Speech by Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the National Social Cohesion Report-Back Summit at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth
The Vice Chancellor
The Mayor & Councillors
Heads of Department
Senior Government Officials
Ladies & Gentlemen
What Has Been Done?
WE have gathered here today, from all corners of our country in order to answer one question: how much progress have we made in nation building and social cohesion?
We must honestly recognize where we are now.
As we gather here today, deep rumbles of discontent with colonial symbols have exploded into protests at UCT and threatening to spread to other campuses.
It is a development that speaks directly to the question of nation building and social cohesion. This is a matter that we cannot ignore. It helps us gauge how far we have come to build monuments that unite rather than divide us.
We are that point where the citizens of this country, especially the youth, have a right to ask: What has been done since we held a highly successful National Social Cohesion Summit in Kliptown, Soweto in 2012.
It is almost three years later that we hosted one of the most significant gatherings of the people of this country.
I am proud to say the answer lies with the leadership that is here, today. As former President Nelson Mandela likes to remind us: “The power is in our hands to create a better world.”
It has been up to us to be agents of the changes that we want to see happening in our country. It is our responsibility in the positions we hold to transform the heritage landscape of this country. Above all, to improve the quality of life for all our people.
We need to remind ourselves that it is what we do in our offices, units, departments, organizations and communities that make this country what it is.
MILESTONE PROVINCIAL SUMMIT
It gives me great pride to see that we have finally arrived at this point. Today we are hosting this Report Back Summit. It is a significant step in implementing the resolutions of the national summit.
The more than 2000 delegates and representatives resolved that “a report back summit will be convened by July 2014.” This is an achievement – late as it is.
However, I believe that there are many advances that we have made as a country towards social cohesion and nation-building.
Unfortunately, not only have we set high standards for ourselves but we take our achievements for granted. There is no doubt that we have moved South Africa forward. This country is far better than what it was before 1994.
Some of the strides include the following:
An increasing percentage of women representatives in parliament and other State bodies.
More people have access to water to drink
We are a renowned constitutional democracy
A representative government
All languages enjoy equal rights
We must admit that as a country, we have come a long way. But we have a longer walk to justice and equality.
What I know is that we cannot reverse the legacy of more than 350 years of colonialism and apartheid in just 21 years.
Also we must accept that reversing more than 350 years of colonialism and apartheid requires not only passion but also a systematic approach to our work.
The timing for this Report Back Summit could not be more perfect. It happens during the Human Rights Month.
We have just reburied the mortal remains of the architects of our struggle, Moses Kotane and JB Marks. They are pioneers that defined the vision of the society we have been called upon to rebuild.
I want to believe things are falling into place.
I stand here today to say the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter is the right time for us to answer the question: how far have we come to realizing the ideals of the struggle?
In fact, we are here to begin to provide answers to what has been done to move us closer to the dream of an inclusive and socially cohesive society.
We are here to highlight some of major strides that we have made in the last two year since the National Summit.
Most importantly, we are here to chart the way forward. We must have done some great work towards the implementation of the resolutions.
History will judge us on what we have done and what we have failed to do.
However, it is important to note that our understanding of social cohesion is rooted in national historical realities and experiences.
Our programmes based on the resolutions are linked to iconic documents including the Freedom Charter, The Constitution and the NDP.
It must be stated clearly that today’s gathering is a continuation of a journey that began many decades ago, including the historic Congress of the People in Kliptown in 1955.
But we must acknowledge that we are where we are today because in 2009 the President Jacob Zuma urged citizens to be “a nation in dialogue.”
This was followed by the DAC hosting a Social Cohesion Colloquium in KwaZulu-Natal in 2009.
Many of us witnessed and experienced the historic gathering in Kliptown, the place for the adoptions of the Freedom Charter.
As government, we have created an enabling environment. This is to empower and encourage citizens from all walks of life to find solutions to the challenges of our time. We have discovered our mission and we must set out to fulfil it.
Our vision remains to create a “united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society”.
I wish to stress that the National Summit was NOT a government summit. Instead, it was a people’s summit where citizens had an opportunity to make their voices heard.
Perhaps it should suffice to say: government, too, has responsibility to reverse the legacy of apartheid. Thus nation building and social cohesion are a priority. And that is why we are here!!
The simpler way to understand and define what we needed to do was to be found in the five breakaway themes at the 2012 National Summit.
They aptly and accurately captured the legacy of colonialism and apartheid and what we are grappling with now.
These challenges to nation building and social cohesion revolve around 5 main issues:
1. Economic Inequality
2. Spatial Divisions
3. Prejudice & Discrimination
4. Social Interaction, cooperation and Solidarity
5. National Identity and Unity
We all have a clear understanding of the stumbling blocks to the creation of the society that we want to see in our lifetime.
Significantly, the commissions at the summit culminated in the passing of 12 Resolutions that directly answered the questions that keep us awake at night “what is to be done?”
I do not have the time to go into detail about each and every resolutions but let me say: they were very clear, articulate and intelligent in detailing what needs to be done. This summit today serves a two-fold purpose:
1. To bring all the people and other partners to take stock of how far have we gone with the implementation of the summit resolutions. Are we making progress?
2. To begin to work on detailed plans and programmes that will see all of us working together to implement programmes of Outcome 14: Nation Building and Social Cohesion as outlined in the NDP.
We have to be seen to be working together to find solutions to our challenges. We all have to be agents of what we want to see happening in our communities and society.
In fact, none but ourselves can deliver what we want. We dare not fail ourselves.
Presumably, we are all familiar with the 12 Resolutions. They will be the focus of what we will be reporting on today.
I must stress that much has happened in the last 33 months. I will be the first to admit much more need to be done. BUT you cannot reverse the legacy of more than 350 years in just 21 years.
Also, it is important for us to understand that Social Cohesion is not a destination but a journey. In fact, it is the end product of everything that we do.
Thus let us not under-estimate the importance of this meeting today: it is for all of us to gauge how far we have moved towards implementing the resolutions of the last summit.
Most importantly, this summit is not a moaning session.
We are not here to lament about alleged lack of service delivery.
The purpose of this important summit is for us to look at our own progress and the role and contributions we are making to finding solutions to the problems that plague us.
We have made much progress in the last 33 months and some of the achievements include the following:
- For the first time we have a social cohesion strategy that was adopted by Cabinet in 2012. It will always be very important for all of us to familiarize ourselves with the content.
- We continue to host social cohesion community conversations where the people of this country become part of the solution-seeking initiative.
We have held more than 40 to report back on the summit resolutions.
- We submitted the Summit Report, The Declaration and 12 Resolutions to the President in November 2012.
- We have appointed Advocates for Social Cohesion.
These are men, women and youth who not only epitomize the principles of what makes a great South African but are people who are leaders in their various sectors.
They are in the forefront of mobilizing society to be active citizenry of creating the caring society we all want.
- Almost all the provinces have hosted their provincial summits in preparation of this summit.
- We have gathered to fulfil the resolution of hosting a Report Back Summit by end of financial year 2014.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE … ?
We are at our first milestone as a country where we are already making preparations to celebrate the first 21 Years of Democracy & Freedom.
We have to constantly remind ourselves that we have come a long way. Sometimes we need to praise the progress we have made without taking our eyes off the ball. Our main task is to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
At the end of the day, the success and failure of the nation building and social cohesion efforts will be determined by the work we do.
What we choose to do or not to will decide the fate of this country. We have to move South Africa forward to a just and equal society. That is what Kotane and Marks would expect.
Let me conclude by declaring that the agenda is very clear, especially after the Summit.
The big question is: what have done to achieve and implement the resolutions of the 2012 Summit?
But as we move into the future, there are a few things that we need to keep in mind:
1. We need to engage and identify Advocates for Social Cohesion in our communities. They have to play a leading role in promoting social cohesion and nation building.
2. We must continue to host conversations at all levels of our society. We are a society that is renowned for resolving its challenges through dialogue.
3. We need to expand and strengthen existing awards to acknowledge and recognize individuals, organizations and communities that are examples of social cohesion.
4. We must begin to make preparations to contribute to and participate in the celebrations of 60 Years of the Freedom Charter.
5. Finally, we must do our best to live according to the values enshrined in our constitution to be active agents that will promote nation building and social cohesion.
We must constantly ask ourselves: what have I done to make South Africa a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
I thank you for your time. Ndiyabulela!