Am I a racist?

 Anton Ressel - Business development consultant
Anton Ressel - Business development consultant

THE recent spate of anti-colonial, anti-foreigner, anti-anything not indigenous black South African rumblings, rhetoric and violence has left me, like many others I speak to, pondering my future in this land of my birth.

The writings of commentators like serial white male basher Gillian Schutte (who, to borrow a comment from, looks and sounds eerily similar to Millie Tant, the angry anti-everything militant feminist from Viz comics) only serve to reinforce the common theme spouted by self-appointed ‘change agents’ from the EFF to the Rhodes Must Fall brigade and many others – white people are anti-transformation, we do not want to change the status quo, we wear our perceived superiority like a crown, we believe that black people cannot govern a country, we are inherently racist and we are solely responsible for the bleak situation many black South Africans find themselves in, 21 long years after the fall of the apartheid government.

Twenty-one years - let that sink in for a moment – is longer than Eritrea has been independent, and almost as long as the existence of countries like Slovakia and Ukraine.

Well, here’s a newsflash for you. Most of the whites I know (admittedly, I live down south and the case may well be different in other parts of the country) would embrace a black government that ran the country effectively. We would welcome with open arms a black president who was moral, forward-thinking and brave – like most of us did when Madiba was elected.

We would be thrilled to see legions of our black rugby players and cricketers excelling on a global stage and representing our country, simply because they are the very best available in their respective positions.

You see, believe it or not, we actually feel proud to be South African, warts and all. We like to think that this is our land too, and unlike the droves who packed for Perth when things changed back in 1994, lots of us chose to stay and be a part of building a new nation, one in which we were all one people, united under a new flag and a new national anthem and a sense of promise and possibility.

Endless dodgy BEE deals, tenderpreneurship and corrupt practices

So what did we get instead? A government that has failed us all, by squandering billions of (mostly white) taxpayer’s money on an endless procession of dodgy BEE deals, tenderpreneurship, corrupt practices and self-enrichment, not to mention some just-plain terrible policy decisions – such as the doomed Seta system, endless drama at just about every parastatal and a municipal and service delivery track record that makes Zimbabwe look like a scion of good governance in comparison.

Remember, every million wasted, misappropriated or stolen is a house that will not be built, a school that will not be upgraded, a hospital that will not be properly equipped. This current government has proven itself corrupt, arrogant and unaccountable - and saying so does not make me racist.

We also got Jacob Zuma. Serial philanderer, polygamist, accused rapist, accused nepotist, accused corruptible puppet for the Guptas and Sheiks of the world. I know he is a politician, but come on people, there surely has to be some limit. OK, so he hasn’t murdered anyone and as far as I know he is yet to be accused of tax evasion, unlike his former protégé and socialist entrepreneur Julius Malema, but there is still time before his term is out.

Then there is transformation, which basically means getting rid of anyone white and replacing them with someone less white (but not Indian of late, especially if you are in KwaZulu-Natal, where even whiteys seem more popular than our poor Indian brothers). 

Of course, intellectual hand-wringers will at this point start talking about transformation of the shackles of the mind, transformation of systemic racial barriers to the advancement of black folks, transformation of archaic colonial teachings and such like, but let’s cut the BS – it really means whites out, blacks in (and a token coloured or two if we have to).

What happened to the best man (or woman) for the job to drive our country forward? What happened to the billions invested in improving access to education for all over the past two decades? Words like transformation should no longer even be a part of our daily discourse, because the playing field after 21 years should be, if not level, at least well on the way to becoming so.

Instead, we got the unbelievably expensive and doomed-to-fail from the start Outcomes Based Education, which was scrapped after a few short years because not even the teachers could make head or tail of it. We got repeated failures to deliver textbooks and basic teaching aids to the schools that needed them the most, not because of lack of money, but because of simple incompetence and greed.

In short, we got shafted, all of us, black, white and every shade in between.

So I guess this brings me to the core question, brought on by some genuine self-reflection in the wake of the waves of anti-white, anti-colonial rhetoric and actions sweeping across the land. Am I simply a racist?

Does hating the arrogance, nepotism and greed that permeates most levels of our current government make me a short-sighted bigot? Am I missing the big picture? Does feeling embarrassed because my president has four wives when everyone else’s has only one, and yet still has extramarital affairs, make me a racist?

How about quotas in sport – when an obviously unfit Vernon Philander is elevated into the SA cricket team ahead of a seriously in-form Kyle Abbott because of racial quotas, I was upset. Not because I don’t rate Big Vern – I love the guy, he is a brilliant bowler. But he was out of form, wrong for that match and not properly fit, but got picked anyway. Does feeling that this is just not OK make me a myopic racist?

Watching locals in KZN loot and destroy foreign-owned shops and businesses, and attack foreigners with impunity largely out of jealousy and selfish greed, makes me angry and embarrassed. Does feeling this way make me a racist? If a fellow South African who is black also hates this behaviour, and they happen to be Xhosa, does that make them anti-Zulu and hence racist?

Guptas wield government privilege like an ATM

How about the actions of the Waterkloof Four? They sicken me to my stomach. So do the Guptas, who have wielded their government privilege like an ATM. How about Allan Boesak, who literally stole money from the poor? Does finding such behaviour reprehensible make me a racist?

A lot of what is called racism or elitism by the likes of Malema, Schutte, that poo-flinger and a growing chorus of others, just isn’t. It is disdain for mediocrity, distaste for cronyism, a desire for better. As a country, we need to learn to differentiate between true racism, which is reprehensible anywhere in the world, but even more so here in SA given our tortured past, and that which is conveniently called racism to mask its true nature.

I make no apologies for wanting a more effective and accountable government, a more noble and unifying president, a society that embraces and rewards excellence and shuns mediocrity, irrespective of the colour it comes cloaked in.

In our race to the bottom and our blinkered, blame-filled, colour-obsessed discourse, we have lost sight of where our real focus should lie. Simply blaming whites/foreigners/colonialists/bloody agents/statues/multinationals/capitalists for the current status quo is so 1984.

*Anton Ressel is a senior consultant at Fetola and has over 15 years experience as an entrepreneur, trainer, business developer and mentor in the emerging business sector. 


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