Debate: Blacks should stop thinking most whites still long for apartheid

2015-03-23 12:15

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Remorse comes from within. Coerced remorse has no value, writes Tim du Plessis

When I ask black South Africans to think about and act differently towards whites, I do not speak for whites and/or Afrikaners. Only on my behalf. But I’m white and Afrikaans. My primary identity is South African. I do not want to live elsewhere, even if I could.

Black South Africans should stop thinking most whites still long for apartheid. There are a few who do, but they are dying out. Whites also do not want to bring back apartheid – they know they can’t.

Black South Africans might want to remember that when whites had the opportunity to vote in the 1992 referendum to retain the previous dispensation, a majority of 67% voted to abandon apartheid.

Mondli Makhanya (left) from City Press and former Rapport editor Tim du Plessis debate what blacks and whites should do. Picture: Nelius Rademan

I wish black South Africans would take more confidence from their victory over apartheid. That might be the point where they can start forgiving. Not because whites deserve it, but because it will empower them. Nothing will push whites faster from their pedestal of imagined superiority than the forgiveness of their black compatriots. Don’t confuse this with a plea for amnesia.

Black South Africans should realise the calls for whites to apologise for apartheid are not having much effect. Remorse comes from within. Coerced remorse has no value. Where should whites apologise? What form should it take? Who should do it?

A few whites participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and accepted responsibility. Before the TRC, in the early 1990s, the Dutch Reformed Church made a confession on apartheid. National Party ministers such as Leon Wessels and Roelf Meyer appeared before the TRC.

With about 100 Afrikaans journalists, I made a statement to the commission acknowledging and accepting responsibility for what we did or had neglected to do in the past. Then president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu welcomed the statement. What more should I do?

The same goes for calls that whites should share their wealth. How should I share what I possess? Will I have any say in who should get my belongings? Black South Africans could show more appreciation for our redistributive tax system. If most of the wealth is still in white hands, it means they carry a massive tax burden. They deserve the burden; it should just be acknowledged.

I really want black South Africans to lose the notion that, because I lived during apartheid, I am less of a human being. Our lives are not worth less because we lived under the previous system.

I am disillusioned by the ANC in government. As a party, its ideas have all but dried up. It’s being consumed from within by corruption and factional turf battles. This does not mean my thoughts about the ANC define my black compatriots.

Black South Africans should not allow the ANC to trick them into believing that, because I distrust it, I have contempt for them. The opposite is true. I know full well what sacrifices black South Africans made.

I often talk to black people from all walks of life who complain about the current political leadership or lack thereof. When I ask why they don’t have their say at the ballot box, they just shrug. Black South Africans should tell us why they keep voting for a party with which many are so dissatisfied, one that sacrifices their interests for narrow self-interest.

The black elite respond to white activism by a different measure than black activism. The Black Management Forum, Black Business Council and Black Lawyers’ Association are fine. But for some reason, AfriForum and Solidarity are not.

If I may, my final yearning is about Afrikaans: black South Africans should stop believing we want to preserve the language and heritage to preserve a small piece of apartheid.

When I argue about retaining a few Afrikaans schools or if I support the idea of a university campus that’s predominantly Afrikaans, it’s not to keep blacks out, it’s to retain and preserve Afrikaans.

Why does the black elite believe everything must be anglicised as the starting point for transformation?

Please accept that?I?and many Afrikaners can and will transform to align with the values in our Constitution, but we want to do it in Afrikaans and remain Afrikaans.

The black elite might believe there is value in anglicising. I don’t. I will happily share my “Afrikaansness” with all who want to associate with it. Whites don’t own Afrikaans either. More than half of all Afrikaans speakers are not white.

I don’t want to be forced to become a white Englishman in the name of transformation. I’m from Africa, but the coincidence of physiology prevents me from becoming black.

Du Plessis is a former editor of Rapport, who also served as deputy editor of City Press in the late 1990s

Read Mondli Makhanya’s response here.

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