The black people in this country of ours, South Africa, remain angry, unforgiving, some with traces of resentment and others with outright hatred towards white people. The need for political correctness has for a long-time made black people be deceitful about their real feelings towards white people.
It is not about whether or not there exists a group of genuine white people who embrace black people as equals. It is about the past injustices suffered collectively by black people under the hands of white dominance, from colonialism through to apartheid, right through to a racialised economic ownership under the democratic black led government.
The reality of our society is that the inequalities we often see, whether at a level of income, ownership of industries, spatial inequalities and many more others like availability of infrastructure for education, private health etc. in suburban areas, often favours white people in a better position over the black majority.
The rural areas, townships and urban outskirts where black people are often found swamped in shacks and other not so well built RDP houses, remain unchanged as to how they were under the apartheid government. Save that perhaps now there is electricity, which has a cost burden on the poor unemployed black people in these areas.
Some of the areas have running water, yet even that is not enough to reduce preventable diseases in many of these areas where ordinary black people are found. Access to information and facilities for primary healthcare, never mind advanced medical procedures, is developing at a snail’s pace.
The much worshipped ‘new black middle class’ is just a pretend class, a class caught in debt because of the high standard of living in the many white areas they seek to move in. The owners of property remain by far and large white and continue to raise prices in the property business to unaffordable and at times plainly ludicrous prices – which force these newly affording blacks to enter into debt so as to afford.
The captains of industry that are white, with foreign ties continue to silently collude on some prices of goods and services that must be rendered to this ‘new black middle class’. These black people vowed that they would give their children the best education, since they mostly grew up in the latter days of the Bantu education. However, quality education in this country remains largely a commodity found in private schools and former Model C schools.
In essence it means these blacks are without choice but to move closer to these schools, which the bulk of them are either found in former white settlements or in remote areas that require private transport to get to, such as the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir or the Hilton College in Pietermaritzburg.
The now public former Model C schools come with a hefty price tag, which means if this ‘new black middle class’ is to afford them they must dig deep in their pockets till the last cent comes out and forego the possibility of having extra cash to save.
We often mourn in this country that we are not a saving economy. But the question that remains unanswered is; where do we expect this money to save to come from? Large corporates owned by white people like SAB Miller, go to strategic meetings to develop ways on how to sustain and grow their rates of selling alcohol.
Yes, even in traditional African society there was and there still is beer in abundance and it was gotten for free during traditional functions or at times it came at a very low cost. The Tiger Brands of today, which have very little to do with black people in terms of ownership, try and lure this ‘new black middle class’ into spending money on expensive whiskeys that perform the same function as any other cheap alcohol and that is to get a person drunk. Of course, this ‘new black middle class’ realises it is stuck in a trap, a trap created by white dominated capital.
Blacks did not forgive
A trap that these black people want to escape but they are sold, every day, incentives on why they should remain consumerist. Of course, ideally the white community is not to blame for this, but that is only in an ideal world.
White people in South Africa move around preaching how black people should be accepting of them without prejudice and without focusing on the need for vigorously interrogating the events of past white supremacy and dominance in this country.
White people feel that black people, who discuss blackness, black politics, are simply being racist and are a threat to their livelihood – this falsehood must be dismissed with contempt. It has only been 18 years into our democracy and somehow blacks are supposed to go to a state of voluntary amnesia, something that no living human being ever wants to experience. Black people did not forgive in 1994; they agreed to be coerced to a pretend state of normality and equality.
Black and white people are not equal. They are only equal in that they breathe the same air without having to rent it; besides that there are disparities at every level.
I at times agree with the radical Neo-Black Consciousness movers who often say that black people, in 1994, forgave white people who had never asked for forgiveness, who had never admitted collectively that apartheid was a heinous act of inhumanity towards the natives of this country. This is true.
That is why FW De Klerk was even caught offside in the USA as he was trying to systematically defend the founding ideology of apartheid. Today, many of us progressive blacks are often caught only analysing the shortcomings of the ANC, without interrogating that some of them have their foundation strongly built on apartheid.
Frank Chikane even shares one time that, he wrote to the then president Nelson Mandela, complaining that “The old is corrupting the new”, simply put the masters of corruption under apartheid were busy feeding lessons on corruption to the new black rulers. Of course, faced with a sense of poverty and need for a glamorous life, these former liberators fell to this trap as a result today we have widespread corruption at levels that threaten to collapse the state.
Let us be frank, the white people in this country continue to live a life of privilege, not because the ANC government is engineering this, but simply because the structure of the economy dictates it be this way.
1994 only brought services to black people, it only brought greater opportunity for them to slave off in a white owned economy, it only brought a vote – something they had never lost; it brought opportunity to swim on the same beaches as white people, congregating in the same buildings etc. Without economic freedom, political freedom becomes useless – go read Chika Onyeani’s Capitalist Nigger.
Of course the black government is not without blame. We continue to blame them every day as fellow black people, but white people use this as disapproval for black rule, they also use it to bypass the critical imminent debate on how badly the economy is structured and the reality that things cannot continue this way.
If white people were genuine they would be at the forefront of preaching land redistribution, instead they want to use this land redistribution process as a vehicle to further amass obscene wealth. They sell the land to government, without farming assets, and then go on to sell the assets to generate capital for luxury holidays and new investments, whilst the blacks in the new land remain without resources to do any farming.
We then vehemently condemn the incompetence of these new black farm owners – when they are led into a trap by the government knowingly/unknowingly collaborating with these longstanding farm owners.
No white person in this country has not directly or indirectly received benefit from the brutal history of colonialism and apartheid. One revered writer, Frantz Fanon, reflects on why is it that the new black rulers post liberation get to behave in a way that mimics their former oppressors. He says, “The oppressed is an envious man”, he (the oppressed) imagines himself occupying the seat of the oppressor, and his imagination hardly goes beyond this.
As a result, to many black people the replacement of white people with blacks meant liberation. Now we know better, we know that this is not true. We know that true liberation means, as Pan-Africanists always maintained, the return of land to natives and the restructuring of ownership of the economy.
The fate of this country is in all our hands but the white people of this country must move with a sense of urgency and be proactive when it comes to discussions on the economy and redistribution. White people must voluntarily give solutions and give up parts of their wealth in the process.
This question of the land and the economy will cause this country to burn when black people in their majority wake up from the lull they have been put to since 1994. There will be no space for constructive engagement as we attempt it now. There will be one language and that would be “grab, grab, grab”.
No progressive black person wants such an era, but white folks need to start listening.
Read the reaction on this article by Ferial Haffajee, editor of City Press.