Speech by the Deputy Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Honourable Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, MP
WCC/SACC Peace-building & Reconciliation Consultation:
The Place of the Church
at Soweto Hotel and Conference Centre
on 09 June 2016
Theme: “A Time to Reconcile and Build a Nation”
Bishop Zipho Siwa;
Rev Prof Mary Anne Plaatjies Van Huffel;
World Council of Churches Representatives
South African Council of Churches Representatives
Thank you programme director for the time afforded for me to be able to make a contribution in this crucial session happening at a time wherein there is plenty economic opportunities, continental integration and solidarity are taking place in our country. Let me congratulate you on the successful organisation of this conference tackling key issues such as peace-building & reconciliation. It is time for the church to take its right place in the society whilst being able to partake in coming up with relevant solutions for the challenges we face today.
Challenges in the Attainment of Social Justice
In pursuit of social justice post the apartheid era there are many aspects to deal with, but as government the starting point of bringing about a stable South Africa we came up with the notion of tackling the triple challenge i.e. unemployment with lack of economic inclusion, inequality and poverty. People have introduced new concepts such as social cohesion which are all aimed at nation building.
We have gone a step further to also come up with the nine point plan aimed at improving the country’s economic outlook. The nine-point plan priority areas ranked according to significance are:
• Resolving the energy challenge;
• Upping the agricultural value chain;
• Beneficiation through adding value to mineral resources;
• More effective implementation of higher impact industrial policy action plan;
• Encouraging private sector investment;
• Moderating work place conflict;
• Unlocking the potential of SMMEs, cooperatives, townships and rural enterprises;
• Reform of state owned companies, broad band roll out, water sanitation and transport infrastructure and
• Operation Phakisa which aims to grow the ocean economy - such as the shipping and storage of energy products.
The sectors mentioned in the nine-point plan are not only meant to improve the South African economic outlook but also to tackle socio-economic challenges such as unemployment, inequality and poverty through employment creation and community development so as to realise an inclusive economic growth.
There are concrete things which we have made to ensure that those who were initially excluded are now included. Some of these interventions include amongst others sector charters and funding for previously disadvantaged groups
Some of the challenges that we are still grabbling with includes exclusions due to lack of critical skills, exclusion due to lack of financial skills etc.
The notion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was an endeavour to say how we deal with the injustices of the past. Our rich history of negotiations has taught us that great progress can be achieved sitting around the table and discuss issues.
Some of the challenges that we faced after the process was the question of how do we deal with the perpetrators. We are still today faced with issues such as racism. In a plight to save a decaying morals in the society we’ve had to come up with programmes such as moral regeneration.
Talking about reconciliation, one cannot help but remember the earlier contributions and work of our internationally renowned icon, uTata Nelson Mandela. There are two occasions where he talked extensively of our self-consciousness as the people and where his work was praised.
The former President uTata Nelson Mandela delivered the 5th Steve Biko Annual Lecture on the 10 September 2004, where he talked about the life of Steve Biko and black consciousness. He made reference to the achievements made at the time when he said: “We South Africans have succeeded quite admirably in putting in place policies, structures, processes and implementation procedures for the transformation and development of our country. We are widely recognized and praised for having one of the most progressive constitutions in the world. The solidity of our democratic order, with all of its democracy supporting structures and institutions, is beyond doubt. Our economic framework is sound and we are steadily making progress in bringing basic services to more and more of our people.”
He further said that “the values of human solidarity that once drove our quest for a humane society seem to have been replaced, or are being threatened, by a crass materialism and pursuit of social goals of instant gratification”.
We are also reminded of what Mary Robinson said when she gave her speech during the 10th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture on the 5th August 2012. Her speech was focused on the pillars of our democracy which were also the results of the selfless work by the President uTata Nelson Mandela, these were: “freedom”, “truth” and “democracy”.
Mary Robinson linked these pillars directly with the work that the former president has completed successfully, she said:
“Freedom” – evokes Madiba’s own long walk, and the struggle and sacrifice of ordinary South African citizens, unsung heroes, who stood up against a brutal regime to win their freedom. Physical freedom, from imprisonment in Robben Island, and political freedom, from the shackles of apartheid.
“Truth” – brings to mind South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the first of its kind designed to enable the people to come to terms with the past, admit the truth about atrocities and gross human rights violations, and start the process of reconciliation. But it seems, and understandably given the circumstances, that this process only really scratched the surface, and South Africa remains, a nation of wounded people.
“Democracy” – puts in mind those long queues at polling booths in 1994 all over the country, the tangible excitement as the majority of people voted for the first time. It puts in mind South Africa’s Constitution, admired around the world for the way it values human dignity and frames human rights at its heart. It puts in mind the promise of a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world, symbol of the possibilities for transformation, reconciliation and national unity.
Values Enshrined in the South African Constitution
Our democracy is still at its youthful age and this gives us an opportunity as the society to sop up the values which our democracy subscribes to. We have our Constitution, promulgated in 1996, provides the foundations for building a democratic and inclusive state and is undeniably one of the most progressive in the world. It embodies the noble ideals of unity in diversity, and tolerance and respect for all our cultures and religions. Our Constitutions also promotes values such as truthfulness, openness and integrity as a basis of promoting aspects of our culture which underscores ubuntu.
All of these values can be amplified through our cultural conduct and religion.
It is through processes such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that we have achieved the progress we are realizing today as a nation. In any situation where hostility, violence and war have divided the people, made them enemies and there is distrust and misunderstanding prevailing amongst them; national reconciliation will be a precondition to building that nation.
The TRC was meant to show and teach the world true meaning of ubuntu. The emphasis was on forgiveness but at the same time holding people accountable and ensuring that this does not happen again.
South African National Human Rights Action Plan
In the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted in June 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights recommended to States to consider the desirability of drawing up a national action plan identifying steps whereby States would improve the promotion and protection of human rights.
In December 1997, South Africa launched the “National Plan of Action for Human Rights”. The plan of action stated, among other things, the following:
“Democracy is irreconcilable with racial inequality and social injustice. Democracy is incompatible with poverty, crime, violence and the wanton disregard for human life. Democracy is strengthened and entrenched when society is fully aware of its fundamental human rights and freedoms and lays claim to these.”
This was meant to clearly carve out a way towards a conducive environment within which South Africa’s democracy will thrive.
The Role played by the Youth in our Society
It is always important to constantly reflect on the past in terms of what have we achieved and what it took for us to achieve that.
This month our country celebrates forty years since the ground breaking revolution by our youth which changed our educational landscape. This is exactly forty years since the legendary Soweto Uprisings.
A lesson can be learnt from a young education activist and a 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. At the age of 17 years she is already in ranks of the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Tata Nelson Mandela. She triumphed from a specific cultural context which embroiled certain values. Against all odds she managed to stand out and showed extraordinary courage and continues inspire hope in the lives of other young girls. She openly objected to gender inequality and women oppression; and advocated for young girls' rights to education. She even got to a point where she was shot in a school bus for being vocal about issues which affected young girls and the right to equal chance to education as the boys counter parts.
Our youth should not be subject to the negative image they are been portrayed with, alcohol abuse, substance abuse and exposed to risk. As a nation we ought to learn from other cultures, look at our fellow Indian communities. They have been here since the past 150 years but in no way has their culture been diluted or influenced by our varied cultures. If you look at their education system, their houses of faith and their work ethic; they stick to their tradition throughout and that is the reason why they are successful.
South Africa has been called the rainbow nation because it is made up of so many diverse cultures. Our own culture must be used to pursue reconciliation and social justice. Through our culture and religion we can amend the past social ills. We all know that in the past the colonial laws highly prejudiced our cultures and as a result they are now still underdeveloped.
Positive Economic Policies to Foster Reconciliation
Our evolution as a society has required us to be as vigilant and as aggressive in implementing credible institutional mechanisms and strategies, such as the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) Strategy, Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA), New Growth Path and National Development Plan. All these policies were designed with the aim to reverse the negative socio-economic impact of the former regime, not only that, but also catapult our ability to deliver services to our people within the context of available set of skills in the 21st century.
Using Culture as a Cornerstone of Nation Building
You will agree with me that culture is not something we are born with. It is learned from family, school, religious teachings and nowadays through television and other media. Indeed issues of culture and heritage are with us 365 days a year. Issues of heritage and culture are the cornerstone of nation building. A child is born into a cultural setting, with a rich heritage which, through the process of parenting and socialisation shapes her/his wellbeing throughout the stages of life. Our culture instils in us norms and standards of relating towards each other and behaving in society as a whole. It shapes our identities as well. We all remember what uTata Nelson Mandela said when he addressed parliament in Cape Town on 05 February 1999, he called for the reconstruction of the soul of the nation, "the RDP of the Soul: by this we mean first and foremost respect for life; pride and self-respect as South Africans rather than the notion that we can thrive in senseless self-flagellation."
I believe he said this in realising that in reality there is a mismatch of what our culture teaches us versus our behaviours as society.
The government now speaks about monitoring and evaluation. The church as well should though programmes such as the National Development Plan, form strategic partnerships with government institutions to participate in nation-building programmes such as social cohesion.
I thank you!