South Africans should not “shut up”
The following is a commentary on David Everatt’s anti-‘white’/Zille article in The Conversation and his replies to criticisms.
When people are forced to “shut up” it creates opportunities for malevolent minorities and majorities to oppress them. That’s what the pro-Zuma/Gupta elements within the ANC are pushing for in South Africa and what the Fallists want at its universities. They go to great, even illegal, lengths (other than rational debate) to make that ‘want’ a reality.
The world suffers from brevity. It is inherently short, but not sweet, and certainly not rich in information. This is epitomized in Ronald Reagan’s ‘3X5 note cards’, Twitter communications and short pieces like the ‘colonial-communication’ of Helen Zille and David Eraratt’s vilification thereof. The shorter the piece and the more ill-considered (or just plain stupid) the emphasis on sensitive issues, the greater the danger of entering what might be described as the ‘Zille/Trump Zone’.
Everatt emulates the ruthless, Machiavellian Cardinal Richelieu who said: “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.” I also find his statement, “many white comments are singularly lacking in historical understanding,” and his blatant defence of the post-Mandela ANC very disturbing. Just compare the history of Sharpeville with that of Marikana. Both were horrible abuses of power, but the intimate connectivity between most-senior ANC politicians/police, colluding mega-wealthy whites and blacks, and highly trained anti-riot police is terrifying. Where are de Klerk and Zille’s Nkandlas?
Yes: “Apartheid was a crime against humanity”
This should be taught in history classes and in the media from cradle to grave. But, so should the fact that race is an insidious invention of white supremacists, perpetuated now by “race merchants” who have everything to lose in a non-racial South Africa. Yes, South Africa needs a massive effort to discover its ‘real’ history from KhoiSan early days to yesterday. If this ever becomes available, no one will be able to throw stones. Wait to see what race merchant Xolela Mangcu writes about Mandela in his “tragic figure” biography.
Ahmed Kathrada “was the real ANC”. There are others, young and old, black, white, and brown, who share his values, including Zille. They should unite by values, not colour, to “call Zuma [and the other crooks] out”.
Everatt pronounces: “The Constitution without question was driven by the ANC – this is not in dispute anywhere.”
No, it wasn’t. A huge (and largely successful) effort was made to involve all stakeholders, and they were.
Everatt’s “bottom line is that [he does] not believe that telling black people that if they don’t like colonialism they should stop buying expensive cars is plain, dumb brain-fart and nothing more.”
I fail to see the logic of this argument. Anyone who can afford it can buy an expensive car. The reality is that ANC politicians and their cronies are using public funds to do this.
“Lines” need to be “drawn’ everywhere”. Intimidation, violence, vandalism, theft and destruction cannot continue to be ‘socially justified’ on the basis of past brutality by the likes of Jimmy Kruger. By the way, even the neo-Nazi apartheidists fired him soon after Biko’s murder and Kruger’s son is now a member of the ANC.
Back to Zille.
The tragic similarity between Zille and Donald Trump is their proclivity to ‘shoot from the hip’ with their head ‘up their ass’, while ‘jerking their knees’. There are, however (thankfully for the Western Cape) diametrical differences between them. Zille has integrity, honesty and vision, and has resolutely transformed them into service delivery. Trump has neither.
Having said this, Zille is no saint/messiah, and her ‘hard-ball’, “toe stomping’, ‘my way or the highway’, egocentric tactics offended some when she was at UCT (her and my past employer), in her own political party (that she propelled into significant power) and in the Western Cape (which she transformed from an ANC-driven den of corruption and cronyism into a functional entity) when they failed to deliver. But, if one removes her from power, beware of what might follow.
Everatt asks: “[H]ow could she possibly go wrong?” The answer is: by allowing her frustration and sense of urgency to get the better of her, and then egotistically trying to dig herself out of the mire.
What should have been Zille’s starting point in a long, carefully-considered report on her trip to Singapore? My suggestion is that she should have said/written that:
Despite hundreds of years of horrible colonization and a post-colonial poor human rights record (its leaders have not “throw[n] human rights out the window”), Singapore has indeed been transformed in 50 years from “a dirt-poor country [with] mass unemployment, lack of education, almost non-existent sanitation, a dearth of natural resources (not even sufficient water), squalid shack settlements prone to major fires, opium addiction, the absence of a sense of nationhood and national pride among people with myriad languages, “races”, cultures, religions”.
It is now a much-admired nation characterized by world-leading, highly competitive global commerce, finance/investment/trading and transport; proactively high-technology; sought-after venues for top International meetings; top oil refining capacity; world-leading basic/tertiary education and healthcare services; long life expectancy; high quality of life, personal safety, and home-ownership; and extremely low corruption and unemployment.
Then she should have said that this enormously successful transformation, in part, was based on inheriting (and ‘cherry picking’) infrastructure and practices from the colonial era and most importantly, ruthlessly following policies of meritocracy and good governance.
Why should she have said/written this? Because this is what she believes is a possible (not an add-water-and stir, microwaved) strategy for South Africa. Read her autobiography: Not without a fight. As a product of German refugees who lost family in the Holocaust, she is not the neo-colonialist her critics make her out to be. All Everatt does is provide fairly accurate descriptions of “barbaric” colonists and their nefarious acts. What he does not provide is a connection between them and Zille’s life’s work. If Everatt wants some sort of revenge, he needs to dig up some English corpses or declare a holy war against the factionalized United Kingdom. The English let a million of my Irish “race” starve over four years in the mid-19th Century while they sent the results of bountiful crops back ‘home’. If he wants to take revenge locally: bypass the Constitution and ‘string up’ or ‘necklace’ the surviving guilty apartheid leaders and their murderous minions who implemented Apartheid’s despicable policies. The latter, of course, would require repudiating the much-admired Mandela/Tutu Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
A less-than-150-word thoughtless missive does not justify the accusation that she believes that reconstructive post-colonialism is just colonialism ‘done properly’.
Let’s get to some specifics. South Africa’s independent judiciary isn’t “because of colonialism”. But, it was also not created in a vacuum. Its world-renowned constitution also was not written de novo and most definitely not “drawn up in large part by the African National Congress”. It incorporates elements of Euro-Americo-sourced documents chosen to complement those necessary to rebuild a non-racial South Africa and was crafted by a broad cross-section of people who, five years earlier, would have fought to the death.
Given its violent history, the minibus taxi industry (too often connected with murders and rapes) is not a great counter-colonial-Singaporean alternative example of a long-term solution to South Africa’s transport needs. Indeed, South Africa’s post-colonial transport infrastructure and other positive infrastructural developments are very much a combined, non-racial effort achieved in spite of the predatory activities of an increasingly kleptocratic government and cronyism-infused civil service. Perhaps the greatest failure of the post-colonial government has been its horribly dysfunctional Basic Education System, described by some eminent black scholars and educators (e.g. Jonathan Jansen, Moeletsi Mbeki and Mamphela Ramphele) as, in some ways, inferior to the emasculating Bantu Education. If this system is not ‘constructively decolonized’, the country is doomed.
Finally to politics, which is clearly the primary motive of Zille’s would be ‘executors’ within and without the Democratic Alliance. Her and the DA’s success in Cape Town and latterly Western Cape (and soon to be in a bunch of other key municipalities) is not an “unhealthy wedge between this province and the rest of the country”. It’s an example of what can be done by hard-working honest people, regardless of self-identification, when they replace party-picked incompetent kleptocrats. The worst thing for the country would be to revert to anything resembling the pre-colonial ‘model’.
When “Zille tells [all, not just] black people how stupid they are for electing the corrupt ANC and for not following the Singaporean path”, she’s not “quintessentially white”, she’s right. The very real dangers facing South Africa are the neo-fascist demagogues who would really “throw human rights out the window” and doom the perhaps still hopeful oppressed masses to perpetual poverty and marginalization. The choice facing South Africans – that currently features very strongly at its teetering universities – is excellence through non-racial meritocracy and good governance vs aspirations of mediocracy through authoritarian rule by the racially self-identified who govern by context. Limiting power to arbitrarily designated “indigenous people” is nothing but re-incarnated Apartheid.
Yes, I agree with the author who proclaims that it is now time to ‘draw a line in the sand’. But I, and I believe most of South Africa’s “silenced majority”, want it to separate an ethos based on academic freedom and free speech generally, non-racial meritocracy and good governance founded on the rule of law from one that embodies racialized nationalism (i.e. xenophobia), rampant mediocracy and kleptocratic/cronyistic ‘governance’.
One of the women who is attempting to wield the line-drawing sword is the egotistical, arrogant, opinionated Helen Zille, whom Everatt describes as “The fragrant?? leader of the W Cape”. I almost certainly would not want to work for the never-satisfied Zille, but I hope that she will continue to work for me, my family and the vast “silenced majority” of South Africans of all ‘self-identified groups’ who would love to live in a nation like Singapore, but governed with Mandela’s Constitution.
Helen Zille does not even qualify to be in Zuma’s criminal and racist wake.