New provincial body to build bridges over racial issues
Human Settlements and Public Works MEC Ravi Pillay was optimistic the council would yield positive results.
“In this renewed climate of hope and optimism, we are confident that the council will be embraced by all sectors of our society. It will be a permanent structure that will be a respected reference point to grapple with any testing situation our society might face,” he said.
The province has had incidents of racial tension between Indians and blacks, prompting the provincial government to form the structure.
EFF leader Julius Malema launched a blistering attack on Indians during his party’s fourth anniversary last year, accusing them of paying their black employees with food parcels.
This was the same stance taken by organisations such as Mazibuye African Forum and Phumlani Mfeka’s iNjeje YamaNguni.
Claims have been flooding in that the Indians have the biggest slice of cake of the provincial budget, which gave birth to the proposal by MEC for Economic Development Sihle Zikalala to reshape Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policies.
Zikalala called on Indians and coloured businesses to give space to black businesses to compete for state tenders exceeding R50million.
Premier Willies Mchunu will co-chair the council alongside a representative of civil society who is yet to be appointed. Pillay said 57 nominations had been received for the 34 available seats after the call for nominations was advertised last year.
“The key civil society sectors will include religious organisations, traditional leaders, business, labour, people living with disabilities, civil society generally and those active in minority communities, women and youth,” explained Pillay.
As the scope of work for the council will be broad, he said it would be financed by the government under the leadership of the provincial department of arts and culture.
However, he stressed that its agenda would not be dictated by the government. “Instead, the council will be required to create programmes and identify issues that have been the source of tensions.”
Pillay said economic and financial stresses in society exposed underlying race and class fault-lines.
“We must recognise these and grapple with them. The KwaMashu Declaration was adopted wherein all present unanimously supported a key set of principles and also adopted a set of resolutions to take the process forward.”
Pillay said the Nelson Mandela centenary celebrations, led by the ANC, were a perfect opportunity to reach out, saying people should be mindful of Mandela’s words: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
While Pillay urged people to keep in mind that the vast majority of the people were poor and working class across all races, he said the core issue to tackle was inequality.
“We want to attract the youth in particular, as social cohesion is about their collective futures. We will not compromise with those who threaten our constitutional values or our nation-building project,” he said.
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