Media statement by the Minister Paul Mashatile, on the occasion of the media launch of the Social Cohesion Summit

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04 Jun 2012

Programme Director

Senior Management from the Department of Arts and Culture

Members of the media

Ladies and Gentlemen:
We have convened this media briefing to announce details of the National Summit on Social Cohesion that President Jacob Zuma refereed to last week during the debate on the Budget Vote of the Presidency.

As indicated by the President the Department of Arts and Culture has been mandated to organize a National Summit on Social Cohesion.

This mandate has been derived from our role as the public custodian of the diverse cultures, languages and heritage of the people of South Africa.

The National Summit on Social Cohesion will take place from the 4th to the 5th of July 2012, at the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication in Kliptown Soweto.

We are deliberately convening this Summit in Kliptown, the birth place of the Freedom Charter, which is the basis of our democratic Constitution.

We are doing this because to us the Summit offers an opportunity for all South Africans to reflect on progress made towards the kind of society envisaged in the Freedom Charter; a society that truly belongs to all who live in it black and white united in their diversity.     

The Summit is also an opportunity for South Africans to dialogue among one another about their shared values, their shared aspirations and their shared vision of a united South African nation.

The theme for the Summit is “Creating a caring and proud society”.

President Jacob Zuma will give a key note address at the Summit.

We have invited representatives of all political parties, representatives of civil society formation, business leaders, chapter nine institutions, representatives of faith based organizations, traditional leaders, youth and women organizations, academics, arts, culture and heritage practitioners, Ministers, and representatives from all spheres of government.

In preparation for the Summit we have circulated for public comment and input, a discussion document titled; “A National Strategy for developing an inclusive and cohesive South African society”.

We expect that this document, which will be presented at the Summit, will form the basis of a national strategy and programme of action on social cohesion and nation-building.

The specific objectives of the Summit are:

  • To get the nation talking on the type of South Africa we desire to build;
  • To get South Africans to think and re-think the values we want to uphold as a society;
  • To promote social cohesion and nation-building as a pre-condition for a better life for all;
  • To encourage public participation in social mobilisation campaigns; and
  • To establish a platform for government and stakeholders to work together on concrete ways to extend the freedoms South Africans already have and the values we hold dear.

Building up to the Summit we are mobilizing the nation to engage with the question: What does it mean to be a South African?
The Summit is a culmination of a number of initiatives undertaken by government to promote nation building, social cohesion and national healing.

These initiatives include:

The Social Cohesion and Social Justice in South Africa Study commissioned by the Department of Arts and Culture in 2004.

The Macro-social report titled; A Nation in the Making: Macro-social Trends in South Africa developed by the Presidency. This report introduced the concepts of social cohesion, social capital and social justice into the policy discourse.

In October 2009 we convened a Social Cohesion Colloquium under the theme; Building a Caring Nation, to discuss the state of social cohesion in our country.

We are also conducting community conversations across all provinces; creating a platform for dialogue on the kind of society we seek to build.

The results of these conversations will form part of the deliberations at the Summit.

During the 2010 FIFA World Cup a number of programmes were initiated to build national unity and fostering a common purpose among all South Africans united behind the national soccer team; Bafana Bafana.
We continue to popularize our national symbols, which are a collective expression of where we come from, of who we are and what kind of future we seek to build.

Through the process of geographical names standardization we continue to contribute to national healing, reconciliation, nation building as well as promoting social cohesion.

We have put before Parliament the South African Languages Bill, which will promote equal use of all South African languages.

Our heritage legacy projects wherein we build monuments, museums and statues in honour of those who played a major role in our struggle for national liberation are also contributing to national healing and promoting social cohesion.

Our heritage legacy projects are central to our programme to build new symbols of our democratic society that have a positive meaning to all South Africans and are reflective of our non racial destiny.

Recently we held discussions with the National Planning Commission to reiterate the role that social cohesion can play in efforts to build economic prosperity and sustainable development.

Programme Director, the draft strategy on social cohesion and nation building makes a number of recommendations on how to build a socially inclusive society.

These include that social cohesion and nation-building be regarded as a priority and be aligned fully to developmental goals.

 The strategy also proposes that community conversations and dialogue must continue as these extend democratic spaces and mobilize communities towards common goals.

Another recommendation is that national dialogues and summits, such as the one we will hold in July, should be conducted at five year intervals to report on progress, take on new challenges and set new targets.

We are confident that the Summit will firmly place the promotion of social cohesion, nation-building, and national identity on the national agenda.

This we say because, historically, South Africans have proven themselves to be a nation that thrives and finds solutions to difficult problems through dialogue, discussion and reaching out to one another.

This summit will be no exception.

A complete list of further community conversations and their dates as well as a complete programme for the summit including confirmed speakers will be available on the departmental website.

Thank you.