It is a shame that inequality has become sharper during our constitutional democracy than during apartheid.
More sun than clouds. Mild.
Kallie Kriel (Twitter)
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Africans with pale complexions (like me) are being accused by some of our fellow citizens that we do not want to talk about apartheid and that we apparently all insist on forgetting the past and moving on. AfriForum and I are ready to talk about apartheid.
As was evident over the last week, the apartheid debate is unfortunately hindered because the attempt to involve the "whites" in the apartheid debate is not truly aimed at listening to their perspectives and viewpoints. It is rather an attempt to help ensure that everyone slavishly follows the ruling political order's version of history.
The apartheid debate is especially weighed down by a group of intolerant commentators like Eusebius McKaiser who have seemingly appointed themselves to police people's thoughts and ensure that any "renegade" like myself – who dares digress from the ruling order's narrative – is severely "punished". In ensuring that this happens, these commentators are even prepared to proclaim half-truths and make misrepresentations.
This is exactly what McKaiser and Co. did after a recent discussion on his radio programme in which I participated. Despite repeatedly stating to McKaiser and on many other platforms that AfriForum and I condemn the violation of people's dignity under apartheid, it was still falsely made out that AfriForum and I were apartheid apologists, deniers of human rights violations, and racists. McKaiser thought it wise to highlight only one part of my argument on Twitter, thereby creating a skewed image of what I truly said.
The ruling order's narrative currently paints Afrikaners as cruel criminals who made no positive contribution, while the ANC is portrayed as "faultless" emancipators. In contrast with this unnuanced view of history, AfriForum and I definitely do not attempt to portray Afrikaners as faultless little angels. As is the case with many other nations in the world, Afrikaners made grave errors, but also accomplished many achievements. I acknowledge that it was a major false step to have allowed the implementation of apartheid to violate people's dignity, but I maintain that it is unfair to compare my predecessors to Hitler, who, among others, had six million Jews murdered in gas chambers.
It is also unfair to not judge apartheid within the context of its time. Considering that the ANC aligned itself during the Cold War with the communist bloc, the ANC's alternative to the implementation of apartheid was the implementation of a communist system. More than 100 million people worldwide died at the hand of oppressive communist governments.
To state these viewpoints and to show that, in my opinion, there were valid arguments for questioning the UN's decision in 1973 to declare apartheid a crime against humanity, cannot be construed as an attempt to glorify apartheid.
My opinion that apartheid cannot be classified as similar to the Nazi's crimes against humanity corresponds with the viewpoint of the USA's ambassador to the UN, Clyde Ferguson Jr, when he argued as follows in 1973: "Deplorable as it [apartheid] is, we cannot, from a legal point of view, accept that apartheid can in this manner be made a crime against humanity. Crimes against humanity are so grave in nature that they must be meticulously elaborated and strictly construed under existing international law, as set forth primarily in the charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and as applied by the Nuremberg Tribunal."
If Ferguson was wrong, the question begs why Nuremberg-like trials were not instituted against the then South African government after the adoption of the UN's resolution on apartheid. That someone like Prof Pierre de Vos now wants to apply the Statute of Rome – only ratified in 2002 – retroactively on international law applicable to 1973 in an attempt to prove that apartheid was a crime against humanity, attests to either petulance or poor knowledge.
Apart from these questions, those who want to subject us to the ruling party's frame of thought also don't permit the pointing out of the double standards that existed in the UN in 1973 during the Cold War when steps were taken to declare apartheid a crime against humanity. The campaign to have apartheid declared a crime against humanity was driven by communists and dictators who were themselves guilty of gross human rights violations. Apart from the Soviet Union and Guinea's leading role in the process, Idi Amin and many other tyrants supported the UN declaration.
These questions of course do not mean that we dismiss those whose dignity was violated during apartheid. It is in acknowledging this that AfriForum continues to promote mutual respect and recognition between communities in creating a better future. Mutual respect, however, does not mean that we must agree on everything – including the UN's 1973 decision.
It requires, however, that these different opinions should not be misused by people like McKaiser and Co. to bully those who differ from them into silence through misinterpretations and false accusations. It is in the interest of free democratic debate that alternative opinions to the ruling elite's opinions should also be heard. And it is for this reason that neither I nor AfriForum will be bullied into silence.
- Kriel is CEO of AfriForum.
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