Ministerial Task Team Members
All Senior Officials
Non-Governmental Organisations Leadership
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to be here this morning, weeks ahead of a momentous occasion, where our young democracy will finally turns 25 years old.
The strength of a people is not tested during the period of bountiful harvest but at times of enduring drought and/or stormy seas. Yet, ‘gloom and despondency have never defeated adversity. Trying times need courage and resilience, so said our former President Thabo Mbeki.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has characterised this epoch as a period to celebrate the triumph of freedom over subjugation, the triumph of democracy over racial tyranny, and the triumph of hope over despair.
President Ramaphosa has made a clarion call to all of us to dig deep within ourselves and find that basic instinct as people of resilience, determination and optimism. Indeed, the future shall be better than today and yesterday.
We are indeed a special generation in that we have lived long enough to celebrate a quarter of a century since the advent of democracy in 1994. Posterity will call us the midwives of this new democratic dispensation.
However, all legacies are contested, so if we really want to be on the right side of history, we must intensify our efforts of rebuilding our fragile land. Somewhere, somehow, we lost our way. Today, South Africa needs healing, NOW.
We have merged from a brief period of strife, distrust, disunity and attempts to steal our dreams through the state capture network and other malfeasances. We must push back.
If we really intend to book our place in history books, we have to breathe hope, renewal and promote inclusive economic growth. We must do so and succeed so that we may bequeath to the next generation a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
For us to succeed in birthing a new season of hope in our land that will require sacrifice and harnessing the productive capacity of all our people, both black and white.
We must harmonise various macro and micro initiatives around the country aimed at dealing with the scourge of racism, sexism and gender based violence. These are terrible threes of our time.
As we celebrate, we must honour those who paid an ultimate sacrifice for us to have a place we call home.
A few days ago, we commemorated the first year since passing of our dear ‘Mother of the Nation’ Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela.
Towards the end of your days, Mama Winnie, I wanted to whisper sweet nothings into your ear. In all honesty, all I wanted to say to you was - Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, ‘thank you.’
As we mark the first anniversary of your post mortal life, we say thank you for sacrificing your comfort zone for the oppressed and the downtrodden. We require no permission from anyone to celebrate your illustrious political career. Indeed, yours was a life solely devoted to the service of humanity. Rest in POWER, Qhawekazi!!!
Without provoking the ire of the commentariat I am proud to say South Africa of today is better country than what we inherited from the gangster apartheid state pre-1994. That’s notwithstanding some daunting challenges that we face as a nascent democracy.
We converge here to fulfil the mandate of this administration as directed by our Constitution.
Our Constitution demands of us to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.
When we signed the Constitution as a supreme law of the land, we entered into a covenant, a sacred promise never again to use the levers of state power to oppress our people nor for self-help.
We made a vow to allow our people to pursue such trivial pursuit as happiness knowing fully well in their content hearts that the State exists not for itself by serve their needs.
In 2015, we took a road less travelled and appointed a Ministerial Task Team to review all of our textbooks/workbooks and ensure that they all aligned with the values of our Constitution.
The appointment of the Task Team came hot on the heels of an in-house evaluation of a sample of school textbooks and Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSMs). That exercise found that there was indeed a prima facie case of contamination of our written texts with discriminatory content.
It was against this background that a Ministerial Task Team was appointed to evaluate a broad sample of existing textbooks and Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSMs).
Our aim is to align what is taught at our schools with our constutional value of openness, freedom and liberty.
This is a first step, part of a larger national project to reengineer all written basic education texts throughout the sector to advance the notion of nationhood.
As a country, we must take firm and decisive action to rid our country of all vestiges of apartheid: racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and bigotry of any kind that is inimical to the values of our Constitution.
Right here, today, we are ready to plant a new seed.
The success of our democracy can be judged by how much the public schooling is contributing to the efforts of building a socially cohesive society.
By its very nature, public schooling has lofty ideals which include enhancing democracy, promoting human rights and cementing a social justice culture.
Our moral obligation requires of us to teach our children the values of equality, diversity, social justice and human rights.
Thus all our textbooks/workbooks are being quarantined, and our experts are going through them with a fine tooth-comb to see if they meet the constitutionality test.
In our endeavour to create a new society of our dreams, we undertake to produce new texts that will promote attitudes and behaviours that contribute to nation building, social cohesion, diversity and national reconciliation.
If any text, reference or an example doesn’t pass the constitutional muster, it shall indeed suffer the fate of an invasive surgical removal.
Our noble intent is to embed the values of our Constitution into the basic education ecosystem.
Today, I am excited to be receiving the first Report of the Ministerial Task Team.
In the not too distant future, our children will be exposed to written texts that are free of any bigotry. It cannot be left to the vagaries of the markets and civil society to fulfil the promise of our Constitution.
This is an exclusive domain of the State working in tandem with its people.
At a first glance of the Ministerial Task Team first Report, it has already emerged that some sections of our society are under-presented if at all. Fore-instance, the LGBTIQ+ community makes a cameo appearance in our textbooks and other LTSMs.
In the light of the recent attacks on this community, we have a moral responsibility to teach our people the value of freedom of choice and promote tolerance.
Our Constitution expressly prohibits all unfair discrimination on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation.
Despite the universal purpose of public schooling which has its roots in egalitarian traditions, our textbooks/LTSMs promote elitism and patriarchy.
The textbooks/workbooks that promote patriarchy are circulating in our schools amidst the unrelenting assault on women bodies – for no reason other than that they are women.
This scourge of Gender based violence is steadily threatening to render our progressive legislative regime of the post-apartheid state a nullity.
Truly, this unrelenting Gender based violence is eating at the heart and soul of our nation.
In the context of this epidemic, the President has weighed in, calling it, ‘an affront to our shared humanity.’ He has correctly said that Gender-based violence in our country has become a crisis.
Speaking at the Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, held last year, the President said he was hinging his hope on us completing the review of our textbooks/LTSMs so that we can launch a pushback against the dastardly deed against women and children.
Mr. President, we are ready. You watch this space!
In conclusion, and on behalf of the basic education fraternity, I would love to extend our sincere gratitude to the Chairperson and members of the Ministerial Task Team for the excellent work done so far.
This Report was and still is a labour of love from some of South Africa’s foremost human rights scholars. You can proudly give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Ke a leboga, Ngiyabonga, Ndo levhowa, Ndiyabulela and Baie Dankie.
I thank you.