Speaking notes by Minister of Home Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to the Social Cohesion summit in Kliptown, Soweto, Johannesburg
5 Jul 2012Provisions of the United Nations Charter
The Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations says:
We the Peoples of the United Nations are determined
The South African context
- To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
- To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
- To establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
- To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom. Chapter IX, Article 55 of the Charter of the United Nations further mandates the organisation to promote: Universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion
We have four important challenges to consider in this commission: racism, tribalism, sexism and xenophobia. Each of them holds humanity back and causes great suffering and harm to individuals, communities and nations. They are all aspects of the same evil, which is essentially the denial of humanity by those who regard themselves as superior and the subjugation and exclusion of those seen as inferior or different.
In many ways, these demons are best defined by contrasting them with the values of people who dedicated their lives to opposing them. In this regard, it is no coincidence that South Africa has brought forth the worst and the best in human history.
We need look no further than this square, which is resonates in the hearts of the people of South Africa as the birthplace of the Freedom Charter, that magnificent and poetic embodiment of the aspirations of all our people. The Afrikaans word for Constitution is Grondwet, or literally a grounding law, and indeed all our laws are grounded on the Freedom Charter which embodies the principle that we are equal because humanity is indivisible.
This historic square is named so as to honour the name of Walter Sisulu. The Sisulu’s, Walter and his wife Albertina, are loved by South Africans and many others around the world for their dedication to the cause of humanism and internationalism. In the same vein, progressive and patriotic South Africans recognise these same values in the struggles of other peoples, as symbolised by great leaders such as Mahatma Ghandi, Kwame Nkrumah, Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Min.
It is not surprising therefore that the African National Congress (ANC) has had such strong links with an even older liberation movement, the Indian National Congress, and other liberation movements around the world. The struggle against racism cannot be separated from the struggle for self-determination and the rights and dignity of peoples around the world.
Racism, tribalism, sexism and xenophobia
If we dig a little deeper into our history, we will uncover the roots of the current phenomena of racism, tribalism, sexism and xenophobia and see how they are connected. This will enable us to understand and address such complex manifestations.
It is impossible to understand racism without understanding its roots as an ideological justification of the enslavement of millions of Africans in order to fuel the growth of capitalism. The same ideology was used as a justification for the subjugation of millions more across the globe through the conquest of colonies by European and other imperialists.
While racism was outlawed in 1994 with the abolition of apartheid, social attitudes, access to resources and life opportunities in South Africa still remains largely class-based.
In addition to racial divisions, the diverse linguistic and cultural groups in South Africa were further subdivided into ethnic and tribal groups, primarily as a means of dividing the majority of the population as an effective strategy in maintaining white minority rule. On the basis of these divisions, educational and cultural practices were promoted which fostered tribal prejudices, identities and rivalries.
With the exploitation of minerals and the industrialisation of a unified South Africa, racism deepened and became entrenched at every level of a modern state – in law and the justice system; in administration; in education and other services; and above all in the hearts and minds of the white minority.
The Anglo-Boer created deep rifts between English and Afrikaner, but they were united on what they called the Native Question. Effectively, they resolved to use a form of internal colonialism to deprive Africans of citizenship and all meaningful rights, with starvation in underdeveloped rural areas used to drive the migrant labour system and create super-profits.
The 1913 Land Act was a cornerstone of this policy, which resulted in the deep structural inequality, poverty and skewed development we see today. Combined with the machinery of a modern state, this resulted in a migrant labour system whose effects amounted to genocide, if infant mortality alone is considered.
The use of colonial methods of political and economic oppression and the exclusion of Africans, Coloured and Indians from real citizenship has the effect of entrenching tribalism and racial divisions. It is logical that the Bantustan system took the classic colonial strategy of divide and rule one level higher and encouraged tribalism and the most reactionary forms of traditional governance.
We must never forget that colonialists everywhere have used ethnic divisions to ensure their dominance and to undermine nationalist challenges to their rule. Such colonial strategies have contributed to conflict and even to genocide in post-colonial societies, as in Rwanda.
It is also not surprising that the ideology of racism was coupled with the worst forms of patriarchy across the whole of society, including in the white communities. African women legally, for example, had the status of minors under the law and could not sign contracts, for example. That is why we speak of the triple oppression of the majority of women: as Africans, as workers and as women. Gender discrimination in areas such as employment, education and rights to property was the norm and reflected across society in law and social practice.
Xenophobia has its roots in the same colonial and apartheid systems we have outlined. Almost a third of those killed in the tragic outbreak of xenophobia in 2008 were fellow South Africans who had migrated into the affected areas. Xenophobia is also linked to two other historical factors.
The first is that the migrant labour system that extended colonial relations of production right across Southern Africa to ensure flows of cheap labour. The second is that colonial and apartheid government only regarded whites as immigrants, with domestic and foreign African migrants seen as units of cheap labour to be exploited and controlled.
Thus South Africa lacks a history and experience of immigration being managed by the state with the understanding and support of broader society. It is not surprising therefore that criminals and others can exploit a situation where the poorest of the poor have to compete for scarce resources. The answer is clearly for South Africa to manage immigration securely and humanely to achieve both developmental and security goals – including the goal of building a better and safer region and world.
The Western Cape
Racism in South Africa took root in the area we now call the Western Cape, where slaves from Africa and Asia outnumbered settlers. Together with the Khoisan survivors of imported diseases and wars of dispossession, they were subjected to gross exploitation and humiliation for more than a century before the first serious encounters between colonists and Africans. Racist and class-based laws such as Master and Servant Acts were used by Dutch colonists to control the ancestors of the Coloured people before being applied to Africans and indentured Indians under British colonialism and then apartheid.
The politics of the Western Cape might be somewhat different if some of those currently involved had a deeper appreciation of history. Indeed, to deal with racism and become truly united in our diversity requires that all South Africans understand and confront their history. Transformation of the education system does not only require the timeous delivery of textbooks, but the content and teaching methodology used in practice must enable young minds to engage critically with these issues.
What then is our historical legacy as a nation? Our history has left us with massive structural inequalities and a deeply fractured society in which racism is still common. In the face of this legacy, should we not despair and give up the dream of building a caring, proud and inclusive nation? We must absolutely reject such pessimism.
Our history has also left us other legacies, the first legacy being the vision of the legacy of the founding leaders of the ANC, among which was Pixley Ka Seme who warned us that, “The demon of racialism, the aberrations of the Xhosa-Fingo feud, the animosity that exists between the Zulus and the Tsongas, between the Basutos and every other Native must be buried and forgotten; it has shed among us sufficient blood! We are one people. These divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes and of all our backwardness and ignorance today.”
Theirs, the founding fathers of the ANC, had a vision of a single nation of citizens with equal rights at time when most of the world was divided into colonies by a handful of imperial powers. This was the vision that inspired the Freedom Charter and for which Comrade Nelson Mandela said he was prepared to die when he was on trial for his life.
The struggle to achieve that vision united people of all backgrounds, many of whom were prepared to give up their lives for their dream and indeed did so.
Nobody except the most cynical and racist amongst us can doubt the deep friendship and comradeship that formed in the heat of the struggle, regardless of gender or background.
In many ways we were embodying the kind of society we were striving to achieve, even when under attack by a vicious state that tried everything to divide us, from tri-cameral parliaments to dirty tricks. That is a second precious legacy we must build on and not undermine it for short-term material or political gain.
There is a third legacy that we must acknowledge. That of replacing the racist apartheid state, characterised by colonial forms of oppression, with a democratic state guided by a people-centred Constitution premised on non-racism and non-sexism.
We - and I mean all of us - have transformed South Africa politically, socially and culturally. If you doubt this, imagine if you wake up tomorrow and there are white- only signs on every bench and public amenity. And Bantustans and all the rest of that apartheid madness. To go backwards is clearly unthinkable and unimaginable.
Let us also be honest enough to admit to what we have are still far from transforming in terms of the vision we aspire to. We must still confront a lack of progress in terms of nation building and social cohesion, which results mainly from a combination of deep inequalities and social injustice; persistent racism, tribalism, sexism and xenophobia; and a failure to unite as a nation behind a common programme to address these issues.
Establishing a Planning Commission and other steps taken by the current government provides a framework for building the unity of purpose and common focus we so urgently need. The recent ANC Conference, in spite of highly misleading commentary by some of the media, was crucial in providing such initiatives with policy content and strategic direction that will be refined over the coming months and which will attract the support of almost all sections of society.
We must always remind ourselves that transformation and social cohesion are social processes undertaken by human beings. The emphasis on cadre development at the ANC policy conference acknowledges this; as well as the proposal that there should be free further or higher education for most South Africans and some form of national service.
Our youth should have an opportunity to apply their knowledge and acquire positive values through serving their people.
In conclusion, I would like to return to the triple legacies I have referred to. The legacy of the vision of the fathers and mothers of liberation; the legacy of the non-racism and non-sexism that characterised the broad liberation movement; and finally the huge advance we made a nation by founding a democratic state with a Constitution that gives expression to the Freedom Charter.
The thought I want to leave with you is this. That we will begin to cohere as a nation if we consciously build on these legacies by bravely confronting our demons and by unity in action and the political will to achieve a better life for all.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Home Affairs
5 Jul 2012
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