And good hope for all ...

2012-01-20 08:14

Whose hope, really, is embodied in that old favoured truism, “Cape of good hope”?

I think it’s a timely question to ask, because finally the nation is forced to focus on Cape Town’s racist dirty laundry and I’m glad we are. I believe history demands it.

Besides, that city and its broader province’s holiday charm have generally made it impolite to speak openly about the rot of racism that has found a fertile home there.

Though it must be said people have always known about this issue. It’s not news. I mean, instances of racial discrimination have been reported by darkies around braai stands and dinner tables all around the countryfor some time now.

Anyway, back to the “good hope question”. I was talking with friends about the nature of nationhood and the meaning of being South African.

One of the things that came up is the question of rehabilitating our history in the service of the future.

So we might need to re-acquaint ourselves with our painful history, to help us face each other as diverse people under one new flag.

We need to acknowledge that the first of the strange ones to hit our shores coined that adage. They were hopeful of a convenient refreshment station and an undisturbed dominion.

To the natives this hope spelled a grave peril.

This is why it becomes so poetically delicious that the loudest cries of racism in the time of freedom are coming from Cape Town, the historical host to the slave trade in this region and the first colonial settlement.

Sometimes I get why some of my friends feel that Cape Town is host to all the white supremacists who can’t practise here in Gauteng.

These are the ones who would have left for Australia or some place where their exclusive privilege would go unchecked.

Wits academic Achille Mbembe has argued that these types carry regret for failing to establish here a dominion like Australia or Canada – where the natives have been reduced to an endangered “species” in the land of their forefathers, something the colonists who murdered the Aborigines and exterminated the Tasmanians have succeeded in doing.

I’ve seen what this realisation along with the toxic effect of being hated does to many young blacks, especially when one encounters being hated for no crime other than that you exist.

That combination of feeling entitled to justice and the continued assaults of cast prejudice and bigotry releases something absolutely poisonous loose inside us.

In the end our “good hope” should be that when Africa convenes that humanist dashiki dialogue and asks of Cape Town: “Am I not a man and a brother?” the answer will be in tune with the soil.

» I’m on Twitter @Percy_Mabandu 

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