South Africans had yet to barely break free of their past and currently only tolerate one another, Zulu King Goodwill Zweilithini said on Tuesday.
Zwelithini, who was delivering the keynote address at the official opening of the of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg said social cohesion and reconciliation had not yielded the desired outcomes as conversations were still taking place along racial lines.
“If we are honest reconciliation and social cohesion has not enabled us to break free from our past, they have simply enabled us to tolerate one another not to accept and appreciate one another,” he said.
He said government programmes were not reaching the intended people and this led to a society that remained polarised.
He said this was reflected on the responses when there was a crisis in the country, citing instances which demonstrated racial intolerance.
“When there is an instance where someone likens other people to monkeys or baboons, the shock should not be just from one race but condemnation should be from all South Africans,” said the king.
He added that when there are farm killings they should also be condemned by everyone not just white farmers.
“This is because when such a killing takes place it is the killing of a South African regardless of their racial background.”
He said problems facing the country were not about one race or community, but were challenges that needed collective responsibility from the country’s citizens as a whole.
He pointed out that the history of the country could not be complete without the contributions of different races in South Africa.
He said while government and NGO-led initiatives of reconciliation were noble, they should not be held in hotels or halls but should target people on the ground.
“In short I am saying ease up on fancy functions which are said to be about reconciling people. Just go straight to the affected people in their communities on the ground. If there are problems between Africans and Indians then develop programmes where we can go to Phoenix, Inanda, KwaMashu or Chatsworth.”
Turning his attention to young people, the king acknowledged that the generation gap meant that young people hold differing views from their elders, but pleaded for respect.
He said KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa was in need of leadership from young people and this should be demonstrated at all times.
“The leadership I am referring to should be demonstrated when you have challenges in health, education or looking for work. Solve problems as opposed to exacerbating them and protect future generations,” he said.
The monarch warned that any development that did not factor in young was doomed to fail.
He also called on civil servants to be more committed when serving the public, citing the Esidimeni episode in which over a hundred patients died as a wake-up call to everyone on how mentally ill patients should be treated.
The opening of the legislature was attended by among other guests, First Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Dr. Frank Mdlalose Members of the Provincial Legislature, provincial cabinet members, businesspeople, councillors and members of the public.
– African News Agency