Reconciliation without compensation and self analysis inevitably leads to racism in South Africa

Publié le par hort

Johannesburg, South Africa
11 March 2008

Racism is alive and well in South Africa, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Tuesday."I don't think as South Africans talk about racism as we should ... and the lessons we can learn from the last two or three weeks is that racism is alive and well in South Africa," SAHRC chairperson Jody Kollapen said at the Johannesburg Press Club.

Kollapen spoke about South Africa's progress and its challenges in the human rights arena in light of recent events including a racist video which emerged at the University of the Free State, the Skielik shooting and the barring of white journalists from the Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ).

Reconciliation vs transformation

"My own view was that the reconciliation process was at the expense of transformation. I also argued that and I continue to argue that in terms of transformation hardly anything was asked of white South Africans," he said."And white South Africa was not really given the opportunity to engage with what happened in the past."

Kollapen asserted that black and white South Africans did not have a "common sense" of where they came from and when programmes advancing transformation were put  in place, "people say, hold on, this goes against the very idea of reconciliation".

He said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission focused "unduly" on the "excesses" of apartheid; it never really began a conversation between ordinary South Africans. "What the TRC didn't do is to begin a conversation between you and me ... we never spoke, we never spoke about what apartheid meant for you and what it meant for me," he told journalists."On the one hand is the sense that we continue to be divided by our blackness and our whiteness."I think the challenge is to transcend the sense that we have over our blackness and our whiteness ... I think it requires hard work and I think it requires ordinary people to speak to each other."

Referring to the FBJ, Kollapen said the constitutional right to freedom of association should not be used as a disguise for racism. The FBJ had provoked vigorous debate on the desirability of racially exclusive organisations. Kollapen said the objective of an organisation would not necessarily have to be reflected by its membership. The SAHRC was expected to release a report on it next week.

'You hardly had time to breathe'

Focusing on human rights in its entirety, Kollapen said South Africa's rapid transition to democracy posed a problem in cultivating a culture of human rights.

" ... you hardly had time to breathe when overnight you had a democratic government underpinned by a progressive Constitution ... there was hardly time for South Africans to absorb all of this," he said. "I'm not saying that we should have set low standards but I think what it demonstrates is that the standards set and the jurisprudence in place are quite far removed from the reality on the ground and the consciousness of people."

He said there was a "massive gap" and this posed a "significant threat" to democracy. Kollapen said this gap was manifested in the many South Africans who opposed abortion or believed the death penalty should be enforced.

Publié dans contemporary africa

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