Guest Column

An open letter to the organisers of #BlackMonday by Zizi Kodwa

2017-11-09 13:24
Daniel Briers and Talita Basson pose in Paarl. (James de Villiers, News24)

Daniel Briers and Talita Basson pose in Paarl. (James de Villiers, News24)

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Dear Daniel Briers and Talita Basson,

I take this rare opportunity to write this personal letter to you as fellow South Africans, to commend you for having organised and raised the issue of farm killings which concern all of us.

I commend you because what was implicit in your action is your love for your country, South Africa. Your commitment to the new South Africa was palpable and commendable.

The struggle against apartheid and injustice was never a struggle of black people against white people. It is in this context that throughout the history of the liberation struggle against apartheid, many white compatriots served in the commanding heights of the ANC and its military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, because they wanted a just, democratic and better future for their children.

At the dawn of our democracy, President Mandela, delivering his inaugural State of the Nation Address in May 1994 said: "The time will come when our nation will honour the memory of all the sons, the daughters, the mothers, the fathers, the youth and the children who, by their thoughts and deeds, gave us the right to assert with pride that we are South Africans, that we are Africans and that we are citizens of the world.

"The certainties that come with age tell me that among these we shall find an Afrikaner woman who transcended a particular experience and became a South African, an African and a citizen of the world. Her name is Ingrid Jonker. She was both a poet and a South African. She was both an Afrikaner and an African. She was both an artist and a human being. In the midst of despair, she celebrated hope. Confronted with death, she asserted the beauty of life. In the dark days when all seemed hopeless in our country, when many refused to hear her resonant voice, she took her own life. To her and others like her, we owe a debt to life itself. To her and others like her, we owe a commitment to the poor, the oppressed, the wretched and the despised…

"And so we must, constrained by and yet regardless of the accumulated effect of our historical burdens, seize the time to define for ourselves what we want to make of our shared destiny."

President Mandela’s words echoed what OR Tambo said 14 years earlier, an articulation of ANC policy and unequivocal embrace of all South Africa’s citizens as equal under the law across the racial divide.

Ours is to rally a nation behind a common vision and collectively eradicate the ills that continue to keep us apart. The demon of racism has no place in our society and we must use every legal instrument at our disposal to bury it, once and for all, in all its manifestation.

Daniel and Talita, we may come from divergent political persuasions, but I am proudly of a liberation movement whose ideological disposition has always been premised on a principle that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. This ideology was formalised in the Freedom Charter, adopted in 1955 in Kliptown, and has since been a grounding platform for all policy positions of the ANC and all progressive forces that rallied under its banner.

Throughout our liberation struggle history, white compatriots fought in the trenches side by side with fellow blacks and equally share the credit in the liberation of South Africa. When delivering the January 8th statement in 1980, which also marked the 25th anniversary of the Freedom Charter, OR Tambo said: "We said we want freedom for all our people as equals, brothers and sisters in one united and democratic South Africa…"

This was a bold characterisation of our struggle against apartheid, which forms the umbilical cord that binds all of us as South Africans. Our painful and shared history which knows no racial boundaries should be the basis for us to reject the demon of racism in all its manifestations and embrace our common responsibility to build a nation-state truly at peace with itself.

An eminent group of 52 white Afrikaners, led by Dr Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, met the ANC in exile in 1987. Their desire and quest was to be part of a solution to usher in a democratic, non-racial and prosperous South Africa. Whilst the colour of their skin ensured that they were beneficiaries of white privilege, they nevertheless had more faith and trust in the leadership of the ANC to bring about the winds of change and build a non-racial South Africa.

In a similar move, JP de Langer, who was a leader of the Broederbond and vice chancellor of the Rand Afrikaans Universiteit (RAU), met with ANC leaders in New York in 1986. His too was a quest for a political solution towards the creation of a non-racial society.

I have no doubt that you are genuine in your efforts to fight the scourge of farm killings despite the spoilers who hijacked the event for their narrow interests.

At the height of apartheid repression, young, gallant white South Africans were forced to join the army. Many resisted the conscription and formed the End Conscription Campaign (ECC), a bold campaign led by white compatriots who refused to fuel the engines of apartheid repression. The brutality visited upon these white compatriots who defied apartheid laws by the state was vicious, as they were seen as traitors who chose to fight alongside their black compatriots against "their own".

In 1988, the ECC became the first white organisation to be banned by the apartheid state. Our history is littered with many stories of bravery demonstrated by our white compatriots against racial oppression, which includes the heroic role of organisations like the Black Sash and many others.

Talita, I invite you and all young white Afrikaners to embrace this history which is symbolic of our common destiny, and never allow yourselves to be used as cannon fodder by those who want to undermine the heroic efforts of those generations of Afrikaners who stood up against apartheid tyranny.

All young white Afrikaners may be agitated by a genuine concern, which affects all of us, of rampant crime and farm killings. It is for this reason that we should find each other across the racial divide and acknowledge our collective responsibility to build safer communities in the farms. There have been horrendous stories of brutal killings of both farmers and farm workers, from Mark Scott-Crossley who fed his farm worker to the lions, to Bokkie Potgieter who was found hacked in his bakkie in Vryheid, or Joubert Conradie who was killed on his farm in Klapmuts, Stellenbosch. There can be no justification for these killings, regardless of the race of the victims.

President Mandela’s call to forge a nation driven by a collective desire to build a society where future generations live in peace and harmony free of crime must spur all of us into action. We have a collective duty to build a society where a girl child is able to walk the streets at all hours without fear of being raped or murdered. The difficulties confronting us as a nation are but fleeting challenges, which should not detract us from this national responsibility.

A genuine concern of farm killings that spurred you to organise the demonstration was overshadowed by what became racial polarisation and a blatant display of bigotry. The public display of the apartheid flag invokes painful memories to the black majority and has no place in our democratic society. Its display as a symbol of nationhood should be rejected by both black and white compatriots, with the contempt it deserves.

In our 23 years of democracy, we opted for a path of reconciliation and peace towards nation-building, over hatred and retribution. While countries like Germany banned any public display of Nazi iconography, we chose to allow apartheid iconography to remain part of our public discourse. This is despite the fact that the scars of apartheid brutality remain fresh in our collective psyche – the need for future generations to learn of our nation’s painful past is far greater and to ensure that future generations never repeat what came to pass.

This is a deeply personal invitation to both of you, Daniel and Talita, and many of those who share your convictions, to join us in this journey towards building a truly non-racial society, alongside many other South Africans who have embraced this quest.

In acknowledging the invaluable role played by many white Afrikaners, who fought against apartheid and laid down their lives so we can all be free, we must work together and forge lasting unity among our people and build a country we can all be proud of in their honour.

Daniel and Talita, crime knows no racial boundaries. It is a cancer that requires a collective effort by all South Africans to uproot and bring the criminals to book. You have taken the tentative steps by saying enough is enough; let us now build a non-racial front in waging war on crime and only then will we succeed.

Nooi my volgende keer asseblief vir pap en vleis.

Die uwe,

Zizi Goodenough Kodwa

ANC Spokesperson

Read more on:    anc  |  zizi kodwa  |  black monday

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