Johannesburg – Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has called on South Africans to work with government to resolve the country’s challenges, which threaten the advancement of democracy and stability.
Speaking during a convention on nation building, social cohesion and reconciliation on Monday in Johannesburg, Minister Mthethwa said government alone cannot resolve some of the country’s age old complex challenges.
Recently the country witnessed incidents of racism on social media, political tensions on the subject of statues and place names, as well as incidents of racial tensions or conflict in institutions of higher learning and on the farms.
“It is also a clear reminder that we should not always be fixated with asking what is government doing about the social, economic and political challenges of our time but rather ask what can we all do together to break the spine of these social ills that are a menace to stability and advancement of our relatively young democracy,” Minister Mthethwa said.
He said South Africa is emerging from a divided past but the country now has an opportunity to craft a future of common destiny and single purpose of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and just society that its founders and struggle icons envisioned.
“This is the greatest challenge of our era which is calling on all of us, black and white, rich and poor, workers and business sector, media and government, traditional leaders and religious leaders, political parties and youth formations, rural and urban dwellers, young and old, disabled and civil society leaders, to stand together to fulfil our historic mission.
“Perhaps it can be argued that the initial undermining of the role of arts, culture and heritage in favour of the economic and political project of our democracy and nation-building was a fundamentally flawed strategy, as we are now beginning to realize the compelling value of this sector in social cohesion, national identity and conciliation,” he said.
Minister Mthethwa said no amount of abstract ideas will resolve South Africa’s problems. The country needs to focus on creative, practical, simple, accessible methods and solutions that will resonate with the masses, he said.
“We should have grounded practical strategies and impactful solutions informed and inspired by societal mobilisation at different epochs of our struggle for justice.
“We may have diverse backgrounds and histories but we have a shared country and therefore, a common destiny and future that we must positively influence and shape. Together we can do more, but divided we will always fall short of assisting this great society realize its true potential,” he said.
The convention on nation building, social cohesion and reconciliation was attended by civil society organisations, business, students, faith communities, media and leaders from various sectors.
The convention follows a meeting held by Minister Mthethwa and Social Cohesion Advocates on 21 January, which was aimed at charting a way forward for the development of national plans to build social cohesion, combat racism and eradicate discrimination in South Africa.