South Africans should be understanding, tolerant and empathetic towards issues of diversity within the context of culture and religion, says Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Deputy Minister, Obed Bapela.
In a statement, the Deputy Minister called on South Africans to become cultural activists and proponents of tolerance for the country's diverse backgrounds.
He made the plea in the wake of events that unfolded at Boulders Mall in Gauteng this week. In a video circulating on social media, the centre manager of the mall requests a member of the public to leave the centre for wearing his Ndebele traditional attire, describing it as "indecent". The manager has since been suspended by the centre.
In the statement, Bapela says the man, Thando Mahlangu, was "discriminated upon" and "treated with disdain".
He said guided by the country's Constitution of 1996, it should be emphasised that any form of prejudice or discrimination has no place in South Africa's multicultural and multiracial society.
"Any action, behaviour or conduct that seeks to undermine our cultural diversity is an antithesis to our constitutional principles of respect, tolerance and coexistence," said the Deputy Minister.
He said the unfortunate event has shown practically that managing diversity is proving to be a "somewhat difficult process" that cannot be left to the government alone.
"To protect the constitutional rights and freedoms of individuals and groups alike, all South Africans have to play their part to recognise our diversity which makes us unique.
"Whilst it is understandable that some in our society might not be exposed to different cultural practices, it cannot be correct to discriminate and disrespect the rights of others. It is incumbent upon individuals to acquaint themselves with various cultures in our country, as this is fundamental to addressing cultural conflict.
"It is important that anyone living in a diverse country such as ours should respect and have due regard for other individuals who observe or practice a variety of cultures. The expression of these multiculturalism features through attire, cuisine and language should be elevated to rightful prominence."
The Deputy Minister said South Africans should be understanding, tolerant and empathetic towards issues of diversity within the context of culture and religion. "Recognising that our strength is in our diversity, we should take up an important role of becoming cultural activists and proponents of tolerance for our different cultures."
He said government will continue to partner with respective institutions in pursuit of promoting multiculturalism and tolerance in an effort to build a better country.