SA's rowdy race war


Coloured people are violent fish-eating gangsters who breed to swell their numbers; black people are dumb darkies who are criminal and have a sense of entitlement; Indians have bargained their way to the top and white people, well, they’re just a bunch of racists, right?

It may sound ridiculous but these are just a few of the comments that have made headlines. And judging by the furore they’ve created in the media, South Africa is still a nation obsessed with race.

In case you’ve been under a rock in recent weeks here’s what has been going on. Cabinet spokesman Jimmy Manyi opened a can of worms when he declared “coloureds should spread to the rest of the country. They must stop this over-concentration situation because they’re in over-supply where they are”.

Meanwhile columnist Kuli Roberts was getting flak for her column that ripped into coloureds, laying bare every racist stereotype in the book and declaring coloureds “love making love so much” they “leave even the randiest negro exhausted”.

The examples go on and on. What is going on? Seventeen years after we voted for a democratic South Africa is the rainbow nation losing its shine? The short answer is no, experts say – in fact we’re doing far better than we think.

Lucy Holborn, research manager at the South African Institute of Race Relations, says, “We are not becoming a racist nation.”

Her research shows in the past few years there’s been a decline in racist attacks or race-related news compared with the first few years after 1994. But now there’s far more outrage when there’s such a case.

We’ve come a long way but we shouldn’t be overly optimistic, Aubrey Matshiqi, political analyst and senior research associate at the Centre for Policy Studies, says.

“We shouldn’t be too pessimistic either. We must keep talking about race in the broader South African context. There will be conflict but beyond that conflict lies hope for a better future.”

“Research shows more than 50 per cent of South Africans don’t socialise with another race outside of work,” he says. “We need to create opportunities. Invite your black or white colleague for dinner. You’ll find you have the same fears and worries, the same hopes.”

Read on our website what YOU journalist Haidee Muller had to say to Kuli Roberts and Jimmy Manyi in her open letter.

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