Voices

What have whites contributed to reconciliation?

2019-06-26 00:00

After surviving the brutality of apartheid and colonialism, no one should dare ask Africans to apologise for demanding justice and equal rights, writes Modidima Mannya

As soon as the department of international relations and cooperation locates our ambassador to Denmark, Zindzi Mandela, I want to join the chorus of condemning her.

I want to condemn her for not saying that the wine she was having was South African; that it came from the land stolen from our forebears.

That is as far as I will go.

She has reminded me that the South African history taught to us under apartheid sought to indoctrinate us to believe that Jan van Riebeeck was a hero and that the 1820 Settlers were God’s gift to Africans.

She reminded me that colonialists subjected our forebears to slavery, and forcefully and violently took our land.

She also reminded me that those who fought for our freedom and the return of our land were called terrorists, and there were laws passed to persecute them.

I also remembered that my forebears had to call a white person a baas or missus. Not that it has stopped.

She reminded me that, for years, we were regarded as subhuman. Not that much has changed in that regard, either.

The African people’s struggle has never been about oppressing or subjugating white people – not a single liberation movement had this as its objective.

There should never be any doubt that South Africans needed and deserved to go the national reconciliation route. Anything else would not have worked.

It is a matter of public record that Africans have been on the receiving end of the brutality of colonialism and apartheid.

We dare not be asked to apologise for this fact of history.

It is inherent in Africans to forgive. We dare not be asked to apologise for this, either.

The African people’s struggle has never been about oppressing or subjugating white people – not a single liberation movement had this as its objective.

The demands of the African masses have always been about stopping the injustice perpetuated by colonialism and apartheid, and ensuring our coexistence as equals.

From the outset, Africans demanded reconciliation and extended a hand of friendship to white people.

These gestures were simply ignored as ever more humiliation was visited on Africans.

The irritation of the white people was expressed through ever more draconian measures and brute force against Africans over the many years of colonialism and apartheid.

The suggestion that national reconciliation was former president Nelson Mandela’s idea is a distortion of history and is being abused to blackmail Africans.

Mandela was merely restating the position of the African masses from time immemorial.

Mandela, who is today used as a tool to blackmail us, is the same one who, in 1949, agitated for a radical programme of action and the initiation of the armed struggle.

He ended up in jail for that.

His own forebears had failed to persuade the white people to see us as human beings and to reconcile with us. They were maimed and brutalised for asking to be treated as human.

Many years before Mandela entered the fray, the likes of Charlotte Maxeke, Chief Albert Luthuli and Dr AB Xuma had been agitating for national reconciliation and friendship.

It is rich that the descendants of colonial bigots and those who repeatedly elected a racist government to pursue inhuman policies have become so sensitive to any suggestion that the past was horrible.

It seems that, 25 years later, we still have to define what this national reconciliation is all about.

It seems that we are expected to remain mentally colonised and not recognise that we are still oppressed.

We had the All-African Convention, which sought to build a united and cohesive society. That process failed.

Human rights, leadership, reconciliation.

The ease with which Mandela’s name is being abused to secure the absolution of the white community from playing its part in the national reconciliation project has become an insult to the African masses Mandela represented.

His name and intentions are being adulterated to force Africans to disown him and his legacy.

When Mandela spoke about reconciliation, he also said: “Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.”

This is not seen as part of his reconciliation speech by those who seek to blackmail us and use the Mandela name as a scare tactic.

Justice includes getting our land back. It means us being equal in real terms and enjoying our freedom, and not babysitting those who resisted our freedom for centuries.

The one-way traffic of so-called national reconciliation has become an irritation.

Africans cannot continue to be expected to reconcile by being bullied into silence when some have the freedom to remind us that we benefited from the evil called colonialism.

The interpretation of national reconciliation, which suggests that the ANC called on Africans to shut up in the face of ongoing injustice and oppression, is nonsensical.

The idea that Africans owe our white compatriots reconciliation is a fallacy. That was done many moons ago and remains as it was since.

The ANC and Mandela never propagated that. The reconciliation they spoke about is in the context of the liberation struggle.

It represents the African land claims of 1912 and before. It represents the desire to attain the historical mission of the liberation struggle.

To interpret it otherwise is disingenuous and an attempt to cause disharmony.

It is this distortion that is responsible for discrediting the agenda for social transformation and which gives an impression that the negotiations were an auction of the African aspirations and claims.

Why on earth would our liberation movements pursue the struggle at such great costs just to protect white minority interests?

Why would an entire nation, which had an opportunity for retribution, sell its soul just to please a tiny minority that benefited from our oppression and exploitation?

The national reconciliation that the African masses agreed to is mirrored in our Constitution, the primary objective of which is redressing the injustices of the past.

It is not one that is in the minds of those who feel offended when reminded that they are beneficiaries of our oppression.

Our Constitution states that government must take measures – legislative and otherwise – to promote, protect and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights.

These rights include the right of our children to access education without the inhibitions of a language of the minority.

They include the right to have land, and to be true and real citizens, not just political citizens who only have the right to vote.

We also have a right to express our views and thoughts about what we think of our freedom without the censorship of the blackmail that we are anti-white.

Our fellow citizens have perfected the art of moaning about what Africans should not demand of the democratic government.

The only purpose these moaners seek to achieve is to declare our freedom a nullity and render our struggle redundant retrospectively.

The new strategy is to play victim and declare themselves an endangered people.

The “swart gevaar” mentality has been reinvented within the convenience of our constitutional framework.

The minority have become so alive to their human rights. Only they have these human rights.

The African masses must continue to shut up to give meaning to their interpretation of national reconciliation.

When are white South Africans going to make their contribution into this supposed national reconciliation they have become so obsessed with and stop being anti-white themselves?

Their obsession with what they regard as anti-white has made them anti-white.

The sooner they see themselves as South Africans, the better for the national reconciliation project.

I refuse to be told how I should reconcile outside of what my forebears fought and died for. I refuse.

The idea that Africans owe our white compatriots reconciliation is a fallacy. That was done many moons ago and remains as it was since.

Africans have always been friendly to their white compatriots and have long forgiven them.

The inability of white people to transform their orientation towards Africans cannot be the fault of Africans.

White people have always shown a persistent tendency of hostility towards Africans.

The use of national reconciliation to advance that hostility in disguise is nothing new. In their world, they come first and Africans do not feature.

Except to be ever-demanding and seeking to protect the status quo, there is nothing tangible that white people have given as a contribution to national reconciliation.

They do not want our children in their schools, they continue to hold on to economic power and they challenge transformation at every turn.

Mannya is an advocate and writer


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December 8 2019