Prof. Thuli Madonsela, Law Faculty Trust Chair for Social Justice and law professor at Stellenbosch University, and Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu. Photo: FoodForMzansi.co.za

“When poor people have nothing to eat, one of these days they are going to eat rich people,” said Prof. Thuli Madonsela, Law Faculty Trust Chair for Social Justice and law professor at Stellenbosch University, during the opening of the inaugural Social Justice Summit.

“When people get angry, you and I and everyone else suffers. I would like us to question government when we need to, but I’d like to focus primarily on where are we going, and what will you and I can do.

Madonsela, who is the founder of the Social Justice M-Plan, reminded distinguished guests, including former president F.W. de Klerk and Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, that “ubuntu brought us here”. She says, “We are here to decide where we are in South Africa with regards to social justice. Where do we want to be in 2030? What levers of change can we use?”

When questioned by Food For Mzansi about agriculture’s role in social cohesion, Madonsela said, “There are tensions around farming, and yet there’s a lot of goodness around farming.” She said that the farming community has a lot to gain from contributing to the social justice initiative. “You’re getting more people to know that there’s a lot more transformative good work happening in agriculture than the problems we have about the legacy of the past.”

The 92-year-old former ANC stalwart prof. Ben Turok, a director of the Institute for African Alternatives, warned that South Africa has reached a stalemate. “A kind of a doldrum has settled where new ideas need to develop. I am very uncomfortable that we are in a mood of stalemate politically, economically, even socially.”

Prof. Ben Turok, a director of the Institute for African Alternatives

Turok says the result is a climate where plans, like the M-Plan, have little chance to succeed. Breaking the stalemate needs a great deal of thought, planning and commitment. “Civil society, the media, the courts have major role to play. We have to find a way to energise a new momentum, we need a new momentum.”

His sentiments were echoed by Stellenbosch University rector and vice-chancellor Prof. Wim de Villiers. “We are at a crossroads in the history of South Africa. Major challenges remain, including inequality and corruption. The National Development Plan also outlines this. As long as there is injustice, it is not possible to have sustainable peace.”

De Klerk said he continues to believe in the Constitution as it is does provide a pathway to social justice and greater equality. It laid the platform and created space for government and civic society to achieve these goals.

“BBEEE has demonstrably failed to advance equality,” he said. He criticized government’s focus on affirmative action and BB-EEE for only advancing “the most advanced section of the middle class”, but doing nothing for the most vulnerable. This despite the constitution expressly empowering government to take action to improve the plight of the most disadvantaged South Africans. He believes that the single most effective way to address inequality would be to issue title deeds to give ownership to people. “That is R1.5 trillion of wealth instantly put into the hands of households,” he said.

Mthembu, who was the keynote speaker, highlighted the need for a multi-faceted approach by all stakeholders in dealing with poverty, inequality and joblessness. He also stressed the need for what he described as a social contract between academia, legislators, policymakers, judicial officers, business leaders and civil society.

The Social Justice M-Plan supports the Sustainable Development Goals of ending all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030, making sure that all people have sufficient and nutritious food all year. Around 25% of South Africans are living below the food poverty line of R531 per month, according to a Stats SA report in 2018. The threshold of R531 is widely regarded as the level below which individuals are unable to purchase sufficient food to provide them with an adequate diet to meet their basic nutritional requirements.

Prof. Thuli Madonsela and Minister Jackson Mthembu pictured with invited speakers for the inaugural Social Justice Summit held at the Hazendal Wine Farm in Stellenbosch.

The Social Justice M-Plan supports the Sustainable Development Goals of ending all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030, making sure that all people have sufficient and nutritious food all year. Around 25% of South Africans are living below the food poverty line of R531 per month, according to a Stats SA report in 2018. The threshold of R531 is widely regarded as the level below which individuals are unable to purchase sufficient food to provide them with an adequate diet to meet their basic nutritional requirements.

  • Food For Mzansi co-founders, Kobus Louwrens and Ivor Price, were invited by Madonsela to present on land reform and social cohesion during the Social Justice Summit. Acting Judge President of the Land Claims Court Shehnaz Meer, Dr Nkanyiso Sibanda from the University of the Western Cape, the chief executive of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange Nicky Newton-King and former Western Cape premier Helen Zille were also invited, amongst many others, to make submissions on various key topics.
Staff Reporter
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