President Jacob Zuma said on Monday that South Africa still has a long way to go to rid itself of racism, saying that the protest marches against him last week demonstrated that racism was alive and well in South Africa.
This comes after opposition parties and civil rights organisations last week held massive demonstrations around the country calling on Zuma to resign following his recent Cabinet reshuffle which saw Pravin Gordhan being axed as Finance Minister.
Another protest march to Union Buildings calling for Zuma to step down by a coalition of opposition parties is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, his 75th birthday.
Zuma called upon South Africans to unite and fight racism in the memory of struggle stalwart Chris Hani, saying that Hani abhorred racism and fought against it all his life, and tragically lost his life at the hands of hard-core racists.
“We have sadly not yet succeeded in building the non-racial society that we envisaged. There is a resurgence of racism in our country. It is also clear that racists have become more emboldened. The marches that took place last week demonstrated that racism is real and exists in our country,” Zuma said.
“Many placards and posters displayed beliefs that we thought had been buried in 1994, with some posters depicting black people as baboons. It is clear that some of our white compatriots regard black people as being lesser human beings or sub-human.”
Zuma was speaking at the annual Chris Hani Wreath Laying Ceremony in Elspark, Boksburg. Hani was assassinated on 10 April 1993 outside his home in Dawn Park in Boksburg by white extremists.
Zuma said South Africa should look beyond only overt racist utterances and public displays in a bid to fight to combat racism.
He said ideological and institutional machinations continued to give racism more traction.
“Racism is a gross violation of human rights and plunged this country into decades of conflict in the past. We cannot allow and assist racists to take our country backwards,” Zuma said.
“At a legislative level, government has published the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill. Once it becomes law, it will criminalise several forms of discrimination including on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and nationality.”
As part of the ceremony, Zuma also unveiled a plaque on the declaration of the grave of Hani and the Chris Hani Memorial and Walk of Remembrance as a National Heritage Site as declared by the Department of Arts and Culture.