Speech by Dr. Corné Mulder MP – Chief Whip of the Freedom Front Plus to the National social cohesion and nation building summit, Walter Sisulu Square, Kliptown, Soweto, July 4 2012
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities has failed. Since its inception it has done nothing to promote or protect the rights of minorities and communities. If we are serious about social cohesion and nation building the time has come to create a new Department of Minority Affairs. A dedicated department, which will foster a sense of belonging and will succeed in the eradication of the increasing sense of alienation, currently experienced by minorities and communities.
The preamble to our constitution clearly states: “We the people of South Africa, Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.” This is a very strong statement. If this statement was taken seriously we would already have had social cohesion and we would, to a large extent, have succeeded with true Nation Building in South Africa. However, that is clearly not the case. The mere fact that we need to have this national summit on social cohesion and nation building 18 years after 1994, is a clear indication that we have failed.
South Africa is one of the most diverse societies in the world. We are a country of many races, cultures, religions and languages. With a divided past and different perspectives on history. It is also true that over many centuries we have become economically entwined and dependent on one another. We all share the same geographical area at the southern part of Africa – called South Africa. This is our common home and country.
The people I represent also have no other. They also believe in Unity in Diversity. But then, we should respect and accommodate diversity and stop paying superficial lip service to this reality. This country is large enough, with sufficient potential and opportunities to provide room and space to us all under this beautiful African sun. This is possible, but then we need the best recipe for true social cohesion and nation building. We believe that the current recipe has failed and it will continue to fail because it emphasizes only one part of the truth of this country and its people.
True nation building and social cohesion will not succeed if we merely continue to stumble from one sporting highlight to the next without successfully creating a true sense of belonging amongst all of our peoples.
It started with the Rugby World Cup in South Africa in 1995. Then in 2003 it was the World Cricket Cup. Then Cape Town’s Olympic bid followed in 2004 but failed. Then we had the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup. Every time we had a surge of national pride, but soon thereafter only to dwindle and disappear in the sand.
This artificial process of nation building never succeeded in creating a long-lasting sense of belonging and true nationhood with the people and communities within South Africa. That is why it was so easy for Julius Malema to completely polarise our society with his inciting statements.
That is why we saw what happened to our society when the so-called “Spear” painting appeared. We can have as many sporting events as we like, but it will never create a long-lasting and sustainable feeling of belonging and create a true place for everyone in the sun.
Successful social cohesion and nation building will only succeed when we have real unity in diversity. When it is founded on a real “better life for all”. When “all” also includes minorities. When equal opportunities means equal opportunities for all. When your children but also my children know that they will not be discriminated against because of this or that reason.
We all know that there is a political majority in South Africa, but it is also true that we have various other minorities, including political minorities. May I remind us all of the following provision in the Freedom Charter:
All National Groups Shall have Equal Rights!
There shall be equal status in the bodies of state, in the courts and in the schools for all national groups and races;
All people shall have equal right to use their own languages, and to develop their own folk culture and customs;
All national groups shall be protected by law against insults to their race and national pride; (Changing names of towns and streets named after my heroes, is an insult to my national pride.)
South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. What does this “belong” mean? Those issues that affect minorities, do we have any say over them? At the moment the answer is no. Only appeasement. We pay taxes but have no say over what happens to our money. We have no say on how names are changed and how our heroes being insulted.
The Freedom Charter continues and states that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people. Not the will of the majority, but the will of ALL THE PEOPLE… Do minorities have no say?
True social cohesion and nation building will only succeed if we accept and build on all the realities of South Africa. Our minorities are part of this reality. The test for a true constitutional democracy is how you accommodate the minorities and communities in your country. South Africa will also not escape this test.
We have a dream. A dream of building in South Africa a strong nation of happy nations. A South Africa consisting of happy, prosperous and peaceful communities, minorities and peoples. A South Africa where no one feels alienated from his/her country of birth. Where there is a place under this beautiful African sun for your children, but also for mine. It can be done.
Issued by the Freedom Front Plus, July 4 2012