Cape Town - Mayor Patricia de Lille says she’s determined to prove that Cape Town is not a racist city. And, she won’t be put off by communities who say they don’t want to engage with her.
“I won’t be stopped by anybody. I’ve been elected by the people and I have a political mandate. I’m not afraid of anybody,” said De Lille at the launch of the second phase of the city’s anti-racism campaign on Monday.
She will be holding her first race dialogue meeting in Gugulethu on Monday as part of the next phase of the Inclusive City campaign launched on Human Rights Day last year. Over the past year, Capetonians have been encouraged to publicly condemn racism, and to report incidents to her office.
“Don’t walk away from a racist incident. Deal with it the moment it happens,” advised De Lille.
The second phase of the Inclusive City campaign will involve councillors distributing pamphlets and posters, and engaging directly with their communities on issues of race. “The majority of South Africans are not racist,” said De Lille. “What we need in this country is constant dialogue. We are all South Africans first. If you want to call yourself white, coloured, black or Indian, that’s your choice.”
De Lille said government leaders after the Mandela era had taken too long to deal with racial divisions in the country.
“Government is not doing enough. It’s an afterthought. Today’s leaders just want to rule us and tell us what is good and what is bad for us. The current leaders are too busy emerging themselves in their newfound wealth and resources,” said De Lille.
Building an anti-racial society had to start in the home, she said, and she appealed to people not to entrench apartheid ideology in their children.
“We want people to be aware of their own prejudices. The colour of your skin, is as irrelevant as the size of your ears,” said De Lille. She said it was hurtful and insensitive for people to deny people’s experience of racism. “Don’t try to explain it away,” she said.
“It’s an insult to say things were better during apartheid. It’s also an insult to compare apartheid to democracy.”
De Lille appealed to civil society organisations, businesses and religious leaders to also take a stand and get involved in anti-racism campaigns.
“The City of Cape Town wants to work towards having people’s dignity respected and protected,” she said.
Stanley Henkeman of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation said while the city’s initiative was to be applauded, councillors had to be wary of politicising the campaign.
“Rolling out the campaign to communities who are at the coalface of where things need to change, should be supported. But racism should not be dealt with in isolation. It must be part of an inclusive system. People must get services and feel that they are included.” The city also had to be careful not to only target victims of racism, he said.
“It’s good to go to Bonteheuwel and Gugulethu, but they must also go to other parts like Camps Bay where there is an inbuilt superiority and subtle racism.”
The DA’s Phindile Maxiti, a Khayelitsha councillor, said he would have his work cut out for him in trying to promote the campaign. Constituents in his area were being discouraged from getting involved, he claimed. “People are telling them that they can never beat racism.
“As leaders, it’s one thing to distribute pamphlets but it’s the impact that it will have, which is the problem,” he said.
In January, DA councillors signed a pledge against racism, but ANC councillors scoffed at the idea and did not attend Monday’s launch.
“When the ANC was controlling the province and the city, then Cape Town was not racist. Now that the DA is in power, now Cape Town is racist,’’ said De Lille.
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