Letters to the editor: May 15 to 21 2015

Recall Biko’s words

The excellent, and troubling, article by Trevor Ncube (“I fear for the future here in South Africa”) raised many interesting points. I want to follow up on only one.

Ncube says of the hatred and violence targeted at fellow Africans: “My sense is that this hatred has its roots in apartheid, which told South Africans they were oppressed but they were better than Africans north of the Limpopo. Tragically they believed this.”

I agree this is what apartheid taught and what, at one level, South Africans believed. Yet at another they did not. I have been struck, increasingly, as more immigrants have arrived here, [by] how Africans who did not live under apartheid have generally, despite their history of colonialism, a level of self-confidence and personal power that many black South Africans lack.

It is a subtle thing but, as a white person, I notice how many immigrant Africans I meet, even if cast in the role of humble car guard, have a strong sense of their own dignity and equality. Apartheid delivered a deep narcissistic injury, a sense of shame about blackness that we have yet to overcome.

I think it must be very hard for Africans who did not live under apartheid, yet now live in South Africa, to appreciate the depth of this injury in their host communities. I also think the visible self-confidence of immigrants, despite their own often very difficult circumstances, must be puzzling and galling to South Africans who suffered the shaming and diminishment of apartheid.

It seems to me that there was something about the long history of colonialism here, together with the peculiarly systematic and organised oppression of apartheid, that has left unusually deep wounds. This must lead to a kind of envy of those who do not carry this injury – an envy that, translated into hatred, is as prevalent in the boardrooms and corridors of government as in the streets (as Ncube points out).

The interesting thing about envy is that it can also serve as a helpful indicator of what is desired. Can South Africans use their envy of other Africans to say: “There is a quality there that I want to emulate. How can I do that?”

This inner injury, resulting from being shamed for something beyond one’s control – skin colour – lies at the heart of the Black Consciousness Movement’s call for black people to free themselves not only from outer chains but also from inner ones. As Steve Bantu Biko put it during the apartheid years: “We know that all interracial groups in South Africa are relationships in which whites are superior, blacks inferior. So as a prelude whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior.”

If more of us in this country, black and white, can achieve that, then our neighbours will have nothing to fear from us, or us from each other. – Diane Salter, Simon’s Town

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

In the article “Why does KZN lead in police killings?”, David Bruce juxtaposes events that are not related. It is not evident from his article how statistics of police killings from 2008 to 2012 are of “interest in relation to” the envisaged prosecution of Nomgcobo Jiba [the deputy director of the National Prosecuting Authority].

He relies on conjecture and inaccurate submissions that result in fallacious conclusions. He attempts to demonstrate how the erstwhile Durban murder and robbery unit has somehow metamorphosed into the Cato Manor branch of the Durban Organised Crime Unit. He concludes that Cato Manor is the “institutional descendant of the Durban murder and robbery unit”.

This is not true. Of the approximately 40 members based at Cato Manor from 2008 to 2012, only four had previously worked at the Durban murder and robbery unit. None of the rest was ever linked to any murder and robbery unit. Significantly, the Cato Manor commander, Lieutenant Colonel Willie Olivier, was never stationed at any murder and robbery unit either.

The author concludes that statistics suggest that more than one unit is linked to unlawful killings in KwaZulu-Natal. He presupposes, without evidence, that the killings are unlawful, failing to recognise that the vast majority of police killings emanate from shootings by a large number of diverse units and components within the South African Police Service – the canine unit, the general detectives unit, crime prevention units, tactical response units, the special task force and crime intelligence.

The following inaccuracies in the article amplify my contention:

• Military ranks were reinstituted in April 2010, which are generally associated with the remilitarisation of the police. It is not clear on what basis Bruce concludes that militarised policing increased from 2008.

• The court did not order charges to be withdrawn against me. The judge ruled in the high court that there was no evidence to sustain the allegations against me. He ruled that the decision to prosecute me offended the principle of legality and therefore the rule of law, which is unconstitutional. The state subsequently withdrew all the charges against me.

• The murder and robbery units were not closed in 2000 but in 2002.

• The serious and violent crime units were never placed at the level of the sub-provincial “areas”. They reported to the province from their inception until they were amalgamated with the organised crime unit.

The article conflates a number of issues that are not directly related. It oversimplifies complex institutional dynamics at the expense of a sound empirical study.

Bruce ignores various research imperatives at play, such as demographics, the geographical spread of violent crime, the type of criminals Cato Manor dealt with, and crime statistics, especially the number of police members who were murdered during the period in question.

The perceived instability within the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) is equally irrelevant to his prognosis regarding the outcome of the Cato Manor investigation. Ipid does not conduct or control the investigation. It is done by the same SAPS team who unlawfully arrested [prosecutor] Gerrie Nel.

In conclusion, it must be noted that the killings attributed to Cato Manor were spread over four years, and the number of arrests and convictions by this same unit far outnumber the killings. – Major General Johan W Booysen

Oppression and struggle know no race

The four writers of “Rhodes has fallen, now we must rise” speak eloquently about the need for transformation in South African universities and we look forward to a future where all Africans feel at home with their university environments.

Yet certain points they make are fallacious. First, they speak of being taught “the thoughts of Western thinkers”. The mind has no colour, and if we wish to contest the thoughts of the “other”, we have to come up with better “thinking”, stronger arguments, with better applications to our human situations, wherever they may be, whatever your skin colour.

We may remind ourselves that Marx, Engels and Lenin were Europeans and their ideas have appealed to a wide range of black African leaders.

The authors say: “Democracy in Africa is very different to what it is found elsewhere in the world.” Democracy is a process and African countries have shown little understanding of this, as we see from the dictators across the continent who cling to power for decades. Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is a good example of this.

Most erroneous is the assertion that the oppression of black women is different from that of white women and that therefore the struggles and achievements of the feminist movement do not apply to black women. This is nothing but an attempt to divide and dilute the women’s movement and to cut it off from its historical roots.

Black women certainly need to speak for themselves, but white and black women live under similar patriarchal formations, so it behooves all women to stand up and speak against the almost universal patriarchy and misogyny under which we all live.

The suffragettes’ achievements feed directly into the struggles faced by women in South Africa today, as can be seen from current attempts to place millions of black rural women under the rule of traditional chiefs by means of the Traditional Courts Bill. – Irma Liberty, Cape Town

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