The Hon. Ms Sibongile Nkomo MP
In a country as diverse and pluralistic as South Africa, with its veritable melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, its young democracy, constitutional dispensation and myriad of social and economic challenges, it is nothing less than a gargantuan task in building a caring society by entrenching human rights for all. Yet it is a task that we must be equal to.
Our democracy follows closely on the heels of an authoritarian apartheid regime built upon the cornerstones of separate development and inequality, and in the 21 years since the fall of apartheid we have still not been able to redress or reduce the imbalance in any significant measure.
With our Gini coefficient – which is a measure of inequality in our society – currently at 0.63, we are still one of the most unequal countries in the world.
In addition, our heterogeneous nature with our 11 official languages, four major racial groups, each with their own ethnic and linguistic sub-groups make it an extreme challenge to foster social cohesion.
On top of this we have an economic environment characterized by high unemployment and low economic growth. We must build our society so that we can say we have low unemployment and high economic growth instead – not an easy task, but one that must be done.
Honourable Speaker, we must also build strong foundational human rights structures in this country. Our Chapter 9 Institutions remain a concern and need to be accorded greater mechanisms of enforcement. These institutions are meant to safeguard our democracy – instead, we have seen the independence of the Electoral Commission come into question and the Public Protector being attacked for doing her work impartially.
How can we, these guardians of democracy, be praised on one hand, but at the same time undermined by the very people who praised their establishment?
As the IFP, we want to see human rights for all, with a special focus on women’s rights. The chronic underrepresentation and undermining of women in our society is appalling, despite claims that South Africa is progressing on gender issues.
The progressive nature of women’s rights in South Africa is consistently limited by the cultural, specifically patriarchal, laws and structures that govern our country.
Honourable Speaker, it is within this framework, and taking all of the above into account, that we must still ensure that basic human rights, as entrenched in our constitution, are extended to all. If we are to truly become a caring society, we must not only talk about the ideal of caring, but actual live it out. Otherwise we will continually be a society that cares through words while our deeds tell a completely different story.
I Thank You