SA must create anti-racism culture, Barney Pityana tells SA Human Rights Commission

The parents of the two learners that were attacked in what has been alleged to be a racial attack incident said they are disappointed at the Witbank Technical school for letting the matter get to a turf level.
The parents of the two learners that were attacked in what has been alleged to be a racial attack incident said they are disappointed at the Witbank Technical school for letting the matter get to a turf level.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

SA has to find a long-lasting solution to the problem of racism as addressing individual incidents of racism has not worked.

This is the call that was made by human rights academic Prof Barney Pityana during the National Conference on Racism hosted by the SA Human Rights Commission on Tuesday.

Pityana said the first move towards addressing racism is to confront it and not avoid it when it emerges.

“The dealing with racism is a societal issue that requires a groundswell of people in society not tolerating any form of racism. I do not deny the importance of dealing with individual incidents of racism, those we will deal with them forever.

“What we need is to work together to find a way of designing a societal ethics and ethos…We need to tell the schools, churches, sport, in this society any form or instance of racism is completely unacceptable and ordinary South Africans will say this is not acceptable in this country. We need to create that anti-racism culture. We need to design a campaign on racism that touches the minds and hearts of ordinary South Africans,” Pityana said.

The National Conference on Racism is being held for the second time this year by the commission to find solutions of addressing this problem which now and again divides the country. Incidents of racism have recently pushed the ruling party to propose that all forms of discrimination should be criminalised  to place consequences on those  found to be in the wrong.

In a recent incident on June 14, a violent fight broke out between white and black parents at the Witbank Technical High School in Mpumalanga after an alleged racism incident at the school. Days before the scuffle, various videos had circulated on Twitter showing a white adult pushing a pupil at the school.

Makhosi Mngadi, who represented the department of basic education at the conference, said there is work that has started to address the issue of racism in schools.

“We are in the process of developing a protocol to better manage discrimination at school. It is still early but we believe that having such protocols could help prevent incidents that happen at school,” she said.

She said a ministerial review  done on textbooks in subjects such as life orientation, history and languages found that these do not address some of the societal problems  the country is facing.

“In this evaluation it was reported that there is a gap in…giving more education in terms of race, gender, sexuality and class. It was then mandated that we need to look at the content that we provide learners. Currently, life orientation is being redeveloped to ensure that it addresses issues of class and that the books used provide diverse information to learners,” Mngadi said.

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