Justice department in new race to beat racism

2014-12-14 06:00

Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffery wants we South Africans to stop ignoring the proverbial elephant in our room – racism.

That’s why his department has launched a new programme, Amarightza, that Jeffery hopes will combat racism, discrimination, xenophobia and “related intolerances”.

Jeffery told an audience at Constitution Hill on Wednesday, during Amarightza’s launch, that the programme was prompted by a spate of racially motivated attacks.

Among racial incidents that have sparked outrage and debate recently are:

*The attack by a white owner of a swimming school on a black domestic worker in Cape Town whom he accused of being a prostitute;

*The case of a black gardener who was sjambokked, allegedly by a white dentist, before he rushed to work one morning last month; and,

*The arrest of three young white men who allegedly beat a coloured cleaner who had tried to stop them from attacking a man at a club in Cape Town’s southern suburbs.

Jeffery said the programme was also a response to the finding by the Institute of Race Relations that just 53% of white South Africans still believe apartheid was a crime against humanity.

“We know our Constitution is often hailed as one of the most progressive in the world,” Jeffery said at the programme’s launch.

“But there is one issue, which is equally important to the attainment of human dignity, and which we would rather not discuss or debate.

“We refer to [the recent attacks] as ‘incidents’ because then we can make ourselves believe they are only a few isolated occurrences. Racism is the proverbial elephant in the room in the psyche of our nation.”

Amarightza is designed to help citizens learn their rights, know how to access them and point them in the direction of help if those rights are violated.

It will in particular target marginalised and vulnerable groups.

For more about the programme, which is being run in conjunction with the Foundation for Human Rights in partnership with the European Union, visit http://www.amarightza.org.za/

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