Public Protector receives FW de Klerk Foundation Goodwill Award, calls for united action against all forms of discrimination
Racism and racial discrimination will remain unless South Africa works towards the eradication of all forms of stratification or hierarchization of difference, Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela said on Monday.
She was speaking in Cape Town, where she was awarded the 2016 FW de Klerk Foundation Goodwill Award, an accolade that recognizes individuals and organizations that have made exceptional contributions to the promotion of goodwill among South Africans. Previous recipients include Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Mayor, Dr Danny Jordaan and businessman, Patrice Motsepe.
The Public Protector emphasized the need to eradicate all forms of discrimination as envisaged in section 9 of the South African constitution. She told guests that hurtful racial slurs similar to those recently observed in the country were merely the tip of an iceberg. She said the kind of racism that hurt the most consisted of mainly unarticulated premises about worth, credibility, competence and other attributes that predominantly affected black people on a daily basis.
“I do not rule out reverse racism … that may be inflicted on a transactional basis on white people,” the Public Protector said. “This, if not addressed, could take us to a scenario like the Nazi Germany and the ethnic genocide in Rwanda.”
She called for the notion of the constitution as a bridge to be embraced, saying the document represented an overpass that was meant to take the country from buckling under the legacy of apartheid into a future characterized by an inclusive society, where everyone’s quality of life would be improved and their potential freed.
The bridge provisions of the constitution, the Public Protector said, included foundational values of the new society that comprise the achievement of equality, freedom, human dignity, supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law. They also included fundamental human rights, incorporating the right to substantive and not just formal equality and the progressive realization of social and economic rights.
“To ensure equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms we need to recognize and address persisting disparities created by past unjust exclusions and other form of oppression,” she said.
The Public Protector said the country needed good faith and good leaders, at all levels of society, that eschewed divisiveness and actively contributed towards building a united nation that was based on social justice. This would help the country move forward towards the constitutional dream of an improved quality of life, where everyone's potential is freed.
About the award, the Public Protector reiterated her longstanding stance that her office did not perform its functions in search for applause but rather did its bit to support and strengthen constitutional democracy through ensuring that government treated all people and state resources properly.
"On receipt of the letter advising me about and enquiring if I would accept the award, I pondered briefly the conversations this may spark," she explained. "When I decided to accept I was satisfied that it is the right thing to do. I sincerely believe the cause underpinning the award, being 'respect for the rights and values in our constitution as the foundation of promoting goodwill between all our people', is noble."
The Public Protector thanked the FW de Klerk Foundation, saying it should be lauded for presenting an opportunity to dialogue about and renew South African's collective commitment to build goodwill among people in the pursuit of common good and peace. If the eradication of social injustice was not prioritized, she said, the price to pay would be the absence of peace.
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