Adam Catzavelos.

Opinion - Race was at the core of the abhorrent apartheid policy that dominated the lives of millions of South Africans for so many decades.

The architects of this divisive policy knew that as long as they could separate people on the basis of race and keep them apart, they could ensure the political and economic subjugation of one group over others. 

And they succeeded for four decades by institutionalising such racism with a slew of laws and policies that kept the people of different race groups apart on every level of society and every facet of life.

What they didn’t reckon with was the will and determination of the people to fight back and the hunger for freedom and justice among millions of the oppressed - which culminated in the downfall of apartheid in the 1990s and the creation of our new non-racial democracy in 1994.

It was a hard-won victory in which people, both leaders and ordinary citizens, made many sacrifices and even put their lives on the line to accomplish. 

That is why South Africans in all communities need to work together to ensure that racism is not allowed to flourish again and undo whatever gains have already been achieved in our new democracy.

Two disturbing incidents of racist behaviour made headlines in the media this past week and what was encouraging was the swiftness with which they were denounced by political and civil society leaders and organisations.

In the first, Adam Catzavelos infuriated many South Africans by sending out a racist video while on holiday in Greece in which he used the k-word to refer to black people.

The reaction was swift from all quarters, including a charge laid against him, his family disowning him and some of his clients cutting ties with his family’s business.

The second involved an ANCYL official in Durban, Suzanne Govender, whose alleged use of the same offensive term in a private WhatsApp conversation, has led to her resignation from the organisation, a criminal case opened against her and a barrage of criticism from public organisations. 

Racism has no place in a post-apartheid South Africa and it is the responsibility of all South Africans to raise their voices when they encounter this scourge.

We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to such negative and divisive thinking and attitudes whether they occur in public, in the workplace, on the sports fields, in schools and universities and even in our own homes.