Solidarity Chief Excecutive Dirk Hermann File picture: Oupa Mokoena/ANA Pictures
Johannesburg – Solidarity on Friday, which is opposed to "populist race rhetoric", said it had lodged a "collective complaint" backed by 405 000 South Africans, with the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

In the report submitted to CERD, Solidarity says South Africa under an African National Congress (ANC) government serves as "the perfect example" of people in positions of power who use their influence to mobilise others on the basis of race.

This was the third such report submitted this week to UN agencies by Solidarity. "The more the ANC is under pressure because of poor government, the more politicians resort to populist race rhetoric to mobilise support.

By playing the racial political card, Malema is trying to outperform the ANC, which is creating a very dangerous situation in South Africa," said Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann.

"The racial discourse in South Africa is so skewed that it has become necessary that international watchdogs investigate the situation. International convention and justice form part of the South African democratic landscape and we need to resort to it more often."

Several prominent South African politicians featured in the report are cited for alleged hate speech or xenophobic sentiments expressed in the past. They include President Jacob Zuma, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, former Women, Children and People with Disabilities Minister, Lulu Xingwana, and North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo.

Solidarity said the UN convention aims to protect minorities.

"Usually, majorities are in a position of power, which can easily be abused. When insufficient measures are in place to protect the minority, a dangerous situation is created that cannot simply be ignored," said Hermann.

"It is indeed by its ability to protect its minority that a democracy is tested. In South Africa, minorities are generally way too exposed."

Solidarity said South Africa was very tolerant when it comes to racial slurs made by people in positions of power, but totally intolerant when the same is done by ordinary white citizens, who it said have no power.

The submission of the report coincided with the last day of the 92nd session of the committee. Solidarity said it requested CERD to launch a formal inquiry into the matter by requesting information from organisations such as the South African Human Rights Commission, as well as from government, and to send a delegation to South Africa to investigate the situation on the ground.

"Should CERD agree on the substance of Solidarity's complaint the committee may make recommendations to government and/or refer the matter to the UN's Security Council," said Hermann.