Cabinet: Racism remains a challenge

The South African Cabinet has condemned recent incidents of racism and sexism around the country, saying they have the potential to undermine South Africa’s Constitution, a government spokesperson said on Thursday.

“The transgressors must know that there will be legal consequences for undermining the Constitution and [trampling] the rights of others,” government communications head Themba Maseko told a post-Cabinet media briefing at Parliament.

The incidents include the notorious University of the Free State (UFS) video, the attack on a young woman wearing a miniskirt by taxi drivers in Johannesburg and 2010 local organising committee chairperson Irvin Khoza’s use of the word “kaffir”.

At its regular fortnightly meeting on Wednesday, the Cabinet took a dim view of the incidents, which had the potential to undermine the country’s goal of building a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society, Maseko said.

The meeting strongly condemned the production of the racist video by four students at the UFS.

“The humiliation of workers who are old enough to be their parents is totally unacceptable and cannot, under any circumstances, be condoned by anyone.

“This incident highlights the fact that racism still remains one of the major challenges that face our young democracy.”

The video exposed deep-seated racist stereotypes harboured by a section of the population and constituted a complete disregard for the rights, not only of the workers of the institution, but also a total disrespect for adults, he said.

“The government believes that the majority of South Africans are trying hard to emerge from the apartheid legacy of racial discrimination, and no effort must be spared in ensuring that the South African project of building a united nation is not undermined by individuals who are opposed to transformation.”

The university should show strong leadership by bringing those responsible to book and setting an example to all institutions of higher learning by adopting concrete measures to abolish all forms of racism in the institution.

Condemnation

The Cabinet also condemned unreservedly the recent harassment of a young woman by taxi drivers in Johannesburg for wearing a miniskirt.

“Such an attack represents the most backward and the worst form of gender-based abuse and deserves condemnation by all South Africans,” Maseko said.

“The government calls on all men, and taxi drivers in particular, to stop harassing women and to distance themselves from any sexist and disrespectful behaviour against our mothers and daughters.”

The meeting further condemned the use of the word “kaffir” by “a senior soccer official” at a press conference recently.

“We should take care not to use derogatory words that were used to demean black persons in this country.

“Words such as ‘kaffir’, ‘coolie’, ‘boesman’, ‘hotnot’ and many others have negative connotations and remain offensive as they were used to degrade, undermine and strip South Africans of their humanity and dignity,” Maseko said.

The only good that should come out of these unfortunate incidents was that South Africans, irrespective of race, gender, religion, colour or creed should openly confront the scourge of racism, sexism and other undemocratic practices that continued to surface from time to time.

“All institutions must develop diversity programmes aimed at training and educating both young and old about the country’s history and the reasons why the principles of non-racialism, non-sexism and non-discrimination had to be enshrined in our Constitution.

“While these diversity management programmes are important, those who engage in activities that undermine the constitutional rights of others must face the full might of the law.

“The public, particularly the victims of abuses, are encouraged to fully utilise institutions that were created by the Constitution, such as the courts, the Human Rights Commission, the Gender Commission and others, to enforce their rights.”—Sapa

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