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Address by Minister Ronald Lamola (MP) delivered on the 23rd and 24th May 2022 Commemorating 20th Anniversary of the World Conference Against Racism at Emperors Palace

Adv Mashabane Director General Justice and Constitutional Development

Adv Bongani Majola  Chairperson South Africa Human Rights Commission

Adv Pansy Tlakula, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Chairpe

Southern Africa of United Nations High Commission for Human Rights,

Ms Abigal Noko, Regional Office for Southern Africa- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Ms Lily Sanya, Chief of Mission International Organisation for Migration

Mr Neeshan Bolton, Executive Director of the Ahmed Kathrada

Distinguished Guests

Today we gather in a place which is a landmark site in the Constitutional formation process and our journey against white supremacy. 

In December 1991, this place was bustling with the stalwarts of our liberation struggle as they gathered at the World Trade Centre, as it was known then, for the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). 

It is here where negotiations resulted in South Africa’s multi-racial election.

The path towards a non-racial, non-sexist, and prosperous South Africa took shape. This path is in our Constitution, a seminal intervention which has now been in effect for 25 years.

Building a nation or promoting national unity is a historical objective of post-apartheid South Africa. Precisely because for over the 340 years, formal Apartheid and Colonialism got entrenched in South Africa. 

We know every well in these 340 years land, dispossession was entrenched. Every sphere of society has not been spared the cruelty of apartheid and colonisation. It is a legacy we must continue to confront as the government of the day. 

It is now common cause we have inherited an economic system and society that systemically excludes the African population.  The advent of the new constitution marks a turning point in our history as a nation. We closed the door on a society that was built to exclude based on race, gender and sexual orientation.

Our constitution is not just a document we revere. Our constitution is a social contract which binds all of us not to forget our past but to create an inclusive South Africa, which at its core is non-racial and non-sexist.

The constitution is the basis upon which to undo deep-seated racial prejudices that continue to play out in our communities. 

We have made attempts to redress the imbalances created by apartheid. But equally, we have seen that some amongst us especially our fellow white citizens have not bought into the new nation we are trying to construct.

Those amongst us who insist on brandishing symbols of oppression in our faces undermine our nation.  We cannot and should not celebrate symbols which divide us and undermine the rule of law.  Not only that to brandish these symbols of apartheid is to completely deny the harm caused by our discriminative past.

In our sporting teams, in our schools, in our universities and in our general life we continue to see incidents of racism and intolerance raising their ugly heads. We must not and must never continue to see the racist incidents such as the one we saw recently at Hoërskool Jan Viljoen in the West Rand.

The latest incident in Stellenbosch is one too many in recent months, and as I have said, it is akin to defecating ( urinating on ) on the Constitution itself.

We’ve to appeal to white parents to preach love and diversity in their families, there is no reason for a 21-year-old to be accused of racism in this day and age, this points to the upbringing of the child.
Equally, the surge of hate crimes against Africans from our sister nations in the continent, and I say Africans from other sister nations in the continent because these crimes have peculiar racial dynamics.

In this regard we must be clear that we do not encourage lawlessness, Home Affairs must deal with illegal immigrants in line with the Immigration laws, and illegal and undocumented immigrants must be attended to as per the prescripts of the law.

There is no country in the world where people just walk in without following any law even in the African continent. Even some of our counterparts in the African continent resort to job preservation for their nationals, but we must guard against self-help, the state must enforce the law. 

The state must enforce the law, enforcement of the law cannot be characterised as xenophobia particularly where the state acts within the confines of the law.

We must note that, as well as the surge in hate crimes against people with a different sexual orientation or gender identity, tells us that we must continue to spread love and diversity.

We should always bear in mind that Human dignity has no nationality. It is inherent in all people - citizens and non-citizens alike simply because they are human. And While that person may be from another country- for whatever reason- it must be respected and is protected, by section Bill of Rights.1
Despite our progressive legislative interventions Promotion of Equality and Prohibition Unfair Discrimination Act, and the Employment Equity Act, racial inequality continues to rise.  At the heart of our economic inequalities, is the historical acts of land dispossession of the African majority. 

Michelle Bachelet United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, rightly reminds us racism needs a systematic response.

The President of the Republic of South Africa, his excellency, Cyril Ramaphosa in his weekly newsletter today has said and I quote:

“we are going to cross these bridges, we need to understand what is causing racist attitudes to flourish in our schools and places of higher learning. We need to understand what kind of institutional cultures contribute to racism in the workplace, in social organisations and in communities.

We need frank and honest dialogue between people of different races on the experiences of black people in South Africa 28 years into democracy.”

Today we launch the baseline study which responds to this call by the President.

The baseline study was done by the Human Science Research Council to determine levels of racism, anti-foreigner sentiment, homophobia, racial incidents, inter-racial relations and perceptions of national identity has many disturbing revelations about where our society is today so far as a barometer of intolerance is concerned. It is the most scientific indicator to date for our nation.

I’m glad it will be released today and perhaps the most interesting revelation for me is the preferred source of assistance when confronted with unfair discrimination, significant majority of South African still believe that police is the appropriate institution, this was in 2017.

To prosecute the democratic project particularly section 9 of the Constitution several laws have been enacted to promote the rights of all South Africans. 

We have recognised that our legislative framework did not cater for racism and prejudice on mainstream and social media platforms. 

The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act; National Cyber Security Policy Framework, Regulation of Interception of Communications Act and Protection of Personal Information Act are instruments to address bigotry and discrimination on social media platforms and mainstream media platforms in any way they manifest themselves.

We are equally pleased that parliament is now in a position to finalise the prevention and combating of hate crimes and hate speech bill, which gives the state a wider reach against hate crimes.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In 2001 South Africa hosted the 3rd World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance,  this was a vote of confidence in us that our Constitution has the ingredients to transform our society. We can be a beacon of light to the world.

20 years later article 66 of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action2 is no longer something to aspire to it is now a necessity.

As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Constitution coming into effect, we need to be more deliberate about our next the 25 years.  We need to be that generation that uproots racism in everyone’s heart, every home, our classrooms, workplaces, supermarket queues, restaurants and sports teams and stadiums.

Our generation needs to be different in every way, we cannot replicate the discrimination of the past in any way. 

Today we launch this National Action Plan it is not governments alone. It is for the country.  From Stellenbosch to Orania this plan must not only reach the enclaves of racism it must transform them.  From Alexander to Khayelitsha our communities cannot be bastions of anti-African sentiments and homophobia.

The National Action Plan was formally adopted in 2019 by the cabinet and has been developed through a comprehensive consultative process, which includes Chapter nine institutions, and civil society.
This plan is a technical framework for the State’s policies, programmes, strategies and measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, and other related intolerances.

A socially cohesive and safe South Africa requires a series of intersecting interventions that unite our country. To achieve this vision, democratic culture of participation and equality must be instilled, which requires dedicated interventions to address actions that undermine these values.

Without a high degree of social cohesion and unity of purpose, it is difficult to envisage South Africa overcoming the significant obstacles that stand in the way of prosperity and equity.

This intervention must be looked at alongside other interventions the state is embarking on to address the stubborn legacy of colonialism and apartheid.

These interventions include creating an effective policy framework for Land Redistribution which includes an efficient Land dispute mechanism. 

It also includes addressing high levels of corruption within the public and private sectors, which undermine the rule of law and impede the government’s efforts to achieve its socio-economic development and service delivery objectives.

Many a time we have lamented how the cost of corrupt practices falls most heavily on the poor, degrading the quality and accessibility of public services.

Cabinet has approved a governance structure which will ensure that we have a multi-sectoral approach to implementing this plan.

The governance structure includes both the public and private sectors.  Chaired by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services with the South African Human Rights Commission in an advisory capacity will meet quarterly to

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development will, under the guidance of the proposed governance structure will be responsible for building complementarity between the NAP and the annual performance plans developed by departments, chapter nine institutions.

Our society can no longer remain wounded by the social, psychological and geographic effects of colonialism and apartheid.

The fault lines of racism, inequality of opportunity and outcome, poverty, unemployment and structural exclusion must now correspond with a new society envisioned in the Constitution.

The inherited psyche of racial, gender and sexual orientation prejudice and stereotypes that lead to a breakdown in values; gender-based violence and femicide; inequality of opportunity and widespread poverty, must not be what defines our national identity.

I thank you.

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1. Minister of Home Affairs v Watchenuka 2004 4 SA 326 (SCA) para 24.
2. We affirm that the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of minorities, where they exist, must be protected and that persons belonging to such minorities should be treated equally and enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms without discrimination of any kind