Address by Minister Nathi Mthethwa on occasion of Social Cohesion Report-Back Summit

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31 Mar 2015

Programme Director
The Vice Chancellor
The Premier of the Eastern Cape Province
The MECs here present
The Mayor of the Metro and the Councillors
Social Cohesion Advocates with us today
Heads of Departments
Senior Government Officials
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Comrades and Friends

The year 2015 has been declared the 'Year of the Freedom Charter' celebrating it's 60th anniversary. One of the key clauses of the Freedom Charter states 'All shall enjoy equal human rights'. The month of March is observed as Human Rights Month with the 21st of the month as Human Rights Day. This day was commemorated in this province highlighting the Uitenhage massacre thirty years ago.

It is against this backdrop that we gather to take stock of progress on our nation building and social cohesion programme. The National Development Plan states in chapter 15 that in order to build a social cohesive nation, we need a society where opportunity is not determined by race or birth-right, where citizens accept that they both rights and responsibilities. Most critically we seek a united, prosperous, non racial, non sexist and democratic South Africa. Social cohesion will only succeed through all round and interconnected efforts for social progress which will change material conditions of the populace for the better. It means the total transfer of political and economic power to the democratic majority.

This summit is to assess honestly how far we have progressed in uniting our people against racism, xenophobia, Afrophobia, sexism, homophobia and other related intolerances. How have we as a society responded to the manifestations of such intolerances? What role have we played in transforming the heritage landscape in our society? Have we been able to deepen dialogue with the public since our first national summit on social cohesion in Kliptown, Soweto in 2012? What are the unifying perspectives for nation building? We need to have a clear outreach programme with our advocates for social cohesion. This should include among others the Know Your Social Advocates programme, popularizing the Passport of Patriotism and others. Regular visits to schools, universities, workplaces, private sector, government places, youth, women and other sections of society.

In the last summit key systemic challenges which are obstacles in achieving a socially cohesive nation were outlined. Today we need to unpack the path we have traversed in addressing them. These are, among others:

  • Economic Inequality
  • Spatial Divisions
  • Lack of Social cooperation, interaction and solidarity
  • Prejudice and Stereotypes
  • Unity and Identity

We have to be frank in examining the extent to which we have implemented the resolutions of 2012 Social Cohesion Summit.  How have we fared in partnerships with other organs in our society in addressing the challenges mentioned above? In line with this we need to mention that in the past thirty three months we have succeeded among others to ensure that:

  • Social cohesion strategy was finalized and  dopted by cabinet in 2012
  • We had more than 40 community conversations  where communities play a central role in solution seeking initiatives
  • Summit report, declaration and resolutions submitted to the President in 2012 November
  • We appointed social cohesion advocates, leaders in their own right drawn from all social stations, to be at the forefront in mobilizing all in society to be active citizenry in order to create a caring society
  • Almost all provinces have hosted their provincial summits.
  • We have gathered to fulfil the resolution to hosting a report back summit by the end of financial year, 2014

Having regard to all this it becomes apparent that this is not a government gathering but the summit of the people.

It is about reporting back to the nation by those in our communities who have taken a conscious decision to fulfil the most sacred of duties to humankind - Transformation for the better life for all. This is a duty that shows sensitivity to injustice committed against whoever it may be anywhere in the world.

The tool at their disposal is Vision 2030 crafted from the constitution of our country which in turn is drawn from the Freedom Charter representing the aspirations and dreams of a nation.

We need to draw strength from some of the foremost architects of our struggle for equal human rights for all, Moses Kotane and JB Marks. The climax of the Human Rights month was the repatriation of their mortal remains from Russia to their motherland, South Africa.

They were laid to rest during the very month symbolizing what they lived, struggled and died for - Human Rights.

JB Marks was laid to rest exactly a day after Human Rights day which marked 112 years since he was born.

They fought for a better Africa and a just and humane world, they fought so that you and I live in a free and democratic  country. 

It will be amiss of us not to engage in the contemporary discourse occasioned by some pockets of racist incidents, by bigots in our midst. We need to tackle this obstacle to social justice, as a society we are called upon to rise to the occasion and uproot such discriminatory acts.

We owe it to both the past and future generations, not to be tolerant to this but to defeat it in all its manifestations whether it is overt or covert. We have seen such acts from schools to workplaces, universities, in some communities etc.

If we are to build a caring society, we need to have a programme geared towards eradicating the scourge in visible ways.

Equally we cannot turn a blind eye on self-hate acts by Africans, discriminating against their fellow Africans. No one should be discriminated against based on colour, creed, gender or in any way.

It is worse when fellow Africans attack one another, it reminds us of the road ahead to a truly decolonised African mind. This is in no way simplifying the daily struggles of the poorest of the poor, like their scramble for economic survival and many other such challenges. However nothing is superior among Africans than Ubuntu.

Signs and symbols are also dominating the national discourse for the heritage of the future. This matter is led by the students in our universities.

The struggle of the new pushing hard to be born, whilst the old is resisting to die. Whether it is the Rhodes’ statue, King George, Louis Botha or any other such, we need to realise that change has to happen and that change is pain. It has happened before with no skies falling.

We have observed the students’ protests which have been largely peaceful and should be commended for that. There are instruments to be used as means to an end to realise transformation.

The National Heritage Resources Act No. 25 of 1999 is an adequate tool to effect transformation desired in this instance. It must be followed to the latter and applied within the bounds of the law.

There is no need deface or destroy any statue but if it has to be removed let us use the correct means to an end.

This is in line with the governments’ reconciliation and nation building. The policy does not mean capitulation to retrogress. It means forgive but not forget, lest you repeat pitfalls of the past.

The social cohesion advocates led by Department of Arts and Culture, will frequent universities and other institutions to deepen dialogue with all stakeholders.

In conclusion our way forward should among other things include the following:

  • Engage and identify more advocates for social cohesion in our communities to play their role in promoting nation building and social cohesion.
  • Deepen community and societal conversations to resolve challenges faced at that level.
  • Acknowledge, recognise and reward individuals, organisations and communities that are good examples of social cohesion endeavour.
  • Our programs should not be confined by our national borders since we are Africa and integral part of progressive world.

Finally we must do our best to live according to the values enshrined in our Constitution. Let us make our mark as part of the movement of the world peace, in this way we will not fail in our task of building a caring nation.

Thank you for your attention.