INDEPENDENT Media, owners of the Cape Times, and its parent company, Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, have teamed up with the SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) to actively fight the scourge of racism.
They are to launch a campaign against all forms of racism by promoting active citizenry. The “Racism. It Stops With Me” campaign will officially be launched on February 11, using Independent’s newspaper and online platforms.
The campaign will be rolled out in Independent Media’s 20 newspaper titles and digital platforms, with the media group also encouraging debate and discussion on public platforms, in schools and universities around the country.
Collecting a million signatures condemning racism, anti-racism concerts and naming and shaming racists are considered as part of the campaign. More comprehensive details will be announced at a function coinciding with the State of the Nation address on February 11. Regional anti-racism conferences are to be held in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.
Sactwu general secretary Andre Kriel said the campaign was not simply a knee-jerk reaction to the latest incidents of racism on social media.
“There are many instances where issues get thrown out in the heat of the moment and then everybody wants to start a campaign on that specific issue, then it just dies down,” said Kriel.
He said racists were bold in expressing their racism because there were barely any consequences for their actions. This was because institutions meant to deal with the scourge were not empowered enough to take “concrete, harsh action”.
And while criminal complaints had been lodged against KwaZulu-Natal estate agent Penny Sparrow, Kriel said it would be very difficult to secure a conviction.
“At the end of the day, when this campaign ends, there must be some measurable change that we've brought about,” said Kriel.
“As a trade union with one of the racially most diverse membership profiles in the country, Sactwu wishes to be at the forefront of this anti-racism campaign. Often workers bear the brunt of racist attacks, in the workplace and generally in society.
“It is important that the ongoing scathing attacks on our human dignity be arrested, if we are to help prevent our country from facing an explosion of racial hatred. This cannot be good for socio-economic stability or nation-building.”
He said South Africa had to dig deep to the roots of racism which still plagued it. No longer could it be glossed over.
“It requires that we examine, in a detailed manner, what practically must be done to help strengthen our institutions and our legal framework to empower them to deal decisively with racism,” said Kriel.
Independent Media and Sekunjalo executive chairman Dr Iqbal Survé said it was up to ordinary citizens to take South Africa forward in the fight against racism. “If we’re going to leave it to politicians, we’re going to make a terrible mistake. They only want power,” said Dr Survé.
He said racism was the first step towards xenophobia and stripped the humanity from people judged solely on their skin colour. Dr Survé said some South African companies also had to be called to account for the subjective treatment of their workers, which in essence was racism.
“Racism is not just about saying someone is black and white, it’s about the actions. If your actions only affect black people, you are racist,” said Dr Survé.
He said the campaign would fight racism also by celebrating black excellence, ultimately restoring the dignity of blacks.
“The time for merely talking about racism and equality in our country is over. We need decisive action and for all South Africans to be part of the long-term solution to combat racism. At Independent Media, we have consciously contributed to the development of our country by shining the spotlight on our country’s burning issues and giving our readers in all sectors of society the platform to share their stories,” said Dr Survé.