How does SA heal from Dudula bullies and Stellenbosch varsity racists?

What a person does to another or says of another reflects how they feel about themselves. A person who advocates for division and separation, or who belittles another, is reflecting how they feel broken, divided and separated from their true self. 

The responses and reactions to the likes of Nhlanhla “Lux” Dlamini of Operation Dudula and Theuns du Toit, the student who is being investigated for racism at Stellenbosch University, are reflective of how we are not healed as a nation. Our reaction and response highlights the fractures that will keep this country from moving forward and that keep it from attaining the unified greatness it can achieve to the benefit of all. 

Much of the confusion in South Africa stems from the fact that we do not have a united vision of the country we want it to be. Our current leaders fail to articulate this clearly. Nelson Mandela’s vision was of the “Rainbow Nation”, a nation built on empathy, compassion, forgiveness, community, unity and love. The idea was that these would birth unity and peace. Dlamini and Du Toit are indicators of how much healing we still have to go through as a country. We are clearly far from unity.

No words or actions that mobilise on the basis of separation and division will ever result in unity or peace. Any thoughts, words or actions that arouse dislike, intolerance or hatred immediately take peace from the doer as well. And yet, peace is one of the deepest needs all humans have. Peace comes from unity. Unity comes from living in truth and in a truthful environment. Truth builds trust and trust starts to birth peace. We have neither truth, trust, peace or unity in the country. 

We have all kinds of isms, the schisms of separation that we know are wrong, but for which we cannot clearly articulate their cause. If we cannot see or dress the wound appropriately, we cannot find a permanent solution. Thus we keep going in circles dealing with the same issues over and over again.

Whenever someone does something to another, it says more about how they feel about themselves or in themselves. The xenophobia driving the adherents can be interpreted as being forgotten and abandoned by society and government. We see it all around, young people are losing hope in the future, they are losing hope in their abilities to co-create a future in which they feel they are seen and matter. Therefore they try to grasp at hope of a future by bullying or victimising others in hopes of creating space for themselves. And yet, never has any form of violence ever resulted in peace, unity or hope.

How we react to Dudula and Du Toit now as a society has the potential to move us forward as a country, or keep us where we are, in our division and cycles of repetition. We have had decades of angry reaction and responses to racism and yet we are no closer to bridging the gap and healing racism. Those at the receiving end of racism feel angry, disempowered and victimised. Those perpetuating racism feel equally disempowered. 

We need a different approach where the pain of both perpetrator and victim are honoured. If Du Toit were to sit and have a heart-to-heart, honest conversation with Babalo Ndwayana, the young man on whose desk he urinated, it is quite possible they could reach a shared understanding. Perception and understanding bring us forward.

It can get tiring at times to have the same conversations over and over, and to have the same triggers over and over, but what this indicates is not only that we have not healed, but that we have not understood the true cause of the problem we seek to heal. It is only when we go back to the beginning, to the real and true cause, that we will find solutions that move us forward and allow us to heal.

At this time, we have co-created a country where divisions are as deep as ever. This is also true on a global level, where there is so much division and separation between tribes, races, classes, religions and genders. All division in South Africa, and globally, stems from the need to create security for one group at the exclusion of all others, instead of the pursuit of security for all. All wars and tensions on the planet at this time stem from insecurity and a need to create security for a few at the expense of others. And yet not a single country, region that is pursuing safety, security, prosperity or peace at the expense of another group is actually experiencing peace. It is not surprising that the Edelman Barometer of Trust 2022 finds that trust in governments all over the world is at an all time low. This is a time when the world is at its most divided.

It is clear that the continued emphasis on separation and division is not leading to peace, safety and security. We clearly need a different approach. Instead of calling for the expulsion of Du Toit, why not encourage honest dialogue between himself and Ndwayana for a start. Set rules whereby there is no judgement, blaming or shaming, instead, just pure expression of feelings. Understanding what healing is, is as important as getting a high school degree. Wounds left unhealed fester and create the Hitlers of the world and the young men in the US committing mass killings.

Of course the approach is not simple. However, our major failing in ending all forms of discrimination, separation and division has been that we have assumed incorrect power relations. That, for example, the person who is racist has more power over their victim and therefore they have no pain. This may be true in material and economic terms, but the racist and bully lacks true power because they are in pain. They seek to extract power by dominating another and living off the power of another.The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.

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Zulu good will DD
Ntombenhle Khathwane
Ntombenhle Khathwane is an entrepreneur and social justice activist.

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