For the first time in 18 years, a social cohesion strategy was approved by Cabinet on 13 June 2012. Immediately after this the Department of Arts and Culture convened the National Social Cohesion Summit in Kliptown, Soweto on 04 – 05 July 2012. The aim of the summit was to afford citizens and sectors of society to contribute to a practical program to implement the strategic plan.
Significantly, the summit was representative of all key sectors of society ranging from government, the youth, people with disabilities, business labor, cultural and religious groups, political parties and civil society. This culminated in a declaration with the 12 summit resolutions.
Subsequently the DAC developed an Implementation Framework, based on the declaration, which includes mobilization of all sectors of society to help build a caring and proud society. To achieve this, a number of eminent South Africans who epitomize values and principles of a good citizen and, in their lives and work, contributed to the attainment of democracy and freedom were appointed to serve as Advocates for Social Cohesion.
Rationale for the Advocates for Social Cohesion
Social Cohesion Advocates were selected or appointed based on their stature and meaningful role they play in the various sectors of society. They are individuals that have been identified have been identified to be the embodiment of the principles of Social Cohesion and Nation Building.
The Advocates for Social Cohesion have, since the summit, been active in the promotion and advancement of the National Social Cohesion Implementation Framework. Some of them have, in their own right, contributed to the realization of the Summit Declaration.
They have participated in public platforms and other National, Provincial, and Local activities to mainstream Social Cohesion. These include the State of the Nation Address, Freedom Day Celebrations, Arts & Culture Budget Vote, Media Launch of the Celebrations of 20 Years, launch of Freedom Friday and the Unveiling of the Countdown Clock.
Key objective of the Advocates for Social Cohesion Programme
The Freedom charter stated that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white”. Section 1 of the Constitution declares that it is based on the values of, inter alia, “non-racialism and non-sexism”. Section 9 states the state may not unfairly discriminate indirectly or indirectly on, inter alia, “race, culture, language and birth”.
The Advocates are in the forefront of the development of a philosophy of a new South African Consciousness to promote the creation of a “caring and proud society.”
A cohesive society must give people a strong sense of belonging and ownership of their country. Also, it must be an egalitarian society which espouses social justice in all walks of life, where all have the opportunities to reach their potential as envisaged in our Constitution. Thus the Advocates will play a pivotal role in promoting involvement, participation and contribute of the people to decision-making. Above all, they will promote behaviour and conduct that is aligned to Constitutional values, principles and ideals.
Roles and responsibilities of the Advocates for Social Cohesion
It is envisaged that some of the responsibilities of the Advocates will be among other and not limited to:-
- attend review meetings to gauge the status of social cohesion in provinces and communities
- be represented in the provincial summits and community conversations
- participate in the stakeholder round tables as a build-up to the 2014 National Social Cohesion Report Back Summit.
- Be living embodiment of the principles of Social Cohesion in the campaigns that serve to realize the outcomes of the summit resolutions
- guide and advice on the 2014 National Social Cohesion Report Back Summit.
- participate in all National activities of significance, including National Days and their commemoration and mobilizing society for the 20th Anniversary Celebrations of Democracy and Freedom
- be the voice and face of social cohesion
- play a supportive role in the enactment of all summit resolutions and
- ensure that the social cohesion programme is aligned to the Vision 2030 plan.
The Minister will be responsible and exercise oversight over the programme of the Advocates for Social Cohesion.
The Advocates for Social Cohesion programme is a work in progress. Consultative meetings with the Advocates are on-going. However, there is no doubt that these are ambassadors of the ideals for nation-building that will help realize the ideals of a nonracist, non - sexist society.