SOUTH AFRICANS need to agree on and write a common history before social cohesion can become a reality.
This was the sentiment from Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on the final day of the national social cohesion summit, which took place in Kliptown, Soweto this week.
Dlamini Zuma was responding to verbal submissions during a commission on racism, tribalism, xenophobia and sexism, which claimed that African people had been in the areas now defined as SA for only the past 130 years.
“I think it’s a pity we have not written our history, so we also have a common understanding. It’s news to me that South Africans arrived in this country 130 years ago,” she said.
“(It’s) not possible – it’s just not true. The ANC is 100 years old. Now the Africans are 130 years old in this country. So before we go and write laws about indigenous people, let’s have the same understanding about who is indigenous.”
She cited a row that erupted when Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder told Parliament in February that Africans did not have a legal and historic claim to up to 40 percent of SA’s land because they had migrated from more northerly parts of Africa.
He was roundly rebuked by President Jacob Zuma, who told him not to make “careless” and “callous” comments.
“Something similar was said in Parliament by the Freedom Front. So let’s not distort history, let’s have a common understanding, but let’s deal with the issues that the Khoisan are talking about,” Dlamini Zuma said yesterday.
She said issues raised by members of the Khoi and San communities – which included dissatisfaction at being referred to as coloured, as well problems with names – should be addressed.
As one traditional leader in the commission said, the Khoi and San were the “only people globally still sitting with colour, animal, slave and month surnames”.
Dlamini Zuma also addressed the issue of affirmative action. “With regards to affirmative action, we are told that it’s discrimination. We are told we now have race discrimination. But it comes down to whether we accept there were injustices – that black children did not have compulsory, free education, while white children (did),” she said.
Racism was based on the idea that “whites were superior”, yet, she said, it was implausible that anyone should think “we are all the same”.
“I don’t think anyone can now say we are all the same. We are not.
Those against affirmative action are just not able to accept there was a wrong that needs to be corrected.”
Despite a gruelling two days, with intense and robust discussions which many said had revealed a lot of the country’s collective “pain”, disparate groups said they were pleased with the outcomes.
“Initially we were quite concerned because it seemed there was a lot of Afrikaner-bashing. But (yesterday) was a more constructive process, where everybody could air their views,” said Alana Bailey from AfriForum.
“We mustn’t think that two days can change South Africa, but it’s a very good beginning.”