Gatvol Capetonian trades on untruths

COMMENT

Entering this debate sideways, it is worth stating it is not our intention to falsify all the claims made by Gatvol Capetonian. Nor do we, in any manner, condone their methods. We are also aware that they do not represent the views of the entire coloured community.

But let us first locate their thinking within the rise of populism internationally, which has not only pushed most people into questioning the status quo but has also somehow led us into a post-truth world where truth is essentially up for grabs.

We have seen how challenging the establishment led to Brexit in the European Union,and in the United States Donald Trump emerged as the president, partially because of a disregard for the truth and partially because of an embracing of the untruthful.

The first tenet of the argument that is the stepping stone of these populists implicitly or explicitly is that truth in itself is not universal or objective, thus reducing it to a social construct. In essence, they advance the view of multiple truths.

This is problematic because it can and often does lead to negative consequences, such as the current White House denying and misrepresenting the evidence for climate change, and subsequently using this as a reason for withdrawing from the United Nations-fostered Paris Climate Accord.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “post-truth” as a process or an event whereby one gets to “denote circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

First, there have been many cases in which facts have been purposely misconstrued to appeal to the emotions of the masses. More to this point, former professor of ethics at the University of the Witwatersrand, Kai Horsthemke, contends that post-truth politics has led to the disregarding of truth in favour of appealing to personal feelings and emotions. We may add to this the use of a “we versus them” mentality, which often uses ethnicity as its benchmark.

Far from being a phenomenon that only swept through the West, this post-truth populist wave also seems to be sweeping through South Africa. In our case, this is in the form of Gatvol Capetonian. The group, whose membership number is undetermined, is secessionist. As the group’s spokesperson, Fadiel Adams, has made it known, they are calling for “all people not born in the Western Cape pre-1994 to sell their assets and go home”.

It is not surprising that we should find the arguments made by the group being filled with populist overtures. The Gatvol Capetonian group is claiming the following:

  • Coloured people have been sidelined in decision-making institutions such as Parliament;
  • They have also been deprived of employment opportunities because of the influx of people from the Eastern Cape who are taking their jobs;
  • Thus, they are calling for the people who migrated to the Western Cape post-1994 to leave the province and that the province should become an independent country.

Such an approach is divisive and can only create more tears in our fragile national fabric and democratic constitutional republic.

There is truth in the fact that coloured people have not been included as much as Africans and white people in thedecision-making bodies ofthe country.

To put it bluntly, the experiences of coloured people and African people are not the same and they are shaped by the nature of historical injustice. Thus, it is important that they to have a voice within major decision-making institutions, just like everyone else.

That said, however, the unsympathetic call for black people to return to the Eastern Cape is not just problematic from a racial perspective — it is also ahistorical. It is clear that the Gatvol Capetonian people are pulling the Trump stunt by calling for black people to leave “their” province, as though the Western Cape is not part of South Africa. Moreover, by calling for black people to return to the Eastern Cape they are calling for the return of apartheid homelands. In their mind, black people are the reason for their suffering. Consequently, getting rid of them would relieve it.

They fail to take into account the growth in unemployment, thus leading to narrow views of what has been acknowledged as a national challenge. The thinking that black people for some weird reasons do not belong in the Western Cape is problematic and untrue.

The calls for black people to leave the province need to be addressed urgently to avoid cases similar to the xenophobic attacks, which were fuelled by unreasonable fear of foreigners, and African immigrants in particular. It is only through reflective and critical unity that, as South Africans, we can get to face the problems of unemployment, corruption and poor education standards, which continue to mentally damage the future of this country.

You can’t blame black people, the majority of whom are themselves marginalised, for corrupt government officials any more than you can blame coloured people for gun violence in the Cape Flats.

Indeed, all South Africans are gatvol and pulling in different directions can only serve to worsen the situation for all of us.

Gift Sonkqayi is doing a honours degree in education at the University of the Witwatersrand. Bhaso Ndzendze is research co-ordinator at the University of Johannesburg’s Confucius Institute and the author of Beginner’s Dictionary of Contemporary International Relations

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