Reconciliation still elusive for many South Africans – Ramaphosa

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President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: The Presidency
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: The Presidency

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on all South Africans to continue working together to overcome racial divisions in the country.

Addressing the nation to mark the Day of Reconciliation on Wednesday, Ramaphosa acknowledged that much headway had been made since the dawn of democracy in overcoming the divisions brought upon by the apartheid regime.

However, he noted that recent racial flare ups indicated that persistent challenges still remain. “We have seen racial tensions flare up in several parts of our country, polarising communities and opening old wounds.

“What we have seen in Senekal in the Free State, in Eldorado Park in Gauteng and in Brackenfell in Cape Town shows that the state of race relations in our country remains fragile,” he said in his virtual address.

“We may have come a long way from the days of institutionalised racism, but we are alive to the reality that for many, reconciliation is something they have yet to experience.”

We cannot move forward with the process of meaningful reconciliation if policies around economic transformation, affirmative action and land reform are resisted.
President Cyril Ramaphosa

Ramaphosa said he recognised that the situation was not unique to South Africa and highlighted how millions of people abroad have spoken out and marched under the #BlackLivesMatter banner about the many ways black people continue to be discriminated against and victimised.

“It is our hope and determination that this groundswell of activism will forever change the attitudes and practices that have sustained racism across the world,” he said.

Read: Can South Africa’s civilisation of national democracy sustain itself?

The president said this year marked 25 years since the country began observing the Day of Reconciliation, but “true reconciliation will not be possible unless we address the many ills in our society”.

“We cannot build a truly caring society so long as the country’s majority live in conditions of poverty, inequality and deprivation, while a minority exists in comfort and privilege.

“We cannot move forward with the process of meaningful reconciliation if policies around economic transformation, affirmative action and land reform are resisted,” Ramaphosa said.

It is up to all social partners to drive the change we need and want to see in this country.
President Cyril Ramaphosa

He added that the social conditions under which many people live were the single biggest obstacle to achieving a society rooted in equality and committed to social justice.

Read | Overcoming inequalities key to achieving true reconciliation: Ramaphosa

Ramaphosa also urged South Africans to ask themselves what they could do to advance social justice, solidarity and human rights in their homes, communities, workplaces and in all facets of life.

“Just as government alone cannot bring about reconciliation, social and economic transformation is a responsibility with which we have all been charged,” he said.

“It is up to all social partners to drive the change we need and want to see in this country.”


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