SA WILL host at least nine provincial social cohesion summits in the next 12 months, as well as a national summit in 2017.

This is in the face of criticism that similar nation-building initiatives have often ended up being talk shops, delivering few solutions to the challenges awaiting citizens.

During the closing address of the first national Social Cohesion Summit in Kliptown, Soweto, following the adoption of a declaration, Arts and Culture Minster Paul Mashatile said this was expected to guide the country towards building a caring and proud society.

The two-day summit was attended by delegates from across the political spectrum, including Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille, government ministers, business people and activists.

Mr Mashatile said the building of social cohesion must take place in the context of improving the quality of life of all South Africans.

"I know that there are those that suggest that we talk too much. But there should be continued engagement," he said.

There was an agreement that building a cohesive society had to happen in the context of delivering a better life for all South Africans, echoing the African National Congress policy conference resolution last week to place more focus on speeding up socioeconomic transformation, said Mr Mashatile.

Earlier yesterday a delegate from Mpumalanga complained about the procurement of transport for delegates in his province and how it had been arranged, suggesting it was irregular that the tender had been granted to taxi owners living "400km away" in Pretoria.

The summit declaration committed stakeholders to holding more summits at provincial and local government level in the next 12 months, as well as hosting a national summit again in 2017. The document also reaffirms the values contained in the constitution.

However, Mr Mashatile said it could be possible to meet again in 2014 - on the occasion of the second decade of SA's democracy - for further reflection. "Don't get tired of talking and engaging, but include action (as well). We must never say we cannot talk," he said.

The Commission for Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities said it had planned eight projects "in order to build the nation and ensure that social cohesion values are practically implemented". CEO Pheagane Moreroa said the summit had long been outstanding, and he hoped "the outcomes (will) be implemented at all levels of government, including non-governmental organisations".

stones@bdfm.co.za