South Africans should not take their rights for granted, President Jacob Zuma said Wednesday as he hailed those killed by apartheid police during the 1960 Sharpeville massacre.
"We urge people to familiarise themselves with the supreme law of the land, and appreciate its liberating features," Zuma said while addressing a rally to mark Human Rights Day, previously known as Sharpeville Day.
In 1960, police shot 69 black people in the Sharpeville township, south of Johannesburg, during a protest against pass laws, which restricted black people's movement.
The massacre was one of the apartheid government's worst atrocities.
"We remember these patriots and thousands of others who fell inside the country and beyond our borders," said Zuma.
This week, the Sharpeville community staged violent demonstrations when the government announced the ceremony to commemorate the day would be held in Soweto.
Police said 70 people were arrested during the protest.
The day was also marked by protests from several poor communities around Johannesburg, who were complaining about the government's slow pace of basic services delivery.
The African National Congress-led government has over the last year been hit by a wave of such protests.
Housing and sanitation shortages are some of the major issues affecting the poor.© ANP/AFP