Our arduous struggle against racism

While the rest of the world discusses the sociology of Racism and its limitations, ours is a lived and deeply entrenched reality.

Just like the colonial yoke, we will probably be the last country to unshackle ourselves from this scourge. Racism in South Africa will not simply disappear because we all wish it to – it will have to be consciously unlearned.

The struggle against racism has been a long, protracted and arduous journey that still remains unfulfilled. From the time of the arrival of colonialists on our shores to this very date we still, in different measures, have to contend with the ugly revival and re-appearance and resurgence of this monstrous beast in the national scene in South Africa.

The issue is not only the conduct of those who still harbour racists beliefs, but also of critical importance is the empowering of the victim of racism to accept that he/she is of equal worth to his fellow citizens.

Thus, a substantial improvement in the lives of Africans will constitute a veritable panacea against racism. Taking our people out of poverty and helplessness will go a very long way towards defeating racism as it thrives not just on unequal laws, but more so on poverty and disempowerment.

The struggle for freedom and justice has since its inception been premised on the urgent need to overthrow an oppressive, minority and racist regime.

From the many frontier wars that were waged, to the loss of land and dignity, to the imposition of iniquitous laws and loss of productive use of the land – these were all ingredients that accentuated the struggle for justice.

The formation of the ANC in 1912 in Bloemfontein signalled a new chapter in the struggle against racism and minority rule. Following the declaration of the Union of South Africa, the result was the exclusion of the African people from the franchise, thus confining them to the perpetual status of underclass.

At first, the struggle was about the quest for inclusion. The next approach was to build mass democratic organisations with the view to capacitate our people to fight for the overthrow of an unjust system.

Our people intensified the struggles against racism and its symbols such as the pass laws, influx control, forced removals, Bantu Education and the Group Areas Act.

After its assumption of power in 1948 the Nationalist Party was obsessed with the desire and determination to send a very strong message to Africans that they will be “put in their place.”

Oppressive laws such as the Criminal Law Amendment Act, the Bantu Education Act, the Suppression of Communism Act, the Native Resettlement Act and the Group Areas Act were passed in an alarming speed. All these laws were passed within the first five years of the assumption of office of the National Party.

The ANC had come to accept the centrality of the unity of our people as a potent weapon against racism and minority rule.

The victory of the Nationalist Party in 1948 was an attempt by the new Afrikaner rulers to foist a Nazi style stranglehold over the African people.

The ANC was faced with a critical task of navigating the complex maze of the South African political scene when it decided to work closely with the white, Indian and coloured organisations while at the same time retaining its hold on the aspirations of the African people.

This creative approach towards a non-racial political posture and activism required serious soul searching and handling of complex relations that involved at first the Liberal Party, the Indian Congress and the Communists Party of South Africa including the trade Unions.

The ANC took a conscious decision that the struggle against racism in South Africa should include White and Indian political parties.

With such a groundswell of mass based national support, victory against the racism regime was assured. This was a new and strategic direction that the ANC crafted for a non-racial broad political fulcrum whose opposition against the racist regime was to prove formidable.

The repression of the Nationalist Party also played into the hands of the strategic thrusts that the ANC had fashioned for itself as many organisations soon realised that their political salvation rested with the broad ANC led mass based and non-racial movement.

This would substantially increase people’s fighting chances against the apartheid system. At a time of serious national crisis, the ANC conceived of a strategic direction that would harness and marshal the South Africa populace into a single national democratic front.

Such was the display and expression of foresight on the part of ANC leaders at a time of great strife.

As we are faced with the threat of the resurgence of barbarism, we too are called upon to be more creative and farsighted and foresighted in our response.

Our history, to date, is such a pivotal beacon that must always guide and show us the light and the way.

As the marauding forces of darkness are making their rehearsed debut in many fronts in our democratic state, we must remain assured that the pillars of a non-racial and non-sexist state are firmly in place – and that nostalgia for the bad old days of racist rule will remain nothing more than a pipe dream.

What we are witnessing in recent South African politics are mere acts of racist nostalgia born of the historical hangover of White political power.

These are not institutional actions with the potential to undermine the eclipse of a new democratic state.

However there are signs of nostalgia on the part of those that still long for the dark days of racist minority rule.

We must not think that we all shared the victory against a racist apartheid regime and its brutal machinery. There are many who still mourn its loss and they will occasionally display signs of relapse.

The emotional scars that are a result of the loss of political power by our fellow White citizens must not be undermined.

The loss of the benefits that came with a racist society are still being felt to date and these are compounded by the still existing economic privileged status of most White South Africans.

That their privileged economic status cannot alter the trajectory towards a non-racial society is distressing and frustrating to most, if not some.

So the occasional resurgence of isolated cases will not and must not deter us. Instead they must embolden us to continue on our chosen course of action.

Let us also be reminded of the fact that even amongst Africans, there are those who will still wish and long for the days of the mater – servant relations.

There are those Africans who still cannot get rid of the inferiority complex which underpinned the policy of apartheid.

The lack self-confidence, coupled with an eagerness to please, prevents many of our people from ridding themselves of inferiority complexes even though they are empowered by the laws of their country.

Bantu Steve Biko argued that the most important weapon in the hands of the oppressors is the mind of the oppressed. We need to invest in the mental liberation of our people and not just accept that given a new democratic and human rights based constitution, they will necessarily embrace a liberated mindset and outlook.

The many Africans who have joined the ranks of the Democratic Alliance (DA) suffer from such a mental inferiority complex.

We need to ask hard questions as to what is it that could be done to rescue them from this inferiority status that always make one to seek tutelage from ‘baaskap’?

White patronage and White tutelage is still firmly entrenched in our society. The struggle to liberate our people from it must be sustained.

We should not be side-tracked by occasional outbursts of racism.

Ours should be a long term and sustained struggle against racism and all of its manifestations. There are few remedies that are at our disposal that we should activate to continue the struggle against racism in South Africa.

One is Public Education.

There is a serious need to ensure that there is a sustained and protracted public education programme against racism. Government and its various entities should embrace this campaign and some of its public statements and expressions must be intended to foster a    campaign against racism. Public and private institutions must also be brought on board to lend their support and commitment to the fight against racism.

Another is developing an anti-racism curriculum for society.

The younger generation should be inducted into a society that eschews racism and upholds a democratic and egalitarian culture.

At an early age, we need to deliberately foster a non-racial culture that is in keeping with our constitutional state.

It is to this end that we need to and must bring about a conscious anti-racist curriculum at  all levels of educational institutions in our country. This must affect all universities, colleges and basic education institutions. This anti-racist curriculum must also be strongly hinged on fostering a patriotic culture. To engender a love and appreciation of the country will go a long way in promotion of anti-racist culture.

A third is sustaining the fight against poverty.

Racism thrives on condition of material and spiritual. Poverty engenders feelings of self-hate, inferiority and underclass. The poor feel that their poverty is brought upon them because they are the unwanted and are thus rendered weak to fight against racist acts and undertones.

The continued lack of social infrastructure, lack of sanitation, lack of housing, lack of access to work and work opportunities contribute to absence of self-worth.

Victory against Apartheid was thought to have been as impossible as the duel between the whale and an elephant, to borrow the expression from Professor Edgar Brookes.

We have managed to undress apartheid’s self-professed mantle of divine inspiration and exposed it for what it is.

We have managed to unmask the monster of its monstrous façade and have debased its lofty pretensions of invincibility. It was exposed for what it was.

We have come a long way and need not allow those detractors who wish to pour scorn on our hard worn victory. Ours are no half measures, but long term and sustainable solutions.

 

CDE LINDIWE SISULU IS A MEMBER OF THE ANC NEC AND MINISTER OF HUMAN SETTLEMENTS. THIS IS AN EDITED EXTRACT FROM UMRABULO, THE POLITICAL JOURNAL OF THE ANC

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