Allow me to begin with expressing how much pleasure it gives us to work with the FW de Klerk Foundation as a partner.
In the past few years the partnership between the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the FW de Klerk Foundation as well as with its Centre for Constitutional Rights (CFCR) has been most productive and fruitful. We have jointly hosted many conferences, workshops and seminars on important constitutional topics that are pertinent for a sustainable democratic future of South Africa.
As a German political Foundation, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung aims to promote democracy, good governance and the rule of law. In order to achieve these objectives we need good partners, we highly value the expertise of local partners. That is why here in SA we implement most of our activities in cooperation with state institutions, civil society organizations, think tanks or universities. Without a doubt we consider ourselves lucky to have the FW de Klerk Foundation as a partner and source of expertise.
The theme of today’s conference, which deals with the future of a multicultural society, is not only relevant for the South African context but also for the situation we are currently facing in my home country Germany.
The influx of migrants has led to an intense debate on how to manage cultural, religious and ethnical diversity. People in Germany are anxious what the future will look like. Politicians and the society as a whole are confronted with some fundamental questions:
- How can we show solidarity and fulfill our humanitarian obligations without losing our cultural identity and overstretching our ability and willingness to help?
- How do we deal with the increase in extreme political positions that threaten our democratic values?
- How do we deal with people’s fears, concerns and negative sentiments caused by the current refugee crisis?
- How can we promote the integration of foreigners and how do we safeguard our social cohesion in times of such crisis?
Michael Thielen, General Secretary of the Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung, has urged in a recent comment to discuss the current challenges more rationally and less emotionally and not to paint a picture of doom and gloom for the future of Germany.
The Foundation is convinced that it is important to have a solid understanding of the multiple challenges that Germany is currently facing. These challenges must not lead to pessimism and passivity or resignation. Instead we must use them as political drivers to actively shape the future.
Reading this comments and sitting in Joburg reminded me of the situation in SA.
South Africa too seems to be under immense pressure these days. As a foreigner and guest of this country I do not feel authorized to comment on the political situation of this country, especially when there are so many experts and political actors in the room.
However, when visiting Exclusive Books, I notice book titles, such as “How long will South Africa survive?”, “What if there were no Whites in South Africa?”, “We started our descent” or “Dominance and Decline”. These are certainly no uplifting titles. The reading of newspapers or tweets does not help to improve the mood either.
To make a long story short, I think Germany and South Africa have quite a few challenges and problems in common, such as:
- The increase of extremist political views and positions;
- A questioning of national identity and social cohesion;
- A departure from a rational and fact-based debate towards an emotionally loaded and heated debate
- A new attraction of populist groups and parties that are not able or do not want to contribute to the solutions of the problems in any meaningful way.
I think what Germany shares with South Africa is the necessity to call upon political leaders, leaders from business, civil society and religious groups to abstain from emotionally loaded debates and practice a culture of informed and fact based debate.
We need to call on them to address the concerns and fears of the people and not to ignore them.
We need to call on them to be part of the solution and tackle the current challenges constructively.
The Konrad Adenauer Foundation hopes that platforms such as this conference today will promote constructive dialogue and will help to develop a common vision for the future of South Africa. I am therefore looking very much forward to the upcoming presentations and discussions.
I thank you!