Cape Town, March 21, 2017 (TNE) : Amid a surge in racism, the South African government is finalising the National Action Plan against Racism and Related Intolerance, President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
This plan will give further clarity and guidance to the government and to the broader South African society on the fight against racism and related intolerance, Zuma said at a rally to mark the Human Rights Day in King William’s Town, Eastern Cape Province.
On March 21, 1960, 69 people were shot dead and scores injured by the apartheid police during a peaceful march demanding free movement in Sharpeville, Gauteng Province, an incident that shocked the whole world.
In 1994 when apartheid was brought to an end, the South African government declared March 21 as the Human Rights Day.
The theme of the day this year is Unity in Action in Advancing Human Rights.
”Sadly, the ideology of racism remains firmly entrenched among some in our population, and it represents one of the most despicable human rights violations,” the president said.
He was apparently referring to the recent spate of violence against foreigners in Pretoria and some other parts of the country.
A massive march against foreign presence in the city took place on Feb. 24 following attacks on foreigners.
Pretoria has previously been a hotbed for xenophobic attacks that regularly swept through the country, with community members breaking into shops, stealing stock and assaulting shop-keepers.
”We are, however, encouraged at the level of outrage that these incidents usually draw. It proves that South Africans are generally not tolerant of racism,” Zuma said.
In addition to the anti-racism action plan, the government recently also published the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, according to Zuma.
Once it becomes law, it will criminalise several forms of discrimination, including on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and nationality.
”This Bill is a perfect illustration of the seriousness with which we view hate crimes in our country,” Zuma said.
South Africans mark Human Rights Day each year for important reasons, he said.
”We come from a history where there was a scant regard for fundamental human rights.
”It is most fitting that we pause annually, and remember the past so as to learn from it and never repeat its wrongs,” Zuma added. (TNE)