The increasing racial tension and conflict in South Africa especially in universities and its detrimental effect on the country’s development.

2016-03-08
Dr Pieter Mulder

Who is racist and who isn’t? In South Africa there is currently a serious debate about racism. We are the chosen representatives of the people. We have to provide leadership. To date, there hasn’t been a debate about this issue in Parliament. That’s why I asked this debate.

We disagree about many issues, that’s why we sit here, divided into different political parties. The question is: do we differ in our condemnation of racism?

I believe that in debates like these, leaders have to set the example. Leaders on all sides. Leaders determine the tone of such debates.

In the SONA debate I said, also as a message to my supporters: “Racism is a very serious issue that must be condemned unconditionally. Racism from the side of white people or black people carries the germ that could destroy South Africa and all human relations.”

I then referred to the t-shirt at UCT with “Kill all whites” written on it. I believed the president would use the opportunity to also condemn it. My big disappointment was that he didn’t react to it.

I don’t like to compare presidents. Each president’s time and circumstances are different. But where I have been sitting in this Assembly since 1994, I am prepared to state that presidents Mandela, Mbeki and Motlanthe would have condemned it because they understood the emotional conflict potential of such a t-shirt.

Where does the student protests come from?

In the past decade, government has given less money to universities every year. That is why study fees are ever increasing. The “Fees must Fall” protest campaign was a reaction to this. It was a broad protest across language and colour barriers.

The current protests are different. The current protests are largely artificial. On every campus there is a small number of activists – four, five who calculatingly try and start up protests. They are not supported by the thousands of students, as the case was with “Fees must Fall”, but only by a couple of hundred. This is an artificial attempt of certain political powers and the EFF to create a revolutionary climate.

The artificial nature is clear from the fact that at every campus a grievance is sought. At UCT it is residences; at the UWC contract workers; at the University of Pretoria, Afrikaans. When there wasn’t a problem at Mahikeng with whites or Afrikaans, the Student Council became the grievance to burn buildings.

Minister Gordhan can do his best to repair foreign investment trust, but if photos of burning university buildings appear abroad, it draws a line through his attempts.

Section 17 of the Constitution: “Everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions.”

But there is no right to violence or to destroy.

Section 16 guarantees freedom of expression, but then states that this right does not extend to:

“b) incitement of imminent violence; or

“c) advocacy to hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.”

Isn’t this precisely what we have seen in recent times? Isn’t this what the “Kill all Whites” t-shirt is trying to do?

The majority of students want to study. Is it reasonable that a small group of activists is preventing them from studying -- as at Soshanguve? Campus rectors and government shouldn’t hesitate to act against these students if their protests go over into violence, if they destroy property or infringe on the rights of other students. It is against the constitution and the only way in which to address this problem.

I said leaders determine the tone of such debates and criticised the ANC for the lack of leadership on this issue. But this weekend the honourable Blade Nzimande proved me wrong. According to the Sunday Times he said: “These anti-white sentiments from students could lead to racial conflict. The student’s approach was doing more harm than good to the struggle for non-racialism. We want to build a non-racial society, we must confront racists and racism but we must be above them…”

For once I agree with the honourable minister.

The Institute for Race Relations (IRR) found in an opinion poll on race that 85% of all South Africans agree that different race groups need each other to make a success of South Africa. 76% said race relationships have improved or remained the same – only 14% differed (rest did not know).

The majority of South Africans are good people who don’t want conflict or racial tension. Are we, as leaders in this Assembly, portraying a unanimous view on racism to the outside or do we differ in our condemnation of racism?

My grandson Pieter is exactly one week old today. He will be 50 years old in 2066. What will South Africa look like then? A country of violence, racism and civil war? Or a country that is a model for the world of how different groups could cooperate and afford everyone a place in the sun?

What we do here today -- already starts to determine that future.

 

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