The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF) welcomes the pronouncements made by the South African Human Rights Commission in relation to utterances made and posters displayed at the Economic Freedom Fighter’s Provincial People’s Assembly held in the Western Cape on 16 October 2022.
The AKF is one of many that voiced their concerns to the SAHRC immediately the utterances and visuals of that gathering became public.
In recent years, South Africa – and the world at large – continues to see the persistent rise in the usage of language that incites and divides and which ultimately undermines our Constitution. Calls for people to be killed in any context is deplorable but is even more worrying when it comes from leaders of political parties that have significant representation in Parliament.
At the recent EFF gathering, Mr. Malema is reported to have said as a justification for calls to kill “the racists” “Why did Mandela take up a gun, he was the first soldier of Umkhonto we Sizwe to distribute roses? He took up a gun because the revolution had reached up a point where there is no longer an alternative but to kill.”
Today there are many peaceful and constitutional alternatives to deal with issues of racism and intolerances. These were not there when Mandela and others opted for the armed struggle against apartheid.
The Republic of South Africa was not the same place it is now. There was no constitutional democracy, and there were no peaceful, constitutional alternatives to deal with the issue of racism and the effects of racial hatred. The armed struggle took place in a context where the state was disreputable, and the legitimate rule of law was non-existent. Mr. Malema denigrates the very constitutional democracy of the country he wants to lead and serve
We hope that Mr. Malema and the EFF will rethink their rejection of the call by the SAHRC to:
“Appropriately retract and apologise for the prima facie unlawful statements in question and give appropriate undertakings to desist from further promotion of hatred and violence on any ground.”
It is in this context that the AKF was pleased when Mr. Julius Malema recently indicated that he would take legal action against Mr. Kenny Kunene for calling him a “cockroach.” The usage of language perceived to be dehumanizing has a history of being a precursor to violence and its manifestation in places such as Rwanda and elsewhere are pointers that must make leaders especially mindful of their choice of words.
Placing the issue regarding Mr. Kunene’s comments before the judiciary was the correct approach by Mr. Malema, as is the intended usage of the Equality Court by the SAHRC.
The AKF similarly welcomes the release of the report of the inquiry into allegations of racism at Stellenbosch University.
Fatima Moosa from the ‘Daily Vox’ summarised the key findings of the report as being that the “transformation policies have not translated into the lived experiences of students and staff.” The report found that the university had made “impressive theoretical strides towards transformation” but Black students and staff members still feel unwelcome and excluded at the university.
To address the issue of racism, it is necessary that a holistic approach be adopted that looks at the structural, systemic, and interpersonal effects of racism. The AKF supports the recommendations by the Commission headed by Judge Sisi Khampepe that the university should be working to create an institutional culture welcoming of all, as well as the more substantive and difficult racial justice work that the institution must do.
Several recommendations were made by the Commission, which have relevance for both Stellenbosch University and its Equality Unit. The Commission recommended that
- The university should implement major reform interventions in Huis Marais.
- The University should improve the Equality Unit’s reputation and efficacy as an instrumental role player in resolving disputes relating to unfair discrimination.
- Compulsory training on matters relating to discrimination and transformation for all members should be undertaken at all levels of the institution.
- The University must take deliberate steps to ensure that all student leaders have access to support and guidance, especially during times of crisis.
- The University should consider reviewing and revising the language policy to remove the possibility of language exclusion through the preference of Afrikaans.
- The University should Implement a compulsory, Shared Humanities module, to facilitate this critical process of introspection and growth.
Vice Chancellor Wim de Villiers acknowledged that Stellenbosch University
“Must face the reality that there is a gap between our intentions concerning various transformation initiatives and the implementation thereof. We must work hard to align our institutional commitments with what is happening in practice and on the ground level.”
It is this level of commitment and on-going assessment of transformative initiatives that is necessary in guaranteeing an inclusive and equitable South Africa.
The SAHRC and the university leadership have taken important steps to deal with issues that threaten our fragile democracy and deserve the support of those who share the ideals and aspirations of our constitution. All our leaders are encouraged to do likewise.