South Africans should not allow a small number of racists to ruin the socially cohesive society the rest of the country has worked hard to build, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said yesterday.
He was speaking at a meeting of social-cohesion advocates in Woodmead, Johannesburg.
“We should not be distracted in our quest to build a nonracial South Africa. We have long passed the stage where we emphasise what we are against, all the intolerance, be it racism, xenophobia, sexism, you name it,” Mthethwa said.
The minister’s call echoes that of the ANC, which earlier this month called for legislation to criminalise acts of racism.
Mthethwa had called a meeting with the advocates to draft a five-year plan of action to address racism and social cohesion.
He wanted the group of organisations and individuals at the meeting to come up with ideas that unified South Africans.
Their approach needed to bear in mind the realities of racial incidents that flared up within society from time to time, he said.
During the fight against the apartheid regime, people were not only fighting for the liberation of the oppressed, but for the oppressors as well. Those who saw others as subhuman only showed how dehumanised they were, and they, too, needed help, Mthethwa said.
“There was a party that for 50 years preached racism. We need to ask what happened to these people. They are still here,” Mthethwa said.
He said the role of social-cohesion advocates was more important now than it had ever been, and needed to be taken a level higher.
“Things are changing and they will continue to change, they will get better, we will overcome this hurdle but we need greater cooperation,” Mthethwa said.
Also part of the meeting was Constitutional Court Judge Yvonne Mokgoro.
Mokgoro highlighted that “there must be national, provincial and local government programmes that speak to communities to see social cohesion.
“We can never build a cohesive South Africa unless we deal with racism.”
Mokgoro was speaking on behalf of Social Cohesion Advocates, a group that promotes nation building. In November 2012 the group presented the National Social Cohesion Summit report to President Jacob Zuma.
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