It was launched on Monday by Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffery at the St George Hotel in Irene during an event attended by civil society organisations and government officials.
Jeffery said Cabinet’s approval of the document followed a rigorous process overseen by a steering committee comprising stakeholders, including government departments and broader civil society organisations.
The document was approved by Cabinet last month and will be revised every five years.
“The plan is an important tool to prevent and combat racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and other discriminatory conduct and forms of prejudice that we have been experiencing in our country recently, and not only racism, but LGBTQ discrimination and anti-foreigner sentiments as well,” he said.
The government would also use the plan to raise awareness of anti-racism, equality and anti-discrimination issues among public officials, civil society and the public, Jeffery added.
The deputy minister said the milestone was in honour of late anti-apartheid veteran Ahmed Kathrada.
Jeffery described Kathrada as a man dedicated to the struggle for freedom, human rights and non-racialism.
The SA Human Rights Commission said the plan was long overdue.
Chairperson Bongani Majola, who was also in attendance, said it should have been launched in 2001 after the Third World Conference in Durban.
“The fight against racism in South Africa has not gone well because there have been no measures taken as to how to go about fighting it.
"The plan says what should be done, what’s next and by when, and we think that for us it is going to help us to monitor what the government and country is doing and to report on that,” Majola said.
He said the human rights commission often received complaints about racism.
“In 2015 and 2016, we had about 557 complaints over discrimination, around 505 were racially based.
"We’ve received quite a high number of complaints against racial discrimination.”
The document makes a provision for the establishment of a rapid response mechanism to collate reported incidents of racism and other crimes of prejudice, the number of cases prosecuted, as well as reasons for non-prosecution, and the outcome of cases prosecuted by the National Prosecuting Authority.