There’s no trade-off for real freedom

2011-07-16 13:44

Last week, a close friend suggested that black South Africans traded their freedom for economic protection from the generally pro-white international capital; and now that their poverty is getting sharper with time, a historic moral truth is being realised: any people who would trade their freedom for ­protection deserve neither.

We were nestled by an outdoor fireplace, palming flutes of champagne and slurping oysters.

In our company was a farmer from Stellenbosch and his son. They lived in Waterkloof, Pretoria, until recently, before having to defend their ­privilege over ocean delicacies.

The descent into what became a fiery debate was started by the ­invocation of the ANC Youth League’s call for land expropriation without compensation.

Plus, the fact that the 23-year-old son-of-a-farmer said he had never been to Mamelodi, a black township located about 15 minutes away from Waterkloof.

He was not helped by the fact that most of the households in his neighbourhood enjoyed the services of domestic workers who lived in that very township.

Added to his losses in the debate was that he didn’t speak a single African language.

This unsurprising revelation was thoroughly ­exploited by another beer-bellied friend of mine.

He said: “But your people have been here for over four hundred years – the formerly exiled Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide spent only seven years here and left speaking impeccable Zulu – what’s wrong with this picture?”

The farmer’s son was accused of refusing to learn about black life because he didn’t think “they’re worth wasting time on”.

As the tray of oysters was getting depleted and beer replaced the champagne, the father became more vocal too, contending that he made all his wealth in democratic South Africa and had stolen ­nobody’s land.

My friend retorted that “the ­purchase of stolen goods doesn’t exempt you from the crime”, and invoked a legal concept: “restitutio ad integrum (to restore to original condition)”.

What that original condition is – whether black, white or green – South Africans must work hard to agree on.

After our fiery dashiki dialogue, I couldn’t help but remember a fault line at the foundation of the Mandela Magic of 1994, something Pallo Jordan once told the BBC.

He said: “One of the deals that had to be cut was that whites would ­accept democracy, provided they kept the property they ­acquired [through apartheid].”

So, what do we do to safeguard this democracy, then, if whites’ ­sincerity is questionable?

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