405 000 lay complaint with UN CERD - Solidarity

Movement warns that minorities are generally way too exposed in South Africa

The complaint of tens of thousands of South Africans about double standards that apply to dealing with race lodged with UN today

Solidarity’s UN campaign today reached a peak when a collective complaint, supported by 405 000 South Africans, was lodged with the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The submission of the report coincided with the last day of the 92nd session of the committee. Several heavyweight South African politicians feature in the report due to the hate speech and xenophobic sentiments they have expressed in the past, president Jacob Zuma, Julius Malema, Minister Lulu Xingwana and North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo counting among them.

Events in Coligny also featured prominently at the UN Committee today, in particular Mahumapelo’s role in inciting racial violence. CERD focuses particularly on people in authority who are committing hate speech. According to Solidarity’s report submitted to CERD, South Africa currently serves as the perfect example of people in positions of power who use their influence to mobilise others on the basis of race.

“The more the ANC is under pressure because of poor government the more politicians resort to populist race rhetoric to mobilise support. By playing the racial political card, Malema is trying to outperform the ANC, which is creating a very dangerous situation in South Africa. The racial discourse in South Africa is so skewed that it has become necessary that international watchdogs investigate the situation. International convention and justice form part of the South African democratic landscape and we need to resort to it more often,” Solidarity Chief Executive Dirk Hermann said.

In its collective complaint, Solidarity requests CERD to launch a formal inquiry into the matter by requesting information from organisations such as the SAHRC as well as from government, and to send a delegation to South Africa to investigate the situation on the ground. Should CERD agree on the substance of Solidarity’s complaint the committee may make recommendations to government and / or refer the matter to the UN’s Security Council.

“In particular, the UN convention aims to protect minorities. Usually, majorities are in a position of power which can easily be abused. When insufficient measures are in place to protect the minority, a dangerous situation is created that cannot simply be ignored. It is indeed by its ability to protect its minority that a democracy is tested. In South Africa, minorities are generally way too exposed.

South Africa is very tolerant when it comes to racial slurs made by South Africans in positions of power but are totally intolerant when the same is done by ordinary white South Africans who have no power,” Hermann said.

In an analysis of the phenomenon, Solidarity inter alia points out that estate agent Penny Sparrow’s statements about black South Africans had 4 501 media hits, while Julius Malema’s statements that white South Africans will not be slaughtered just yet, and that their peace must be disturbed, only had 163 hits.

Solidarity’s complaint follows in the wake of the success it had last year when it brought a complaint about quotas in the workplace and in sport to CERD. As a result, CERD asked government, among other things, to report on its policies and practices, and criticised South Africa’s current dispensation, one that is reminiscent of apartheid classifications. The committee was also of the opinion that South Africa’s quota system was too inflexible.

Apart from submitting this complaint to CERD, Solidarity has also this week petitioned the SA parliament about the selective way in which racism is being dealt with in South Africa, and lodged complaints about the matter with the South African Human Rights Commission, the International Human Rights Commission and the International Labour Organisation. At the same time, Solidarity has also conducted talks with high-ranking officials at the various UN bodies as well as with the South African Human Rights Commission.

Dirk Hermann (Geneva)

Chief Executive: Solidarity

Connie Mulder (South Africa)

Head: Solidarity Research Institute

Issued by Solidarity, 12 May 2017