Remarks by Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the Social Cohesion Ambassadors Workshop

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30 Jan 2015

Programme Director

Social Cohesion Ambassadors

Officials

Members of the Media

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am pleased that you have joined us here today as we gather together to pave a direction for the social cohesion advocates’ programme.

Let me at the outset sincerely thank our advocates for Social Cohesion who have participated in ongoing engagements as part of the build up to the National 2015 report back summit.The government programme

In our efforts to achieve our goals of nation building and social cohesion, the government is informed by the following understanding, that:

  • The government works to consolidate partnerships across society to strengthen social cohesion and ensure that our nation achieves the values of a caring society, inspired by the traits of human compassion which informed our struggle against colonialism and apartheid.  
  • The success of nation formation and social cohesion depends on changing material conditions of all South Africans for the better.
  • We are informed by the precepts of the country's Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, which recognise that attached to individual freedom is individual responsibility; attached to collective freedom is collective responsibility.
  • In promoting intellectual discourse, media freedom and diversity of views, the government encourages appreciation by the media fraternity and the intelligentsia as a whole of the role that they can play in promoting human solidarity and a caring society. The same applies to the arts including music, the oral and written word, crafts, theatre and film.
  • Encouraging a positive role for the institution of the family and community, youth involvement in a variety of social endeavours, patriotism and civic responsibility, community activism, sporting and other social activities, we will seek to promote healthy lifestyles, moral integrity and role models informed by human compassion, generosity, incorruptibility and accountability.
  •  We will fight against all manifestations of racism, super-exploitation, xenophobia, patriarchy, ethnic chauvinism, religious and political intolerance, and abuse of women and children; discourage greed and the arrogant display of wealth; and campaign against the abuse of drugs and alcohol.

The need for unity

We meet at a time in our history where more than ever before we need to forge our togetherness and especially our ‘unity in diversity’.

We have recently encountered acts of divisiveness and violence in certain parts of our country.

We have seen people in different communities and African diaspora protest about their living conditions and expressing their discontent in different and also violent ways.

The question arises, why do some among us embark on these courses of action?

Why do they resort to vandalism in situations where they have other means of expressing their grievances and asserting their rights?

Under these circumstances it becomes more and more urgent for us to focus on nation building and social cohesion and encouraging and indeed urging people to stand together.

The importance of our national symbols

Our artistic emblems and expressions provide us with a national identity. Our national symbols unify us and speak to great and heroic moments in our history.

 In the Preamble of our Constitution, we declare that: South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

Thereafter we continue to call for the healing the divisions of the past and establishing a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.  

It is this understanding that we convey to our young people through our Passport of Patriotism. But we need to deepen this consciousness that we need to instil in our youth, our children.

Arts education in schools

In this programme the children are taught the value and meaning of our National Symbols.

Some initiatives are already underway. This year sees a mass rollout of flags to schools as part of the Flag in Every School campaign. Stringents targets have been set and before the year ends more than 20 000 flags would have been distributed. We are also considering the rolling out of African Union Flags in all schools.

There is a project to be activated soon where Dulux Paints will offer paint to schools so that National Symbols can be painted on school walls to familiarise children with these important symbols. 

Many children also belong to the Field Band Foundation where they learn to play different musical instruments and they learn to meet and mix with children from different parts of the country promoting social cohesion.

It is this model that we also need to emulate and extend so that all schools have access to instruments and can develop their musical talents and skills and experience how art brings people together.

Our young people need to have role models and historical figures to look up to and so that they understand where we have come from and the legacy that we in turn will bequeath to them. Hence our plans for Ubuntu Awards and Heroes Acre.

Instilling an African consciousness

Frantz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth tells us that:

“It is at the heart of national consciousness that international consciousness grows.”

As part of the nation-building, we also need to develop our African identity, the sense that we ought to have of being African in the world.

The Department is busy preparing to celebrate Africa Month in May this year in a large scale.

The entire month will be packed with activities in all artistic disciplines to celebrate our Africanness and to develop our knowledge and love of each other’s cultural expressions and experience the dynamic ways in which they interact to bring us new sounds and new works of art.

In celebrating Africa Month in May, this month long focus will promote our broader identity as fellow Africans.

The aim is to enhance the image of the continent using artistic expression and further strengthen relations between SA and the rest of the continent Africans in diaspora.

This month long festival will see South Africa hosting amongst others; the African Union 4th Pan African Cultural Congress, !KAURU Visual Arts Exhibition by SADC region, Gcwala Ngamasiko Cultural Festival, and also featuring various arts and culture disciplines including music concerts, literature, film, design, dance, theatre, cuisines and panel discussions.  There will be conferences promoting the exchange of ideas and intellectual pursuits.

The importance of languages and multilingualism

Our 2015 social cohesion work will also focus on promoting all our languages.

Creating skilled and capable people to enable the effective implementation the Use of Official Languages Act is a major focus.

Bursaries are provided through universities across the country to skill language professionals.

Furthermore, government will continue with its translation work to enable citizens to access government information and services.

This sets the stage for the establishment of translation units in other government departments thus enabling each government department to communicate directly with the citizens in languages they understand.

Work in Human Language technologies is also advancing the possibilities of quick and easy translations.

Work on promoting multilingualism in school is also receing attention.

A culture of reading

As indeed we are trying to nurture a caring and united nation, it is clear that a caring people are also a thinking people who desire knowledge and embark upon self-improvement to better their lives. A thinking nation is a reading nation.

The government through the Department of Arts and Culture will allocate more than R3 billion in the MTEF 2015/2016 to 2017/2018 towards the public library and information services sector. We are seriously working towards improving access to information and opening the doors of learning, reading and writing to all. We are going to commence with a reading and writing campaign that will extend to all provinces of our country.

The role of community conversations and dialogues

With the recent rollout of Social Cohesion Community Dialogues and Conversations, the Department aimed at promoting interaction on an equal basis between communities from different backgrounds in our efforts to build a socially cohesive nation. 

These dialogues are aimed at healing communities and allowing communities to share common experiences bringing them closer together. Provincial summits have also been underway and we encourage the remaining provinces to finalize their summits as build up programmes towards the 2015 report back summit.

The National Social Cohesion Report-back and Monitoring Summit is scheduled for March 2015 in Port Elizabeth.

The aim is to assess progress in the implementation of the 12 resolutions of the 2012 summit and to assess the state of social cohesion in the country.

There is important work under way of aligning our efforts to the targets and indicators of Outcome 14.

Vision 2030 remains our destination.

In the National Development Plan executive summary, we state:

“Our new story is open ended with temporary destinations, only for new paths to open up once more. It is a story of unfolding learning. Even when we flounder, we remain hopeful. In this story, we always arrive and depart. We have come some way. We know: What we do, and how we do it, is as important as what we want to achieve. What we are is because of who we have been and what we want to become. We will continue to make it to make us, because we are happy with being who we are. Who are we? We are Africans. We are an African country. We are part of our multi-national region. We are an essential part of our continent. Being Africans, we are acutely aware of the wider world, deeply implicated in our past and present. That wider world carries some of our inheritance.”

Let us work together to move this South African story forward.

Thank you for coming and participating in this important gathering.