JOHANNESBURG - 56-years ago police opened fire on thousands of unarmed anti-pass protesters in Sharpeville, south of Johannesburg, killing 69 and injuring 180.
The day was a turning point in the fight against apartheid as it created a crisis for the government both locally and internationally.
President Jacob Zuma will deliver an anti-racism message at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal on Monday to mark the day.
Human Rights Day in South Africa is historically linked with the 21 March 1960 and the events of Sharpeville when police fired on the those that had gathered in protest against the Pass laws.
The shooting was strongly condemned by the both those whon stood against the apartheid regime as well international bodies, including the United Nations.
This resulted in heavy sanctions on the nationalist government.
The UN Security council passed resolution 134 and called upon the National Party government to initiate measures which would end apartheid and bring about racial harmony in the country.
Residents of Sharpeville gathered early on Monday morning to commemorate the day.