Patience needed for cohesion: Chikane

2012-07-05 20:49
Frank Chikane (File, Sapa)

Frank Chikane (File, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Much patience is needed for South Africa to develop social cohesion, Reverend Frank Chikane said in Kliptown, Soweto, on Thursday.

"We need to be ready to listen to each other," he said during a report back from commissions at the national social cohesion summit.

"To build social cohesion and a common nation, a national identity is needed."

Chikane, former director general in the presidency, was reporting back on the commission which dealt with prejudice and discrimination.

He said it was a difficult commission. High levels of sensitivity and humility were needed.

"We need to listen to each other... We must also listen when people speak in strange tongues."

Language a recurring theme

The two-day summit, organised by the department of arts and culture, broke up into five commissions on Thursday. Language was a recurring theme in each commission.

Wits University Professor Yunus Ballim, reporting back from the commission on economic inequalities, said South Africa needed to develop a shared discourse.

"Just to have the ability to greet each other in an African language or say goodbye in an African language."

It was embarrassing that many people could not do that after 18-years of democracy.

Social historian Luli Callinicos said minority groups had done very little to try learn an African language.

Restore ubuntu

"Our own culture is being undermined... We need to restore ubuntu," she said. "Because this is something we can teach the rest of the world. We must be careful not to lose it."

Callinicos was part of the commission on social interaction, co-operation and solidarity. Poverty and inequality added to the lack of social cohesion.

"Cohesion, if you are deprived, is going to be very difficult," she said.

People in most of the commissions also called for a public dialogue and said the development of social cohesion started at a local level and needed to be ongoing.

Former ambassador to France and jazz legend Hugh Masekela's sister Barbara Masekela said the relevance of the Constitution should not be set aside only for when needed but should be used in people's daily lives.

This was part of the commission on national identity and unity.

Constitution questioned

Chikane said delegates questioned the Constitution.

"There were questions about the foundation of our new society in terms of the Constitution," he said.

He said there were good structures and institutions but they were not doing enough to develop social cohesion.

Another commission on special divisions focused on the issue of land.

Leonard Martin, who reported back, said there was an urgent need for a land audit because of the persistent problem of "landlessness".

He said land had caused great tension in South Africa. There was "black aspiration and white fear".

He said the commission urged people to build a unified country.

"Build a South Africa that belongs to all."

Martin said there needed to be robust and honest discussions about South Africa's past.
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