The first-ever Pan African Congress held in London, in the year 1900, which brought together Africans from the African Continent, the United States and the Caribbean, made the clarion call:
The problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the colour line!
Indeed, those prophetic words were to come to pass, as the twentieth century dismally failed to solve the problem of the colour line!
We are here today engaged in this debate precisely because of the debt we owe to the ages to solve the problem of the colour line.
From the outset, let us make the firm point that the colonisation of South Africa, as that of the other colonies, and the emergence of racism as a global problem, had been spawned by the emergence and spread of capitalism as a global system.
The origins and persistence of racism in South Africa was not merely a result of virulent hatred of black people inherent in a core of white South Africans, it is and always has been primarily about achieving and maintaining economic predominance through the dispossession and marginalisation of black people.
Secondly, the fight against racism is ultimately not about convincing fellow white South Africans to eschew prejudice and their superiority complex and view their fellow black South Africans as equals, but it is about directly attacking the system of racialised property ownership as well as the ill-gotten power, privileges and resources emanating from that system entrenched in our society over many centuries and supported by the colonial and imperialist system.
To build the South Africa of our dreams, a South Africa in which all of its people are able the more fully to realize their potential, we must accelerate the critical work of overcoming racial prejudice and building a non-racial and non-sexist society.
Despite the demise of apartheid, racism has however remained pertinent in our society.
Accordingly, what Penny Sparrow, DA MP Diane Kohler-Barnard and fellow racists have done recently should not have come as a surprise.
Over the years, we have witnessed many racial actions by white supremacists strewn across the country who have still arrogated to themselves the power of God to decide who should live and who should die, and why!
The perpetrators of these acts did not drop from the sky or have some kind of inexplicable episode which made them act in a way which is completely alien to the value systems and beliefs which they drew from their upbringing.
Their actions are merely extreme manifestations of a particular kind of racial logic which is far too common, and shared by many, which posits that white people are at the top of a social hierarchy, and deservingly so.
The ANC government working with the people of South Africa, has made great strides in undoing this painful legacy.
We need to do more, faster, but we refuse to accept a narrative which says what took 350 years to create, should have be undone in 20 or 25 years.
The legacy of structural racism is painful and real.
It is about white families benefitting from intergenerational wealth, passing down money, land and assets from generation to generation, while the average black family has very little to pass on except poverty.
It is about the fact that statistically, the most likely person to be wealthy and employed is a white man, whilst the most likely to be poor and unemployed, is a black woman.
It is about the average white household’s income being as much as six times higher than that of the average black household.
It is about the spatial inequality in our cities, which reinforces the racial, class and gender disparities that have been so persistent even to this day.
It is about the fact that land – an important factor of production, and the foundation of economic wealth, security and human dignity – remains largely in white hands.
We must de-racialise and transform the economy, engage in widespread and honest social dialogue, and strengthen legal responses to overt racism.
The Freedom Charter proclaimed in 1955 that “our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities”.
Much as a lot has been done to drive a radical transformation agenda in the economy, we acknowledge that we need to do more, faster, and deeper to drive the change and achieve the goals of the Charter to ensure that all share in the country’s wealth.
We need to engage in honest conversations with one another, however uncomfortable and painful they may be at times aimed at producing the all-important and abiding result that will be in the very best interests of our country and future generations.
We must not allow the challenges of the time, the provocation of the moment, to detract us from the path already set by our forebears to create a non-racial, non-sexist, united, prosperous and democratic society as our answer to the racial agenda of the supremacists, what Anton Lembede and Steve Biko referred to as a human and humane civilisation.
The eyes of the world are watching how South Africa responds to the provocative actions of the few in a manner that still affirms their faith in the justness of our struggle and historic correctness of our vision.
The way we react to this racial provocation will go a long way to convince the younger generations that our strategies and tactics have thus far been correct and that we were right to pursue the path of reconciliation.
But we must also hasten to reiterate it that at the very heart of this reconciliation effort is the addressing of the historic injustice of apartheid-colonialism and the affirming of the material interests of the majority of South Africans for long the outcasts in their land, marginalised from political and socio-economic involvement, but the pillars and mainstay of our freedom!
We must hold accountable all individuals and organisations violating the dignity of fellow citizens through racist speech or physical violence.
We need to respond firmly and harshly to such individuals or organisations.
Black people are the majority in South Africa.
South Africa is an African nation in Africa.
After centuries of military, social, economic and psychological violence, we are adamant that black South Africans will not, and should not, tolerate racist insult or degradation of any kind.
In Germany it is a crime to deny the fact of or impact of the Holocaust, and to use anti-Semitic language, because that society appreciates the moral clarity and gravity of that period of its history.
In that critical area, free speech is overridden.
Let us define the racists outside the bounds of the acceptable. This is what our brave forebears fought and died for.
CDE. MALUSI GIGABA IS A MEMBER OF THE ANC NEC