Protecting crooks

2009-03-06 00:00

Today’s column started as an earnest meditation on why we Africans are so keen on protecting our corrupt, evil fellow Africans, almost always at the expense of our own people.

Why would we condone criminal acts, even genocide, just to show solidarity with a member of a body of people defined by the fact that they live on a particular continent, and that Europeans used to pick on them?

It’s so damn childish. Ooh! Did I just claim that we Africans are childish? Mustn’t do that, it’s a racist ploy. So for childish, let me substitute the presumably less patronising description “totally fucking stupid”.

Do I mean all Africans? No, so please don’t leave me comments telling me you “agree” with me. You don’t, you’re agreeing with something I’m not saying. I am referring only to the ones who blindly side with criminals on ethnic or racial grounds. There are many, many of us who don’t do that.

But don’t listen to me. When an African Nobel Peace Prize winner asks the question, it somehow takes on more resonance.

Desmond Tutu writes in the New York Times: “The expected issuance of an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan by the International Criminal Court … presents a stark choice for African leaders — are they on the side of justice or on the side of injustice?

“Are they on the side of the victim or the oppressor? The choice is clear but the answer so far from many African leaders has been shameful.”

An answer to the question?

To cut a long, plaintive story short, Tutu is saying that there are African leaders who are supporting a man whom the International Criminal Court believes is complicit in the deaths of 300 000 people, attempted genocide of three ethnic groups, and the displacement of 2,7 million people.

I say this column started out to answer these questions. But funnily enough, an e-mail arrived which kind of answered the question I posed, about why we tend to side with our own, even at the expense of justice. And if it didn’t answer the question, it made me not want actually to deal with it.

It was from one of those readers who truly believe that they aren’t racist, just using common sense. This is what it said, with original errors left intact: “I think that we all were shocked when the crew of two SAA planes were found guilty of drug trafficking into Britain. This would have never happened 20 years ago? I also asked myself what has changed. Did our values change? Is the training of the crew different? Then I watched the photos of the crew leaving the court after the drugs were found. I found the problem. The drug trafficking teams are all black people.

“Now newspapers may not indicate the colour of criminals and murderers anymore although they wish they could. I am of the opinion that most crimes are committed by black people. I know it sounds harsh. Fourteen years after the new government came into place the reason for this can’t be apartheid. Is the reason perhaps that we teach our kids different values. White kids are told from a very early age to be honest and not to take anything from someone else. Do black parents do the same?”

Yes, yes, I know. You wish you hadn’t read that letter, don’t you. If you’re white, you’re thinking — my god, I might as well move to Australia. With people like this here, it’s a matter of time before I get kicked out anyway.

If you’re black, you’re thinking — why was Nelson Mandela so soft on these whites, they will never learn to be human?

If you’re someone who doesn’t define yourself by colour, but by nationality, you’re thinking — my country has a long, long way to go. I hope we make it.

If you’re me, you’re thinking — a representative of the race that institutionalised apartheid corruption, raped the country blind and gave us, inter alia, Hansie Cronje, Carl Niehaus, P. W. Botha, Dina Rodriguez, Eugene de Kock, Glenn Agliotti and Brett Kebble, really believes that white folk are more honest than black folk? How silly can you get?

Still, as depressing as it is to realise (yet again) that there are people, nations and, presumably, highly trained sheepdogs out there who believe that Africans, and in particular black Africans, are inherently inferior to whites and/or Europeans, Americans, etc, I’m not about suddenly to side with Bashir, Robert Mugabe, or with any of our homegrown corrupt politicians and government officials.

Doing that just creates a climate for them to flourish, and it’s not as if they need the help. So all we can do is try not to get irritated when outsiders presume to judge, but to actually decide whether that judgment has any merit.

Just because the pot calling the kettle black is actually white, does not mean we don’t need to take a serious look at cleaning out our kitchen. — News 24

• Chris Roper blogs at www.

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