ADDRESS BY DEPUTY PRESIDENT ZUMA TO
THE OPENING OF THE CREATIVE WRITING AND ART EXHIBITION
IN SUPPORT OF THE WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM, 23
The Minister of Education
The children - our gifts for the future Ladies and gentlemen
I am proud to be able to address you today, in this,
the culmination of a wonderful programme to produce
creative writing and art.
The Ministry of Education, together with its social
partners, SADTU, NAPTOSA and the SAOU (Suid Afrikaanse
Onderwys Unie) have combined under the auspices of the
Education Labour Relations Council, to form a potent
force in combating racism and intolerance in our schools.
And they do this I am sure in the knowledge that if
we can change things there, we will change them in society
as well. Through this programme thousands of learners
across the country have been exposed to information
and ideas about racism, and have had to think about
racism. And they have each responded in their own way.
This initiative is certainly assuring us that to these
children, racism will be something of the past when
they reach adulthood. We hope they will never experience
racism in their lives.
The World Conference on Racism is nearly upon us, and
South Africa looks forward to hosting many thousands
of delegates from around the world to focus attention
on racism, xenophobia and intolerance. The many foreign
delegates will come to South Africa to see a country
that has become a model for dealing with racism.
We in South Africa have instead of ignoring racism
or trying to deny its existence, we have had the political
will to put the matter of racism openly on the table.
In the ruins of institutionalised racism, we have put
in place a democracy and legislated against racism and
In facing our past with a view to dealing with future,
we established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,
to enable us as a nation to become fully aware of the
extent of the damage that racism had caused to us as
We also have a Human Rights Commission, which is an
important instrument, for our nation to ensure that
human rights are respected and the cultures of respect
and tolerance are deepened, and to ascertain that we
develop a sound social fabric in our country.
The Values in Education Manifesto that we have just
launched is also an attempt to entrench tolerance at
an early age, which will last for life. This is a best
way of nation building through education.
As South Africa we are well prepared to enter the forthcoming
Conference. Under the theme of "A Nation in Dialogue",
the National Conference on Racism was held in August
last year, convened by the Human Rights Commission,
and which led to the Millennium Statement on Racism.
A programme of action suggested a number of steps,
and the last of these was for South Africans to support
the 3rd UN Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. In addition, we
have held a series of provincial preparatory Conferences,
in which delegates were able to reveal some of their
horrific experiences at the hands of racists, and start
to develop democratic responses to these ongoing actions.
Our participation in the World Conference will therefore
be based on the experience of our people, and will reflect
their determination to get rid of this scourge, which
still haunts our nation.
The Ministry of Education is to be highly commended
for now putting in place this third layer of preparations,
involving the very foundations of our society - the
learners. You cannot get more grassroots than the children!
Ladies and gentlemen, we are here today to honour the
children, and the best way to do that is to read you
some of their work.
But first let me tell you that the contributions by
the children showed a wide range - a variety of languages
and many different forms of expression, much like our
country itself! I commend them all to you - each of
them says something to us, and they are all winners.
The quality of the art you can see for yourself. In
this exhibition I see the hope of the future, and it
is being built upon the humility of all our people.
The written contributions include some very formal
essays, well researched and written analyses of racism.
There are also fictional stories, telling us something
about people, and some biographies, expressing both
anger and hope.
There is lots of poetry, and there is a short play.
There is even a science fantasy, which asks a fundamental
question: if an alien landed on earth, would we greet
them as one race: the human race?
The contributions are not easy or fun to read, and
there are some hard reality checks. But most powerful
of all the contributions are the heartfelt pleas from
the mouths of our children - especially the very young.
Many told of incidents of intolerance which they had
personally experienced, had observed, or perhaps heard
of from a family member. They want it to stop.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to express once again
my appreciation to the Ministry of Education for initiating
this process. Thanks also to the trade union parties
to the Education Labour Relations Council, and the South
African Council for Educators, which provided professional
input on the exhibition. You have shown your commitment
to the common cause of nation building, and that despite
our differences on some other important issues you care
about the future generation of this nation. I therefore
wish you well in your teacher development programme
in pursuit of that noble cause.
We note and appreciate all the many schools and individual
teachers who supported the programme, signalling their
determination to deal with intolerance. From Cape Town
to Messina, and from Durban to the Northern Cape, there
are schools, which are serving as models of the new
South Africa, and they told us their stories.
We salute these teachers, who are creating a new generation
of South African citizens, and new generation which
must see and do things very differently.
And of course special thanks to the learners themselves,
from all around South Africa, who participated in the
exhibition. All your efforts have been noticed and are
highly appreciated. By participating, you have been
part of a worldwide movement, which will culminate in
a huge gathering in Durban later this month. When you
see the Conference on television, feel proud, for you
are part of it, and you have served your country well.
To those selected for an award today, special congratulations
to you. You are the torchbearers - carry it high and
let its light shine on all who see it. You are changing
the world, to make it a better place.