“Science and experience have also shown that no race is inherently superior to others, and this myth has been equally exploded whenever blacks and whites are given equal opportunity for development” Nelson Mandela, 1978 (Robben Island Essay Titled “Whither the black consciousness movement”
In the recent past, our country has been faced with an increasing challenge of a clandestine but yet open instances of an emergence of racism practised in the form of social commentary under the guise of Freedom of Speech, through the Arts and quiet sadly, through instances of violence which in some cases have resulted in death.
The latest in these extremely concerning activities has been the outburst on social media by former President Nelson Mandela’s private Secretary Ms Zelda Le Grange, who was purportedly responding to President Jacob Zuma’s remarks on the occasion of celebrating the 103rd Anniversary of the African National Congress in Cape Town.
A lot of things have been said about President Zuma, but one thing the President has been able to do in his Presidency (and perhaps this explains the genesis of the main reason why the mainstream media has been opposed to the Zuma Presidency from day 1) is that he has been able to do two things, which are quiet fundamental:
- The President, unlike any other President post 1994, has openly told us the truth that problems in this country began with the arrival of Jan Van Riebeeck because that remains the naked truth; no other scientific and contrary fact has been brought forward.
- The Hallmark of the 2015 January 8 Statement has been perhaps the most bold and daring theme that declared 2015 as “The Year of the Freedom Charter and unity towards the attainment of Economic Freedom”
The above two scenarios are a fundamental departure from the, perhaps necessary and correct, diplomacy that our movement has been preaching in the state in its resolve to forge unity of our people and a creation of a sense of identity for South Africans. We would all remember that as early as 1955, in Kliptown Soweto, thousands of our people gathered in the Congress of the People to craft the Freedom Charter, which till this very day, remains the cornerstone of all policies of the ANC and a beacon of hope for our people, the Freedom Charter declared that “South African belongs to all who live in it, black and white”. Already at that time and moment in our history, our progressive liberation struggle had already envisioned a country that is united, black and white, and the subsequent clauses within the charter give a broad vision of the type of South Africa that we all desire, for us to achieve this South Africa, various facts needed to be understood and resolved, chief amongst these was the cold fact that African people in particular and black people in general were victims of perhaps the most vicious racial assault on their being which at most was fatal, this racial assault on the African people was in the main, based on the land dispossession of earlier years and the enslavement our people experienced. For us to arrive at that point where our people said “this is the South Africa we envision” our people were acutely aware of the damage that Colonialism and ultimately Apartheid has done to our country, history informs us quiet clearly that the arrival of the Dutch Settlers in the 1600’s was no mere visit but was a deliberate effort to dispossess the indigenous people off their land and ultimately oppress them.
No one can discount the fact that indeed throughout the many centuries after the landing of the Dutch Settlers and Jan Van Riebeeck, South Africa went through a major development, albeit one sided development and ultimately, throughout many wars, the white population which was a direct descendent of the Dutch settlement and ultimately European settlement, became South Africans by birth and therefore also claimed the same rights as any citizen of our country, this is why the Freedom Charter declared that “South Africa belongs to all those who live in it, black and white”
In the period post the 50’s and the early 60’s, our progressive forces needed to put in place proper systems and strategies that would give effect to the realization of the Freedom Charter, the adoption of the Armed Struggle by the ANC in the early 60’s and the conceptualization of South Africa’s situation by the Communist Party in 1962 as a Colonialism of a Special Type were a beginning of a move towards putting effect to the declaration of South Africa as a country that should be united along racial lines. Our struggle was therefore characterized as a National Democratic Revolution (NDR) and its main objectives was to liberate African people and blacks in general from political and economic bondage, therefore creating a united non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and democratic society, this has always characterized the struggle as led by the African National Congress (ANC)
This had led to many advances against the colonial/apartheid Government until it surrendered power through popular means in 1994 and President Mandela, as the first democratic South African President indeed declared that “South Africa belongs to all those who live in it, black and white”
Now the post 1994 South African situation (perhaps not deliberately so) through its reconciliation efforts has all but entrenched and legitimized white supremacy under the guise of Freedom and Democracy, the post 1994 environment (although relatively peaceful) has given space to white supremacy to rear its ugly head and flourish in the economy and got its ideas hegemonized in the mainstream media, all under the protection of our progressive constitution.
The idea of a successful black person has been designed and crafted in the lenses of white ideas, for instance the success of black middle strata has been characterized as those who speak fluent English, live in leafy suburbs and have their off-springs walking the corridors of the most prestigious “Model C” schools, infact, black success itself has at times frowned upon the “average black” and made it a laughing stock through white lenses, this has been a serious challenge and no one has boldly stood up to raise this within the corridors of power, infact many if our leaders have fallen into the trappings of “black success” and have auctioned off their revolutionary morality.
Now the dominant ideas of white supremacy that have engulfed our country post 1994 have resulted in something quiet tragic, where it has become black people themselves who have become defenders of white supremacy either at the workplace or in society generally, this can be found in the now famous line of “Apartheid ended in 1994, we must move on” this phrase has been carefully crafted and hegemonized in society and its main champions has sadly been some affluent black sections of the population in our country.
The scenario painted above and many other examples have legitimized and given white racists in our society free reign to do as they please without fear of any retribution, how many times have we as a country faced rampant racist activities and done nothing about them beyond making dramatic reactions on social media and various other forums? For instance, we have become accustomed to receiving daily news about racist activities ranging from the University of Free State students feeding black domestic workers food that have been urinated upon to students of Stellenbosch University painting themselves pitch-black, wearing Tennis attire complete with Tennis Rackets emulating World Tennis Champions Serena/Venus Williams to Helen Zille unashamedly calling black people in the Western Cape refugees (perhaps going further to the behaviour and attitude of the City of Cape Town towards the ANC’s 103rd rally in the province) and ofcourse the daily ranting of one Steve Hoffmeyr who summarized his arrogant racist attitude by saying that infact it was blacks themselves who were responsible for Apartheid, all of this happens in a country where in the transformation agenda is pursued by the ANC Government, which in its own public service harbours such tendencies. For instance, and to take it further, it has become a common perception by the people of this country that the hampering of transformation is stifled within the 1,3 million public service which is mostly littered with employees whose allegiance to the transformation agenda of the ANC is questionable.
When comrades raise these issues within and outside our movement, the white section of our population (which rarely condemns some of the most atrocious racist acts that continue to perpetuate in our society) cries foul and at times runs to our relatively untransformed courts for recourse, something which urgently needs to be attended to. Some of the most blackmailing tactics that are utilized by these tendencies is the myth that the continued challenging of the racist attitudes will eventually scare off investors, which begs the question if truly, the investors themselves who remain largely white are comfortable with the prevailing racist attitudes that continue to engulf our county.
Sadly and at times, top echelons of our state are being used by these tendencies to further suppress the increasing dissent by our progressive sections in our society, when comrades question the authenticity of the reconciliation project they are quickly shut down, perhaps we need to honestly reflect on this and really ask ourselves if indeed this reconciliation project has worked for us when we continue to see farm labourers daily being placed at the back of trucks full of ostriches or pigs, let alone those who are evicted daily by racist farmers who continue to see themselves as above our people and our country.
Zelda Le Grange’s outburst is merely a symptom of a failed reconciliation project and we must mention it openly without fear or favour, some sections of the white population in this country are taking our people for granted and I wonder how long are we going to sit and smile about it?