White South Africans finally playing their part

2008-05-30 00:00

When the new democratic dispensation replaced the apartheid system in 1994, all South Africans were finally allowed to vote regardless of race and this was a welcome right for the formerly disenfranchised non-white population of this country.

Because the majority of South Africans are black and they tended to vote for political parties and liberation movements that had assisted the country in attaining freedom, this resulted (and will result for the next few elections) in a black government running the country, until there is a major paradigm shift from voting on racial lines.

There were small pockets of white people who were part of the liberation and religious movements, such as Joe Slovo, Father Michael Lapsley, Carl Nieuhaus, Ruth First, Father Trevor Huddleston and Jeremy Cronin.

When Nelson Mandela was inaugurated on May 10 in 1994, it was clear that blacks, for the first time, were in charge — something that triggered panic and hysteria in some sections of the white population and some went Down Under to Australia and New Zealand. Those whites who were still patriotic about the country and its future “bravely” remained behind to see for themselves which direction the country would be taking.

On issues of governance and politics, white South Africans sat back and played a passive role as they would only take part in political activities during elections. In between elections, they were nowhere to be seen.

The recent blunders committed by the government of the African National Congress in general and those of the country’s president in particular have forced white South Africans to play an active part in determining the future of South Africa.

Failure of the government to deal with crime adequately, the imminent and inevitable disbanding of the Scorpions, the contentious street renaming process in some parts of the country, HIV/Aids and the electricity crisis are some issues that have given white South Africans, especially, a rude awakening.

These have shown them that apathy will do little to influence change on issues that affect them the most. The High Court application by businessman Hugh Glenister to prevent the government from disbanding the Scorpions is a prime example of how the white community has become more active in politics.

Another example is the number of meetings that have been held in and around Durban, especially in Amanzimtoti where I live, to oppose the street renaming process.

I will not be surprised if scores of white South Africans take to the streets in the near future and borrow from their black brothers and sisters the art of toyi-toyiing to get government to hear their cries. South Africa’s dynamic and ever-changing political landscape should provide for an interesting and entertaining spectacle.

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