President talks tough on ethnic chauvinism

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The National Assembly’s house chairperson of internal arrangements, Thoko Didiza, had to suspend a question and answer session for a few minutes to restore order after an exchange between Members of Parliament went from a series of point of orders to unparliamentary insults. 

Tension heightened when the events culminated into a heated racial exchange, which was followed by a scuffle that led to two MPs – Agang’s Molapi Tlouamma and EFF’s Nazier Paulsen – being ejected from the house. 

Not long after the incident, President Cyril Ramaphosa, who earlier said he was taken aback by what had unfolded, said one of the questions on the question paper, asked by ANC MP Luziso Makhubela-Mashele, was linked to what had just unfolded. 

Makhubela-Mashele had said in her question that there is an increasing open display of ethnic chauvinism and narrow nationalism, which posed a threat to the country’s social cohesion. Makhubela-Mashele had asked what steps government was taking to address the problem.   

“This question addresses possibly an issue that seems to have emerged in this house, as you have observed and dealing with issues of ethnic chauvinism and narrow nationalism. 

“The emergence of ethnic chauvinism and narrow nationalism represents a direct challenge to the hopes of our people and the values of our Constitution.

“We need to respond to these tendencies as a society,” President Ramaphosa said. 

Advancing social cohesion in schools 

The President said while there is much that government can do to reinforce the principles of the Constitution, all sectors of society -- parents, community structures, schools, faith-based organisations, employers, trade unions, civil society and all public bodies -- also need to play their part as well. 

He said government regards schools as a foundation for advancing social cohesion. 

“[Government] introduced the National Identity Passport of Patriotism in schools in 2014, which contains many of our important symbols that define our national identity.

“It is finalising the auditing of teaching and learning material for latent racism, sexism, stereotypes and other forms of discrimination.
“A teachers’ guide has been developed to provide practical ways for schools to promote the rights and responsibilities of children,” he said. 

The President said government has also promoted the recital of the Preamble of the Constitution in public schools and printed the preamble on the cover of the workbook on Life Orientation. 

“We have also introduced the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which gives effect to our obligations in terms of the Constitution and international human rights instruments concerning racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

“Constitutional awareness campaigns through the media, highlighting the constitutional values, continue.

“Some departments have focused this campaign specifically on vulnerable and marginalised groups,” he said. 

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development conducts community dialogues on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms intolerances.

“The Department of Basic Education is incrementally introducing the African languages programme in schools as part of promoting and increasing multilingualism in schools.

“The task of building a non-racial society cannot be separated from the task of redressing the huge material inequalities in our society.

“We therefore need to pursue all measures to combat racism, ethic chauvinism and narrow nationalism alongside a clear programme to create jobs, tackle poverty and transform the economy,” said President Ramaphosa. –