'Learn to respect one another'
MINISTER of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile said the country's unequal living conditions could undermine the government's efforts to build a non-racial society.
This will be the focus of discussions at a two-day summit on social cohesion which starts today at the Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown, Soweto.
The summit was sparked by artist Brett Murray's controversial painting which showed President Jacob Zuma with his private parts exposed.
Zuma will open the summit where the discussion will focus on how South Africa - a nation with diverse cultural groupings - can learn to tolerate and respect one another. The summit will be attended by business, labour, religious groupings and political parties.
Mashatile, whose department is hosting the event, said the aim was to assess the progress the country had made in building a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.
"We would like to create an opportunity for dialogue. We believe that sometimes South Africans talk past one another.
"It can only be through engagement where we can be able to see what the challenges facing us are, particularly because we come from a divided past, where people still see each other according to the colour of their skin and ethnic background," he said.
Mashatile said the summit was important because "we still pick up elements of racism in society where people still see each other in terms of us and them - 'We are the Afrikaners and they are the blacks'.
"We want to move to a situation where we can say we are South Africans before we see each other as black or white, Sotho or Zulu and Xhosa or Shangaan. We are South Africans first and foremost.
"Our diversity is a source of strength because we are proud of who we are. Unity must be foremost," he said
Mashatile added that such a summit would have to reconvene every two years to check on progress, particularly as the government was grappling with the problem of implementing policies that would create equality. - firstname.lastname@example.org