The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation joins the global community in condemning the brutality of law enforcement agencies, particularly against black people, both in South Africa and in the United States of America.
Police and army brutality is a striking demonstration of the legacy of centuries of racism and violence that continues to persist.
The merciless killing of George Floyd in the USA, and the deaths of Collins Khosa, Sibusiso Amos, Petrus Miggels, Adane Emmanuel, Elma Robyn Montsumi and Ntando Elias Sigasa in South Africa, is a painful reminder of this legacy.
We commend members of the public, journalists and civil society for ensuring that these deaths do not go unnoticed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The killing of Floyd has ushered in an unprecedented show of opposition to racism and police brutality from almost every corner of the globe. This incident has evoked the anger of millions who cherish and look forward to a world of justice, equality and dignity for all, and who have realised the implications of not challenging growing right wing racism.
The Foundation acknowledges that the US Embassy in South Africa has quoted its country’s Attorney General on the death of Floyd, indicating that justice will be served. However, the Embassy falls short of an outright condemnation of the killing.
We hope that the Embassy will impress upon its government the sense of global outrage at the killing, and the indignation at President Donald Trump’s inadequate response and lack of moral courage in addressing the racial tensions.
Speaking at a UN event in Geneva to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada said the following: “Racist groups have moved from being marginal to now being able to access the political institutions of the state. Once state power has been captured, the possibility of them taking direct, legitimate action to transform society is very real.”
We have seen the direct consequences of this with the election of leaders such as Trump, Borris Johnson, Narendra Modi and Jair Balsenaro, among others.
Kathrada warned that “right wing groups have benefitted from the regression of the fight against racism. These groups have benefitted from the democratic legitimisation of racist and xenophobic ideas”.
He concluded his address by calling for “a Green Peace of anti-racism”, which essentially points to the need for coordinated effort globally to combat racism.
The Kathrada Foundation reiterates the call by civil society, global human rights movements and concerned individuals demanding justice for victims of violence exacted by law enforcement authorities, both here and in the USA.
We call for thorough investigations to be conducted in cases where people have died in police custody, or shortly after being assaulted by law enforcement agents. The officers or soldiers involved in these and other brutal attacks must be held accountable if they are found to have violated basic human rights.
The conclusions from the SANDF probe into the death of Collins Khosa after allegedly being assaulted by soldiers come across as being a cover up. This probe must be reopened.
Our government should not think that South Africans will allow for the erosion of their human rights and democratic values, simply because we are fighting a pandemic. This period, more than ever, calls for an entrenchment of democratic practices.
Anti-Racism Manager at the Kathrada Foundation, Busisiwe Nkosi, said it was troubling that the lives of black people still continue to be disregarded. “That black lives continue being undervalued is part of systemic racism that in recent years has been given momentum through the global rise of white supremacist ideals. When political leadership does not address the issue head on, it results in a normalisation of this ‘undervaluing’.”
Nkosi added that this must be seen within the broader context of institutionalised racism in all facets of life, from housing to education and healthcare. “With a history of institutional racism and oppression, South Africans are acutely aware of what it means for black people to be dehumanised,” she said.
“At the onset of Youth Month in South Africa, the memories of apartheid and police brutality against the unarmed youth of Soweto in June 1976, which resulted in over 600 deaths, must enjoin us to stand in solidarity with the victims of similar racialised violence today.
“At the same time, we should draw strength from the magnitude and diversity of the millions across the world who have come out onto the streets in solidarity with black Americans.”
June also commemorates the 65th anniversary of the Freedom Charter in South Africa. The document was drawn up 7 years after apartheid was formally adopted as state policy, but captures the hopes and aspirations of ordinary South Africans for racial equality.
“The Freedom Charter has served as a vision of hope not only for South Africa, but provides a template for better world in which the humanity of every individual is recognised. It is this vision, for a more equal society, that should continue serving as an inspiration for anti-racist movements today in championing an inclusive and just world,” Nkosi said.