Building a nonracial society is a necessity in a country as diverse as South Africa, African National Congress President Jacob Zuma said on Sunday.
Addressing supporters at the ANC’s 105th anniversary celebrations at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, Zuma said complete disrespect for human rights and the dignity of all people was evident in the brutal torture and murder of activist Steve Biko by apartheid security police 40 years ago.
“It does not matter where we came from. We are all here now. The humanist approach of the ANC is that all people are equal. Respect for the inherent humanity and dignity of all people, especially the historically oppressed majority, must inform all our actions,” he said.
Racist remarks sparked a public outcry on social media last year when retired estate agent Penny Sparrow made comments about black people filling up beaches in Durban, describing them as “monkeys”. Another post that left South Africans outraged was a video that went viral in which estate agent Vicki Momberg was seen calling police officers the “K” word after she was robbed in a smash-and-grab incident.
“Apartheid entrenched artificial divisions and distrust between the people based on race and ethnicity. This ‘divide and rule’ tactic was transplanted from colonialism and its legacy continues to plague our society,” Zuma said.
“South Africa and the world have seen an upsurge in incidents of overt racism and discrimination. Heinous racist acts, such as the coffin incident involving Victor Mhlotshwa and the trauma caused to this young man, who merely walked across a farm owned by white South Africans, should raise our consciousness about violence based on race and class.”
“This is a dangerous phenomenon and has the potential to undermine our social and national cohesion. We will not allow political disagreements to be portrayed in terms of race and apparent ethnic or regional differences. This upsurge of racism and ethnic or tribal nationalism has the potential to divide our country and return us to a situation of racial and ethnic enclaves,” he said.
South Africans had fought too hard and sacrificed too much to allow a vocal minority to return the country to the dark days of racial oppression and discrimination.
“Every ANC member is called upon to emulate the spirit of [former ANC leader] Albert Luthuli and to let our courage rise in times of danger. South Africans know the danger of racism and we must actively fight against the ‘demon of racialism’, ethnic jealousies and divisions, as well as all other backward tendencies that have shed enough of our blood,” he said.
– African News Agency (ANA)