Govt must communicate better on xenophobia - academic

2015-04-15 15:55
Police on the streets of Durban following xenophobic attacks there. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Police on the streets of Durban following xenophobic attacks there. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Johannesburg - While an academic on Wednesday called on government to improve its communication in a bid to prevent further xenophobic attacks, the Arts and Culture Department announced a “cultural programme” to unify people.

A statement from the Presidency on the matter “smacks of formalism” and did little to change public discourse, director of the centre for human rights at the University of Pretoria, Professor Frans Viljoen, said in a statement.

The government and the ANC had, for the most part, “remained mute on this issue”.

“We need to hear language that makes a difference, words that loudly and clearly counter the toxic discourse that has been allowed to take us down a spiral of violence,” Viljoen said.

He called for anti-xenophobia messages that were accessible, in all languages, communicated through local leaders, and repeated often.

“Words are not enough, but they matter. A clear unambiguous acknowledgment by the government and the ANC that xenophobia exists, is wrong, and needs to be halted and curbed is a good starting point,” Viljoen said.

While he condemned that attacks on foreigners in KwaZulu-Natal, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced a “month-long cultural programme to use arts, culture and heritage to build unity in communities and forge closer relations among all people who live in this country”.  

It would begin on March 1 and over 31 artists from various countries were expected to take part.

“As a department that leads and promotes nation-building and social cohesion, we discourage any form of violence and hate speech that violates the human rights of people who are part of our society, irrespective of their background, race or place of origin,” Mthethwa said in a statement.

“The unrest that has erupted in KwaZulu-Natal in the past few days is a serious blight on our efforts to build a society that is at peace with itself.”

Read more on:    anc  |  nathi mthethwa  |  johannesburg  |  xenophobia

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