission you need to complete the form available on their website. You can also contact the Western Cape Office for more information:

Physical address: Seventh floor, ABSA Building, 132 Adderley Street, Cape Town, 8000
Tel: 021 426 2277
Fax: 021 426 2875

•    Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID)

IPID will be able to help you if your rights are transgressed by the police. You can download a complaint form or you can email your complaint to or fax it to 021 949 3196. You can also contact on the Western Cape office directly:

Postal address: Private Bag X 43, Bellville, 7535
Physical address: First floor, Fintrust Building, Corner Petrusa and Mazzur Street, Bellville, 7530
Tel: 021 941 4800
Fax: 021 949 3196

George office

Street address: 101 York street, Ground Floor, Nedbank Building, George
Tel: 044 873 3378
Fax: 044 873 4861

•    Public Protector

If you want to complain about a public servant at any level of government, you can contact the Public Protector. You can contact the Western Cape regional office for more information:
Postal address: Western Cape Regional Office, PO Box 712, Cape Town, 8000
Physical address: 4th floor, 51 Wale Street/Bree Street, Cape Town
Tel: 021 423 8644
Fax: 012 423 8708

•    Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA)

If your employer has violated your rights, you should contact the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration after you have unsuccessfully tried to sort the matter out at work. You can also contact their call centre on 0861 16 16 16 or contact their George or Cape Town office on the following:

CCMA Cape Town Office
Postal address: Private Bag X9167, Cape Town, 8000
Physical address: 78 Darling Street, Cape Town, 8001
Tel: 021 469 0111
Fax: 021 465 7193/97/87 or 021 462 5006

CCMA George Office
Postal address: Private Bag x6650, George, 6530
Physical address:  2 Cathedral Square, 62 Cathedral Street, George, 6529
Tel: 044 805 7700/01
Fax: 044 873 2906

Friends giving a thumbs up

•    Commission on Gender Equality

If you were discriminated against because of your gender, you should contact the Commission on Gender Equality on 021 426 4080/3 or 0800 007 709. You can also lodge your complaint online or contact their Western Cape office:

Physical address: ABSA Building, Fifth floor, 132 Adderley Street, Cape Town, 8001
Tel: 021 426 4080/3
Fax: 021 424 0549

Let's celebrate together

If you’re not sure how to celebrate Human Rights day this year, here are some Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport events:

National Government also has events planned across the country.

The content on this page was last updated on 22 March 2018