As citizens, we each have our roles to play
South Africans usually mark Heritage Month as a period to engender social cohesion, nation building, and a shared national identity. However, nation building and social cohesion are not events, but goals that every South African should actively work towards achieving.
Building social cohesion is perhaps one of the most difficult yet fundamental challenges facing South African society. Social cohesion speaks to the glue that binds us together, forging a common sense of identity and a sense of belonging.
It speaks to a willingness to extend trust to outsiders, to respect fellow citizens and uphold their dignity, and to be moved to action in the face of persistent inequality on behalf of those who are marginalised.
Building a nation united in its diversity is the lodestar of the country’s constitution and the National Development Plan (NDP) and are values that must be guarded jealously.
The NDP acknowledges the fact that South Africa remains a divided society, and that access to and the quality of basic services continue to be determined by “the privilege attached to race, class, space and gender”.
Reducing these gaps between rich and poor, black and white, women and men, urban and rural is indeed a mammoth project in social and political engineering with the goal of creating the conditions for sustainable growth and development for the benefit of all who live in that society. Lest we forget, social cohesion is not the responsibility of the government alone. If defined as the willingness of members of a society to cooperate so that all can survive and prosper, then we as citizens each have our roles to play.
Sisanda Nkoala, Brand South Africa’s board trustee, said the country is stronger when people across racial lines work together and are united in a common purpose.
“Social cohesion is increasingly being seen as critical to the objectives of the developmental state, which, it is argued, requires a ‘social compact’ to rally all sectors of society together around a common national vision of transformation,” Nkoala said.
“The shared values of Ubuntu are the ties that bind this nation. We are a young democracy and we must never lose focus of the progress we have made in building a non-racial and non-sexist order.
“That project is by no means complete, but we are stronger as a nation when we pull in one direction and reject all forms of discrimination,” added Nkoala.