South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday appealed to the nation to resist racist sentiments, following a brawl in parliament over the rights of white legislators to make submissions. Ramaphosa was addressing parliament to deliver an update on progress made to revive the economy, as well as the fight against crime.
His question and answer session was, however, interrupted by a flurry of fists and insults between legislators of the opposition parties, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Democratic Alliance (DA). Agang SA legislator Andries Tlouamma was physically attacked by the EFF’s Nazier Paulsen after he defended the right of white people to participate in the session.
Speaking after the fighting had ended; Ramaphosa said the country cannot afford to return to the raw racism of its apartheid past. “There should never be a time or an opportunity where we see each other as black, white and so forth and insult one another,” Ramaphosa said. ‘‘We are South Africans, and this is what defines us.”
Racial tensions in the country have been heightened by the EFF and ruling party’s backing of the policy of redistributing land to black people. “We cannot go back to that horrible past that we have had. We are a non-racial democracy. And however painful it might be and we still live with the pain that apartheid did we cannot revert to raw racism and separation of ourselves,”the president added.
Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) plans to change the constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation to address racial disparities in land ownership that persist more than two decades after apartheid’s demise in 1994.