Posted on March 8, 2017

‘Become an Activist Against Racism’

Times Live, March 8, 2017


South Africans are being asked to pledge to #TakeOnRacism during Anti-Racism Week from March 14-21‚ a campaign launched on Wednesday by Gauteng Premier David Makhura.

Makhura‚ speaking at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg‚ commended the campaign organisers‚ the Anti-Racism Network South Africa (ARNSA)‚ for uniting various sectors of society to tackle the scourge.

The network is spearheaded by the Ahmed Kathrada and Nelson Mandela Foundations‚ and constitutes some 60 other organisations from various regions across South Africa.

“The Anti-Racism Network comes at a right time‚ initiated by organisations supported by civil society‚ when we have to talk as a country‚” Makhura said‚ referring to what he called “persistent” and “stubborn” racism and related intolerances‚ such as xenophobia.

Makhura stated that despite democratisation‚ “there are many unfree people amongst us”.

“So long as we have racism‚ the struggle continues. We cannot call ourselves a free people when there are millions of our people discriminated against.”

Sello Hatang‚ the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation‚ said that Anti-Racism Week challenges us to “be conscious” enough of be aware of what happens around us. He added that it should be an occasion to recommit to ideals of South Africa’s liberation heroes‚ and pledge to take on racism‚ not just when incidents occur‚ but on a sustained basis.

Hatang, speaking to 702 radio host Stephen Grootes on the Midday Report‚ which was shared by Lead SA‚ said conversations about racism should begin at home and around the dinner table.

Despite the difficulties this may bring owing to generational difficulties‚ he said the conversation needs to happen without excuses.

“It’s that thing when all of us tolerate racism‚ tolerate xenophobia‚ tolerate sexism‚ that these things thrive.”

Hatang‚ asked whether criminalising racism will change the minds of the racist‚ responded by saying it is not enough.

“We over-legislate over things.”

His views were echoed by the Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation‚ Neeshan Balton‚ who stated that Anti-Racism Week is about ensuring that addressing racism remains a key priority on the national agenda‚ and that it promotes “progressive ideals in a world that is increasingly seeing the re-emergence of right-wing leadership and values”.

The campaign’s supporting organisations come from various sectors including sport‚ faith based institutions‚ government departments‚ civil society groups‚ media houses and the business sector. The week itself will see numerous activities taking place in various communities from March 14 onwards. The campaign culminates on March 21‚ marked in South Africa as Human Rights Day and globally as the International Day Against Racial Discrimination.

Sean Moodley‚ the national convener of ARNSA‚ said: “Racism is something that needs to be collectively addressed. We hope that people across the country will participate in the week by organising self-initiated activities and projects against racism. This could be anything from a school assembly against racism‚ to an in-house workplace discussion about race‚ or a religious sermon highlighting the importance of anti-racism work. The concept for Anti-Racism Week is that of ‘becoming’‚ and we hope that it provides the platform for every individual to ‘become’ an activist for anti-racism.”