Social development


South Africa tackles racism

4 February 2016

"Twenty-two years into democracy, we have to reflect on the path we have travelled so far as a rainbow nation, how far have we gone and what the challenges are," said Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the launch of the inaugural Anti-Racism Week. The week will run from 14 to 21 March 2016.

Minister of Arts and Culture Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa speaks about anti-racism at the Nelson Mandela Foundation on 2 February 2016. (Image: Priya Pitamber)

The initiative comes from the newly established Anti-Racism Network South Africa (Arnsa) and is a mechanism to deal with racism in South Africa. Facilitated by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the network was launched in November last year and is made up of approximately 80 civil society organisations and government institutions. Its aim is to tackle racism at a national level. Its slogan is simple and concise: Racism is wrong.

The organisation held a press briefing to mark the launch of Anti-Racism Week at the Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Joburg on 2 February. The day coincided with the 26th anniversary of the announcement of the release of Mandela from prison.

Causes and solutions

South Africa should adopt a multi-pronged approach, said the minister, to deal with racism. Mthethwa questioned what people could do if they went beyond their anger. He suggested mobilisation was the answer, and said Arnsa was an exciting initiative. "It's one that we'll support."

Nation-building was a project about which Mandela was passionate but we had not completed it, said the chief executive of the Mandela Foundation, Sello Hatang. "Madiba helped us climb only one hill; we had to as a nation deal with our own wounds." He said racism was entrenched in us from the times of colonialism and slavery.

"While responses to racism are often seen as coming from government or corporates, there is a need to develop community responses," Hatang noted. "One of our main goals is to uproot racism from families.

"We also urge organisations to take the lead and introduce [an] Anti-Racism Week in the workplace; whether it's staff training or a T-shirt campaign.

"How wonderful it would be to go into banks or shops around the country and see employees wearing T-shirts that read: 'Racism is wrong.'"

Neeshan Balton of the Kathrada Foundation said eradicating racism was the responsibility of everyone, not only the government.

"To tackle it effectively in South Africa requires consistent and sustainable anti-racism organisations and programmes nationally," he said. "We approach this work with the realisation that it is not short-term work but must span across generations."

What you can do for Anti-Racism Week

Arnsa convener Sean Moodley called on different sectors of civil society, such as faith-based organisations, municipalities, sports bodies and schools, to play a big role in the campaign by hosting activities and programmes that spoke of a non-racial South Africa.

His first call to action was aimed at faith-based organisations, which, he said, already played a big role in fighting racism. "I strongly believe racism is a spiritual evil.

"Over the weekend of Anti-Racism Week, from 18 to 20 March, we urge these organisations within the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Christian communities, to put a huge effort into making this an Anti-Racism Weekend," he said. "We believe you already have the infrastructure in place to extend your reach far and wide."

Moodley called on corporate South Africa to take the week seriously and "put their money where their mouth is".

The following activities will take place during Anti-Racism Week:

  • There'll be an art competition for schools, nationally;
  • Dialogues on anti-racism will take place at places of worship churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples;
  • Sporting bodies will be asked to dedicate all major sporting events to stand against racism;
  • Arnsa will launch an anti-racism pledge for all South Africans to undertake;
  • The focus for Human Rights Day on 21 March will be on anti-racism;
  • There'll be a national dialogue on the role white people can play in addressing racism; and,
  • A social and traditional media campaign will focus on "Why racism hurts".

"Madiba would have said our diversity was our strength," concluded Mthethwa. "The road to social progress is always under construction."

sean moodley arnsa convener south africa, racism, anti-racism week, arnsa, nathi mthethwa, sello hatang, sean moodley, neeshan balton, nelson mandela, mandela foundationAnti-Racism Network South Africa convener Sean Moodley calls on all sectors of civil society to tackle racism in South Africa at the launch of Anti-Racism Week, held at the Nelson Mandela Foundation on 2 February 2016. (Image: Priya Pitamber)

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