Roy Jankielsohn MPL
DA Caucus Leader in the Free State
Note: the following speech was delivered during a debate on Human Rights during a sitting of the Free State Legislature in Clocolan
Honourable Deputy-Speaker, our country has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world that is a product of an inclusive negotiation process by various groups of people that make up our rainbow nation. Our constitution was made possible by two main factors. One factor was the role of various liberation movements in South Africa who ensured that the plight of the black majority of South Africa was heard across the globe. This struggle for a new dispensation must be acknowledged by the minorities who benefited from the previous political dispensation. Those individuals who actively participated in this struggle must be given due credit by a grateful nation. Many of these individuals sit among us today in this legislature.
Another factor was the realisation by the former governing minority group in South Africa that no nation can sustain a dispensation that is morally wrong. For this reason the majority of white South Africans supported the political changes that were put before them during a referendum and subsequent elections. Human Rights day in South Africa is a time to reflect on our past and ensure that we do not repeat any of the injustices and mistakes made in the past. We must reflect on where we come from, but also on where we would like to be. In other words we must acknowledge our past, but act on our future.
Deputy-Speaker, I have listened to members of this legislature expressing legitimate anger over Apartheid. In many instances I and my colleagues have been on the receiving end of this anger. We have at times tried to fight back, and at other times listened with resignation to how a raw hatred has manifested itself in speeches and member’s statements. While the emotion is legitimate, if we as leaders cannot overcome a history of human rights abuses, hatred, and war that constitutes the history of our country, then how will our people be able to do so? The majority of white people in the Free State and in South Africa want to work with all other South Africans towards a better future. Many white South African’s find it difficult to relate to political leaders who make them feel like foreigners, outsiders, or even criminals. Most South Africans are looking to the governing party for a sincere expression of inclusion. There are still many inequalities in our country that are racial in nature. Our economy, our residential areas, most of our schools, and our social groups reflect this. We need to change this, but change can only take place if all the people who make up our rainbow nation are included in this change. After 18 years of democracy and 16 under our current constitution our country is still divided. We must all ask ourselves whether our aggressive and degrading discourse in this legislature contributes to a better South Africa? Where is the spirit of brotherhood that we remember from the queues while we all waited to participate in our country’s first democratic elections? We may have supported different political parties, but we were proud of our common achievements that culminated in that moment on 27 April 1994. We must accept that our destinies are linked to one another, and that we have a common future. Our future will however depend on how we relate to our fellow South Africans today. We must all acknowledge that Apartheid was hurtful to the majority of South Africans and that we all have to work together to overcome this legacy.
Deputy-Speaker, we must make an effort to put aside our own feelings and make an effort to understand the stereotypes, fears, and prejudices that motivate people with different backgrounds to ours. If we as politicians can do this, then we will be able to carry out the counter intuitive gestures and actions that will ultimately change behaviour and attitudes of all our people that constitute our rainbow nation. Our constitution and bill of rights protects all the people in our country, but we as politicians, and not a document, will have to unite our people in our country. We may have a divided past, but we must accept that we all have common future in South Africa. Few of us chose to be here, most of us were born here, but for better or for worse, we are all in this melting pot together.