Now that we’re at our lowest point , let’s debate

2009-12-12 12:54

ARE we as a nation ready to start the real

debate, which we should have had 15 years ago, on race, class, history, memory,

revenge, justice and reconciliation?

We have been talking about these issues like adolescents. We are

petty and narrow-spirited, defensive and mean. We threaten and say nasty things

behind each other’s backs. We insult and defend from our respective racial


Our political culture is in a downward spiral. It encourages

recklessness and prejudice, and the ones who can make the loudest noise

determine the debate. In the process, words and concepts have lost their

meaning. Too many whites who say they support non-racialism actually think it

means blacks should not be allowed to talk about the injustices of the past and

try to correct them.

Too many blacks think non-racialism means the majority

should tolerate ­minorities having the vote.

Social democracy has been perverted to an ideology of greed and

power. The left has ­become the right, progressive has become a non-word and

communists and socialists drive around in million-rand cars. The ANC’s policy of

cadre deployment, which meant unqualified people with little or no experience

often being put in positions of power, more often than not resulted in

ineffectual service delivery and corruption. White South Africans and other

minorities find this a good excuse to say, we told you blacks are useless.

I read more racism from whites on internet chat rooms and letters

to newspapers in 2009 than before 1994. And every time a merchant of African

chauvinism like Julius Malema or Jimmy Manyi spews out a message of intolerance,

more whites think that is their licence to also be openly racist.

It is perhaps exactly because we are at this extremely low level,

where we parade our most basic instincts, that a new debate can start. And this

time the debate should be stripped of all political correctness, falsehood and


White South Africans, and to some degree also Indians and

coloureds, should then be persuaded to look deep into their own souls and admit

that they still harbour racial prejudices; that they are actually still enjoying

the fruits of a privileged life during the apartheid era; that the material well

­being of most black South Africans has not improved since 1994; that they

should have a greater understanding of why the ANC government and some of their

institutions sometimes fail.

Whites should face the fact that they wasted a golden opportunity

by not embracing the Truth Commission process of 1996 to 1999. Above all, they

need to admit to themselves that if they were black in South Africa today they

would also be angry and bitter and frustrated at the lack of transformation of

the economy and the continued overwhelming poverty.

Black South Africans should ­admit that their chosen political

leaders have wasted many good chances to turn around the economy and other

spheres of inequality like education and health. They should admit that white

and brown South Africans are not the only ones capable of prejudice based on

race and culture and origin; that white, brown and Indian South Africans made

spectacular contributions over the decades that helped make South Africa the

most successful country on the continent; that the fear of the impact of

affirmative action is a very real one.

Black South Africans should ­also develop a greater understanding

of the fears of the minority groupings that their language and culture will be

swamped by the overwhelming numbers of the black majority. As more people from

the rest of Africa arrive in our country and more and more whites emigrate, the

population ratios ­become even more extreme.

Let’s not wait for the country’s political leadership to get this

new, honest debate going. Let’s do it ourselves in our conversations, our ­radio

and television debates and internet discussions.

Or we can sit back and let the hatemongers thrive.

email Max at:



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