By Sherwin Bryce-Pease
UNITED NATIONS, April 24 — Former South African deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka believes South Africa’s coming of age as a democracy allows it an opportunity for deep introspection about the values it wants to embrace.
In an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) here ahead of the country’s celebration of Freedom Day on Monday, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcukasaid the time had come for a deep think about issues of tolerance, the values of Ubuntu and the humane society which South African citizens want to build.
Reflecting on the scenes of xenophobia inSouth Africa in recent weeks which have shocked the world, Mlambo-Ngcuka, who is now Executive Director of UN Women, believes South Africa’s struggle for freedom was about creating a better life for all who live in South Africa, including foreign nationals.
“It is unacceptable that people will feel unwelcome in our country, and it is worse if people will be killed and experience violence. So, I think we need to reflect about how we go back to being the people that those we struggled with, who struggled for us, wanted us to be,” she said.
“It is our responsibility, it doesn’t matter where it comes from. Those are members of our community, it is our responsibility, so I wouldn’t like to split hairs.
“As South Africans I think we all have to take the responsibility to quell this, to actually speak about peace. And do so in one voice, to fight hate speech wherever it occurs and also to make sure that in all strata of our society we take time to actually reflect about what is it that we should be doing better; so that we do not have a society that projects itself in the manner in which we’ve seen.”
Mlambo-Ngucka also touched on an embargoed UN Women report on women’s empowerment due out on Monday and which she believes can help address some of the underlying concerns.
“Our report talks about an economy that ensures that we support women who support families, who will actually ensure that there is a better quality of life for most citizens,” she added.
“I think that we should also in our syllabus probably work even harder to introduce the human rights values. I think we talk about it, it’s an important part of what the struggle was about and we can see, going back to our report, we emphasize the importance of human rights. Even in the economy, we need to emphasize the importance of human rights and within those human rights, tolerance.”