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Mandy de Waal
11 Dec 2014 14:41
If the DA leader wants to end white-on-black racism and its association with her party she’ll avoid propaganda and tackle structural racism.
Helen Zille drew a line in the sand
in front of white-on-black racists in her essay published on Sunday December 7 2014 entitled: “Racism is not free speech. It is an offence”.
In her missive, Zille stated categorically that
the DA would evict “nauseating” white bigots.
But the essay reveals that Zille’s
thinking about white-on-black racism is flawed.
“Today I am focusing only on white
racists because they are all too often associated with the DA. I want to make
one thing quite clear: Our party has no place for people like these. We are
disgusted by them.”
The day before Zille made this statement
– intended to exorcise the spectre of
race bigotry that haunts the DA – the opposition
party was the subject of outrage because of an incident that was perceived as
racist by #BlackTwitter.
At lunchtime on Saturday 06 December
2014, Nomzamo Madikizela [?@iAmThatGuy__] posted a tweet that read: “Just saw
this at Cape Gate Engen garage. This is how @helenzille’s Democratic Alliance
upholds the spirit of Madiba.” The Twitter entry was accompanied by a photo of
a black man perched precariously on the edge of a trailer hitched to a large
4x4 emblazoned with opposition party decals, one of which read: “Vote DA”. The
SUV was owned by the DA’s constituency officer for Atlantis, near Cape Town, Deon
The DA hates black people!” tweeted Sentletse Diakanyo, who describes himself as
the “self-appointed EFF Supreme Commander of the Twitter battalion”. Amid
similar tweets of protest, controversial former government spin doctor Jimmy
Manyi ?[@KrilaGP] tweeted at Zille: “Let’s hear you spin
this one.” The Western Cape Premier’s response? “I won’t. If that
was scenario when trailer was moving, I’ll act.”
The response to the trailer photo was
racially divided. #WhiteTwitter largely supported the DA view that this was
merely a safety violation. #BlackTwitter (unaligned to the DA) saw the black
worker sitting on the trailer as baasskap.
A painful apartheid invention,
baasskap speaks to white supremacy and patriarchal power. It is the subjugation
and dehumanisation of black people. An act of domination, a symbol of baasskap was
the apartheid era practice of the white boss riding upfront in his SUV, empty
seats all around him, while black labourers were jammed into the open back of
The white voice of a National Party
member describes what baasskap is in the book South Africa, the prospects of
peaceful change: an empirical enquiry into the possibility of democratic
conflict regulation. “We still use the concept of ‘white baasskap’. At every
meeting we talk about baasskap, leadership and apartheid. The whites will
always rule this country. We won’t share our power with the natives,” the
conservative NP politician is quoted as saying. This book was published in
The concept of baasskap is still used
in democratic politics. Shortly before floor-crossing to the DA, Patricia de
Lille accused the opposition of having a “baasskap mentality”. “The DA’s problem is that they still have that
baasskap mentality,” de Lille was quoted at a 2009 rally on the Cape Flats,
while still leader of the now defunct Independent Democrats. “If you just stand
up according to your rights and the Constitution, stand up for the people you
represent, then they take it as an affront.”
‘I don’t speak to kaffirs’But let’s get back to the Twitter
storm about Basson’s bakkie and the person sitting behind it in a trailer. What
neither Zille, nor #BlackTwitter were aware of was that Basson was already the
subject of an internal investigation by the DA for making threatening remarks
about his superior, Desiree Visagie, and for making an inappropriate statement
about apartheid. A race categorisation follows for context: Basson is white and
Visagie is a coloured woman. These events unfolded on November 27 2014, and the following day, at a DA metro training session that was held in Hermanus.
Evicting Basson from the party is
something of a “Sophie’s choice” for the DA. Basson is well liked, as evidenced
by the support WC MEC for human settlements, Bonginkosi Madikizela, showed the
DA bakkie driver on Facebook. “I get very irritated when we trivialise racism
for political expedience, when we see every incident through racial lenses. I’m
referring here to Deon Sakhumzi Basson incident, Deon is not racist. I’ve known
and worked with him for years. What happened might be an error of judgement,
but jumping to racist conclusion is outrageous.”
Basson was active in the municipal
by-elections held in the City of Cape Town on November 5, when the
DA walked away with 95.33% of votes off a 71.92% poll. A trusted inside source at
the DA tells me Basson was brought on board by a close friend of Zille’s, the
party’s constituency head and MP, Denise Robinson.
In the run up to her missive of December 7 2014, Zille also faced pressure from the Economic Freedom
Fighters [EFF] for another incident of racism in her province. The Cape
leadership of the EFF warned Zille that they’d unleash “chaos” if the premier
didn’t sack a provincial official for racist invectives.
An open letter to the opposition leader from the EFF read: “the people your government has employed are
contributing to the racial tension by referring to their subordinates as
“kaffirs” within the confines of a government office.”
The letter details how criminal
charges were laid against a Western Cape department of community safety
official, Herman Kruger, who on November 21 2014 chased a black worker out of a
government office in Wolseley in the upper Breede River Valley region.
allege he did this by saying: “Get your black ass out of my office. I don’t
speak to kaffirs.” The EFF protested that at the time of writing the letter on December 1 2014, the DA had taken no action against Kruger.
White-on-black racism on the riseThen there’s the matter of Zille’s
understanding of white bigotry. “Everyone knows that the people who perpetrate
or condone racist attacks are a tiny minority,” the DA’s boss writes.
“Fortunately, incorrigible racists are a small and dwindling group. As we move
into our third decade of a free and democratic South Africa, their voices will
likely become fewer and fainter,” she added. Zille links the apparent increase
in white-on-black racism to the raised profiles of Steve Hofmeyr and Dan Roodt –
SA’s self-appointed horsemen of social media white supremacy.
Zille is wrong on all accounts and
reveals she hasn’t done her homework when it comes to white prejudice. If
racism is so important to the party’s position and future, why didn’t she even bother
to take the time to do a little research before tickling her keyboard?
If she had, Zille
would have discovered that white-on-black racism is more evident in SA because
it is on the rise. When the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) announced its annual results in mid-2014, it said that over 500 racism-related cases had
been reported to the organisation that supports constitutional democracy. There
was a spike of white-on-black incidents at universities and black students were
targets in most of these cases. The SAHRC also reported that there was an
increase in the use of the word “kaffir” at universities.
Zille’s view that Hofmeyr and Roodt are causal for
increasing racial hatred is also a fallacy, and could be viewed as irresponsible
because it accords these two men more power and influence than they’re entitled
to. Further democracy is not some nirvana that dispenses with white-on-black racism, as evidenced by
what’s currently unfolding in the US.
What does affect that dynamic that is racism? A good
departure for understanding here is the 2014 Reconciliation Barometer published by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR).
The barometer measures trust between race groups.
“Trust is a concept that’s
embedded deep in our systems of meaning,” explains Dr Kim Wale, who leads the
Reconciliation Barometer project at IJR. “Apartheid was so influential it
affected our cultural systems and our systems of meaning, as well as our
emotional worlds,” she says.
“Changes in mistrust between races shows shifts in the
deep psychology of how humans were affected by apartheid’s legacy,” she adds.
The good news is that over time trust between race groups in SA has increased.
The bad news is that the most recent data shows an uptick in white mistrust of
other race groups.”
Source: IJR Reconciliation Barometer
What changes racial attitudesWale cautions that annual fluctuations don’t necessarily
indicate a trend because attitudes shift slowly over time. It is important,
though to watch the data over the next couple of years to see whether white
trust in other races continues to erode.
Trust is affected by national events, like a recession which
impacts racial attitudes significantly. “Scarcity increases fear and at times
when resources dwindle people go into binary ‘us versus them’ type thinking.
This is a regressive way of understanding reality and it makes sense that
research shows that during this time the brain classifies and categorises in
racial terms,” she says.
Research findings by New York University in June 2014 support this, and reveal “the deep-seated prejudices of white
people towards black faces when they experience financial pressures resulting
from an economic downturn,” according to the UK Independent.
said she disagreed with Zille’s understanding of white-on-black racism. “I think covert racism is still very prevalent in
SA,” she said, adding: “if we label a
few racists as bad apples, it is like putting your head in the sand. It is an
incredibly irresponsible way of tackling racism,” she said.
What does change racial attitudes?
Wale said the answer is integration and exposure to diversity. “If you live in
a space where the suburbs are predominantly white, and the poor spaces are
black, you constantly receive a message about whiteness and blackness that will
affect perceptions of trust for people who aren’t black because of exclusion,”
said Wale. “The more we understand each other as human beings and are exposed
to each other’s lived experiences, the more mutual trust increases,” she added.
Living separately only serves to increase mistrust.
DA software developer Adrian Frith did
an interesting project on his personal blog site that maps racial distribution in South African cities. A look at the Johannesburg map and the Cape Town
map speaks volumes about integration in the two different cities. The Jozi map
shows that previously white neighbourhoods are becoming integrated. The Cape
Town map shows that the city is far from integrated.
If Zille wants to change white-on-black
racism in the Western Cape she’d need to effect changes to the very systems and
structures that reinforce that racism. The line in the sand rhetoric is mere
political posturing. Changing de facto structural racism like tackling the
dominance of white business ownership and white land ownership, together with
changing the city’s integration, is where ending racism really begins.
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