Building nonracial society requires mindset shift, says Zuma

January 9, 2016, 5:04pm


Jacob Zuma. Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS  

By Natasha Marrian, Business Day Live

THE African National Congress (ANC) anniversary statement ticked all the boxes but was lacklustre in inspiration, proceeding a economic crisis at the tail-end of 2015 and ahead of a crucial election mere months away.

President Jacob Zuma delivered the ANC national executive committee's anniversary statement in sweltering heat blazing down on some 60,000 supporters at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg in the North West on Saturday.

Mr Zuma said building a nonracial society required a "mindset" shift which respected the basic human dignity of all people.

He said a tiny minority still wanted segregation and idolised apartheid leaders who made SA the "skunk of the world".

"These people do not represent the true character of the new South Africa," he said.

The last week was dominated by intense debate over the state of race relations in SA, following a racist and offensive social media post by a Durban realtor — which dominoed into an economist, a television anchor and a television and radio personality also being called out for prejudice.

Mr Zuma said the ANC would continue to address the economic legacy of apartheid as race and class were inextricably linked after 300 years of systematic discrimination, dispossession and super-exploitation.

"There must be redress and ongoing active interventions to ensure that all our people benefit, equitably, from our freedom," he said.

He called on ANC structures to lead a debate on what it means to be South African, on what unites and divides citizens. ANC structures are also set to develop specific campaigns against racism.

He added that democracy must be protected by all citizens and warned against "spurious attempts to circumvent the legitimate exercise of people's power".

"Emerging tendencies to engage in low intensity lawfare are attempts to divert the legitimate democratic outcomes.

"These action fly in the face of the fundamental and basic principles of democracy," Mr Zuma said, referring to actions by some media, analysts and also court action against the government.

He described attempts at disrupting Parliament as "counter-revolutionary" conduct.

"The ANC will not tolerate this desperate and despicable conduct."

Turning to local government, Mr Zuma re-affirmed the party's commitment to the back to basics programme — he added that the party needed to work "harder and smarter" to ensure that citizens' experience of local government would be positive.

Mr Zuma urged ANC members to mobilise support for the party ahead of the upcoming local elections, but did not speak to the challenges within the party with regard to the selection of councillors before the polls.

The theme for 2016 was "advancing people's power" in ensuring that citizens had a direct say in who would lead them. However, the process has caused contestation within the party over the selection process — which includes those nominated subjected to scrutiny by their communities.

A handful of supporters became restless and disrupted Mr Zuma's hour-long address requesting water, which was being distributed by marshalls around the stadium.

One supporter, clad in red coveralls was tackled to the ground as he bypassed security checkpoints and ran onto the pitch. The event was preceded by a tumultuous day after it emerged that the party's Western Cape chairman Marius Fransman had been charged with sexual assault.

The January 8 statement will be further refined in an upcoming Cabinet lekgotla and implementable outcomes would be announced by Mr Zuma in his state of the nation address.