Letter: Unity message must be clear - The Witness

16 October 2020 - President Cyril Ramaphosa used his latest weekly newsletter to exhort South Africans to unite to confront crime, specifically as it afflicts farming communities. "If we are to succeed in tackling violent crime, particularly in rural communities, we must confront this trauma and challenge the racial attitudes that prevent a united response."

President Cyril Ramaphosa used his latest weekly newsletter to exhort South Africans to unite to confront crime, specifically as it afflicts farming communities. "If we are to succeed in tackling violent crime, particularly in rural communities, we must confront this trauma and challenge the racial attitudes that prevent a united response."

This is sage advice; crime does affect all of us, and social trust and cooperation are important tools to counter it. It would, however, be more convincing if representatives of the government and ruling party were to follow this advice conscientiously.

The message is too often a mixed one, especially as regards commercial farmers. Farmers may one day be praised for their contribution to food security, and damned the next as land thieves.

The president has himself contributed to this by invoking the notion of "our people", particularly when discussing land matters. Taken in context, it is clear that this does not encompass the whole population. This is not reassuring to those whom it excludes, nor does it set a good example for societal cohesion.

To call for banishing "racial attitudes", while tacitly encouraging them where it seems politically convenient, is deeply damaging for the country. It complicates and undermines our ability to seek durable solutions to our many problems, of which crime is but one.

Fortunately, there is an abundance of polling evidence that shows most South Africans are not racially obsessed, that they respect one another and see their own future as linked to that of their peers. They want to live in security in a society that delivers prosperity.

Those in authority might learn a thing or two from them.

Terence Corrigan

Project manager, Institute of Race Relations

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