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White guilt is so like over!

13 November 2012, 10:41

Today I opened the paper to find that the government has now spent R 1.4 billion on upgrades to minister’s houses. Add this to the R 238 million spent on Nkandla as well as the R 1 billion that has been stolen by civil servants accordingly to the papers and we get a truly staggering amount. Let’s say the total comes to about R 3 billion. For this money it is possible to build 60 000 RDP houses. And that is just a small amount of the total stolen or wasted this year! Since we have had 18 years of democracy and if we assume the same amount has been wasted or stolen each year then this would amount to 1 080 000 houses. Right there, the housing problem in SA would be a long way towards being solved.

We also know that in SA we spend more per capital on schooling than any other African country. We have been for a long time. Yet still we have the worst education and schooling system. We cannot even deliver school books.

The list of our governments failing goes on and on. Yet, just as the Nat government could always play the “swart gevaar” or “Rooi gevaar” card to scare the electorate and to justify its actions, it appears that the ANC government can always play the race card to justify any action taken, including building a presidential palace (can’t call it a compound).

In a recent article (“Affirmative action judgment might be wrong”) on his blog “Constitutionally Speaking” Pierre de Vos had the following to say about (mainly) middle class white people:

“some middle class South Africans (who are mostly, but not exclusively, white) focus obsessively on affirmative action, which they seem to view as the greatest injustice perpetrated in modern day South Africa.

This group firmly believes that affirmative action “punishes” so called “innocent” young whites, whose relative privilege has absolutely nothing – nothing, I tell you – to do with apartheid and the concomitant privileges their parents or grandparents reaped at the expense of black South Africans. They would like us to believe that their parents all worked very hard for their money (and some must have worked almost as hard as the black people who dug up the gold, tilled the fields and built the roads – at a pittance of the pay of their white bosses). They tell us that their parents and grandparents were not advantaged in any way, despite the fact that they never had to compete with the overwhelming majority of South Africans for access to educational opportunities, jobs and property.

Most of us who do not leave comments on the News24 website (and mostly avoid reading those comments in order to retain our sanity), know that this fantasy has nothing to do with reality. We know that it has everything to do with a delusional and self-justificatory avoidance of reality, based on either a deeply sublimated sense of guilt about the fact that all white people benefited from apartheid and that most did little to overthrow the regime that enforced it (voting for the PFP, donating old clothes to the women working in your house and once helping out at a soup kitchen in a township do not really count), or a sense of entitlement that springs from the deeply embedded but often unacknowledged sense of cultural and racial superiority.”

I have quoted at length from his article as I do not want to put words into his mouth. I also don’t intend to comment on his apparent belief that democracy can only be exercised by law professors on serious blogs and not the common riff raff that read News24. It is bad enough that we let riff raff vote never mind having to let them express their opinions in public.

The matter at hand is the crime scene before us, a body lies dead surrounded by the blood and debris of Marikana, Tetane and a thousand other bloody riots. The body is called Hope, the legitimate expectations of black South Africans (nay all South Africans) that in the new South Africa they would have equal opportunities to enjoy the rights enshrined in our constitution, including the socio-economic rights, and that the disadvantaged position that they find themselves in through no fault of their own will not mean that they are excluded from the benefits of a new society.

The usual suspects are rounded up, apartheid represented by the white person, corruption represented by the tenderpreneur, bureaucracy represented by the deployed ANC cadre, criminal neglect represented by the civil servant and rampant greed represented by Presidents, Ministers, Premiers and all manners of elites.

In the newspapers lip service is paid to charging all of the above under the common purpose doctrine. On the morning of the trial, only the white defendant is in the dock.

As in all good legal matters I shall start with the admissions that I am prepared to make.

First admission, nearly all white people living in SA today benefited from apartheid. Even those born after 1994. I say nearly all because the facts do not support a claim that all white people still have a benefit from apartheid. Presumably the court will take judicial notice of the fact that our President visited a squatter camp inhabited by white people. Whatever benefit these people did have is long gone.

Second admission, a privileged background provides one with a huge advantage in life, as does education, parents who are involved in their children’s education and who can provide all of the benefits of a middle class lifestyle.

Third admission, most white people did very little to actively oppose apartheid. I exclude people like David Webster as presumably being killed by the apartheid government does give you some street credit.

The defence

In order to prove murder the state must show causation. Apartheid did not kill Hope. Apartheid gave birth to hope. Almost two thirds of the privileged class voted in 1992 to abandon their position of privilege. South Africans of all races stood together in long lines in 1994 to vote. South Africans of all colours got on with their lives in a spirit of hope in 1994. Hope died long after apartheid died.

In true “The Practice” style, I offer you a plan B. Hope was killed by:

1.      President Mbeki – under his government it was decided to retrench experienced teachers, to close teaching colleges to do away with apprenticeships and to close Technicons. The fallacy that only a university degree was good enough was fully inculcated into South African education;

2.      President Zuma – We went from a president that only valued tertiary qualifications, to a president that has very little education and very little concern that others should acquire an education. The principal concern of this president is the presidential jet, the presidential palace and the presidential wives.

3.      SADTU and teachers – this union and its members demand that teacher’s rights get put before those of children and the country. Providing quality teaching to children is a counterrevolutionary tendency that shall never be prioritised. Long weekends, political affiliations, sex with pupils, alcohol and as little time in the classroom or teacher training as possible are the true weapons of these revolutionaries.

4.       The Department of Education, otherwise known as the ministry of ignorance, which is unable to even deliver textbooks, never mind negotiate an essential service agreement with the unions to ensure that matric teaching is not disrupted during strikes.

5.      The ANC. Having been in government for 18 years there can be no excuse for failing to ensure that it has stamped its authority on education in South Africa. If the ANC had been willing to ensure that competent people ran education (or the government as a whole) as opposed to treating government posts and jobs as “perks” to hand out to loyal but incompetent supporters.

6.      Hope, being the reasonable expectation of black South Africans that they will be able to find a job and support their family was killed long after apartheid left the crime scene.

If we substitute health for education above, or housing or services or any aspect of government, we again get the exact same answers.

It is, however, impossible to argue that apartheid did not have some part to play in our current state of dismal affairs. In legal parlance it can be said that apartheid was the sine qua non or a cause of the result. But the criminal law recognises that even if an act can be seen as a cause of a result, an intervening act (a “novus actus interveniens”) can break the chain of causation. Not wanting to take the legal analogy to far, the point is that an event occurring after the original event can be to blame for the result.

Let’s put the above analogy is into our discussion. The reason why black South African children get such a poor education can be traced back to apartheid, but the real cause is to be found at the door of the ANC for reasons set out above (plus many more). The reason why black South African youth cannot find jobs is because the education they do receive does not provide them with adequate skills to get jobs. The reason poor people in South Africa do not have housing (other than those that have palaces costing R 238 million) is because the government has chosen to spend R 3 billion unwisely, not because white people have houses.  So prof, white guilt, like “swart gevaar” or “Rooi gevaar” is soo last year. Any guilt that I may have felt has been assuaged by the events of the intervening 18 years.

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