South Africa: Ongoing racism undermines the Mandela miracle (A PANA feature by Craig Urquhart)

Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) – Twenty-two years after Nelson Mandela was swept into power on a ticket of racial reconciliation, this former land of apartheid continues to grapple with its racial demons.

The first week of the new year has seen a series of high-profile racial incidents that have sparked outrage through a country which Archbishop Desmond Tutu once labelled the “Rainbow Nation”. Traditionally, the New Year celebrations see hundreds of thousands of South Africans basking on the beaches and frolicking in the waves.

And this year was no different. However, one irate Durban estate agent was offended by the amount of litter on the beaches and took to Facebook to vent her frustration at black “monkeys”. "These monkeys that are allowed to be released on New Year’s eve and New Year’s day on public beaches obviously have no education."  Within hours, her message had sparked a major national outcry and she received death threats.

Nevertheless, Sparrow found one ally with Idols SA judge Gareth Cliff who tweeted “people just don’t understand free speech at all”. Cliff, who is also a popular radio presenter, faced a storm of criticism and television station M-Net said it would review his contract.

Admitting his comments on free speech were ill-timed, Cliff said: “I think this is an ugly situation. It's a conversation we absolutely need to have, but I believe it has gotten out of control.”

Shortly afterwards, respected economist Chris Hart offended millions of people when he rushed to Sparrow’s defence and tweeted: "More than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities…"

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) said the comments were reminiscent of the apartheid attitude towards the indigenous people of the country.

“They also degrade black people as people not deserving of using the beaches in their country of birth. They further accuse the majority of our country, who are mostly black, as having a sense of entitlement and hatred towards the minority,” the party said in a statement received by PANA. And the ANC Youth League said it would call for a national boycott of Standard Bank if the company does not fire Hart.

Despite the outrage, a national television presenter fueled the flames when he mocked Education Minister Angie Motshekga pronunciation of an English word.

Barnes made comment while the station aired extracts from Motshekga's speech she delivered when announcing the results for the 2015 high school examinations on Tuesday. "Maybe someone should have a word with the minister about how to pronounce the word epitome," Barnes said.

His remark angered many South Africans, particularly since Motshekga’s home language is Xhosa and Barnes struggled to pronounce her surname correctly in the same sentence.

Government spokesman Esethu Hasane responded to the scandal by saying: "So it’s fine for eNCA anchors to mispronounce African names, but they can mock Africans for not pronouncing English words properly.” The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union said it was disgusted by the slur.

Meanwhile, opposition political parties have expressed support for criminalising racism after the ruling African National Congress announced that it would investigate creating a specific law or amending the existing legislation to ensure that acts of racism and promotion of apartheid were criminalised and punishable by imprisonment.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane expressed support for criminalising such statements while the Economic Freedom Fighters said the ANC's plan was consistent with its own manifesto.

South Africans of all races endured a torrid 2015 that was marked by service delivery protests, spiralling crime, a falling rand and a fresh wave of xenophobic violence that left thousands displaced.

If the first few days of the year are anything to go by, the country which lurched away from a full-blown race war under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, is facing another roller-coaster ride.
-0- PANA CU/MA 8Jan2016

08 janvier 2016 11:23:41

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