On the 5th and the 7th of September 2023, the Ismail Mahomed centre for Human and Peoples’ Rights was invited by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to a stakeholder meeting about the impact of tribalism in the Vhembe District. The stakeholders included traditional leaders, religious leaders, Vhembe municipality and chapter 9 institutions. Long, robust and comprehensive presentations and discussions were held by the various stakeholders who attended on the different roles each institution can play to bring the tribalism conundrum to an end.
There was a consensus among all speakers that tribalism in the South African context results from the legacy of apartheid, the forced removals of people, and geographic separation. It was concluded that the legacy of apartheid led to an ununified province district. Various speakers stated that before apartheid, African people in the Vhembe district, including the Venda and Tsonga people, co-existed and lived harmoniously in unity, embracing each other’s heritage and culture. It was also agreed that tribalism and racism are relative concepts and that if tribalism is not adequately dealt with, communities may face deeper problems.
It was emphasised that traditional leadership as well as religious houses are critical institutions that will play a critical role in fostering unity and building social cohesion in communities. Contributions from the Ismail Mahomed Centre for Human and Peoples’ Rights were on the role of institutions of higher learning in ending tribalism and building social cohesion. All stakeholders cordially received submissions from the centre, showing commitment to ending tribalism within the district and fostering social cohesion. The Ismail Mahomed Centre is committed to building and supporting the cause of human rights observation and respect. The key take away is that African people must respect and embrace each other regardless of culture, race, skin colour, gender and religion because we are first human before these statuses!