Tag Archive: New South Africa

i spoke yesterday about the search for a new normal.

When it comes to a new and exciting more-unified South Africa [which i what i dream and try and live towards] then one of the areas we need to see this in is moving away from the idea and practice of “Us vs. Them”.

Let’s look at some actual comments made on my blog recently:

‘The shack fires are caused by the shack dwellers. They should maybe go back to the EC? It is illegal to build shacks on open land.’ [Viv]

‘Further, they have a deep seated jealousy of the colonist whom they can see on a daily basis is more sophisticated and superior in intellect and behavior to them. What they cannot have or be…they want to destroy.’ [ClaytonAndrew]

‘I fear I’m out too. lol. Why bother when they vote ANC?’ [Marcia]

‘All they want now is for whites to come back and bail them out. They want whites to come and do all the donkey-work, get paid peanuts and be refused promotion for efficiency. Stuff that, I say. Let them sink. If they are so good then they must show us what they can do. They should show us, without the help of white consultants, how they can save themselves and the country.’ [Derick]

And many more…

Us vs. Them


What i typically hear in the Us vs. Them discourse that regularly rears its ugly head in my blog comments is a sense of the Us [typically white people] being superior to the Them [typically black people]. Sometimes it is clearly stated in terms of the idea that white people have a higher IQ than black people [and the assumption that even if that was true that it meant anything significant beyond having the specific skills that make you good at IQ tests as opposed to the implied consequence of it meaning something about being more clever] or better skills [cos of how white people invented everything, apparently] and other times just more subtly insinuated or assumed.

And as long as we divide this country into an Us and a Them [or a number of Us and Thems – men vs women, Cape Town vs Joburg, Local vs Foreigner etc] i think we will have problems when it comes to transformation. No, let’s be stronger on that – we WILL have problems!

The major issue is that the moment we speak [think/act] Us vs Them, we build a wall that is impossible for the Them to climb. We ‘protect’ ourselves behind walls and wires and alarms and as much as it all may give us the impression that we are safe from outside harm, we have also very much cut ourselves off from the very relationships needed to break down and do away with any feeling of need of the barriers we have put up.

Protect from hate and hurt? Maybe. But also definitely ‘protect’ from love, understanding, unity, growth. Mutual togetherness.


A guy in a hat once asked ‘Am I not destroying my enemies by making friends with them?’ [Actually i think we can give Jesus Christ credit for the idea when one of His principle teachings was to ‘Love your enemy as yourself’ – enemy love being one of the defining marks of the early Christians]

And that is where the Us vs. Them has to die. And it really must die, if we are to have any hope of moving forwards and creating something new and appealing and workable. I have no doubt that the solution for the majority of South Africa’s problems is relationships: genuine, authentic, sacrificial, costly.

‘To love is to recognise yourself in another’ [Ekhart Tolle]. A Them is nameless and more than likely faceless. It is very easy for a Them to quickly be seen as a thing or an it. A Them dehumanises so that the person we are dealing with can quickly become an issue or a problem and we can be very cold and calculated in how we deal with it. But the moment a Them has a face, and then perhaps a name, and the moment we lean in and start to listen [and i mean really listen – to hear and understand with not sense of judging or comparing or explaining away] and hear the story of the other, that is when the Them starts to transform into an Us.

That is when the walls and wires start to seem a lot more unnecessary.

Black guy begging at my car window for money at the traffic lights is easy to drive by, without looking at or giving a second thought to.

But Xolani, who is trying to make money to keep his younger sisters in school and put enough food on the table today so that they don’t go to bed hungry again. Whose father was never on the scene and whose mother died of TB. Well, suddenly it is a whole lot easier for me to start to empathise and draw alongside and see if there is any way that we can walk a journey together.

One of the refrains we heard a lot when we were at the Simple Way was the line that ‘It’s not that the rich and poor don’t like each other. It’s that they don’t know each other.’ So typically donations from rich to poor were handled by a middle person or organisation in the form of a church or NPO and so rich and poor never got to lock eyes or share a meal or hear a story.

It is the same with the Us and the Them.


i don’t believe we will be able to argue this one out. i think we desperately need to relationship it out.

One of tbV and my decisions when looking for a place was that we didn’t want to move into an area where everyone looked like us. While our priorities changed somewhat during the searching process [as we realised looking back on almost 6 intensive years of marriage that we actually could use a season of giving some focus to us and working on our marriage and having a space conducive to that] we didn’t let go of that one. Even though Southfield is not Mannenberg or a township, the area we live in has a variety of different people living there and the next step is figuring out how to engage well with our neighbours as we settle in.

But i do think where we choose to live will play a key role in this conversation.

i think who we choose to regularly engage with will play a similar role – i have loved ‘meeting’ some new black friends via simply creating some space for them to write on my blog and look forward to growing those relationships offline. My friend Nkosi is an absolute joy to me and is teaching me so much through some of the live conversations we have been able to have. Both Avuyile and Sindile wrestle with cricket-related issues with me online and share in the joys and frustrations of our national team, and were the matches not regularly at 3am i have no doubt Avuyile and i would be watching the quarters together. i do love and enjoy my many white friends but we definitely need to be more intentional in who we spend our time with if we are wanting to be a part of a new and diverse country that takes time to listen to each other and wrestle out issues together. It has been incredible watching God bring people of different race and culture into our lives in a way that has felt natural as opposed to us feeling like we need to go and find black and coloured people to be friends with. But i do think that if we look around in life and discover that everyone looks a lot like us, that there is something that should probably change.


Obviously there is a lot more. But i think it begins with us taking on the whole Us vs. Them mindset and relegating it to the garbage dump. And then setting fire on it. And feeding the remains to ants. And then nuking them. You get the point.

While it remains, it will continue to devalue and desensitise and especially dehumanise whoever we refer to as ‘the other’. We need to have our lives renewed by the transformation of our minds.

And it has to start with me. Because as much as i want to believe i am not afflicted by the disease of Us vs. Them thinking, i more than likely am. So i need to make myself accountable to those who love me and invite them to point it out and challenge it any time it surfaces. And squash it immediately and every time.

And it has to start with you. Will you commit with me to actively trying to move away from an Us vs. Them mindset and Us vs. Them language?

Let’s see if we can find the ‘We’ together in this. Because that is when the dreams will really start kicking into action and be being realised.

[For some other South Africa related posts on my blog, click here]

mike tMy name is Michael and I’m married to Deborah. We both grew up in the Cape Town southern suburbs where people are generally wealthy and generally white. We don’t really remember anything before 1994 and so we’ve basically grown up in the “New South Africa”. This year we’ve been living in rural Mpumalanga while Deborah does her community service as a dietitian. Although we’ve been involved in projects and work in Mfuleni, Heideveld, Nyanga, and other places around Cape Town, living in a mainly poor, mainly black community for the past 11 months has taught us a lot.

Over the last few months, there have been quite a few posts on Brett’s blog about race and trying to move forward into a better South Africa, free from racial prejudice. My previous discussions with people on the topic of race have been introductory at best, and so I decided to jump in and try and learn more about how different people think and what they struggle with.

Knowing that I’ve had almost no exposure to the non-white side of the race discussion, I’ve tried really hard to read posts and learn with humility. For me to join the discussion, push my ideas, and oppose people I disagree with would be of no value to anyone. When I have disagreed with people, I’ve tried to dig a bit deeper and ask why the writer holds that view, rather than just telling them they’re wrong. Asking questions is a powerful habit. Sometimes we discover something new from the answer and can adjust our thinking to be more truthful. Other times questions help the writer to see false assumptions they’ve held and they are able to adjust their views. Either way, questions are a great way to increase understanding.

Having said that, it can sometimes be frustrating trying to understand and work through an idea when it’s very different to how I see the world. The idea seems to stick in my head while I work through the person’s post and weigh up my own assumptions against theirs and try and reconcile both views of the world. When I can’t, I need to ask more questions.

Although this process can be frustrating, anything worthwhile requires effort, and growth is seldom easy. Some posts I’ve mainly agreed with, some I’ve mainly disagreed with, but both have resulted in me thinking a lot more about what I can do better. Engaging on this topic has also helped me realise that some people think very differently about the country we live in and how we should be moving forwards. Although not all views are equally good, my view is not the only one nor the best-informed and so I need to keep learning in humility.

[For some other ideas and thoughts on moving towards a truly new South Africa, click here]


[a guest post by Sindile Mlingo Vabaza]

I will not pretend to have grasped the inherent difficulties in running a country but I think I can confidently assert that if we want not only a free and fair and just South Africa, but one that has clearly engaged it’s past and moved into a post-colonial and post apartheid state, we are going to have to be both honest and have intellectual integrity no matter what viewpoint we espouse.

This is important for a number of reasons.

1. South Africa is a secular and constitutional democracy and implied in that is the freedom for people to bring multiple perspectives to the table as to what will constitute a ‘thriving, just, economically sound, racially and socially cohesive country that is built on being non-racial and non-sexist’.

That is the baseline agreement.

How we get there is up for debate. Vigorous debate.

In entering these debates there must be some sort of binding social agreement which holds us to intellectual integrity(meaning we do our homework and we are able to properly convey our ideas in the marketplace of ideas) and also that we rightly justify the opinions we hold.

Although, a difficult balance we also need to be open to changing our ideas while remaining in a position of conviction of the ideas we already hold.

2. The powerful social influences of religion and culture/tradition can easily overpower reason and due diligence.

Religious people need to be careful when quoting verses from their holy books to justify their opinions. Firstly holy books were written within vastly different contexts to our own and at a time when scientific knowledge was quite non-existent and to apply glibly these verses is to do both religious and non-religious communities a massive disservice.

For example, the difference between the secular and religious view of sexuality can be summed up in that sexuality for secularists is a health issue(physical, psychological, emotional etc), whereas it is a fundamentally moral one for religious people.

The problem with making ‘societal’ sexuality a fundamentally moral one(as religious people are given to doing) is that people and indeed cultures and worldviews can differ vastly but people with those differences can be equally sexually healthy or unhealthy.

This is borne out by many studies including those done by the Barna research Group(a Christian one) which seems to show that young Christians in America are just as sexually active as their non-Christian counterparts, but less likely to use contraceptives(they don’t want to make it seem like they planned it) and more likely to engage in oral and anal sex(often without the requisite knowledge to do it safetly). Other studies seem to bear this out as well and in fact have discredited the whole ‘Abstinence only’ movement.

Now my point is this; I understand for example that waiting until marriage is important for a lot of religious people and an important tenet of faith(the mystery of marriage is that of Christ and his church in the case of Christianity), but a call for real honesty needs to be made to religious leaders and communities when addressing this issue (and many others of course).

The often not-always-well-thought ideas on which teaching in religious communities rests on, particularly pertaining to general sexual behaviour is at times troubling.

The idea that people who have sex before marriage are ‘damaged goods’ is a pervasive and in my view a nefarious one. While holding abstinence from sex until marriage as a key value to strive for, issuing judgement and condemnation when it is not maintained seems to strongly contradict the concepts of love and grace that are at the heart of Christianity.

This does not call into question the wisdom of Christian teaching but it does call into question how it is TAUGHT and APPLIED and in WHAT CONTEXT.

In South Africa in particular, this lack of real thought by religious people combined with cultural/traditional mores and a fundamentally more conservative outlook mean that when young women who are sexually active want to seek contraceptives(especially in rural and poor township areas) they are often shamed(from a moral point of view) and because of that many do not always seek preventative health measures which further compounds our HIV and STI woes and also in a lot of cases simply helps the CONFIRMATION BIAS of religious leaders and communities.

Also because we live in a deeply patriarchal and misogynistic society the shame and guilt(again very moral terms) is shifted to women mostly and having personally noted this, I as a man, am shocked at how deeply the lived experience of women, especially young women in this country is marked by pervasive feelings of guilt and shame and how popular ‘slut shaming’ is amongst both men and women.

Is it any wonder women are so reluctant to report incidences of sexual violence and what about all the young women in universities and colleges around the country, women who are this nation’s next leaders, who have to live in shame and pain because they are afraid their sexual histories and habits will be open to public scrutiny if they come forward about being coerced or drugged(then raped).

There is a price to pay for a lack of intellectual integrity and due diligence in everything but more insidiously the price is higher in this regard.

The dream that undergirds the New South Africa is one of both Non-racialism and Non-sexism. We absolutely hammer non-racialism home but hardly seem to be concerned about the non-sexism part.

We need to be.

In my own honest opinion I don’t think there is anything fundamentally wrong with religious teaching on sexuality because there are young people who want to remain virgins(and not all of them are religious) and faith can often give them the tools to navigate the world and preserve their convictions.

The sexual health of young people especially young women cannot become an ideological war between those who are conservatively minded and those who are liberally minded.

Young people deserve better than that and quite frankly they need mature, live and healthy examples of the Christian sexual ethic(that to me seems to be the best tool to persuade others of the religious sexual ethic).

[For some thoughts Sindile has on First Steps towards a genuine New South Africa, click here]

[For some challenging thoughts by Sindile on Employment Equity, click here] 


I think it is important that I give an examples of how ‘baseline’ thinking can help us navigate difficult waters.

1.) The issue of employment equity is a difficult one. My take on it is that from my experience both young white and black people fundamentally want to feel like they are being treated fairly and of course that is a most reasonable thing, but I do want to latch on to the idea of fairness.

If we are to truly work towards fairness we have to agree in principle on certain things.

We all have to agree in principle that it is not a desirable thing when talented young white people are snubbed for jobs in order to fill quotas.

However white people must also recognise and admit that when black people come into the workplace they are assumed INCOMPETENT until proven otherwise, while white people are assumed COMPETENT until proven otherwise. This sort of thing contributes to the larger feeling of racial inequality which pervades society.

In order to illustrate this I will use examples of people I know.

I have a white friend who was snubbed for a job because of AA. He is bright and applied his economics training while he was at varsity to helping solve problems in poor communities.

He was hurt that he was overlooked for a job.

I didn’t feel okay about this,

But also I remember going to an engineers braai at Wits with some friends and catching up and hearing stories of black graduates who talked of their difficulties in the workplace.

A lot of these guys and girls came from poor backgrounds(their schools were the kind you payed R100 a year to go to), who had faced obstacles many white people cannot even fathom and yet when they got to the workplace they found themselves faced with even more systematic challenges(something I think would make anyone bitter) and exclusion that FELT distinctly racial.

Now my point is this; There are grievances on both sides of this and a solution is not going to be easy or painless but if we are to move forward and move towards creating non-racial workspaces we must all admit that the workplace is engineered in the sense that white people have an easier path to success(because of the generational privileges accorded to them by Apartheid) and that some very undeserving black people have at times being given jobs(AA and BEE are attempts to disrupt the ‘white’ hegemony created in the workplace by Apartheid policies)….

It seems to me that a lot of young white and black people could unburden themselves if they was an agreement that what we ALL WANT are workspaces where the brightest and the most hardworking and those who network the best can get ahead(social and emotional intelligence).

I think it also needs to be said that a lot of white people are grossly entitled and this evidences by the fact that when they don’t get hired they immediatedly assume it’s because of AA or BEE. This is shockingly arrogant because it assumes that a person of colour can never be more suitable for a job than them. In fact I would go so far as to say that this is a racist assumption.

So, in short, I personally think that until white people become serious(as those who have an advantage in the workplace) and agree to the baseline requirements I mentioned, we will not move forward on this issue anytime soon.

We can only have a discussion point once all sides recognise that our system is fundamentally set up in a way that encourages dichotomy and antagonism and that we have to imagine a better way forward otherwise we find ourselves in a future of mutually assured misery

[For more thoughts on First Steps towards a New South Africa by Sindile, click here]

[For a whole host of other Race vibes, click here]


i won’t lie, writing about Race in South Africa can feel a little daunting.

Especially when you have been out of the country for three years – one of the things i didn’t want to do was come charging in with all the answers and so i chose instead to use my little platform to create a space and invite some people to share their thoughts.

There have been a whole bunch of conversations about different aspects of Race that happened before we got home from three years in Americaland.

Upon coming home, a good and trusted friend, Linda Martindale, introduced me to Nkosi Gola and told me i had to connect with him and so i invited him to write a piece which he generously did and which you can read over here.

54 comments later [which never happens on my blog unless someone thinks i hate animals] the conversation has become so rich that some other posts have been happening over here.

What has blown me away [in the best of ways] has been how those who have engaged with the posts have done so with huge grace and humility – i’m not sure where the Trollpeople are vacationing this week, but their absence has allowed incredible dialogue to flow.

So first prize is that you take 30 minutes [or whatever it takes] and read Nkosi’s post and then Sindile’s and the comments that followed each of them. And then follow by reading the rest of the articles in this series which i am hoping will continue to grow.

But for those who won’t make the time to do that, i wanted to lift a few of the comments out and share them with you as they are just too good to not be seen by more people. This is seriously just a highlights package cos the conversation there is so so good, and these are not even necessarily the best of, but just some goodness i saw as i was reading through them again:

In response to Nkosi’s post we firstly have some excellent back and forth between him and Mike T which is just too much to stick in this post but go and check it out.


But also these:


In lieu of what Gola said, many white people have the misconception that when one speaks of justice and restitution they speak of purporting violence and crime against white people, however, that is not the case.

The real issue is that even though apartheid has “ended”, the black majority of the country still live in undignified, sub-standard and very poor conditions thanks to the institutions left behind by apartheid and other capitalist, fascist actions that were enacted against the black nation.

Now the effects of those are still felt today, were equality isn’t equality at all. Quoting from George Orwell’s book, The Animal Farm, they had six commandments, one stood out for me till today, “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

Now if we move away from the people we will never understand and resolve any issues regarding our society which is what the institutions of apartheid left behind. White minority still rules the country whether we choose to accept that or not. This is what is happening today, all those that are in power have moved away from the people and those who are in an unfair position of comfort with wealth they acquired in a very unfair manner. We live in a country with one of the highest income inequalities in the world, now if we keep on sugar coating things, the country or the majority will never heal nor move forward.

In isiXhosa we say, “isilonda siphila ngothunukwa”, meaning we need to go to where it hurts the most in order to heal of which many whites fear to do.

We are not purporting violence on the white nation but rather the reparation and the restoration of dignity and pride to the black nation.

Ryan Peter:

Great to hear this perspective. I think, personally, there are a few issues.

1. Social justice and activism are actually not always the same thing. I think it’s important to note that a lot of activism is just self-righteous posturing that really favours those doing the activism more than the supposed people they are standing up for. Jesus was not an activist – I don’t seem him being one in any part of the scriptures. That ought to tell us to make a distinction between real social justice and today’s versions of it.

2. All fair and well until we get to the DA bit. I couldn’t care much for the DA, personally – I see them as nanny-statish for one, and too Western for another. This leads into my main point: Nkosi, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. The problem isn’t the DA or the whiteness dynamic as much as the importing and veneration of Western thinking and ideas as superior and *right.* When we need South African solutions for South Africans, both the ANC, DA and most of the other options (and let’s face it, there aren’t really options) are selling us into the global, predominantly Western, market-driven individualistic narrative where success and economical power is basically the point of life. This is seen to be the saviour of our problems. Even our ties with China and socialism still perpetuate the same narrative: that economics is everything. This runs directly against the Gospel at every point – and churches have bought into it. Jesus was pro-poor, but not because he valued economics as highly as our current culture believes we all should.

To make my case a little more clear, I find it strange that on weekends our malls are full but our museums are struggling. We value the almighty Rand and the here-and-now more than we value our heritage and our future. As much as black guys want to talk about their heritage and their people, at every turn I’m seeing them sell themselves out to the economics-is-everything narrative. Old Zuma is a case in point: our highest form of leadership seems to think only in terms of Rands than in terms of Sense.


Important though to be clear that those of us who are Christians are not aiming for a Western or an African mindset (I am not sure if in many parts of South Africa we can even untangle them any more?) We must beware of making the Western mindset all wrong and the African all right in reaction to the opposite being (almost?) true for so long. We must aim to bring both of them under the scrutiny of Scripture and begin to develop a deeply biblical mindset. There is of course always the danger that one or the other tradition will dominate, as it has in the past, which is why I suggest that we need to learn to read Scripture in community with a variety of different racial, theological and economic voices and in so doing begin to get closer to understanding the heart of the passage.

Pererin Neb:

Nkosi, I found your piece an interesting and informative read. Your highlight a number of things that South Africans, specifically white South Africans, should take note of if they are ever to understand and appreciate their black colleagues and neighbours.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you point out the communal worldview found in African cultures (e.g. the community taking responsibility for raising a child, not just the immediate family) versus the individualistic worldview so pervasive in western cultures. “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, but then, “I think, therefore I am”… Unfortunately, a failure to understand and accept another culture’s worldview is a great hindrance to unifying people from different backgrounds. Just as folk from a western background find it hard to accept that their black colleague or friend cannot be understood or interacted with in a vacuum, totally separate from their family, clan, neighbours, community, etc, people from an African background criticise white individuals’ attempts at reaching out to black individuals, trying to make a difference to the people they know while not being so interested in their whole community. Both groups still struggle to understand what is important to the other, criticising the other group for not focussing on the things they think are crucial and will take the country forward. I appreciate your perspective on this, and I think white folk should read and take it to heart. However, (and this is probably politically totally incorrect), might I suggest that your sharp rejection of some white people’s attempts at reaching out to black folk from within their own cultural worldview indicates a need for growth and understanding also in your perspective as a black South African?

Without wanting to sound critical, however, I do have a few issues with some of your points. First, I would like to understand what exactly you are suggesting when you talk about voluntary vs. enforced justice. I stand to be corrected, but the enforced justice you promote seems to suggest a communist framework. Is that in fact what you are saying? If so, I think that (and your strong criticism against the DA and Madiba/Tutu) is a major issue. Among other things, communism has time and again proved to be a model which eventually runs countries, their economies and people into the ground, causing untold suffering. Just think of the former USSR, Ethiopia, etc. You quote the early church in Acts as an ideal Christian example. However, it seems to me that their sharing their possessions with their brothers and sisters was an entirely voluntary (and commendable) act rather than an enforced, communist-type system. Ananias and Sapphira were told by the apostle Peter that their property was theirs to do with as they chose and that they did not have to sell it nor give the full price to the church. Their sin was in pretending that they had given the full amount, as many others had done willingly. Instead of some enforced political system of “justice” which can (and will) be abused, those early Christians seemed to obey their conscience, with everyone doing what they could, out of sincere love for their fellow believers and reverence for God.

I do agree wholeheartedly with you, however, that more can and must be done about the conscience of (in)justice in our world and also South Africa. That is such a vast and crucial topic that I do not even want to venture there in this already lengthy comment.

Also, I am not quite sure what you are trying to say about training. On the one hand, you seem to brush it off as a relatively low priority (with the right to urinate and play football on the land as apparently more crucial than training in how to develop it for the benefit of the whole nation). On the other hand, you accuse white people of withholding knowledge and skills transfer from black folk, apparently so they (the whites) can maintain their position of power. I am not sure that I understand what you are suggesting in this area.

Your point about the injustice of not having access to land is a very good one. Although I do take issue with your suggestions (or at least with what I understand them to be), I think the hurt and indignity of being treated as if one were not a part of the land, in this case specifically black South Africans, is hard to even imagine for those not affected by it. This cry should be heard loud and clear! This wound should be attended to with the necessary compassion and care. I do not think, however, I could get excited about a model that fails to also consider the long-term effects on the nation as a whole, setting the country on a course leading to abject poverty and suffering (as in famine and starvation, not just having too little). Two wrongs don’t make a right!

Then, I think claiming that Africans were living in peace before the Europeans arrived is not a very accurate statement. Bloodshed, wars, tribal rivalries (cattle raids, etc.), chasing other groups off their land, were most definitely not unknown in Africa before the advent of the colonial era. There are enough reliable accounts testifying that these things were as alive and well in Africa (and Southern Africa) as elsewhere in the world. I do not think it unfair to say that, being sinful human beings no different from anyone else, Africans have also caused injustice and suffering to others, the strong oppressing and exploiting the weak. No better nor any worse than any other humans sharing this planet. This of course is not at all meant to negate the wrongs committed by the colonial powers, especially in places such as Africa, the Americas, Southeast Asia and Australia. There is no doubt that black (South) Africans have suffered and been exploited by white colonialists for a long time. Let no-one claim that justice was done to the non-white people of South Africa under the previous regime! Let no-one despise the wound of the black South African soul.

So, these are my thoughts, and responses after reading your thought-provoking post. Perhaps I am misunderstanding some of what you are trying to say; I would be happy to be corrected if I am.

Peace, mzalwane. A o tlhabelwe ke letsatsi. Konke kube hele, kube chosi kuwe.

Cara Hartley:

I just read all of this now. THANK YOU Nkosivumile. And everyone who engaged.
Sometimes we avoid the obvious answer because it is just unimaginable. Is that true for whites today?

Just want to point out a few things I’m taking away from this:

– Questioning the dominance of economics-related thinking in my own understanding of SA’s challenges, and

– The importance of not thinking that economic restoration is the only kind of restoration blacks (broad term) need. Yes, poverty and a sense of indignity seem to go together but the way people like you Nkosi talk about land redistribution is really driving home for me that healing of the black wound will be economic empowerment AND … everything else that we would want for our own families. It is embarassing that sometimes we simplify South Africa’s problem to just mean alleviating poverty.What do I want for my sister, for my husband? When someone asks me how is my sister or my husband, do I say “fine, they are earning an income”? No I think of how they are doing in their everything-ness, their holistic thing that the word “dignity” doesn’t begin to capture but it’s like dignity x wholeness x shalom. Now when that is what I want for everyone in SA, what action does that prompt in me?

And I mean talk to a successful rich black person, in government or business or wherever, and once they start to trust you, if they have been honest with themselves, this profound sense of worry and pain and guilt starts coming out because things are not yet okay and now they are somehow complicit. Which leads me to the second point

– I mean we are all told about Ubuntu the whole time but something about reading this conversation made me really how it is really Ubuntu at work in rich black people’s hearts and tells them it is not yet okay. I’m taking a deeper understanding of that away.

– I agree DA makes me sick because somewhere deep down on a psychological level everything is just so wrong. But sadly this conversation brings me no closer to articulating that in a way that other white people can hear. Either you sense it or you don’t, but that’s not very helpful.

– If neither ANC nor DA are really deeply considering “involuntary justice” then I am still searching dude. I look at Malema and I don’t see him ever getting the support of the black middle class whom I think we are going to need especially if 90% of whites are going to leave when involuntary justice happens. So, still searching. And until I can support a party that can bring structural change what do I do? Little personal things seem too small, but

– Let’s start with little personal things that seem too small like paying a living wage and investing in your employees’ children’s education (and not just maths and science; there’s a reason why blacks are drawn to history and politics, there is a search for meaning that has nothing to do with earning a good salary one day and who am I not to honour that?)… and for the sake of not focusing on economics, what else should we be using our power to do? Fund churches and counselling centres and social development things (it’s not soup kitchen when you’re helping families become more functional I think), fund and ATTEND reconciliation initiatives with your white face and ears and if need be, your tears.

– Listening with your soul, not just your educated brain, sorry if it sounds fluffy but it is real, I am finally starting to be able to read blogs like these and FIRST hear the soul and THEN hear the argument and consider its rationality. So much of our conversation as South Africans is coming from the base of our skull (you know that thing, I forget what it’s called, there where our survival instincts are), it’s no wonder we rarely make sense to each other.

I am not very good at challenging writers and asking them questions, but thank you for the opportunity to have listened and learned.


I just think that a lot of white South Africans still haven’t come into proper grasp with what modern day racism in SA is -it’s no longer a set of laws yes, but it’s very much structural – in private business corporations (such as media outlets), and universities (public and private) – I think moving forward is a huge barrier in that no is truly held accountable about how they really think and feel, I just think right now we are doing a decent job of merely “tolerating” each other there’s no sense of real solidarity -moving forward requires a lot of self awareness regarding who you are and understanding your innate sense of white privilege but with the same degree I also feel that as a black nation we need to do a lot of internal work & take responsibility and not let everything that has been a plight for the black man victimize and allow for sloppy thinking and actions,..ultimately I think it will all be down to self-awareness and if there’s no one holding you accountable then people will continue to have as much self-awareness as a rock .

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Next up was Sindile’s article


And these responses:

Mike T:

Wow, this is a breath of fresh air on this topic.

I really like how you frame the solution not only in a non-racial way, but also in a way that highlights opportunities for individuals and businesses. It’s also great to use the sports example where people have thought about it but it isn’t as charged as some of the other topics.

I also really like that you value equal opportunity rather than equal representation. Even in an equal opportunity setting, it’s unlikely for their to be equal representation in every aspect of life, or even in every sport played, and yet it’s the representation that seems to draw so much focus.

I also like how you try and point out the opportunities for people and businesses to help solve the problem.

I want to hear more. I’m not sure what questions to ask but this is good stuff. It’s a pity we can’t vote for you

Nkosi Gola:

Great piece, Just Great!!!!!!!!

[i don’t know about you, but i suspect Nkosi liked this one?]

Pererin Neb:

A well-written and thoughtful piece! I especially love the way you describe the sports situation in terms of the ability to compete and competition itself. However much most folk want to see transformation (and so they should) in South Africa, let’s face it: very few people turn on the telly to watch sports on a Saturday afternoon so they can be intellectually or morally challenged and stimulated to promote transformation. I daresay most folk simply want to relax and forget about the more serious aspects of life when they watch sports. Your suggestions make a lot of sense, without forgetting about the fun/recreational aspect of sports, and I think many would vote for you!

What you say about building relationships is also very encouraging. The world needs people to reach out to their fellow humans with dignity and respect for our common … well, humanity. 🙂

I wonder about your view on race meaning nothing, though. If mere skin colour were the issue, I would agree with you: it predisposes you to nothing in particular and is in a sense as insignificant as the shape of your eyes or the lines on the palms of your hands. These things do set you apart as YOU, but and they should not define you in a stereotypical way. However, I find the popular rhetoric of the day a little sad, whereby differences between cultures, genders, etc. are downplayed to the extent that humanity is portrayed as this vanilla flavour mass of little individuals. All the same, yet everyone rabidly unique and special. This is perhaps very philosophical, but I cannot get rid of the idea that the form of something is linked to its content. Of course, one can think of many examples where the shape/appearance of something/someone has nothing to do with its/their true character. But then there are many instances of the shape/appearance of an entity is a very real embodiment of their essence. The males of many cat species, for example, do quite well without a special hairdo, but somehow a bushy mane befits the glory and dignity of the lion, the king of the jungle, doesn’t it? One may argue that his mane is not part of his essential character, but I cannot shake the feeling that somehow it is … part of the essence of “lion”. In the same way (and please, I do not mean to push this to the point of being ridiculous), what we look like, what our language sounds like, the clothes we wear, all of this gives expression to some essence, does it not?

What I mean to say is that every culture, every ethnic group has or constitutes a piece of the great jigsaw puzzle which is humanity. Somehow, the uniqueness, the beauty, the wisdom, of every family, clan, tribe, ethnic group, culture, etc. contributes something to what it means to be human. In one sense, I am because we are, but then, too, we are because I am (and you are). I know how nasty racial/cultural stereotypes can be and what horrifying results these can have (Adolf Hitler comes to mind here) when our differences are blown up out of all proportion. However, I am saddened by the thought of a world where our differences — not just as individuals, but as social/ethnic/linguistic/cultural groups — fade into insignificance. Is variety not the spice of life? Is humanity not enriched by the perspectives shaped and nurtured in the hills of India, the jungles of the Pacific islands, the sands of Egypt, the savannas of Sub-Saharan Africa, the hidden valleys of the Andes, the windswept tundras of the North? I dream of a world, not where we are all the same (yet desperately trying to be unique), but where we are all true to who we are, proud of our heritage, in love serving and enriching others with the gifts bestowed on our people. For we are wonderfully different, yet members of the one human family.

So, I suppose what I am trying to say is let us not forget who we are or pretend that we are all the same. Rather, let us embrace our common humanity, confidently giving expression to it in the way we do best, lest our part in the great symphony of life grow silent. After all, are South Africans not claiming to be the “rainbow nation” (rather than the one drab, colourless, mixed hue after all the individual ingredients have sacrificed their colour)? And, as with anything in life, our sinful nature enables us to take this beautiful truth and twist it to hurt and alienate others, to seek to advance our own position. But then, the Holy Spirit of God can help us eliminate the negative, hurtful parts of our experience and offer the unique, good ones to our brothers and sisters for the common good.

Keep up the good work, and keep writing and making your voice heard!

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Like i said, there are too many great ones to put them all here but i hope in doing this some more people will read some more of the conversation and get involved and engaged cos this feels super uber helpful. It won’t be revolutionary until we actually see it transform to action, but this does feel like a good start.

Two immediate things that will help from here:

[1] Get people reading this stuff. Share it via your Facebook and Twitterer pages. Pin it to your Trest board. Invite engagement from your friends. Share it directly to someone’s wall you think will take it seriously and ask them to share their thoughts with you, or even better, with us via a comment on the blog.

[2] Who do you know who has a valuable voice on this topic? That of racial reconciliation and first steps in the New South Africa [which isn’t actually as new as it used to be] and moving forwards together and unity, justice and mercy and so on? Direct them to the blog and more importantly connect them to me like Linda did with her friend which got this ball rolling. Everyone’s voice is important, but some people just have a gift of expressing what they mean well or speaking wisdom or life into a situation. Introduce them to me.

Let’s continue this together.

We can NOT be silent any longer.

[To read up on other aspects of Race that have been posted on this blog, click here]



I would like to think that I am good at putting my thoughts onto paper (virtual or not) but sometimes I come off as ignorant or unaware of something because the thought process that made me think or say something just wasn’t explained properly. So when the topic of transformation came up I was weary to even try to say anything about it.

If you have been following the discussion there have been some really great pieces on transformation and wow! Some people have hit it right on the mark. As a whole I feel as though my opinion may be a combination of ideas that I have read mixed in with my outlook on life based on my experiences. But here goes anyway…


Honestly, if you had asked me five years ago I would have said something like, “we are on the right track”, “what is the problem?” “racism, nope that is a thing of the past”, “white privilege? What is that?”

5 years is a lot of time to change a lot of thinking processes though and so as it stands today I can say that I disagree with everything that I had thought about transformation in South Africa. I was living in a very sheltered life where the world’s problems could be solved if you had an education and some sort of drive to do something with your life. However, things are not as simple as that. Simply expecting someone who is the first in their family to attend school and then suddenly become the next Barack Obama is an anomaly, not the norm.

I think that the biggest problem is that transformation seeks to quietly bring us together while Apartheid was not quiet about separating us. There aren’t laws that force us to get to know someone of the opposite race or even of a different culture for that fact. I’m not saying that, that would be a solution. What I am trying to say is that there was this huge thing that happened that affected everyone and for the most part a large number of people got together to fix it. Together. But now we are trying to ‘fix’ things individually and no longer as a country. We no longer have the drive to do something together as a country.

Remember 2010? How it felt to be South African? It felt awesome! I could even go out on a limb here and say that the togetherness we experienced then was a glimpse of what transformation should be like. We were actively teaching each other things, like how to blow a vuvuzela or even where the best place is to get food before a match.

Sadly, the World Cup came and went. We fell back into our habitual lifestyles that held no diversity.

I am 24 which means that I was born towards the end of the regime that separated a country. I went to a private school with a large white population and for most of my life my best and closest friends have always been white. Having said that I feel grossly incompetent and unqualified to say that there needs to be a change. I mean come on. I fall into the middle class category in a country where a large amount of its citizens fall below the bread line.  I don’t know the struggle and to even try to act as if I do would be insulting to a person who does know what it is like to go to bed hungry again, for a third night in a row.

So from my middle class view I will tell you how I wish transformation would happen from my own experiences.

Firstly, could we just acknowledge that we are different? I used to think that when a person said to me that they don’t even regard me as black that it was a compliment. That they saw me as a human before they saw me as a black human. I don’t think that, that approach works. Being black is something that is inherently me. You cannot miss the colour of someone’s skin. What is happening is that a person is in effect saying, “yup, you are a certain colour BUT because you act like me, speak like me or even dress like me I can overlook your colour and we can form some sort of relationship”. That doesn’t sit well with me anymore.

We have to acknowledge that we are different because our differences are what will bring us together. If you think that what I’m saying is impossible then let me explain.

I don’t know about you but I love learning new things. I can bet you that at some point you have gotten lost in the YouTube loop and that is because humans love getting new information (even if it is useless to you as you will never build a boat. Yet, you still watched 10 minutes of that video right?).

Learning new things is exciting, challenging and brings out a new side to you that you may never had known existed. Having a friend of a different culture, ethnicity or even gender and never learning from them is such a bore.

Here is where the whole thing about how our differences can bring us together which will be my second point.

Let’s start learning from each other. Not only on a one on one basis but on a mass scale. Having one friend who isn’t ‘like’ you really does not count as that is not a representation of the wider scope of people.

I know that there are cultural and religious barriers which sometimes seem like the end of the world. I have had Hindu, Muslim, Portuguse, Afrikaans and even an Athiest friend or two. Each experience taught me something that I will always treasure. Because I love learning new things…

With this new found keenness for learning from each other we also need to be willing to understand that past injustices do not go away overnight.

This is my third and last point. Let us all be aware and mindful of each other.  Not every white person owns a ten bedroom house with 6 cars just like not every black person is living on the street. But the reality is that the general trend leans towards the effect of white privilege. (Brett has some awesome pieces on that and please do yourself a favour and read them, because I can’t begin to put it as well as some people do).

I feel as though I have oversimplified a very complex situation. That was not my intention. This is merely an expression of how I feel on the matter in less than 1000 words. Transformation does not happen overnight.

So I will keep on hoping for a better future because we are not quite there yet. (But we will get there, of that I am sure)

[For other thoughts on First Steps towards a reconciled and transformed country, click here]

[For more thoughts and stories on the broader theme of Race-relatedness, click here]

rainbow i have loved the conversations happening on my blog with regards to matters of Race recently. A lot of the posts are specific to South Africa, but i imagine there are themes, ideas and principles that will translate to other contexts around the world and it will be good to get some outside voices as it were to comment as well. What has been particularly exciting to see has been the spirit of engagement that has taken place in the comments sections as people with clearly differing views have looked to listen and address what is being raised and queried without letting it become personal or aggressive. i thought it would be helpful to create a home page specifically focusing on ways of moving forwards so that these conversations are easier to find and jump into. So please look around and more importantly dive in and get involved – we want to hear your voice. But please play nice. Let’s wrestle but with open minds and the possibility of hearing and learning new things and ways as we try and figure out this New South Africa together. As we seek to build a truly Rainbow Nation:

A Practical Way Forward – We invited some friends round for dinner and a conversation on race, location and boundary.

Time to Lose the Other – i think this is one of the most important conversations we need to have in SA: Us vs. Them

First Steps Towards a  really New South Africa: Nkosi Gola gives some thoughts on the question, ‘What can white people do as first steps towards making a difference?’

First Steps in the New South Africa – Sindile Vabaza tackles the same question with some different perspective and a really exciting way of viewing the future.

Steps Towards Transformation – Hulisani Khorombi steps into the conversation and shares some of her thoughts.

A Look at Employment Equity – Sindile Vabaza talks through this one example of things to consider when pushing ahead

Inching closer to a Changed South Africa – hear some thoughts from Michael Talbot on his journey of listening and questioning

Some thoughts on Restitution – Avuyile Tu from Khayelitsha shares some ideas on this important topic

10 Important things for the Rainbow Nation to hear – Busi Ledibane shares some of her thoughts on things that need to change

[For other conversations on different aspects of the Race question, click here]

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