We are equal but different, Asmal says

03 March 2008 | Story by Myolisi Gophe

Embrace multiculturalism: Prof Kader Asmal argues that multiculturalism can't lead to dictating cultural rights

South Africans must have equal rights, but at the same time have a right to be different, former cabinet minister Professor Kader Asmal says.

Delivering his public lecture, Multiculturalism under threat: Plight of the diaspora, at UCT on 28 February, Asmal, a former minister of education and of water affairs and forestry, dispelled the belief that Afrikaans is losing its place at schools.

He said it is a parallel medium of instruction and that there is no guaranteed exclusive language.

"We should not muddy the situation and say Afrikaans is under threat. Language is one of the fundamental rights and the 11 official languages should be treated as equitable, not equally."

Asmal reminded the students that not long ago our differences were our defining feature, which emphasised social divisions and exaggerated cultural differences.

"The core values of the Constitution - freedom equality, justice and dignity - have set the relationship between rights and duties in a way open to everyone. We value multiculturalism because we want to preserve a wide range of human conditions, allowing people the best chance to make their own lives. In South Africa we value not only allegiances but also contemporary trends towards local citizenship."

He added that people have rights to language, culture and customs provided those don't clash with fundamental principles of non-racism and non-sexism.

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