Friday, 03 September 2021 13:22

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says concerted efforts are needed to overcome inequality and the material conditions that divide society along racial lines. 

"Building social cohesion requires a concerted effort to overcome inequality and social depravation. 

"It also requires that we overcome the unequal material conditions that divides society along race, gender and class lines," the President said on Friday, when responding to oral questions at a hybrid sitting of the National Assembly. 

ANC MP Tidimalo Legwase had asked what additional measures government will implement to advance social cohesion and nation building, in light of the recent unrest that exposed underlying racial tension in society. 

The President said acts of violence and destruction in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July revealed many of the challenges in the path to building a united and cohesive society. 

"We must build integrated communities with social infrastructure and services for all. We need to ensure that young people have equal access to quality education, sporting and recreational opportunities, social support and employment opportunities."

As part of its response, eThekwini Metro is focused on various programmes aimed at youth, including psycho-social support in school, a food security programme, youth employment initiatives and unity games in Phoenix, KwaMashu, Inanda, Tongaat and Newlands. 

"The achievement of social cohesion and nation building is closely tied to the work government is undertaking to drive economic growth, create employment and transform the economy," said Ramaphosa. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele on Thursday said so far, 56 suspects have been arrested by the detective team deployed in Phoenix to investigate the brutal murder of 36 people in that area during the unrest . 

Ramaphosa said part of the work that must be done is to critically examine the preparedness for and response of security and law enforcement services to unrest. 

In August, the President appointed a panel of experts to investigate the issues around the unrest, which will guide the measures that need to be taken to prevent the recurrence of such events. 

"Another critical part of the work that government must do is to address the social and economic factors that also contributed to the violence and destruction that we saw. 

"A deeply disturbing aspect of the unrest was the emergence of the racial tension in parts of Ethekwini, particularly between African and Indian communities. This was occasioned by terrible scenes of violence and killings in Phoenix."

He said law enforcement agencies have made significant progress in arresting individuals alleged to have been involved in this violence and the law must take its course. 

The President said there is the broader task of addressing both the underlying racial tensions that may have contributed to these events, and the further tensions that these events have given rise to. 

He welcomed the investigation by the Human Rights Commission into these incidents, saying government supports the ongoing work by the religious fraternity and civil society in promoting racial integration and co-existing in affected areas. 

The President said the Social Cohesion Advocates, a group of eminent persons and experts, has been particularly active in this regard. The body was established after the 2012 national cohesion and nation building summit to assist government to fight discrimination. 

He said the group, in partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture and civil society, has conducted numerous social cohesion engagements to ascertain the root causes of the discord that occurred and the killings that ensued.