White analysts have a blonde moment

2009-09-19 00:00

WHITES are having one of their periodic “what space for minorities in Africa?” moments. The debate has elicited scenarios sketching, at best, the complete marginalisation of whites and, at worst, apocalyptic visions of their massacre at the hands of blacks.

This is reminiscent of white angst during the early nineties, the difference being that now there are scant reconciliatory noises coming from the African National Congress or the broader black community. It is worrying when the likes of Mondli Makhanya, the measured editor of the Sunday Times, talks of a black anger that could turn “noxious in the hands of the wrong element”.

The previous bout of insecurity was last year, a reaction to the “bring me my machine gun” antics of president-to-be Jacob Zuma, and his assertion that among whites, only Afrikaners are “true” South Africans because unlike English-speakers, with their supposed ties overseas, they have no place else to go.

This time, the introspection follows the venom directed at whites critical of ANC interference in the judiciary, as well as Canada granting refugee status to illegal immigrant Brandon Huntley, on the spurious basis of his “racial persecution” by black South Africans.

Hartley resorted to the refugee application when the collapse of his marriage to a Canadian woman — so grotesquely tattooed, so spectacularly unappealing and so obviously naïve to the point of simplemindedness, that it had to be a marriage of convenience — left him facing deportation. Many whites scoffed at Huntley’s tales of being stalked by blacks seeking gratuitously to kill him — he claims five stabbings, but none was reported to the police and there are no hospital records. Nevertheless, racist black firebrands were quick to accuse the entire white community of sharing Huntley’s attitudes, even if they refrain from publicly articulating them.

The gloomiest prognoses come from former newspaperman Ken Owen and liberation theologist Nico Smit. From opposing ends of the political spectrum they arrive at similar conclusions, namely that if whites want to be tolerated in a post-apartheid, black-dominated South Africa, they must abandon their tiresome propensity to criticise.

Owen writes that Judge Johan Kriegler’s challenge to the decision by the Judicial Services Commission, freshly packed with Zuma nominees, not to pursue claims by Consitutional Court judges of improper interference by Cape Judge President John Hlophe, is “unwinnable”. Because Kriegler is a white man and hence inherently distrusted. His intervention, however ethically and rationally justifiable, “racialises the issue and does more harm than good”.

Following Beeld editor Tim du Plessis’s glum observation that South Africans are becoming increasingly hateful of one another, struggle theologian Smit writes that if whites continue their “resistance” to a black government and black people in general, the day could come when blacks simply say “enough is enough” … and lash out.

A mass black attack on whites would leave them “like rats stuck in a trap”, predicts Smit. Unlike the French colonists in Algeria, “whites have no motherland to send ships to evacuate them. They will have to endure the slaughter.”

The solution is that whites stop complaining about the black government and blacks in general … “to become loyal South Africans and to forget about our minority rights, our language and culture”.

Both Owen and Smit offer seductive justifications for apathy and appeasement, but their premise is nonsense. There cannot be democracy if any group, however infuriating its carping, is excluded from participation in political and social processes. On the contrary, if SA is to learn anything from Zimbabwe, it is that unless minorities vocally assert their rights, they lose them. The subsequent erosion of civil liberties then ultimately destroys the lives of all citizens, both black and white.

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