The United Nations International Day for Tolerance gives us a much-needed opportunity to reflect about the level of tolerance, or intolerance, in our world and specifically our own society.

The United Nations through UNESCO, have succeeded in putting tolerance on the international agenda. Unfortunately we cannot deny that intolerance is rampant, illustrated so vividly by the ever-increasing number of regional conflicts occurring all over the planet. We are thus stuck with the conundrum of an increasing acceptance of the principle of tolerance amongst the states of the world, which in practice is not reflected.

In South Africa we face the same contradiction, tolerance in the Bill of Rights and other legislation, but increasing intolerance in reality. It is sad that one can easily list a litany of examples of intolerance in our country over the past few months, three striking examples being:

  1. The necessary, but badly executed, debate on racism in the media.

  2. The horrific police-dog torture incident, although it occurred two years ago, which has ignited a debate that highlights the current underlying intolerance in our society.

  3. The ongoing political clashes resulting in deaths, as was illustrated with the death of five ANC members in KZN over the weekend.

The question must be asked of South Africaís political leaders: What are you doing to promote tolerance? The answer is one that most would wish to avoid, certainly the continued verbal abuse exchanged by Thabo Mbeki and Tony Leon cannot be said to contribute to tolerance, we would even argue that it has encouraged intolerance.

The UDM is founded on the principle of bringing all people together and for us it is sad to see the predictable exchanges between the ANC and the DA, where the olive branch is rarely extended and only when there is certainty that it wonít be accepted. While they sling mud we wonder if they realise that their intolerance towards each other is creating stereotypes in the minds of South Africans. Stereotypes on the one hand of a white minority that will always complain and nitpick, and on the other hand of a black majority who couldnít be bothered with the niceties of accountability and transparency. Both stereotypes become self-fulfilling prophecies.

These stale interactions play on the fears of the separate constituencies of the ANC and DA and will keep them perpetually separate, and increasingly suspicious and intolerant of the other groupís behaviour as time goes by. As much as the DA criticise Mbekiís badly expressed "two nations" observation, the DA is responsible for enforcing exactly that observation. We need to realise that the oil that keeps the machine of democracy running smoothly is frequent, informal and sincere meetings between all political leaders, to promote dialogue and tolerance. We must terminate this idea that heated arguments in Parliament and the media is all that is required to keep our democracy alive and well.

On the eve of the municipal elections we call on all political parties to promote tolerance to ensure that we avoid the violent incidents that occurred before the 1999 general elections. We call on the ANC specifically to distance itself from the perception that it is always the common denominator in political conflicts. An ANC member was quoted in a newspaper yesterday saying that a UDM MPL in the Eastern Cape, who expressed concern after an ANC member discharged a weapon at a UDM rally, "must learn to live with these clashes during election time". It is statements such as these that reflect a dangerous attitude of intolerance.

The UDM calls on all its members, and all South Africans, to use the International Day for Tolerance to contemplate what they can do in their daily lives to get back that wonderful feeling of Uhuru that made us feel invincible six short years ago and which we have lost along the way.

Enquiries: Bantu Holomisa, MP
UDM President

Cape Town
15 November 2000