Arts and Culture Affairs
Social Cohesion and Nation-Building
Defining social cohesion
The department defines social cohesion as the degree of social integration and inclusion in communities and society at large, and the extent to which mutual solidarity finds expression among individuals and communities.
In terms of this definition, a community or society is cohesive to the extent that the inequalities, exclusions and disparities based on ethnicity, gender, class, nationality, age, disability or any other distinctions which engender divisions distrust and conflict are reduced and/or eliminated in a planned and sustained manner - this with community members and citizens as active participants, working together for the attainment of shared goals, designed and agreed upon to improve the living conditions for all.
Nation-building is the process whereby a society with diverse origins, histories, languages, cultures and religions come together within the boundaries of a sovereign state with a unified constitutional and legal dispensation, a national public education system, an integrated national economy, shared symbols and values, as equals, to work towards eradicating the divisions and injustices of the past; to foster unity; and promote a countrywide conscious sense of being proudly South African, committed to the country and open to the continent and the world.
Nation-building in this sense, and in the context of South Africa, cannot be the perpetuation of hierarchies of the past, based on pre-given or ethnically engineered and imposed divisions of people rooted in prejudice, discrimination and exclusion. It calls for something else; that is, a rethinking, in South African terms, of what social cohesion, linked to nation-building, should be. It should, no doubt and in essence, be directed towards the practical actualisation of democracy in South Africa.
Accordingly, a nation is conceived as a social formation based on the unity and equality of its members consisting of the following shared and recognised attributes:
Shared Origin and history, internationally recognised territory, unitary sovereign state, single judicial system, Single public education system, Nationally recognised languages, Nationally recognised cultures, Nationally recognised religions, shared values, shared symbols, and shared national consciousness.
In South Africa, the diverse cultures, languages and religions should not be seen as impediments to national unity given the statutory equality accorded to all citizens.