Max du Preez

'I did not justify anything Kruger did' - Max du Preez

2016-01-27 13:34

Max du Preez

“We South Africans have hugely underestimated the real impact and legacy of colonialism and apartheid. …Think of the enormous dispossession of land and its ramifications, culminating in the 1913 Natives Land Act. Think of the devastating consequences to families and communities of the migrant labour system. Think of the trauma of forced removals; the humiliation of pass laws; the psychological damage inflicted by treating generations of black South Africans as humans of lesser worth and capability; Bantu education; the ‘Whites Only’ signs in public amenities; police brutality; the torture and killing of anti-apartheid activists; and the ceiling put on black development by job reservation.”

Are these the words of an “apologist of colonialism and apartheid”, of someone who “shamelessly justify and defend monstrous colonial and apartheid rulers”?

It is an extract from the chapter “Multiply wounded, multiply traumatised” in my book, A Rumour of Spring, the winner of the 2014 Alan Paton Award.

In his response to my News24 column of Tuesday, ANC spindoctor Moloto Mothapo confirms every suspicion I raised about the ANC’s reckless abuse of race and racism as an election strategy and about his role as a crude propagandist.

Mothapo believes readers are too lazy to check what I actually wrote and bargains that any argument, however false, that accuses someone of being a “colonial and apartheid apologist”, as he calls me, would immediately be accepted as real just because the accused had a white skin.

My column tried to put Paul Kruger in an historic context – he was part of the turbulent, often violent process of state and nation forming of the 19th century, just like Moshoeshoe, Sekwati, Shaka, Sobhuza, Mzilikazi and Mantatisi.

Kruger was the tribal leader of the Boers of the Transvaal (he died 116 years ago). We cannot simply judge his actions and words according to today’s mores – if we did, we would also have to do that with revered leaders such as the violent militarists Shaka and Mzilikazi – or, as I wrote, with any other world leader during the early 1900s, including Mahatma Gandhi and the American Founding Fathers, all of them proper racists by today’s standards.

I was very specific in my column: “As an Afrikaner I don’t glorify Paul Kruger. I recognise that what he and his contemporaries did to local communities caused great harm, some of which is still felt today.” And no, I didn’t add a “but” to this as Mothapo says. This was the sentence that followed: “At the same time I accept that he was a crucial figure in my ethnic group’s past and a man of his time and circumstance.”

This was my plea in my column: “We really should be more nuanced when we deal with our past.”  I tried to do this in the four popular history books that I have published. Much of my material focus on the evils of colonialism and apartheid.

Mothapo clearly can’t even comprehend the concept “nuance”; it interferes with his project to demonise those who dare question the ANC’s racial strategies.

A primary tool for the propagandist is to use a pinch of truth and a truckload of falsehood. I did not justify anything Kruger did or stood for. I did repeat Mothapo’s extreme, adjective-ridden language to demonstrate his propagandistic style, but only questioned his statement that the “purpose” of the Anglo Boer War “was to preserve the racial subjugation, slavery and colonial looting”. I pointed out that the war, as its name depicts, was primarily between the British and the Boers and added: “Yes, black South Africans did get caught up in it and suffered greatly, but they weren’t the reason for the war.” (My two grandfathers fought in that war and my grandmother survived a British concentration camp – her mother and sisters didn’t.)

I did question his statement as fact that Kruger “cut women’s breasts while they were still alive”. This allegation was made by one old woman many years after the war in a conversation with her grandson, has never been supported by any other source and is regarded by researchers as apocryphal.

Nowhere did I “vehemently deny that black people were used as pawns” in the war; I never “particularly took exception at our portrayal of his hero as a killing machine”. Mothapo just makes this up to heap up the “evidence” that I am one of those who “shamelessly justify, defend or sanitise such monstrous colonial and apartheid rulers”.

Ironically, on the same day that Mothapo was writing his reponse to my column, I was involved in a vicious war of words on Afrikaans radio and Twitter with AfriForum because of its anti-ANC propaganda film Tainted Heroes. I protested that they sanitized history by ignoring the ample evidence that the apartheid state had a strong hand in the conflict between Inkatha and the ANC/UDF between the late 1980s and the early 1990s; evidence such as the Goldstone Commission’s Report, the KwaMakutha and Trust Feed court cases, the TRC testimony that the SADF trained Inkatha militia in Caprivi, the confessions by Eugene de Kock that the Vlakplaas unit had delivered truckloads full of weapons to Inkatha, etc.

I earlier sent Mothapo a link to the strategies of the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Now I realise that Mothapo had that covered already. If you think this is harsh, please read my original column.

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