Friends & Friction: Dear Patricia de Lille, we need to talk

2015-01-26 12:00

Dear Ms Patricia de Lille,

You won’t remember me, but I met you many years ago in your hotel room in Grahamstown. You had come to speak to the Pan-Africanist Student Organisation. My two comrades and I came to brief you about our little city.

We also talked about Robert Sobukwe’s disappointment at the species that has landed man on the moon and split an invisible atom, but is unable to extend a hand to live peacefully with one another.

We also talked about how we opposed “multiracialism” because we believed the human race was indivisible along the colour line.

We saw people as individuals, not groups.

We spoke suspiciously about the then ANC-aligned-whites-only student organisation Nusas and its comrades who turned out to be spies.

We slipped into a reverie about a future South Africa (Azania, we called it), which we saw as a nonracial ­democracy that would bring prosperity to all and ­restore the dignity of Africans.

Now, as an African resident of Cape Town, I read your column about how things work in our city.

Sadly, you omitted a lot more. Africans are oppressed in Cape Town. I moved to this city a year and a bit before our first democratic election.

Although I wasn’t surprised when Helen Zille said blacks were refugees in the Western Cape – because I expected her to be like that – I found your silence deeply disappointing.

Is it any wonder that k****r-bashing is on the increase in Cape Town?

Recently, 23-year-old Talana-Jo Huysamer was charged with attacking someone who is almost twice her age. She allegedly shouted: “You f*****g k***ir, you don’t belong here. You should go back to where you belong.”

Nathan Johnson, the Wynberg district’s control state prosecutor, suggests that these cases seem to be quite prevalent.

Madam Mayor, this is how things work here in Cape Town.

Huysamer was only three years old when apartheid officially ended. She worked at a respectable institution, Reddam House, with open-minded people. Where do you think she got the confidence to behave this way? You and Premier Zille must take full responsibility for this.

You, more than most, worked with some of the ­angriest black South Africans. I remember the evening of July 25 1993 like it was last night.

I had visited a friend in Kenilworth, but couldn’t find a taxi to town and started walking all the way back to where I stayed in Gardens.

It was a typical Cape Town winter’s night – wet, but for someone who had lived in the Eastern Cape, not ­really cold.

I eventually caught a taxi in Mowbray and, once aboard, heard that some black youths had used AK-47s to attack a white congregation in Kenilworth’s St James Church.

About a month later, a white American graduate and anti-apartheid activist named Amy Biehl was killed by a black mob shouting “One settler, one bullet”.

The conditions for a racially motivated massacre have already been set in this beautiful city of ours and it is likely to happen in the most unexpected places.

As we speak, corporations are recruiting highly ­educated black youths into window-dressing roles. ­

Picture this scenario: a young, educated man stuck in a job he hates, but unable to resign because his entire ­extended family depends on his salary.

Every day, he hears his colleagues passing snide remarks, and people of his colour are being assaulted rampantly.

Madam Mayor, Cape Town is recreating South Africa’s ugly past, and this is an issue that we should neither ignore nor politicise.

Our city has become a frontier where white people who are unable to exploit the opportunities guaranteed by the colour of their skin meet black people who know the discrimination and the humiliation that follows them because of the colour of their skin. Each side is blaming the other.

I’d like to remind you of what our common hero ­Sobukwe said: “The [South] African people have ­entrusted their whole future to us. And we have sworn that we are leading them, not to death, but to life ­abundant.”

Ndim ozithobileyo (Yours truly in humility).

All the very best, Muzi

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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