Zelda La Grange was supposed to represent the best of South Africa’s rainbow nation narrative; the Afrikaans young lady who becomes personal assistant to South Africa’s first black President. Former Instead, La Grange tweeted herself in to a racial storm for attacking President Jacob Zuma’s 103 year ANC anniversary speech by taking on the persona of Jan Van Riebeeck. By the end of the storm, she was back pedalling and apologising for her tirade. When you consider that Zelda spent all those years at the feet, so to speak, of the father of South Africa’s reconciliation policy, you wonder about the strength of the “rainbow” in the rainbow nation. Follow that up with Freed Front leader Pieter Mulder’s insistence on an insulting and absurd version of history and you throw your hands up in despair. Then of course, you have restuarants infamously denying access to blacks in restaurants in Cape Town and you begin to worry.
Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith once declared he had “the happiest Africans in the world.” Then the Africans went to war. Despite that long war and a policy of reconciliation, Zimbabwe’s white farmers continued to live and behave as if they were still in Rhodesia not understanding that black Zmbabweans felt what I call “collective pain” each time one of their own was abused in a manner that brought back memories of the racist past of the country.
It is the same in South Africa. A caller to Talk Radio 702 last week berated presenter Udo Carelse about “whining” about the past. There is a danger in this attitude and we offer some advice on the approach that white South Africans could take, if they so choose, in interacting and living with the formerly oppressed African people. Black Diamonds magazine looks at 7 deadly sins that many white South Africans commit and should avoid.
- WE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT WAS GOING ON
Of course you did! Everyone did. Your kids went through evacuation drills at school in case the communists invaded South Africa. Every single white South African knew about the “terrorist” Nelson Mandela who was in jail for life. Most South African families had boys in the bush or conscientious objectors to participating in the bush war against the communist onslaught. Every white South African saw the “whites only/no blacks” signs. Every white South African knew about the Sharpeville Massacre, June 16 and Free Nelson Mandela concerts. Every white South African knew about, tuned in, watched, listened to or heard about PW Botha’s finger wagging speeches. Our advice is stop insulting black people by saying you didn’t know.
- DEFENDING WHITE CAPITAL
You still live in leafy suburbs and your general lot is still galaxies ahead of the general lot of the majority of black people. The black people won the war but they still see you driving by in your SUVs, denying them promotions in blue chip companies, employing 99% only white teachers in private schools and complaining about imagined falling standards when blacks move in to what you consider “your neighbourhood.” http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2015/03/20/uproar-over-bantus-moving-in-on-west-coast-hamlet They also see how you behave in Cape Town. So when you rant about BEE and corruption after 1994, the black people know you are being hypocritical because they did not hear you crusade against the hyper corrupt apartheid regime, nor do they see you crusading against the super corrupt large corporations that collude to parcel out multi-billion rand contracts to each other. Our advice, stop acting as if corruption is exclusively a black thing and stop promoting young white employees to surpervise better qualified and more experienced black employees.
- SAYING STANDARDS ARE FALLING
This implies to black people that you whole heartedly supported apartheid; an evil regime that was built on the mass exploitation of black people, in every possible shape and form, to service the needs of a minority white population. When you criticise the black led government for the challenges facing the education or health sectors, you conveniently forget that legacy of apartheid is well and truly entrenched. You use expressions like “20 years in to democracy” and ignore the impact of over 300 years of dispossession, exclusion, plundering and murder of black people.
- ATTACKING WINNIE
This woman is a heroine to the vast majority of black people and you do not “just get it” for the same reason why you express disgust when black people spontaneously give Mugabe a standing ovation every time they see him. You do not understand the collective pain of black Africans. You choose to ignore the fact that the entire security apparatus of the regime worked night and day to incarcerate her husband, raid her house night and day whenever they felt like it, dragged her out of her house screaming and kicking leaving her very young children terrified and screaming for their mother, carting her off when she did not know what happening to her children, putting her in solitary confinement for a whole year, torturing her then banishing her to a remote town. You forget the burden she carried, the danger and damage cause by apartheid era spies but from the comfort of your suburban sofa designate her a murderer. The same people argue that Eugene De Kock’s release on parole was way overdue. You choose to ignore the fact the he actively and enthusiastically pursued the killing of scores of black freedom fighters. Our advice: Don’t go there. You certainly don’t get it.
- SAVING BLACK PEOPLE
A Zimbabwean author once said many Rhodesians lost Rhodesia and found Christ. Similarly, some white South Africans lost apartheid and found human rights. The politics of poverty has spawned an industry of white run NGOs dedicated to saving black people from all sorts of ills of a modern democracy, ills whose roots are conveniently forgotten. If it is penance, good for you but believe us the irony is not lost on black people. We acknowledge, though, that there are activists who have been consistent in the fight against social injustice during and after apartheid. Our advice: focus on human beings and their dignity, not statistics and fact checking that imply that “they” are lying. And stop the “they” culture and using words like “dodgy” plans.
- FREEDOM OF SPEECH
We are not Charlie Hebdo. We refuse to be because we understand that there is no universal culture and no single culture can claim to be superior to others. French values of taking on the clergy are directly related to their historical experiences with the Church. We do not believe that we should trash other people’s prophets. We have no problem, though, taking on the people who abuse the name of their prophet, God or cause. To come back to South Africa, why would you delight in depicting and defending the depiction of a naked Jacob Zuma but do not take DSTV to task for censoring the word God in deference to a religious group? If freedom of speech in obscenely depicting the prophet Muhammed is to be defended, why is DSTV’s censoring of the word God to be tolerated? There are ways of using comedy in African culture to say the emperor is naked and there ways that we find unacceptable. Our advice: respect the culture of Africans and do not trample on their magnanimity.
- SAVING PANJO THE TIGER AND LITTLE FROGS (The land question via a little story)
This one may sound trivial but here is a little story. A tiger escapes from its cage in the back of a van and disappears into the country side. Every white caller to a radio station frets about the tiger saying he is probably afraid and lonely. Every black caller angrily calls to say “our children are out there and might get killed.” There is a huge cultural gap between whites and blacks and the manner in which seemingly trivial issues raise the ire of either side. We use the word “seemingly trivial” intentionally here. Wetlands are not a trivial issue, nor are endangered species but the majority of black people will readily tell you that white people love both more than they care for the underprivileged. Perception is reality.
It is especially shocking when Mandela’s former PA, someone who understands the weight of history and the magnanimity of the formerly oppressed, should identify with Jan Van Riebeeck. Then for a sitting member of parliament to carry on this farcical nonsense is planin insulting. For the avoidance of doubt, perhaps we should remind you about Mr Van Rieebeck’s legacy.
It is common knowledge, except to those with selective amnesia, that the Dutch United East India Company dispatched Jan Van Riebeeck to set up a fort in the Cape in 1652. Within a few years the Dutch company was releasing employees to work as farmers who could supply their east bound ships with fresh supplies of meat, milk, water and vegetables.
The Khoisan had lived in the area literally since the beginning of time. And besides, it is Africa.
Martin Meredith in his book, Fortunes of Africa, tells us that “the encroachment of white settlers on their traditional grazing grounds on the Cape Peninsula provoked local Khoikhoi leaders to revolt. In 1659, the Khokoi attacked suddenly and in force, driving settlers from five farms on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and seizing their livestock. After months of stalemate, van Riebeeck met Khoikoi representaties to negotiate peace terms, recording in his journal an account of their grievances.
“They spoke for a long time about our taking every day for our own use more of the land which had belonged to them from all ages, and on which they were accustomed to pasture their cattle. They also asked whether, if they were to come to Holland, they would be permitted to act in a similar manner, saying ‘it would not matter if you stayed at the fort, but you come in to the interior, selecting the best land for yourselves, and never once asking whether we like it, or whether it will put us to any inconvenience.’ They therefore insisted very strenuously that they should again be allowed free access to the pasture. They objected that there was not enough grass for both their cattle and ours. ‘Are we not right therefore to prevent you from getting any more cattle? For, if you get many cattle, you come and occupy or pasture with them, and then say the land is not wide for us both! Who then, with the greatest degree of justice, should give way, the natural owner, or the foreign invader?’ They insisted so much on this point that we told them they had now lost the land in war, and therefore could not expect to get it back. It was our intention to keep it.”
Pieter Mulder on the other hand http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za/the-historical-amnesia-of-pieter-mulder/
African governments, particularly in Southern Africa, having won their wars of independence have extended courtesies to settler communities in the form of sunset clauses that were not extended to their own black people when their land was summarily taken away from them. http://mg.co.za/article/2012-02-16-zuma-tears-into-mulder-over-land-reform Our advice: do not under estimate the strong bond that Africans have with their land and ancestors. Willing buyer, willing seller simply does not work. There must be a better model.
We have been intentionally brutal because that is what our polemic segment is about; to provoke thought and hopefully generate some action. The students who are opposed to the presence of Rhodes’ statue at the University of Cape Town are representative of a new mood. It is wise to heed those voices. Above all, stop telling black people to forget about the past. The memories are not only fresh, they run very deep. If remembrance day for World Wars 1 and 2 and the holocaust are remembered every year, why should slavery, colonialism and apartheid not be?
This week is Rhodes’ statue and next week it will be something else. To end on a softer note though, if Zelda La Grange’s episode is be avoided again, if race based resentment based is be avoided or at least significantly reduced then both sides must get to know each other better and, fortunately or unfortunately, the side whose race will always be linked with the former oppressor regime will have to be seen to actively taking the bigger steps. Call it the revenge of history if you wish. If you are angry with us, you have missed the point.