White South Africans have not reciprocated black people’s attempts to reconcile South Africans across racial lines, says President Jacob Zuma.
During a Human Rights Day commemoration in Durban on Monday, speaking in Zulu, Zuma said it was still difficult for the majority of white people to extend a hand of reconciliation to black people.
“It seems it is only black people’s responsibility to reconcile. We need to discuss this and deal with it head on.”
Although the commemoration was a government event, most people who packed the Moses Mabhida Stadium were in ANC regalia, and there were no whites present.
Zuma said nothing about his controversial relationship with the Gupta family or about allegations that they had offered cabinet positions to senior ANC leaders.
He commended black people for extending a hand of friendship to white people to “build a united, reconciled and non-racial society”.
“Today we commend black society for agreeing in 1994 to put aside the pain they endured under oppression and forgive white people in order to build new South Africa.”
He said white South Africans were “deeply damaged” by the apartheid system and this made it difficult for them to reconcile with black people.
“There is still a long way to go before we can say we have successfully reversed the impact of institutionalised racism in our country or to remove prejudice among those who subscribe to the notion of white supremacy.”
However, he also commended white South Africans who during the struggle for liberation of black people sacrificed their privileges to join the struggle.
He was referring to struggle stalwarts such as Afrikaner lawyer Bram Fischer, David Webster, SACP leader Joe Slovo and his wife, Ruth First.
“There are many white freedom fighters that joined the struggle for liberation and contributed to the attainment of freedom and democracy in our country,” he said.
He appealed to all racial groups to be part of building a new society.
“We must work harder to eliminate the view that reconciliation is a one-way process where the black majority extends a hand of friendship, but with little reciprocation from their white compatriots.”
He said some people had used freedom of speech to express racist views while defending their stances.
“We should thus be alert to subtle and disguised racism perpetuated through the stereotyping of individuals or groups of people in the media, through cartoons and satire.”
Zuma said the government, through the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, had drafted a National Action Plan to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which would be used to fight all forms of discrimination.
“The plan is designed to raise awareness of anti-racism, equality and anti-discrimination issues among public officials, civil society and the general public, mobilising support from a wide range of people.”
“It will help us ensure that the concerns of individuals and groups encountering racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are not brushed aside or underplayed, and that they are more effectively addressed.”
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu called on South Africans to work together and accept that they were a non-racial society. He said those who resisted change should be “pulled and pushed” into the new society.
“If you look at your mirror and see something else it is for your own private enjoyment, but the colour of South Africa is non-racialism.
“We invite them, those who still have a hangover, into the new South Africa,” he said.