'South Africa is an Irish Coffee society'
So says ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who notes: "We will make more progress when we become more tolerant of each other"
“Today we have what you normally describe as an Irish-coffee society where there is a concentration of black at the bottom and, in all respects, the white cream on top with a sprinkling of chocolate,” Mantashe said in Newtown, Johannesburg.
“We can’t have a society that is described as equal when it is not.”
He said things were improving, but there were still problems when it came to unity and nation-building.
Mantashe was giving a keynote address at an Ahmed Kathrada Foundation seminar titled “What does the ANC mean by unity in diversity?”
In certain sections of society, integration was noticeable, Mantashe said.
“How our society is today... the integration in society is starting to take root in elitist areas.”
There were black people moving into neighbourhoods that were predominantly white, he noted.
“That’s where I see some integration. These neighbourhoods are becoming non-racial.”
It was also evident in the mix of races in the school in those areas.
However, this was resented by some because black children in model C schools were seen as “betraying the cause”, he said.
“In separate townships, non-racialism is not visible.”
Referring to black economic empowerment, Mantashe said few were actually benefiting and had become a source of alienation and resentment.
“Any black person who is successful, people assume is because of corruption...”
He said there was also a problem within companies, especially when it came to employment equity.
“Employment equity is malicious compliance in some companies, not an imperative. They only do it because the law says so.”
Looking at the yearly employment equity statistics, Mantashe said it was clear that the country was still far from its target of non-racialism.
Despite this, no one will say they are a racist, said Mantashe.
“Look at the Freedom Front, the DA, the ANC — not one will admit to being racist.
“Non-racialism is a floor standard in South Africa,” he said.
It was what was accepted, and everyone wanted to identify with people such as former President Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada.
“Look, today no one was a beneficiary of apartheid,” he said.
During apartheid, South Africans were deprived of the right to know each other and to appreciate each other’s cultures.
Undoing this was the task today, but people could not pretend apartheid had never happened, said Mantashe.
“We will make more progress when we become more tolerant of each other,” he said.
In terms of nation-building, South Africa was limping on.
Mantashe said an emerging respect for national symbols let him know “we are getting there”.