Mandela Foundation condemns racism

“South Africa has experienced an unhealthy barrage of racist incidents that have grabbed national headlines over the festive period,” says Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO, Sello Hatang. “It seems that such sentiments lurk deeply below the façade of our society, rearing its head with little provocation.”

“It is clear that race continues to define us and that the reconciliation project of the 1990s has secured relatively little purchase in the deeper reaches of our cultural and social structures.”

“I unreservedly condemn racism in all its forms and call on South Africans to commit themselves to building a truly transformative culture.”

“Last year leading online publications closed down their comments section due to racist, misogynist, homophobic and other discriminatory comments. These incidents reflect a deeper social malaise which the Nelson Mandela Foundation believes is unravelling the post-apartheid project. Of concern are the anonymous faces behind social media platforms that clearly have something to say. It indicates that we haven’t created the forums or structures to allow health discourses, instead resorting to channels that are easily accessible.”

“Deep-rooted structures of power, privilege and belief remain largely in place. Racist statements and underlying belief systems corrode the nation-building project, reinforcing stereotypes which affects social interactions in a profound way. This is fed relentlessly by continued inequality which secures economic and social power in the hands of a minority.”

“The dilemma for many South Africans is balancing the right to free speech with the imperative to eliminate racist and other forms of hate speech. Do we criminalise such speech as Germany has done with Holocaust denialists? Do we turn to the judicial system or the Human Rights Commission? Do we shame or threaten those that make racist statements? Or do we try to change cultures and belief systems through dialogue and other means?”

“We must draw on the wisdom of Madiba, who said, ‘In the end, reconciliation is a spiritual process, which requires more than just a legal framework. It has to happen in the hearts and minds of people.'”

“There is no panacea for the challenge posed by systemic racism. It has to be fought on multiple fronts, including the transformation of the economic and social structures that underpin inequality, including racial inequity. Both structures and individuals need to be urgently challenged. Robust dialogue is essential to hear and engage the sentiments expresses, sometimes anonymously, on social media. Dialogue predicated on the need for action and committed to undertaking the action required.”

“The Foundation is well aware that after twenty-two years of democracy, progress towards a more equal society has been too slow. We need fresh strategies supported by imaginative mediation mechanisms to overcome the scourge of racism.”

“The establishment of the Anti-Racism Network of South Africa (ARNSA) is one appropriate response. ARNSA seeks to build awareness, mobilise resources, co-ordinate action, and focus interventions. In March 2016 ARNSA will promote an anti-racism week to underpin its commitment to using all means to build the South Africa of our dreams.”

“I call on South Africans to engage with each other with a greater sense of appreciation and to avoid turning to hate speech and violence. Let us challenge racism wherever we encounter it and show solidarity with those on the receiving end of racism.”

“Madiba once said, ‘If there is one lesson we can learn from the struggle against racism … it is that racism must be consciously combatted, and not discreetly tolerated.'”

“Let us keep working for the future of our dreams.”

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