It’s time to prosecute apartheid denialists

2015-01-28 06:00

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The Sharpeville massacre on March 21 1960 was a turning point in SA’s history. Picture: Getty Images

In France, the home of controversial weekly Charlie Hebdo and the home of Liberté, you cannot deny the Holocaust without a jail sentence.

If you ask why freedom of expression doesn’t extend to questioning the authenticity of the systematic genocide of European minorities in the 1930s and 1940s, which came to be called the Holocaust, you are told “the Holocaust is an established historical fact”, while religion, which Charlie Hebdo lampoons, is not a fact but an idea. Ideas are not sacred; facts are sacred.

It is illegal for Jews to pray inside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, even though it’s a fact that they prayed there 3?000 years ago. That fact is being sidelined for political expediency.

It could have been a similar thought that drove Nelson Mandela’s former personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, to assume that 20 years of democracy was enough to start sidelining aspects of our colonial history she’s uncomfortable with.

It seems to be a new Afrikaner preoccupation to pretend that while apartheid is a fact, it was not as crude as black people claim it to be.

Truth is, President Jacob Zuma and ANC leaders are downplaying what apartheid actually achieved. They tread carefully because of the sunset clauses the ANC agreed to during the Convention for a Democratic SA negotiations.

Apartheid was so cruel that no words can start to explain how it affected black South Africans. No white South African will comprehend the full impact of their ancestors’ sins.

La Grange, like musician Steve Hofmeyr, was content while black children were taught about the colonial voyage of the ships that brought Jan van Riebeeck and his people to South Africa. For President Zuma to say 1652 was when the subjugation of black people began is not wrong, but it is as factual as the Holocaust.

Like her boer ilk who lose court cases to puppets to understand the workings of democracy, La Grange tweeted: “I will NEVER deny damage done by apartheid and colonialism. Let me make this clear. But we can’t move forward if we continue to blame the past.”

No white person is qualified to tell black people when to move forward while the issue of land and economy has not been settled. Whites must first surrender what was stolen before this.

In 2013, China and South Korea were angered by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s insistence to send a ritual offering to Yasukuni Shrine, built to commemorate Japan’s dead in World War 2.

Both nations suffered under Japan’s imperial forces and view such rituals as glorifying convicted butchers and rapists. It caused a diplomatic row.

Racism expert Michael Whine says the experiences of “Jews in the post-World War 2 era suggest their rights are best protected in open and tolerant democracies that actively prosecute all forms of racial and religious hatred”.

South Africa needs to start prosecuting apartheid denialists like La Grange to discourage incidents like the Skierlik killings and promote the rights of black South Africans to openly decry the damage caused by apartheid without fear of being rebuked by privileged whites.

Mashego is a freelance writer

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