Chairperson of the NAP Interim Governance Structure, Ms Yasmin Sooka,
Members of the NAP Interim Governance Structure,
Representatives from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Representatives from civil society and Chapter 9 bodies,
Representatives from various government departments,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning and welcome to you all.
As you know, Cabinet approved the National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (the NAP) in February 2019.
Minister Naledi Pandor, the Minister of International Relations, tabled it with the United Nations in July last year.
The NAP stems from our commitments arising from the Third UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and in particular its outcome document, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
In essence, the NAP is a 5 year plan of action to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances.
The NAP is based on the collective conviction of our people that, given that the ills of unfair discrimination and inequality are human-made; we have the means to completely eradicate these ills from our country.
The NAP was developed through a comprehensive consultation process involving government, various institutions supporting constitutional democracy and civil society, and is informed by general principles of universality, interdependence and indivisibility of human rights, participation and inclusion, progressive realisation, accountability, equality and non-discrimination.
As mentioned, the NAP was consulted upon widely – it went to Cabinet Committees, clusters, and structures like FOSAD (the Forum of South African Directors-General) and Nedlac and was ultimately approved by Cabinet. After Cabinet approval, presentations were made to, amongst others, the FISD (the Forum of Institutions Supporting Democracy).
It was thoroughly workshopped, with workshops held in various provinces and it was widely published for public consultation.
The inputs received were collated and amendments were made to incorporate inputs from individuals and from bodies and institutions.
The NAP commits all sectors of our society to the promotion and protection of human rights and to raising awareness of anti-racism, equality and anti-discrimination issues.
Its main focus is to specifically address the issue of racism, which is an acknowledgement by government that South Africa still remains a racially divided country 25 years into democracy. In addition to existing measures, the NAP is also intended to combat xenophobia and related intolerances and to -
The challenge now lies in implementation.
There can be no implementation without the active participation of, and cooperation from, government departments.
If we want civil society and various sectors to partner with us, we must ensure that we, as government, play our part.
That is why today’s national consultative workshop is vital for the implementation of the NAP.
I wish to also make special mention of the Interim Governance Structure members who are present here today. The Interim Governance Structure, which will shortly become the Governance Structure, is crucial to the implementation of the NAP.
In keeping with international guidelines, the establishment of a “national coordinating committee” serves as a channel for dialogue among governmental authorities, civil society and individuals and groups who experience discrimination.
The Governance Structure of the NAP will oversee and review progress made regarding the implementation of the NAP.
Such a national governance structure will be responsible for collecting information from various departments on their programmes and be required to report to Cabinet and Parliament on how government departments, civil society, chapter 9 institutions, business, labour and media have fulfilled their constitutional obligations regarding building a society free of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related intolerances.
The NAP is a Cabinet-mandated directive and all of us here today need to ensure that key government departments know exactly what is expected of them and what further steps need to be taken to ensure that the NAP becomes part and parcel of key departments’ core functions.
I want to stress that departments are to view the proposed implementation steps against their own mandates and their APPs.
I am concerned that implementation seems to be moving rather slowly on the part of government departments and I hope one of the issues we can discuss here today is why this is the case, and what can be done to ensure the implementation of the NAP in terms of the Departmental Annual Performance Plans and the Medium Term Strategic Framework.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Any person who is of the view that racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are not major challenges in our country at the moment, is blind to reality.
One simply has to look at social media and mainstream media to see that we have become more intolerant as a nation, rather than less.
Many of you would have seen recent media reports of a lesbian couple who has asked the SA Human Rights Commission to investigate a wedding venue that has refused to host their ceremony. The owners of the venue are refusing on the grounds of their religious beliefs not allowing same sex marriages.
In November last year, the SAHRC said that South Africa has failed to address the systemic causes of poverty and inequality, which occur along fault lines including race, gender and disability, and that ultimately cause or exacerbate racism.
When it comes to social cohesion, the Governance, Public Safety and Justice Survey, released by Stats SA last year, indicates that about 25% of the population benefited from acts of kindness from a person of a different race, while 30% of the population performed acts of kindness to a person of a different race.
When it comes to human rights and awareness of the Constitution, the same survey shows that over 80% of people in South Africa have heard about the Constitution.
The age group 35–54 has the greatest proportion (83%) of people who have heard about the Constitution.
Among white South Africans, 95% have heard about the Constitution while 79% of black Africans have heard about the Constitution.
About 78% of the population are aware that the Constitution protects their rights, yet just over half of the population are of the opinion that the Constitution protects the rights of others more than their own rights. Some 69% are aware that the South African Bill of Rights is part of the Constitution.
About 2 in every 5 South Africans think that discrimination based on nationality exists in the country, while more than half of the people of other nationalities think that such discrimination exists.
When it comes to foreign nationals, government continues to conduct a number of anti-xenophobia campaigns and related activities to address the root causes of discrimination and violence.
A National Anti-Xenophobia Task Team (NTT) was established in 2017 to focus on developing a programme that will facilitate ending xenophobic violence and many of the departments here today are members of the United Nations Protection Working Group (UNPWG).
The UNPWG’s focus is on ensuring the promotion of social cohesion in our communities whilst ensuring that communities are safe for all inhabitants, both citizens and foreign nationals, including refugees and asylum seekers alike.
The UNPWG drafted Standard Operating Procedures in response to violence against foreign nationals in South Africa. The UNPWG Advisory Group has also been formed to oversee the emergency response by both government and all relevant role-players during attacks on foreign nationals.
The NAP will enable us to have more effective interventions to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination.
It can ensure better coordination and cooperation, better prevention and better response times.
But it can only work if we have complete buy-in from all stakeholders. Achieving that buy-in is crucial - which is why this workshop today is crucial.
Cabinet has instructed that government must implement the NAP and we therefore must ensure that it becomes part and parcel of our core functions as government.
After our country’s transition to democracy, South Africa was hailed as a shining light to the world when it came to non-discrimination and our commitment to equality.
We cannot afford to fail.
I thank you.