I thought Apartheid was in a time of the past and since 1994, been consigned to the garbage bin of failed policies!
The title of this site is not an accident, it is well thought out and deliberate. This article will define racism and dispel the myth that these problems were eradicated from the South African culture in 1994.
I recently read a good definition: Racism = Prejudice + Power
It is possible for everyone to be prejudice but it takes a position of power to inflict a level of discrimination upon someone that will cause hurt. A slave might be prejudice to her master but it is only the master, who when he acts on his prejudice, can be racist. Prejudice and discrimination are really words which masquerade as sophisticated hatred. Hatred has many root causes but one of them most assuredly is greed. People are by enlarge greedy and forever spying what their neighbors have and desiring to have that or better.
In an article in BusinessTech from December 2015, it was stated that research done by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation shows that most South Africans believed that racial relations have worsened or stayed the same since the end of apartheid. I would argue that the end of apartheid hasn’t occurred, in much the same way as people haven’t found that altruistic impulse to love their neighbors as they no doubt love themselves, but the report is equating the end of the apartheid to the dissolution of the previous government of 1948 to 1994. Is it all doom and gloom? Thankfully just about the same percentage of respondents from the four broad ethnic groups surveyed seem to believe that progress has been made in reconciliation since 1994.
Since these figures are the results of perceptions, I will hereby shift to look at what some of the leaders of thought in South Africa believe and see if there isn’t a more credible temperature that can be our gauge. I found this debate on racism, which was held in the apartheid museum in January last year (2016), and my findings are shocking. Author, Eusebius McKaiser, and civil rights activists, Ernst Roets and Andile Mngxitama, were asked about their take of a tweet by Penny Sparrow. I was out of the loop on this so I also had to dig up the context and it was by a real estate agent, subsequently fined £7,000 for likening black beach goers to monkeys! Rightfully so this represents hate speech of the worst possible variety and I do not condone this kind of behavior, it is wrong and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Mngxitama ventured his opinion of the Sparrow incident, “This is very normal. South Africa is an anti-black racist country.” That represents quite a large leap from the actions of one misguided racist to painting all non-black South Africans with the same brush. He specifically denies this was an isolated incident and continues with,
“This country was built on racism, 1652 when white people arrived here, the first thing they did was to take the land and turn us into slaves and workers and servants for themselves. And that created the two complexes, a superiority complex for white people and an inferiority complex for black people.”
He confirms what I propose as the working assumption for this article, 1994 did not resolve the matter. “Institutionally, at the level of power, you have racism, which takes care of the interests of white people and gives them arrogance.” In his misinformed opening monologue, he confirms South Africa remains divided. I say misinformed because all historians agree that the Bantu people where not in the Cape when Jan van Riebeeck colonized it and so they never owned part of the land that is in dispute today, at least as far as the Cape is concerned. In the interior Highland the picture is less sure because Europeans before the early 19th century had not ventured into it to record in writing the situation. You see the African languages of the time had no written script so history was passed from one generation to another verbally.
Roets condemns this unfortunate incident in the strongest possible terms but decries the double standard where people responding on social media to perceived racism employ unequivocally strong hate speech which is not condemned. Roets suggests that we should condemn all forms of racism, his Afriforum organization has a track record of condemning such racist speech.
McKaiser was surprisingly flabbergasted by Roets and not Mngxitama when he said, “The truth is exactly what Andile said, it is not up for debate, South Africa is founded on colonialism not just apartheid”. He finishes off this volley with, “In the year 2016 we live in a country that is saturated with racism, institutional racism, systemic racism, racism in all our social spaces, interpersonal racism.”
So there you have it, if you were looking for a milder view of the problem of racism in South Africa by looking past the polls of the masses to those setting the tone then you are by now demoralized. But alas, apparently this is not a view held by the president of South Africa, but he has had some dubious track record on views as they relate to HIV and has come under fire for corruption. McKaiser plays his hand when he says, “White people are unrepentant about their racism”.
So, is that all that is required to fix this problem, repentance of the minority toward the majority? How long will they have to repent? Didn’t that begin in 1994 when the black majority was given the opportunity to vote and elect a government who could pass laws that address the past discrimination? What are the specific restitution’s that are now to be made for the sins of the past and for how long are they to be employed? These and many more questions like this are at the forefront of minds of people who have worked hard and gathered wealth that would likely come under fire as history showed in the country just to the north, Zimbabwe.
This is all we have time for in this installment, I wanted to introduce the race relations in present day South Africa and make the point that people living in the country of my birth, overwhelmingly feel like apartheid has not ended and that there are divisions that need to be addressed. In the next post we will delve a little more into the problems and potential solutions, pitfalls and silver bullets that are to be avoided because they are a sham and offer no long term benefits.