Resurgence of racism must be nipped in the bud!

In recent days, South African society has witnessed the rise of right wing rhetoric into our body politic. Such has invoked, amongst the masses of our people, scenes of racial intolerance and a consolidation of the right wing reminiscent of our painful past. The very existence of the African National Congress was as a result of the race factor in our society. The adventures of colonial conquests were not just intercontinental conflicts or wars but were conscious and systematic subjugation of a race believed to be inferior by the invading powers.

The consolidation of the right wing and the widening of the racial chasm in an effort to protect white priviledge has taken many forms; the most recent has been a concerted attempt to undermine our history, ensure we do not remember. Ours today has become as Milan Kundera observed “the struggle of man against power; the struggle of memory against forgetting”

All effort is put into ensuring that all the ills faced by South Africa today are blamed on the democratic government. This is done despite the fact that the most pressing challenge facing us today is the dismantling of the legacy of three-and-a-half centuries of colonialism and imperialist domination. The lived daily reality of our people of unemployment, informal settlements, lack of access to education amongst many others are a direct result of institutionalized racism which sought to keep them in perpetual bondage and subjugation. It was Frantz Fanon who said, “never forget where you come from, always remember the bridges that carried you.” As the memory struggles against forgetting we do this to ensure that those of us who still carry the glaring scars of our painful past teach generations and generations to come to never repeat the mistakes of those that came before. There is no alternative to non-racialism; our democratic order is founded on the universal values of equality and social justice.

What recent events have revealed is that to this day, there is a persistent belief by some white people that merely on account of their race they must have superior social, economic and political relations. Institutions made to safeguard our democratic order including the courts and the South African Human Rights Commission are callously used to advance and perpetuate an agenda of white supremacy and the mobilisation and organisation on the basis of race. It was within this context that colonialism and later apartheid reared their ugly heads. It is still the same bigotry that spurn the fires of racism in our country, in the US and many other parts of the world.

Thus the outbursts from time to time by those who have benefitted from apartheid is nothing but the frictions of the wheels of change, encountering political resistance from those whose material interest are aligned to the vision and legacy of the past. It can be argued therefore that one cannot appraise the status quo arising from the legacy of apartheid without tacitly appraising the vision of a racial society as envisaged by the architects of apartheid.

It should not be surprising therefore to hear people like Zelda le Grange defending Jan Van Riebieck, even though she had to apologise under the pressure of responses to her stances, after even calling herself Zelda van Riebieck! What was disappointing was the expectations by some that her close working relations with the foremost iconic hero of the struggle against apartheid did nothing to help redeem her from the bigotry of her forefathers.

Given the acclaim of the founding President of our Republic, Dr Nelson Mandela, many would not have faulted her had she called herself Zelda Mandela because then she would be making the firm statement that she associates herself with the grand ideals of Madiba for a non-racial society. Contrary to that, she took a firm stance castigating the current President of our Republic for putting into perspective the adventurism of colonialism and apartheid and the impact therein on our current body politic.

But many would not have been surprised by Zelda, not only because she herself claims that she was opposed to ending apartheid even voting No in the 1992 referendum, but because they would have known that the emergence of democracy in South Africa had the façade of a conscious choice to end apartheid by the National Party whilst in fact it was imposed by the local and international conditions. The sustained pressures by our people towards the decisive decade of the 1980’s when former President of the ANC Oliver Tambo urged the youth to render the country ungovernable had much say on the eventuality of our negotiated settlement.

Similarly, the international pressure led by the ANC President Oliver Tambo himself helped to render apartheid declared as crime against humanity by the United Nations. The apartheid government led a pariah State, a true skunk amongst the free nations of the world.

Precisely because of this, many amongst us would have known that there must be some people like Zelda out there, who would wish to revise our history and cast apartheid as something that was not as bad, with its architects having to be lined up for hero status in the various landmarks of our country such as roads, public places and facilities.

Today remnants of the National Party find expression in parties such as the DA and the Freedom Front Plus, whose mission is to advance the interests of white minority. In this they are enjoined by various organisations such as Afriforum. These organisations unashamedly fight for white interests whilst looking the other way the huge socio-economic disparities that are the result of the centuries of colonialism and decades of apartheid misrule.

The DA has attempted to put up a façade of a non racial organisation by window dressing its leadership, hoping this would dupe black voters to vote for their own oppression and socio-economic marginalisation. Hellen Zille has made it clear that Africans are “refugees” the Western Cape. This is evident in how true to her declaration Africans occupy the lowest ebb in the socio-economic outlay of that province. Africans are treated with disdain of unwanted “aliens” without access to basic sanitation such as, water garbage collection and toilets. It is the policies and conduct of the DA that reveal its true character not its posture.

That is why the DA exist on the sole ticket to oppose the ANC at all costs, even if it means degrading the most supreme platform of our democracy, the Parliament of our Republic! Thus the castigations by Zelda on President Zuma is actually a salient joining of forces with reactionary establishments who present themselves as liberal democrats when in reality they a defenders of conservative hold on apartheid priviledges. The biggest enemy of a non-racial society and the vision of the ANC is the continued propagation of racial stereotypes that relies on the subjugation of the black majority as guarantee of white priviledges. That is why inspite of due processes to deal with the issues pertaining the expenditures at the President’s residence at Nkandla, the DA are those it seeks to use to advance its racial interests would want nothing except the destruction of the ANC!

African people in South Africa took a form decision 103 years ago, that they would fight racism head on through the African National Congress. Throughout the struggle for liberation, Africans, Indians, Couloured people and Whites fought side by side knowing without doubt that the ANC is the foremost champion against racism in the last century up to the present. The ANC has a vision for South Africa which is a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, united and prosperous society.

The ANC remains relevant and the legitimate leader of society because the demon of racism can only be ostracised through the unity of the people as it were over the years since 1912. The ANC embraced the vision of a non-racial society because, in contrast to those who are racists, it believes that is attainable. We must isolate and reject amongst us, those individuals and organisations that still embrace apartheid and racial division. The convention in Kliptown in 1955 during the Congress of the People to adopt the Freedom Charter marked such confidence for a non-racial society as people of all races participated in that historic event.

The ANC will continue to champion human rights in South Africa, continentally and globally and combat racism, sexism , tribalism and all other such bigotries.

>> Zizi Kodwa is the ANC National Spokesperson. An edited version of this article first appeared in The Star Newspaper

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