Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Tuesday proposed another national convention on nation-building to tackle racism during a highly charged parliamentary debate which saw MPs hurl brickbats at each other, and the slur “racist” flying frequently across the National Assembly floor.
“We should dialogue – that should be uppermost in our approach. This thing of people preaching war – war, war, war is not going to help but jaw, jaw, jaw will if we are to build this society,” Mthethwa said during the debate to discuss racism, particularly on the country’s universities.
“We should convene different social partners to craft different social compacts on values which we agree as South Africans that these are the values we share.”
“Some things happening in society, including in this House, can never be values that any somebody who respects himself will identify himself or herself with,” he said, hinting at the recent instances of chaos in the assembly brought on by name-calling, which has seen many an MP ejected from sitting for “unparliamentary” conduct.
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder opened the debate by condemning racism, but labeling protests over language policies at universities which had spilled into violence at various campuses this year as “largely artificial.”
“It is not supported by thousands of students as was the Fees Must Fall movement,” Mulder said.
He said it was whipped up by the “likes of the EFF to create a revolutionary climate” in the country. Mulder said this was evidenced by the fact that there was not a single rallying call shared by protesters on all campuses. Instead, an issue had been picked at every university currently in turmoil. Hence, at the University of Cape Town, protesters were agitating over residences and at Stellenbosch University over the use of Afrikaans.
He said it was a recipe for ongoing racial turmoil in South Africa for years to come.
The Democratic Alliance’s Belinda Bozzoli agreed, and had harsh words for both the protesters, whom she dismissed as “narcissistic brutes” who failed to see that their actions were limiting access to higher education rather than broadening it, and for the state’s response.
“The pseudo revolutionary Blade Nzimande found himself on the wrong side of the barricades while our anti-intellectual president suddenly had to take not of what he likes to call ‘clever blacks’.”
She said Zuma had not resolved the issue by responding with a moratorium on university fee increases announced last year as students took their protest to the Union Buildings.
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