Yesterday marked the start of Anti-Racism Week in South Africa, which will culminate on the 21st March with Human Rights Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. While the issue of racism has never really left us, it would seem that rather than the situation improving, discussions around race and problems of racism have become ever more present in recent years. With so many racially-themed issues making our headlines, a sense of apathy and frustration have overtaken the public, with some even openly stating that it’s time for us all to ‘move on’. Some people argue that more than two decades of ‘freedom’ is enough time for reparations to have been made, and that policies such as BEE and the recent discussions around the Expropriation Bill are more than enough to redress the wrongdoings of the past.
But in reality the only real freedom that South Africa gained in 1994 was political freedom, with social and economic freedom still an ever moving target for the majority of our population. The Commission for Employment Equity’s 2016/2017 report noted that black South Africans are woefully under-represented in upper management, with white South Africans making up 58.1% of senior management, and black South Africans comprising a meagre 22.1% of management positions. And at a more general level the unemployment rate tells an even sadder story. According to the 2017 South Africa Survey‚ published by the Institute of Race Relations, of the 9.3 million unemployed people in South Africa‚ 8.3 million are black, with the unemployment rate for black people being between four to five times higher than that of white people.
While there have been some improvements in the transfer of agricultural land to people of colour – according to an audit of land ownership undertaken by economist Johann Bornman, in partnership with Landbouweekblad and Agri SA, agricultural land owned by black people in KZN has increased from 45,4% in 1994 to 73,5% in 2016 – there are still areas where the numbers are dismal. According to the land audit less than 5% of agricultural land in the Western Cape is owned by black people, with a similarly disappointing 6.4% of black people in the Northern Cape owning farm land.
So it would seem that two decades down the line South Africa still has a very long road to travel. The Anti-Racism Network of South Africa (ARNSA), an initiative of the Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada Foundations, launched Anti-Racism Week on Monday with the #RootOutRacism Week Schools’ Programme, which includes the Zimele Race Report App for reporting incidents of racism.
While we would all love for the issues surrounding race in South Africa to simply dissipate, it seems that more is required of us in terms of guidance and education. In the words of the late Nelson Mandela,
No one is born hating another person because of the color 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.
Image courtesy of www.dailymaverick.co.za