Tag Archive: reconciliation


There is a tragic moment in the book where Benjamin Pogrund is refused the opportunity to speak at Robert Sobukwe’s funeral due to some angry incited politicised youth, as it seems like he would have been a natural choice and even Sobukwe’s family had extended the invitation for him to speak. The speech he had planned though was published in Reality later that year:

Robert Sobukwe. My brother and my friend. 

It did not matter that our skins were of different colours; that we came from such different backgrounds – he from a woodcutter’s home in this village, the descendant of people who have spent centuries in the African continent; me a first generation African, from a middle class home in Cape Town. It did not matter that we did not have the same father and mother. We grew to be brothers. Over a period of twenty years our relationship of love and caring developed and deepened.

That Bob Sobukwe saw me as his brother and that I saw him as my brother already tells a great deal about him and about the South Africa he believed in and wanted. A country where racism will be outlawed. 

Many words about the greatness of Bob Sobukwe are being spoken today. They are true words. Many wonderful words have been spoken about him since he passed away two weeks ago. They are true words.

It is tragic that, in his lifetime, so many in South Africa spurned him; that so much of what he had to offer us was suppressed and locked away – in Pretoria prison, on Robben Island prison, in confinement and banning in Kimberley.

But the test of a man can be seen in what he leaves behind him, in what he has left for us who remain in this world.

And we have from Bob Sobukwe that belief in South Africa of which I spoke earlier. One united South Africa, free of colour or tribal divisions. A South Africa devoted to justice and democracy for all its peoples, without totalitarianism, communism, or any other crushing of the human spirit. It was a dream in his lifetime; yet it is more than a dream for in it lies the future and the salvation of all of us. 

In all the years of his life, Bob Sobukwe did not deviate a fraction from his belief and he always wanted it to come about in peace. 

Going closely with this, what we have from him is a love of people.

He practised this in his life to an extent that was incredible to behold. Even for his oppressors, for those who held him captive, there was no bitterness or hatred. Only a sympathy for them, a pity for them because of the way they behaved.

When we were together, it was I who would express the resentment, the anger, at the way he was treated. He would simply be amused, tolerant about those who had done humiliating things to him. 

I would feel ashamed and embarrassed, as a person and as a South African, about the things that were inflicted on him – whether the cruelty of forcibly keeping him year after year on Robben Island  in isolation, or the ugliness of the apartheid system in forcing us, when I visited him in Kimberley, to go and drive out among the thorn bushes to see shelter from the sun, drinking our cool drinks and eating our pies. It was one of our moments of joy when, after several years of doing this, we discovered a cafe that actually did not mind if we sat down together to share a pot of tea. Provided that we sat in the black section of the cafe.

For Bob Sobukwe these were things to be taken in his stride. To him, they were examples of the weakness of his oppressors, of the desperate and ugly things that they had to do to maintain themselves. 

He rose above it all; he was the giant; those who tried to debase him were themselves debased. 

Whenever, during the dark times of his life, I went to give him comfort, I came away amazed. Because it was not I that gave him comfort, but it was he who gave me comfort. 

And even in the last few months of his life; he could not but know then that it was the bannings enforced on him, confining him to Kimberley, which had prevented him from travelling freely to obtain the specialised medical attention which could perhaps have prolonged his life. Even then he did not lash out, as a lesser person would so naturally have done. 

Yet none of this, as we well know, meant that there was any trace of weakness in Bob Sobukwe. For what he has also given us is the example of his strength and courage in sticking to what he believed. He applied this to a super-human extent. He asked people to do only what he himself was prepared to do. He was the first to lead the way – and to accept the consequences of what he did.

Many years ago I shared in his dilemma when Rhodes University offered him a full-time job as lecturer. At that stage, Bob was what was called a ‘language assistant’ at Witwatersrand University. Now he had the chance of a well-paid, status position to do the teaching and the writing that he loved. But he turned it down. He decided that his task was to give himself to his people. And he stuck to that unwaveringly to the end of his life, never regretting, never complaining, never losing his faith in his mission and in God’s purpose. 

It goes on a little more and then ends with this tribute:

I grieve for my brother. South Africa grieves for its father, for this son of Africa. 

Bob Sobukwe has passed away. But he lives. He is belief, love, hope – and a great gift to all who knew him or of him.’

[From Chapter 22: Robert Sobukwe: How Can Man Die Better by Benjamin Pogrund]

tomb

[To read the next part looking at if there can be such a thing as black racism, click here]

After last week’s fairly quiet week on the internet, this week seems to be right back up there with issues or race and transformation taking centre stage, with a sweet injection of Christmas in between. Here are the blog posts, links and stories that have been catching my attention this week – which one was yours?

MOST EXCITING

My friend Dalene Reyburn finally launched her book, ‘Dragons and Dirt: The Truth about changing the world and the courage it requires’ which i was privileged to read in advance so that i could write a review for Amazon – please check this out and consider buying a copy, especially if you know moms with young children who i think will appreciate it more than most, although there is something for everyone!

 

MOST SIMPLE EXPLANATION 

This Teacher Taught His Class a Powerful Lesson on White Privilege – the White Privilege for Dummies in one sense as a teacher comes up with a simple but clear way 0f demonstrating Privilege

 

BEST PERSPECTIVE ON RACISM AND FERGUSON

NFL player Benjamin Watson’s Ferguson post on Facebook goes viral – the absolute best post i have read on the Ferguson and race conversation simply because it seeks to look at the issues from a number of different perspectives – READ THIS ONE!!!

 

MOST HELPFUL LOCALLY

Inching closer towards a truly changed South Africa – Michael Talbot gives us a brief but insightful view into the process of engaging with crucial ideas and conversations

 

MOST IN YOUR FACE

When the Norm is Twisted – my friend Linda Martindale challenges the so-called norms by looking at the effect they can have on other people

 

MOST LIKELY TO CREATE PUSHBACK

Black is the new Black: White Privilege and White Fragility – another challenging piece from out of the #Ferguson story but with some vita truths worth paying attention to which have relevance to us here in South Africa as well

 

MOST EMPATHETIC

What My Married Friends Would Like their Single Friends to Know – Meet Lisa van Deventer – this really popular post shares some thoughts from a married woman to her single friends

 

Most WRESTLINGFUL

When Violence Stares You in the Face, and you Turn and Walk Away – what do you do when there is a potentially abusive or violent situation happening in your space? This is a huge thing i am wrestling with and am looking for answers and ideas and creativity.

 

MOST HONEST

Inching closer towards Reconciliation, one post at a time – my friend Michael Talbot shares some of the story of his engagement with the race conversation we’ve been having.

 

MOST REFRESHING TO READ

Two True Meanings of Christmas – Guest post by Graham Heslop – one of the most exciting ideas in Christianity for me is that of the Incarnation – God coming near – and Graham gives two short but excellent reflections on this and other Christmas vibes

 

INSPIRATIONAL TWEETS OF THE WEEK:

@BobGoff Our worst day isn’t bad enough and our best day isn’t good enough; we’re invited because we’re loved, not because we measure up.

@shaelb: Complaining won’t change the complaint. @JabuMTS

@meganshead: The thing that gets me is that it is real. There is a puppet in court.  #puppetcase

@ozchrisrock: Just found a new app that that tells you which one of your friends are racist. It’s called Facebook. #FergusonDecision

@DemetriMartin: Today could have easily been called Givethanksing instead.

 

LOUDEST PICTURE:

mert

 

What about you? What blog posts or articles caught your eye this week? What has been making you think or laugh or be challenged or go, ‘Wo!’? What have you written on your blog that is worth taking a look at?

Leave us a link in the comments for our weekend reading…

 

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]

Hector-Pieterson1

 

[Possibly as good a time as any to remind readers that while i don’t necessarily agree with all the points made in every post that is published on my blog, i do believe that the conversation and engagement with pieces like this is absolutely invaluable and i think it is so helpful to know and understand why people around us are thinking what they are. If you agree or disagree with anything in this post, jump into the comments section and let’s engage, but play nice]

PW Botha once said: “the black man is only as good as singing and digging”. There is one thing that PW Botha never understood and that is the songs sung are not just songs they are an expression of the heart. The anger of the black people were carried in songs, therefore when PW Botha spoke about singing what he was talking about was the emotions of the blacks expressed in singing. It’s sad that he pointed out two contradicting actions, one was externally motivated (slavery) that is digging and the other was internally exasperated by the emotions (anger from hatred of slavery). This makes music a very powerful tool of expression. I was amazed when I heard that amazing grace was written by John Newton and the melody of the song is a black slave kind of melody and rhythm. This song was written as a conviction that slavery was wrong! What is more interesting about this song “amazing grace” is that the writer even uses the slavery rhythmic sound.

We need to understand that songs were a motivation, they were sung with a meaning, they were sung with a mission and they were sung with goals. There is a song that got Malema into hot ashes (Dubula ibhulu) that song was a motivation at the time. It was a response to a monstrous system that was tutoring the black child at the time.  I do think and believe that “Dubula ibhulu” must be part of our history the rich history of South Afrika. I think this song as it was composed at the time it played a very vital role in encouraging those who were involved in the armed struggle. It should be part of the education of children today such that they would know then strength behind the things that they take for granted. Let me just try to expose the relevance of this song during the time:

1) In this time the people who were involved in the armed struggle went to fighting without being well resourced in-terms of weapons. The price was high and there were more chances of dying and being arrested. Because there were many who used Pangas, stones and petrol bombs as compared to those who were carrying guns there had to be a kind of motivation.  Now the motivation either came from the cause itself of-which I do think that mostly it came from the cause. But also remember that the cause only has the power to drive an individual but the song carries the power to unite a group of people singing the same song and being driven towards the same goal this means that this song at this time was vital for retaliation regardless of the limitations. therefore this song must be part of our heritage.

2)   In the battlefield not so many intellectuals were involved but they were only involved in the intellectual and diplomatic engagements with whites in trying to convince the whites that “we are also humans”. The only intellectuals who took a different approach from this kind of approach were only found in the 1960’s where PAC leadership was entirely arrested under the leadership of Robert Mangaliso Sobukhwe. This means that mostly people who were foot soldiers were uneducated as a result I have learned that many of the people who went into exile for military training of different political organisations are not so well resourced in terms of political education. Now the political education is never separate from resistance hence Steve Biko when defining black consciousness he does not leave out the process of resistance. Now if there is no much of political education what would have motivated the resistance if not a song? This song motivated the martyrs not to back down, not to retreat and not to surrender but to soldier on. therefore this song must be part of our heritage.

3)  Also songs tells stories of a particular time, I think for those who did not live in the cities where they would know and understand the current issues regarding the struggle they would listen to songs and understand what more or less is happening. I remember as a young boy growing up there was a song that went like “Oliver Thambo thetha no botha akhulule u Mandela” (Oliver Tambo speak with Botha to release Mandela). Just by this song without being told of what was happening at the time anyone can just tell that Mandela is arrested and Mandela is the hope of the people and the current leader they have is Oliver Tambo. Now this shows that songs summarized issues. Now “dubula ibhulu” was a summary or what we can possible call a program of action for the time.  Now if we all believe that every response that blacks gave as resistance was right in every right then this song should be embraced by us all. This song must be part of our heritage.

I further think that if we truly believe that every act of resistance that was during the apartheid years played a major role in bringing about what we see today and we do love and embrace what we see and also want for more than this in terms of improving and building up the country then the song “dubula ibhulu” is very much part of that hopes and actions and celebrations. I fail to understand why would we celebrate the picture of Hector Pieterson (The June 16 picture) and yet despise such a revolutionary song. Also as much as that picture of Hector Pieterson played such an incredible role in bringing about what we see today then “dubula ibhulu” is not less. I think in our museums we should have the lyrics of this song written because it carries so much pain and so much resistance in it.

The argument that this song incites violence and it led to the killing of Eugene Terreblanche I totally disagree with it. The thing is more black people are dying in our communities and there is no song that is sang that says “kill the blacks”. It is in the black townships where the murder rate is so high and not in the farms or suburbs where white people are found. Therefore more than anything else I think this song is a political statement and it is confrontational to the status quo if it was not then we would enjoy this song. The reason why there are some of us that are scared when this song is sang it is simple because the past is following them or they are still holding on to the past. This song when we look at it today we should see that it meant to pull down the system, to dis-anchor the superiority of one over the other. If I were to ask how many people died because this song was sang? I don’t think there will even be one reason being people don’t die because songs are sang. Im just reminded of a song by Lil Wayne (an American rapper) which says “I feel like dying” I have never heard of any person who listened to this song and committed suicide afterwards. I am imagining a country where both white and blacks sings this song together because it helped bringing salvation to those who were superior and those who were inferior but can we sing the same song if we live two different lives? Can we sing the same song if we live in two different worlds? I think part of the reason why this song is hard to sing for some is basically the guilt of the package of the past that we still carrying.

I can still remember that this song got Malema into court, there were complaints from members of the FF+. I can recall one of the intelligent responses of Malema in court he said “When Chris Hani was killed we were walking in streets of white suburbs and we were angry because the great leader who carried hope for us was killed, and we knew that he was killed by a white person but as angry as we were we never killed anyone for that, now today why would we kill anyone?” Either we must admit that there is a white and a black problem in South Afrika, or we continue to lie to ourselves. The problem is bigger than a song maybe a song does raise what is already there. If the white and the black problem was solved then we wouldn’t be worried of who sings what. Maybe new songs would have been composed that speaks of the current state of south Afrika. But because South Afrika is the same as the past then this makes “dubula ibhulu” more appealing to the person who was singing “dubula ibhulu” anfd makes “dubula ibhulu” bitter to whom “dubula ibhulu” was bitter. If anything was different then our reaction towards the song would have been different but because things are still the same then we have the same response. I am quite sure that there are many black people who feels like singing this song as they are confronted by whiteness daily. Whiteness confronts them at work place, schools, streets and everywhere else. Some are confronted by whiteness by being thought to be prostitutes, some same whiteness by being mistaken to a robber. Some are confronted by whiteness in toilets, where there are toilets written “whites only” 24 years later.

Who wouldn’t feel like singing this song if they were faced by the same realities of the past. I think this song comes because everything that is happening around these people is reminding them about the past where this song was relevant. Remember that the relevance of this song were determined by the conditions, now if the conditions defines the times when this song was relevant then shouldn’t this song be sung? This song again I say must be part of our heritage if we truly living in a new South Afrika but if not then let’s not sing this song so that our tolerance towards one another can be kept successfully.

I think also that a song carries the past and it talks about the present and it shapes how we can view the future, for example look into the church history we find the very reformation being recorded and written as hymns. According to Ps Hombana, Hymns dealt with and deals with the conscience of the person. Hymns dealt with the inner man of a person, and they deal with such today. It was a situation of the black people that lead Tiyo Soga to write the hymn “Lizalise idinga lakho”, this song was a composition from the pain of Tiyo Soga when the Xhosa people were misled by nongqawuse to kill their cows such that this event in particular had a direct impact with slavery in SA. Now to the black people songs are an expression and motivation. The power of songs gave birth to factionalism in the politics of the ANC such that when Mbeki was to be removed there was a song that went like “u Zuma lo my president”. To us as black people we sing when in pain, we sing when happy we sing when working. Even in the circumcision school there are songs that are sang for that particular circumstance. Those are motivated by the situation there. Now to the black people songs are not just composed, for even our national anthem “Nkosi Sikelela I Afrika” this was a prayer. A deep and emotional prayer of a liberation fighter who saw the situation of black Afrika as not a blessing from God. This triggered a prayer that God may bless Afrika!!! Enoch Sontonga expressed his prayer in a song. Many revolutions were born from songs that were composed by individuals for groups. Songs were also sang as a form of preserving the truth in the olden days. That is the reason why one would find that in a middle of a story (fairy tale) there’s normally a song. This makes songs to be part of our heritage, unfortunately we are new in this whole thing of literature, and then this means that our heritage is still carried in songs and stories. if we were living in a new south Afrika we would all celebrate this song but because we are still not convinced that all that was happening in the past was wrong, we continuing with what was happening in the past today and when the reaction of the past (in a song is made) we start to get worried. This song must be part of the South Afrikan heritage.

Brett Fish: For the sake of those who do not know the song, here are the words and the translation:

Ayesab’ amagwala (Cowards are scared)
Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu (Shoot, shoot, shoot them with a gun)
Dubul’ ibhunu (Shoot the boer)
Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu (Shoot, shoot, shoot them with a gun)
Mama, ndiyeke ndidubul’ ibhunu (Ma, let me shoot the Boer)
Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu (Shoot, shoot, shoot them with a gun)
Ziyareypa lezinja (These dogs rape)
Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu (Shoot, shoot, shoot them with a gun)

[For other important conversations relating to Race and Reconciliation, click here]

 

Sindile

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]

statue

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.

nkosi

But also these:

Sting:

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.

John:

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.

Mhlengi:

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

Sindile

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]

 

My good friend, Linda Martindale introduced me to a friend of hers, Nkosivumile Gola at the TRC Re-Enactment meetings we both went to a week or so ago in Stellenbosch. When i heard that Nkosi had a blog i immediately asked him if he would consider writing a piece for mine.

Not to give him an easy ride, i posed this topic to him – the fact that for white people who do want to make a difference in South Africa [and there are many who are generally seeking to ‘get it right’] the task can often seem so overwhelming. And so yes we need to look at restitution and reparation and especially in terms of land and economy disparity, but where do we start? Are there some first steps towards helping becoming part of a truly new and more equally balanced South Africa?

Meet my new friend, Nkosivumile Gola, and this is his response:

nkosi

Baby steps towards a really new South Afrika

This is the most difficult question for me as it is also very important. The difficulty in this question arises from the fact that there are many acts which the white people have done yet the condition of the black people remains the same. Also my fear and difficulty of this question arises from the fact that justice in South Afrika has been limited into a voluntary act which is totally a divorced and disbanded idea when reflecting it to the actual history of South Afrika. According to our history during the apartheid days whites were beneficiaries not because they supported apartheid or not but because they were white but today justice is thought to be voluntary act meaning those who want to live just may do and those who don’t feel like don’t have to, that is a problem and will not solve the problem. This voluntary justice triggers a situation where elitation amongst black people occurs, a situation where a certain number of people are turned into elites amongst many that are brutalised by the system. This voluntary justice causes a situation whereby the black people have no choice but to live through the white people’s shame, guilt and mercy. Now all the shame, guilt and mercy of the white people will never equal the cry and brutalisation of the black people. The emotional state of the white people will never bring about the change required in South Afrika where we can then begin to talk about equal opportunities. Justice should not be a voluntary act but it is something that should be done both by those willing and those who are not willing, justice should be done on the bases that it is right not because it works (in our eyes) or not, not because it pleases, tickles and or even bruising. Now my aim here is to try and avoid the re-occurrence of what has happened before.  

Build relationships

Now coming on what is it that the whites should do to (catalyse) the process of reconciliation in our country. I think it is of high importance that whites build these relationships with the black people and they must understand that by building these relationships with “particular” black people they are not doing anything to the overall pain of the black people. The black people are united by the wound which means we can only define them in plural form now there is no way that we can define them in a singular form. This means that when we dealing with the pain of the black people there is no black person as an individual but a black person as a unit. Though the black people are made up of individuals but singling them out of the unifying wound is a crime. Having white friends myself but my heart is rooted to the overall wounded black person. My heart remains loyal to that wound, I will remain nursing the black wound and if our friendship leads us into forgetting of this wound then it is of no help and we better understand there is no friendship in that. I love Biko’s definition of black; ”blacks are those who are by law or tradition politically, economically and socially discriminated against as a group in the South African society and identifying themselves as a unit in the struggle towards the realization of their aspirations”.

These relationships should be based on conversations about the past the present and the visions about the future. Conversation is a crucial part of the solution but only if it does not lead to liberalism (ignorance), meaning now these relationships should be the means to sharpen the black radical activism. I am aware of many white friendships that have led to radical black ignorance and I think this is one of the greatest injustices. Now conversations about the past are crucial as they are the ones that will inform why the present is in this fashion and they will bring about the possible solutions of the future. These conversations should be based on how does the continued white injustice in South Afrika play part in the present suffering of the black person and in that also informing that talking about white injustice is not the incitation of violence but a way to eradicate violence. Intentional Prayers also should be the crucial and the foundational part of these conversations. I then believe that these kind of relationships are healthy relationships as they are intentional about a better South Afrika. 

Activism amongst fellow whites

Amongst many whites themselves I don’t think there is a necessary voice to instigate the bringing about of the required change in South Afrika. I think 1994 have closed the door of the white people by reconciling the white people with the stolen and blood privilege. I think they need a revival of their conscience and there is no one who can do that better well than their own people. I don’t understand white people at times as they would be more concerned about rhino poaching, global warming and panda bear whatever yet they are so quite about the animalisation and thingification of the black people and we truly need a voice against that. White people needs resurrection of their conscience so that what they have seen as normal for years they would now see it as abnormal and inhuman and I think this white voice will be of great help against such. I have seen many pols and petitions that spoke about the release of Eugene Decock and many on global warming and so on yet I have never seen any petition not even one that talks of the black pain of dispossession in South Afrika. I don’t think the release of Eugen Decock will return the land of the black people ultimately the dignity of the black people. This makes me to question myself is this rhino poaching more important than the black child who sleeps without anything on their belly almost daily?, is this global warming more important than the low life expectancy of the black people? Will the release of Eugen Decock heal this black wound and play a role on reparations?

Social justice should be the main conversation in your circles

According to the Bantu tribes or should I say the Afrikan tribes power is responsibility and not comfort, I believe if we can all adopt into that then we can have a better South Afrika. In the olden days it is said that it was the community that raised a child meaning everyone was responsible for everyone else and he who have had a responsibility to the one who have not. Then it was impossible to even separate the one who have from the one who have not, that sounds familiar!!!! The book of Acts 2:44 tells us that “believers had all things in common” and further shows us this when the writer (Luke) exclaims to us that “there was no one lacking amongst them” (Acts 4:34). I do believe then that the God Immanuel, the God who is with us He is socially interested in both those who have and those who have not and it is the duty of he who have to be sensitive to the prompts of Immanuel so that we can all say in our church today there is no one lacking amongst us. I once listened to a preacher who was doing apologetics on a subject about poverty he said; “the church has enough today that there would be no one lacking amongst them” it was an AMEN for me there! It can only be the greed of some that causes some to be living under the swamps of poverty. Now because of to Jesus social justice is one of His main agendas as found in both the Lord’s Prayer and also in the book of Matthew 25:36-46 then I believe it should be one of our main agendas too, so whenever and wherever we are sitting lets discuss social justice.

Stop voting for and supporting DA!

I am aware that your vote is your choice yet if your choice furthers the black pain then look carefully into your choice again. DA is a white instrument to keep the status quo in South Afrika so that the situation of the blacks (not pigmentation but keeping in mind Biko’s definition) remains unchanging. If the DA was truly after the emancipation of the South Afrikan poor then they would have policies that are pro poor. The required change in South Afrika today will not come from people who wants to maintain the white status yet not overlooking the black pain because it is the very maintenance of the white status that is the actual black pain and that’s what DA does it maintains the white status. At this juncture we don’t need people who will say we want to solve the problem “but” because it is that very “but” that stretches the black wound and the DA is the actual embodiment of that “but”. Also at this moment in time we don’t need pro white organisations and their support in South Afrika as each and every structure thereof in this country is actually pro white. Therefore supporting DA in South Afrika is actually the instigation of the black wound. As for who to vote I will leave that to you, but the policies must be interested in what you claim to be after. The policies of the party that you are voting for must surely be pro poor.

Change your way of life

Without fully identifying with the black pain there will never be a pure, genuine and battling prayers that are projected to the black wound. There are many people who claim to be pro poor yet their lives proves to be divorced from the poor. Thomas Sankara (the president of Burkina Faso 1983-1987) when justifying his act of having no air conditioner in his office, driving the lowest costing car, attending his meetings in bicycles, cutting a huge portion of his salary and using public services like each and every one in his country he says “we cannot live luxurious lives yet we are leading the poor”. I think being pro poor then should be beyond the claims and be the very lives. Therefore living in Bishop Scot and claiming to be pro poor is one of the greatest lies. I think it is in these lies that leads to ignorance such that there are many people who says they are doing something in fixing the South Afrikan problem yet all they do is to rub off their own guilt. I think it is much easier to rub off your guilt by these cheap acts which includes soup (the soup kitchen justice) than it is to allow ones very life to be wasted for justice. Lives being wasted is Christ being lived because love is only expressed when life is being lay down for the next person. Therefore anyone missing out on this laying down of life that very person is missing out on the greatest commandment (Mat 22:38) and that should be the greatest sin.

Give fair wage to your domestic helpers!!! Do not be limited by the standards of this anti poor government but be pumped by the pro poor Christ in considering the wage for your domestic helper. When you considering the payment of your domestic helpers think of yourself first (love your neighbor as you love yourself); would you be able to live out of what you decide to give your helper? If not then why are you even considering giving it to someone else? More especially someone who could be a single parent with at-least five children. It is pretty sad that many white people don’t even know the families of their helpers, they are not even interested in the life of their employees (helpers) outside of work, this is cruel as it proves a perception of what was once said and believed “the blacks are as good as singing, dancing and digging”. You should play part in the education of the children of your domestic helpers, find out how you can help them. Be it if the help is morally, financially, emotionally or even psychologically but your help might go a long way. I do believe that you can also contribute a great deal in the local schools and help the up-coming generation to see you as humans and not as superiors and future employers as it was previously forcefully and violently suggested and currently is inherited by the younger generation. This will help a great deal and you will be seen as a fellow human being and it will also help you when you walking around Khayelitsha, there won’t be chants that are following you saying Umlungu, umlungu (white person) repeatedly.

[For an excellent response to this same question by Sindile Vabaza, click here]

[For other conversations and engagements concerning Race, click here]

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