Address at a Department of Arts and Culture event at the Sharpville Cricket Pitch "Human Rights Day", Gauteng by the UDM President (21 March 2010)


Ladies and gentlemen

I would like to thank the Department of Arts & Culture for extending an invitation for me to represent the UDM at today’s event. This is the culmination of a discussion opposition party leaders had with the President and Deputy President last year, where we expressed concern that Government seemed to have abandoned the nation-building and social cohesion effort. It seemed that public holidays were being turned into ruling party events; all the leaders agreed that this was wrong. It was agreed that we should unite on days such as these to remember our shared heritage and the importance of cherishing the democratic society we are building.

We should not forget the causes which led the bloodshed in the sixties here in Sharpeville. Today we celebrate our human rights because we have defeated Apartheid. The foremost reason for Apartheid was racism.

Today I would like to speak about racism and how we should jettison ourselves from the problems that are caused by racism.

The wisdom, statesmanship and skill with which the transition from Apartheid to democracy was made stunned the world by creating such a miracle of peaceful change in a situation that could have been a bloody catastrophe because of the latent racial animosities inherent in our brutal and hateful past.

This unique historical feat generated such euphoria in our new democracy that we have tended to take our past for granted and believed that racism would suddenly disappear at the flick of a magic wand.

It would not be, ours is a deeply divided society.  All the elements of our history have conspired to reinforce a wide social chasm between sections of our nation that will require the type of wisdom and skills, the temperament and accommodation that characterised our historic CODESA negotiations, in order to bridge it and enable the weavings of a coherent and harmonious society in our nation.

During the colonial era political and economic power came to be identified with the conquering cultural white racial groupings who alone enjoyed the social privileges of a dominant social caste.  Apartheid was the culmination of this social engineering and it, became so institutionalised that it permeates the entire societal fabric and the psyche of the nation.

The advent of democracy and the social and political opportunities created by this dispensation for blacks have ushered in a new milieu and terrain within which our racist legacy manifests itself.  However there have been accusations and counter-accusations from both sides in response to the policies and strategies advanced by the state for the transformation of our society.

We are therefore faced with a situation where there are subjective perceptions about race on both sides of the social divide.  What we need is an objective appraisal of our society, which will place it in its historical perspective, that approach will distinguish those structural features of society which nurture racism and devise ways of removing them.  It is universally agreed that race was exploited to engineer an oppressive social order which resulted in acute socio-economic disparities between black and white.  Nothing short of an economic revolution will rid us of racism.  A radical economic transformation has to occur within acceptable timeframes that can avert the type of a social explosion that the CODESA negotiations succeeded in avoiding.  The creation of our economic egalitarian society cannot be left to the vagaries of the market forces only that are inherent in current economic policy. It is only then that we will be in a position to talk of the realisation of human rights in South Africa; when everyone reaps the fruits of the economy. Indeed when we have done a proper audit of our resources and who manages it for future generations; not the current situation where there seems to be a free-for-all of looting the state resources.

We need a creative state intervention, which recognises that artificially created impediments to social advancement of the disadvantaged majority are removed and a programme of accelerated wealth and land redistribution is implemented without delay.  None of the current economic strategies of parastatal privatisation and selective black empowerment can achieve that objective.  A transformed economic order will give impetus to other social and educational programmes that are designed to truly integrate our society and create a new democratic South African ethos.

I thank you.