Zuma: No ethnic group or race will be dominant
President Jacob Zuma on Monday marked Human Rights Day with a call for a society free of ethnic dominance, stating that no group shall determine where another lived or worked.
“We have a duty to ensure that this country never again resorts to a system of government which institutionalises and legalises the domination of one group by another, whether by race or ethnic group,” Zuma told a crowd of several thousand in the Athlone Stadium, Cape Town.
“Our country has come a long way from the days when a racist regime decided where people should live, where they should work, which school or church to attend, and even who to marry based on the colour of their skin.”
The speech came amidst division in the ruling party over government spokesman Jimmy Manyi’s remarks that there is an “over-supply of coloured people in the Western Cape”, and two months ahead of crucial local government elections.
The event was marred by the crowd’s booing of the Democratic Alliance’s Patricia de Lille, who is acting premier of the Western Cape and delivered the opening address. Justice Minister Jeff Radebe pleaded with the crowd to let her speak, but was also shouted down.
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) said it was disturbed by the crowd’s intolerance and the organisers’ failure to stop the disruption.
“To protect her dignity the organisers of the event should have ensured that the booing was completely stopped so that Ms De Lille could finish her speech,” the HRC said in a statement.
“The commission views this as a disturbing act of intolerance which contradicts the constitutional provisions that guarantee freedom of speech and human dignity.”
The commission said it was “ironic” that members of the crowd were behaving in such an “indignifying” manner at an event which was supposed to seek to “recommit the country to the constitutional principle of human dignity”.
‘All people are born equal’
It said it hoped that all leaders would criticise the incident, especially given the upcoming elections. The May 18 poll will see the African National Congress (ANC) attempt to reclaim ground lost to the DA in the Western Cape, and Manyi’s remarks risk alienating the province’s coloured majority.
Zuma said the advent of democracy in 1994 meant the government had the duty to end racial division and treat all those it ruled equally.
“It ended the past of racial animosity, institutional oppression and a divisive society where our people’s worth was determined on the basis of the colour of their skin.
“We sought to instil, even by our individual votes, that all people are born equal, must live as equals and must be treated equally by those especially tasked with the responsibility of governing them.”
Zuma shared the podium with De Lille, Radebe, Speaker Max Sisulu, HRC chairperson Lawrence Mushwana and the new ANC leader in the province, Deputy International Relations Minister Marius Fransman.
Minister in the Presidency: National Planning Commission Trevor Manuel, who is spearheading party efforts to reorganise the ANC in the Western Cape, attended the rally along with party veteran Kader Asmal.
Manuel this month penned an open letter to Manyi, saying his comments on coloured people made him a racist in the mould of HF Verwoerd.—Sapa.