MPs debate nonracialism ahead of EFF protest at Brackenfell High School

A scene from the violent scuffle outside Brackenfell High School in Cape Town. File photo.
A scene from the violent scuffle outside Brackenfell High School in Cape Town. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

ANC MP Mondli Gungubele has called on political leaders to resist the temptation to sow polarisation and disunity as the country grapples with nonracialism and social cohesion.

Gungubele was speaking in the National Assembly during a debate tabled in his name on Thursday.

The debate came a day ahead of a demonstration to be staged by the EFF outside the Brackenfell High School after they were granted permission by the city of Cape Town.

The protest by the EFF follows racially charged violent clashes between red-beret  supporters and a group of white parents a fortnight ago during a picket against a private matric ball that was attended only by white pupils.

It also comes on the back of racial confrontations between white farmers and EFF supporters outside the Senekal magistrate's court in the Free State last month during the appearance of suspects arrested for the murder of a local farm manager.

Opening the debate on “nonracialism and social cohesion,” Gungubele urged MPs to ensure that what took place recently in the Free State and Western Cape did not recur.

“Honourable members we can all agree that what transpired in Senekal and Brackenfell can never happen again, we hope so. Neither should we shy away from condemning how some leaders among ourselves conducted themselves in both incidences,” said the former mayor of Ekurhuleni who now chairs the portfolio committee on social development.

“We must be able to rise above as leaders in this country and engage on the prevailing conditions which have led to this debate today. We must be solutions-orientated and not fall into a trap of polarising and sowing disunity among our people.”

The DA’s Zakhele Mbhele said it was ironic that the debate took place a day before the EFF's scheduled demonstration at Brackenfell High School.

“It is a very sad day in our country when schools become the sites of such racial hostility ... a scenario that echoes similar and equally abhorrent flashpoints in the early 1990s when there were also racially charged standoffs in sites of whites-only schools as they started to desegregate.

“Our responsibility as leaders is not to stoke and intensify animosities but rather set the example, dialogue and respectful engagements that promote understanding and broad commitment to reach solutions for the many problems that we face,” said Mbhele.

But the EFF’s Sinawo Tambo said nonracialism would remain a pipe dream as long as a bulk of the economy remained in the hands of a white minority.

“It is the control of over 80% of this country’s land by the white minority that makes nonracialism impossible and social cohesion impossible. It is the fact that our mothers and grandmothers clean toilets in the day and go home to use pit-toilets at night that makes social cohesion impossible,” she said.

The IFP's Narend Singh said all citizens had to show commitment to nonracialism.

“This is not an easy task. The reality is that there will always be smaller groups and larger cultural groups, and diversity in view point. It means that each of us needs to be willing to listen and respect each other. It is not going to be an event, it is going to be a process that starts in our schools,” he said.

Corne Mulder of the FF Plus was concerned that the country had a highly racialised society where some people felt excluded. “What is the problem, why don’t we have social cohesion and why do we always talk about that? I believe that building social cohesion will not succeed if we merely continue to stumble from one sporting event to the next without successfully creating a sense of belonging among our people.”

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