The 14th of November 2015, was an historic day. It was on this day that the Anti-Racism Network South Africa (ARNSA) was officially launched by some 60 civil society organisations.

This followed months of planning, development and consultation by the convening partnership – the Ahmed Kathrada and Nelson Mandela Foundations. These foundations have individually and together come to the conclusion that there has been a major weakness in post-apartheid nation-building processes, specifically around issues of race.

They have also come to the conclusion that efforts to deal with this over the last 20 years have often remained piecemeal, under-communicated and limited to certain cities and towns. This is at least partially because there is a lack of unity of action across civil society, even on an issue that produces as much unified revulsion as racism.

This network is made up of a broad range of organisations, institutions and individuals from across the country, brought together under the common vision of a South Africa free from racism in all its forms. ARNSA will act as a means by which the localised efforts of many organisations and individuals can gain support and multiply in effect across the country. It will be a structure where knowledge can be shared.

Last Saturday, those involved in the launch engaged in a vibrant debate over the content of a Guiding Principles document that could represent as broad an array of anti-racist ideologies as possible, without sacrificing its effectiveness. While this debate was energetic, it was deeply heart-warming to witness the unity of purpose that emerged – the beginnings of what Professor Achille Mbembe, the keynote speaker, called “a common horizon”. The Guiding Principles covered much of the vision, mission and objectives of the network, as well as the operating structure and scope of work. This was adopted subject to several minor alterations, allowing the launch event to proceed to a discussion of the practical activism that affiliated organisations could engage in in the coming year.

The intention is to introduce ARNSA to South Africans with a combination of campaigns and events across the country in 2016, raising its status. This will, as a result, make systematic, activist anti-racism central to our national conversation in the coming years.

In future, it is hoped that ARNSA will serve as a platform to make anti-racist action a key feature of life in South Africa, a country synonymous worldwide with the success of anti-racism work through the fall of apartheid.

* Luke Spiropoulos is a researcher at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.

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