UNAIDS has made Zero Discrimination Day 2021 all about the “urgent need to take action to end the inequalities surrounding income, sex, age, health status, occupation, disability, sexual orientation, drug use, gender identity, race, class, ethnicity and religion that continue to persist around the world.”
Events of this past week have brought the urgent need to take action to end the inequality surrounding race in South Africa to the fore – yet again.
I, a black South African, was asked by a journalist to wear a mask during an interview, whilst a different standard was applied to a white colleague.
What followed were moments of dark personal anger, frustration and then sadness. I was deeply hurt as a person and public servant who makes it my work to fight for tolerance, non-racialism and social cohesion, and who belongs to a political party, the United Democratic Movement (UDM), which espouses these principles.
Many people were also offended about what had happened and we are thankful for the support and solidarity which so many South Africans, black and white, have shown in the face of the thoughtless racism displayed by the journalist.
South Africans unfortunately still discriminate based on many of the aforementioned criteria, but especially race. Despite the painful lessons of the past, we continue to fall into this trap.
We must do better.
The “mask incident” brought the race-debate to the fore, which is good, but what is unsettling is the way South Africans talk to each other when discussing this topic. Racial slurs flew, in all directions, on social media. This clearly demonstrates that we as South Africans still must make introspection, continue to come to grips with each other and learn how to debate matters robustly, but with dignity and respect.
We, however, must not let racism and racists slide. We must be firm in our collective conviction that racism is wrong, no matter your skin colour, and be an ally to the process of eliminating race discrimination by working on ourselves and advocating for those who are discriminated against.
We must daily remind ourselves of our nation’s founding document, the Constitution, which states that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity”! ke e:/xarra //ke, is the motto on the South Africa’s Coat of Arms in the Khoisan language of the /Xam people, which translates literally to “Diverse People Unite”. It is a call for us to unite in a common sense of belonging and national pride and it is a call worth heading.
The UDM has committed itself to a true South African constitutional democracy, which rejects racial domination, and which respects, upholds and protects human dignity, life, liberty and the prosperity of its citizens.
In this spirit, and given the current state of affairs, the UDM proposes that a formal national dialogue on race should be held, using technology in this Covid-19 riddled time. It is time for us, 26 years into a free South Africa, to review this period and see what progress we have made, where we fall short and what we want our future to be.
In line with the UDM’s founding principles and the essence of the UNAIDS’s vision for Zero Discrimination Day 2021, we call on all South Africans, of all persuasions, descriptions, colours and creeds, to show solidarity in ending all forms of discrimination in our beautiful land, united in our diversity.
Mr Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, MP
Deputy President and Chief Whip in the National Assembly