Minority affairs

2009-04-20 00:00

African National Congress spokesperson Jesse Duarte has been quick to deny rumours that the government intends creating a new ministry for minority affairs, but the notion should not be quashed without some consideration of its merits. If, as seems likely, the suggestion emerged from the recent discussions between Jacob Zuma and the Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuur Vereniging (ATKV), perhaps in his desire to appear all things to all people the president-to-be inadvertently launched a promising idea.

ANC policy is indeed that this is one nation and that no special consideration should be given to any one minority group. The theory is laudable, but the reality is that this is a nation made up of minorities. Every poll taken reveals that opinions diverge along cultural and racial lines on just about every issue. A sense of cultural identity and of belonging to a distinct community of people within the South African nation is as important to a Zulu person as it is to an Afrikaner. It would make sense to have a government structure that acknowledges this reality.

This is not to suggest that government should pander to separatist minority ambitions or revert to apartheid-style structures intended to emphasise differences and reinforce divisions. On the contrary, its role might be similar to that of the Indian government’s Ministry of Minority Affairs, created in early 2006 “to ensure a focused approach to the issues related to the minorities and to play a pivotal role in the overall policy, planning, co-ordination, evaluation and review of the regulatory and development programmes for the benefit of the minority communities”. In short, such a ministry would recognise that distinctive cultural communities do have particular interests and anxieties, and help government keep in tune with those needs and respond to them. It is an idea worth considering.

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