Deputy President David Mabuza says the recent political instability in Senekal that led to polarised protests can only be resolved by addressing the underlying socio-economic inequalities in the eastern Free State town.
The Deputy President said this when he responded to oral questions in the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday.
“The Senekal events are an indication that the objective of building a country, based primarily on non-racialism and unity across cultural diversity, remains deferred until we have maximally addressed socio-economic disparities.
“That is why we reiterate the importance of steadfastly working towards addressing prevailing inequalities, because, if these inequalities are structurally deep, they can lead to serious polarisation that, in turn, will result in social and political instability,” he said.
ANC MP Nokuzola Ndongeni had asked whether, in light of the public unrest in Senekal last month following the murder of a local businessman Brendin Horner, the implementation of any social cohesion activities will assist in calming the high levels of emotions.
In response, the Deputy President said: “For as long as deep inequalities exist, whether as a result of wealth or income disparities, and or extreme poverty, the mere hosting of cultural events will not produce a cohesive society. We know that divisions fester in hopelessness.
“Therefore, social cohesion hinges on the minimisation of economic inequalities”.
He said in order to respond in a sustainable manner to incidences like that of Senekal, there is a need to focus on three key aspects – consensus on values that shape our nationhood; working towards economic inclusion; and collective action in resolving social issues confronting our nation.
“That is why we must confront the historical injustices that continue to threaten our peace and stability to enable us to move forward as one people, one nation and one South Africa.
“We maintain that if we do not address the issue of land justice, we will be aiding in the cultivation of inevitable social friction that would pull us backwards instead of launching us into a prosperous and shared future.
“The unfinished programme of land reform as well as prevailing conditions of inequalities, provides a fertile ground for social discord and political instability.
“This has often resulted in for example, illegal land occupations, urban sprawl, and systemic exclusion of the majority mostly, women and youth from productive means of economic empowerment.”
Government deeply disturbed by Senekal events.
The Deputy President said government is deeply disturbed by the events that unfolded in Senekal as well as the degeneration into politics of race baiting and divisive populism.
“The Senekal events are an indication that the objective of building a country, based primarily on non-racialism and unity across cultural diversity, remains deferred until we have maximally addressed socio-economic disparities,” he said.
He said it was government’s task to ensure that farming communities live in peace and harmony to support efforts towards increased agricultural production to sustain food security and economic growth.
“Crimes such as murder, stock theft, and the violation of the rights of farm dwellers and workers must be condemned by all of us. We must fight and defend the rights of everyone.
“Opportunities must be created for everyone to work the land and irk out a living without any fear of being murdered or violated. We must encourage broad-based participation and collaboration among all those who work and live on the farms, to work with law enforcement agencies in making the farming environment safe for everyone.”