The challenges of self-determination

Efforts at self-determination by groups in South Africa still face various obstacles, Rhodes University chancellor Jakes Gerwel said on Friday.

”Though there is room to move forward in terms of Article 235 it should not be accompanied by the perception of crude ethnic diversity,” Gerwel told delegates at a conference on self-determination.

About 100 delegates from across South Africa are attending the two-day conference at Orania in the Northern Cape.

Article 235 of the South African Constitution recognises a community’s self-determination within the framework of the Constitution and the law. The conference, organised by the Orania Movement, is examining how Article 235 of the Constitution could be practically implemented.

Gerwel said one of the challenges faced in regard to efforts of self-determination was to steer clear of all perceptions pertaining to racism.

Chairperson of the Orania Movement, Carel Boshoff said earlier that the conference message was a positive one.

”We want this conference to be a voice across South Africa in making the idea of a territorial entity for people representing a certain cultural and language group more acceptable,” he said.

Boshoff said the conference was also aimed at guarding that Article 235 did not fall into disuse. ”This could lead to it losing its force,” he said.

Political analyst Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert told delegates there was nothing wrong with communities in South Africa striving for self-determination.

”It is enshrined in our Constitution,” he said.

Van Zyl Slabbert said that Article 235 was an ”opportunity that was created” within the Constitution for cultural and language communities to use.

”However, do not expect that any government would remind you that there is an article in the Constitution like 235, if they [communities] do not use the opportunity.”

He said those who felt strongly about aspects such as their language –be it Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu or Venda — should mobilise themselves to create a language-specific heritage.

However, Van Zyl Slabbert did not see any territorial self-determination soon.

Gerwel echoed this and said the South African government had put a lot of effort into establishing unity.

The village of Orania, between Hopetown and Petrusville, was bought about 15 years ago by a group of individuals in an effort to set-up a self proclaimed Volkstaat.

The conference continues on Saturday. – Sapa

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