Address by the Minister Paul Mashatile, on the occasion of the National Social Cohesion Summit

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27 Nov 2012

Programme Director, the Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Dr. Joe Phaahla
His Excellency the President of the Republic of South Africa, President Jacob Zuma
Our Guest of honour, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports from South Sudan, Dr. Cirino Hiteng Ofuho
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Max Sisulu
Retired Judge, Justice Yvonne Mokgoro
Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Frene Ginwala
The former first lady of the Republic of South Africa, Sisi Zanele Mbeki  
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Premiers and MECs here present
Mayors and Councilors
Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Legislatures
Leaders of Political Parties
Leaders of civil society organizations
Leaders of faith based organizations
Our traditional leaders
Representatives of our Chapter 9 Institutions
Former TRC Commissioners
Veterans of the South African struggle for national liberation
Representatives of Labour 
Representatives of Business
Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Honoured Guests
Members of the Media

I would also like to pay special tribute to Ina Perlman whose memorial service is taking place today. During the apartheid days millions of people received food through operation hunger an organization that she led tirelessly. 

The People of South Africa:

Mr. President, in 1955 at this very place Kliptown, where we are gathered today, more than 3000 delegates from across the length and breadth of our country, representing all racial groups came together for the Congress of the People.

The delegates came to Kliptown by bus, by train, by car, on horse back and on foot and spent two days crafting a vision for a non-racial and non-sexist South African society.   

As they converged in Kliptown they were inspired among others by the words of Pixley ka Isaka Seme, who said;

The greatest success shall come when man shall have learned to cooperate, not only with his own kith and kin but also with all peoples and with all life.

Those who gathered at the Congress of the People in 1955 articulated a vision of an alternative South African society, one that is more humane and inclusive.
Like those who came before them, they further laid the foundation for an inclusive future for all South Africans.

They declared boldly that; South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white; that all shall be equal before the law and that the rights of the people shall be the same, regardless of race, colour or gender.
Mr. President, just over 57 years since the adoption of the Freedom Charter we are back in Kliptown.

We are here to take stock of the progress we have made towards building a National Democratic Society; that is united, non racial, non sexist, democratic and prosperous.

Like those who attended the Congress of the People in 1955, we have come to Kliptown from all corners of our country, carrying with us the aspirations of all the people of South Africa.

Like that generation of 1955, we will spend two days at this historic venue together to craft a shared destiny that belongs to all who live in it.

Consistent with the tradition of the Congress of the People, in the build up to this Summit we conducted a number of community conversations across the country.

Through these conversations we created a platform for South Africans to dialogue on the kind of society we seek to build.

In October 2009 we convened a Social Cohesion Colloquium to discuss the state of social cohesion in our country.

We have also distributed for public comment a document titled; “A National Strategy for Developing an Inclusive and Cohesive South African Society.”

This document as well as the inputs we received from our community conversations will form the basis of discussions at this Summit.

This Summit Mr. President is also in response to the call you made in 2009 to the people of South Africa to engage in a national dialogue on the kind of society we seek to build.
You made this call Mr. President fully aware that as South Africans we are a nation that has a proud history of dialogue and engagement.

This history of dialogue and engagement has carried us through difficult periods and has seen us overcome many obstacles in the development of our young nation.

We have convened this National Summit on Social Cohesion under the theme: “Working together to create a proud and caring society.”

Guided by this theme we must use this Summit to strengthen efforts to build a more inclusive, caring, humane and proud nation. 

This Summit must also assist us to develop a set of shared values that define who we are as South Africans and what kind of society we seek to build.
Equally we must find comprehensive responses to address the constraints that limit our advance towards a more inclusive and cohesive society.

We must come out of this Summit with a clear Programme of Action that we will implement jointly as government, civil society, business, labour and all other stakeholders.

This Programme must assist us to deepen and expand the gains we have made thus far to unite the South African nation, to heal the wounds of the past and to strengthen social cohesion and national pride.

It also is our intention that at the end of this Summit there must be a Declaration, reflecting our collective commitment to the ideals of one nation, one country, one people and a non-racial destiny for all who live in it, united in our diversity.

This Summit must therefore not be another talk shop.  

Rather it must mark a decisive step we are taking collectively to reach a point in our society where we put our common South African-ness first before anything else.

This Summit must also ensure that we use our diversity to propel us towards a common future, rooted in one overriding South African identity.

Let us continue to work together to build a South African society that is reflective of our collective aspirations, a society we can all call home.

Let the dialogue continue!

We look forward to your contribution to the success of the Summit.   

Thank you.