Whites Only / Slegs Blanke

This column is reserved for white people only.

Relax. This isn’t as alarming as it sounds. It’s just that I have a few things to get off my sunken chest and it doesn’t apply to all who live in this magnificent brute of a country.

Right. Time to feed the trolls.

You – we – have been given another chance. Hard to believe, I know. We got our first Get Out of Genocide Free card in 1994, thanks, in part, to Nelson Mandela’s laudable attitude towards national reconciliation. Or perhaps it was simply the biggest case of Stockholm syndrome the world has ever seen.

Either way, the 1994 elections – and to a lesser extent the Soccer World Cup in 2010 – brought black and white people closer than ever. Sure, we fell apart soon after each event, but we had a taste of unity and it tasted good. Sweeter than hate, but not as sweet as revenge.

The likes of Steve Hofmeyr and Sunette Bridges would have it that the only reason black people haven’t killed us all by now is because bludgeoning is hard work and doesn’t pay very well.

I may be wrong, but what most black people were thinking in 1994 was, I imagine, very different to what most white people were thinking. If I had been, say, a middle-aged black man being allowed to vote for the very first time, I reckon that my immediate thoughts, as I folded my ballot paper with my X carefully inscribed in the block alongside the ANC’s logo, wouldn’t have been, “Yes! Now I can take my kids to Addington Beach.” No. I suspect my immediate thoughts would have been more along the lines of, “You fucking white bastards. Here we go. Payback time.”

The ANC won almost 63 percent of the vote. If ever there was a time to break out the champagne and pangas, that would have been it.

Prior to that, most white people were racists, consciously or otherwise. How could we not have been? Our neighbourhoods, schools, pubs, restaurants, cinemas, beaches, sports facilities and swimming pools were segregated by law right up until 1991. The only black people we ever came into contact with were our gardeners, maids and sellers of zol.

Black people were trouble. They must have been, otherwise they would have been allowed to live next door to us, right? Catch the same buses as us. Sit on the same park benches as us. Trouble is best avoided. And the government made it so easy for us to avoid trouble. Declare suburbs white by night. Confine the unrest to the townships. Then prevent the media from reporting on it. That way, nobody knows anything. Have elections every four years but don’t let the darkies vote and hope nobody notices. Come on. It’s a kind of democracy, right?

Eyes – narrowed through decades of fear, antipathy and suspicion – began opening as Nelson Mandela walked out of Victor Verster prison on February 11, 1990, and didn’t immediately kill and eat a white baby. And, four years later, the cold hearts of many racists melted in the warm dawn of democracy. Well, if not melted, then certainly softened.

Pale hands, that once bore arms, began reaching out, slowly, hesitantly, when they heard this legendary terrorist say, hours after being released, “We call on our white compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new South Africa. The freedom movement is a political home for you too.”

What? Join them? After what we have done? There must be some mistake.

But there was no mistake. We were on the invitation – not as guests, but as locals. Comrades. Fellow citizens. And so we learned how to say hello and goodbye in Zulu and sing the first couple of bars of the new anthem and tell one darkie from another. But, because the centre of the dream was rooted in an ideal without solid foundations, it couldn’t hold. Soon enough, the barbarians were at the gates. Not, as one might think, clamouring for retribution, but merely seeking to redistribute the wealth that for so many years had been stockpiled in the suburbs.

And so, even in the minds of those of us who were prepared to forego our master race status in the name of fair play and giving those okes a break, the thieving bastards slowly but surely became thieving black bastards. The liberal veneer began flaking off faster than the gold on a Rolex bought on South Beach. Racial attitudes hardened quicker than superglue on a street kid’s nostrils.

“The vote not good enough, hey? Now you want our cars, money and jobs?”

And once we got wind of the fact that they were doing what all politicians do, only with a little less guile and finesse, our outrage could be contained only by the building of walls, both physical and metaphysical.

Boetie gaan weer border toe. Only this time, the borders were in our hearts and minds. I suppose the barricades were always there. They still are. We lower and lift them according to how aggrieved or magnanimous we feel.

Madiba’s death has, ironically, recharged our desolate souls. I have never seen so many pictures of white people crying over something that isn’t related to rugby. That must mean something.

In a recent blog post, Rhodes journalism professor Herman Wasserman said, “… we will have to move beyond reconciliation, wonderful as it is, to social justice, to equality in all its dimensions. There are many rivers still to cross. I am asking myself again: what can I do, what can I contribute?”

It’s a question all white people should be asking right now.

Standing on the balcony of Cape Town’s city hall hours after being released, Mandela told the crowd, “There must be an end to white monopoly on political power and a fundamental restructuring of our political and economic systems to ensure that the inequalities of apartheid are addressed and our society thoroughly democratised.”

Mind the gap.

We don’t know how much Christo Wiese – worth R27.4-billion – gives to charity. Nor do we know how much Patrice Motsepe (R22.5-billion) or the Royal Bafokeng Consortium (R7-billion) give to worthy causes. But this isn’t about them. That’s a different matter for another day.

When it comes to philanthropy, this is not the time for white millionaires and billionaires to be coy. Let your worth be seen, rich dudes. There are five million of us in this country – mostly upper middle class and comfortably off – and we need to grab every opportunity to show the other 45 million that we are serious about making amends.

The death of Madiba has given us another chance to do that – a rare thing on a continent that doesn’t easily hand out second chances.

I worked with a lovely fellow called Mdu a few years ago. We often went drinking after work. One night he told me about the time the security police arrested him in Joburg in the late ‘80s. It was a case of mistaken identity. He showed me the scars on the inside of his thighs where they had electrocuted him. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t hate white people. He guzzled his beer and laughed and told me about an Afrikaner constable who had treated him with respect and who eventually convinced his superiors that they had the wrong man and got him released.

So let’s start performing random acts of kindness upon strangers. Touch paws. Engage. It could have a knock-on effect beyond our imagining.

And let us no longer be divided by race or political affiliation when it comes to marching, booing or whatever else it takes to get the government to behave like servants, and not masters, of the people. Let them know that we are, from this moment on, holding them to the standards set by Nelson Mandela.

At worst, if the good ship RSA does flounder and sink under the weight of corruption, sloth and incompetence, we can at least go down as compatriots, preferably with a beer in hand, and not tearing each other’s faces off.

 

 

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50 thoughts on “Whites Only / Slegs Blanke

  1. The sad reality is that the ANC has had ample time to take this country forward but they have failed miserably. We should do away with political parties completely and run the government like a corporation where as shareholders (tax payers) we get to vote in or out a board of governors.

    It’s the political parties both present and past that are preventing social integration.

      1. Hi Elaine,
        This site does not accept my first posting and I normally ignore but I will have another go as this will stir.
        Do not know much about potato other than the Dutch brought it to the country.
        We did not take the tobacco seed from the Americans, in America the natives smoked a tobacco, like in South Africa, our blacks smoked hemp before the whites arrived.
        Off the American scenario, the Americans using the cheap slave labour as tobacco was very labour intensive, developed the Tobacco and Cigarette industry. Then, used the South African farmer, and black slaves, to produce Tobacco, and make them wealthy.
        More shocking is that the black South African first planting grain sorghum, and the maize, before the Dutch arrived. In 1913, 2,5% of all land in the OFS was under maize, all in the hands of the black share-crop farmers.
        The black share-crop farmers were the developers of the food chain for the maize into the mines, industrial area and railways.
        In passing, with reference to the steel, we did have greater access to steel. The archives show that the bywooners would take their donkeys and ploughs onto the black share-crop farmers land and plough his lands in exchange for possible a heifer. In this relationship, who has the savvy???

  2. “Fundamental restructuring of our political and economic systems to ensure that the inequalities of apartheid are addressed and our society thoroughly democratised.” Pity they got a bunch of Harvard economists in to restructure our economy a la liberalist capitalism pandering to WTO restrictions and setting us up for the next leg of colonialist exploitation. We wont achieve social justice until we have radical restructuring of the economy. The question is…what does that look like? We are locked into a minerals energy complex, carbon intensive, highly extractive industry with little of the beneficiation and local industrialisation needed to create jobs. That’s a starting point, and we are dealing with the complexity of redesiging a social structure given the building blocks of the impact of apartheid. We’ve apparently been following a developmental state model….but we haven’t if you unpack what a developmental state actually looks like. Service delivery is defunct. The sad truth is that the country is being run like a corporate – albeit badly, but there is very little line between corporate and government. I think its about acknowledging that we have a philosophical crises in naming what is actually going on – a political economic system which is dirven by capitlaism and services an eltie few. Yes, the ANC happens to be at the helm, but look at the drivers behind its policies (read screen savers), and pinpoint the approaches and ideologies which do not work….no matter who is ‘in charge’. Corporates do not care about social justice. Bottom line wins regardless of King 3 or Basel III. The revolution will eat its children…how do we surpass this. An aside on bleating around affirmative action – suck it up, folks. You’ve had decades of historical wealth, education and the like which puts you way ahead of disadvantaged South Africans.

    1. Alexis said “An aside on bleating around affirmative action – suck it up, folks. You’ve had decades of historical wealth, education and the like which puts you way ahead of disadvantaged South Africans”

      Who stopped the so called ‘disadvantaged South Africans’ from building a nation long before any whites arrived on the scene? They could have stopped us with their own guns, oh wait, I forgot, they didn’t bother to develop themselves and now suddenly it’s our fault?

      Remember, all the raw materials required for making weapons were in the ground before the terrible colonialists arrived. Someone just had to get up from under the tree and do something about it.

      1. Nice one Ben!
        Cagenuts, thanks for that anecdote. So if I understand your rationale, because I haven’t bothered to use my initiative (“develop myself”) and purchase a weapon of some kind – which I haven’t – (or invented a defensive tool) that then will give you the right to walk into my home, shoot me, and declare it as your own? One group of people armed better than another does not make them less equal.

      2. Cagenuts, Your definition of building a nation is symptomatic of the greed and mindset that has seen whites invade lands as far afield as the US. It is the exact attitude, the God complex that ridicules the move to reconcile. The way of living before whites arrived would have spared the planet the doom it now faces, for it prioritised sustainability.

        I regret that my forefathers’ spirit of ubuntu led to the theft of their land and resources. But I take pride in their civilisation as human beings to recognise all men as equals, even those who behave inhumanely. Civilisation is not the sole preserve of whites, and it comes in many forms and means different things to different people.

        I would urge you to think about this while you bask in the lap of your ill-gotten wealth. But I doubt you have it in you to see past your conceited ‘holier than thou’ realm. Your cushy office job is not work, sitting behind a computer, that is not work. Try building a road (not barking instructions), or buildings, or mowing your lawn like whites in Europe do, then come talk to me about sloth.

      3. Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, did you read it right to the end? The guy wanted to prove all white men were well……bastards, he managed to talk himself out of it and totally disproved his point.

        It was getting so difficult for him he omitted to mention two crops that we white bastards took from the Americas and made our own, namely potatoes and tobacco because that meant that yet again he would have had to admit that the indigenous did not have a clue or were too idle to get up and farm.

        So we were advanced technologically but I do not believe for one minute it was because we could make guns and steel. It was because we had the savvy to take wild seeds and cultivate them!

        For that leap you need intelligence and once you use your intelligence for that and provide enough for everyone to eat, and get regular nourishment, well the intellect grows. Someone growing and making all the food means, yes, you then have more time to make metal into Guns and Steel.

        This thing is no longer about black, brown, yellow and white, its about intellect. Time we all stopped trying to be equal and got on with making this world a better place, but in order to reach this objective we all have to accept who we are in the grand scheme of things and South Africa is a sad example of political correctness gone mad.

        Sorry about the Germs, there I can’t argue, we did import every disease going to the new world.

    2. Hi Alexis, well said. We have a common enemy and that is the Wealth that does not care about social justice. The chances that this article describes in 1994 and 2013 were only given to the whites, as whites, we have not returned any of the wealth and skills to the black community. What is even more important is that we have not returned the love, warmth and respect that we have received. This article is a veiled call to vote the ANC out due to the corruption that exists. Unless we, the white community, integrate into the black Townships and Rural areas, Apartheid is not over, and corruption will not stop. We, the whites need to take action. REVOLUTION THROUGH RECONCILIATION.

  3. Thanks Ben. Remind the f….s. Maybe it’ll be less boring to accept a dinner invitation if the conversation changes away from urban defensive measures and general wingeing about how corrupt the govt/ANC is, and how hard it is for white male children to get ahead.

    Regards,

    Judith > > >

  4. Im not white but cannot stop myself from saying Well written Ben thank you! We need a lot more positive people like you to help change things around. Ladies, well answered!!

  5. Nice one Ben.. Alexis, I can’t really comment as I don’t know my neo liberal capitalism from my developmental state – my brain has been in a non development state for years… On the micro level,as Ben suggests, if we all endeavor to overcome our prejudices and fears and us whiteys use some of our disposable income to improve the lives of the disadvantaged by assisting with education,housing,food etc,, maybe the next generation won’t need to spend disposable income on walls and electric fences..

  6. SENCE,,,COMMIN SENCE,,,ADAPT ,,ADOPT,,,AND IMPROVE,MADIBA ALMOST GOT IT RIGHT,THE BEST EVER THING THAT HAPPEND TO THE WHITE BUISNESS MEN WAS BEE, THEY MADE US LOOKING AFTER OUR SELVES FIRST BECAUCE WE ARE LAST IN LINE,,, COULD HAVE BEEN SO EASY TO DO THIS!!!!!!! TO UPLIFT PEOPLE,SPECIALY WITH THE GOVERMENT SPONSERS..MAY OUR PRESIDENT HAVE ANOTHER SHOWER OR TWO,,HE IS THE PITTEMY OFF SHAME,,,THE MORE U DEMAND,THE LESS U WILL GET,THE MORE PRESURE U PUT ON US ,THE STRONGER{NOT MORE} WE WILL BE,,HISTORY TENDS TO REPEAT ITSELF,,,,,CARRY ON ,,,MAKE ME CLeVER,YOU WIL ALWAYS WORK FOR ME,PUT UP THE PAY ,,U WIL JUST HAVE TO PAY MORE, FOR WHAT I DO……W M ,,,

  7. Woop! Yeah! Great way to out into context the privilege of being white in SA… maybe we should stop acting like a bunch of entitled brats and start saying thank you. Genuinely.With the actions that go with it. Gratitude will get you a long way, and you’ll probably end up happier too.

  8. Ben, I am firmly behind you with this column.(not to be confused with my column or any such euphemism). Sensible, pithy and extremely relevant for the still privileged.
    .

  9. I think you forget why Mandela had to embrace reconciliation. In 1994, the SADF was one of the top armies in the world. If they had decided to break out the champagne and pangas, it would have been a bloodbath, and no prices for guessing who would have been on the loosing side.

    Thank God and Mandela it never happened. But if it did, we would still be living under apartheid.

  10. I voted for the ANC… I was arrested as a student for supporting their cause…

    I’m now discriminated against in the workplace for being white… and I must apologise over and over for the sins of my ‘race’?

    I think not…

    1. Interesting angle James. I am interested to hear more of your account and experiences. The perception that whites are discriminated against in the workplace also needs to be addressed… Fact is whites continue to enjoy privileges secured in the CODESA ‘negotiation.’

      The slow pace of redressing economic inequalities is engineered and intentional, and the ANC is bound by that debilitating, unethical agreement reached in the CODESA ‘negotiation.’ I for one do not know how long it stands for, until natives can rightfully claim what is theirs.

      All I know is whites’ discrimination is all in the mind and points to an inherent reluctance to coexist.

    1. Funny reading thoughts on the internet, sometimes – A guy justifies colonialism by saying it’s not his fault his ancestors had better machinery… Out of pure interest – When men (black presumably) breaks into your house and hold your kids at gunpoint, do you applaud them for having outwitted your security system, and having better weapons than you? I don’t expect white people to beg or grovel… But the facts are – in a country with such inequality… White South Africans still have a lower unemployment rate than white Britons, or white Americans, white South Africans are statically less likely to murdered than Amy other race… White South Africans are comfortably the highest earning race in the county… This pretending like the ANC is out to get you nonsense is wearing thin (I’m not even an ANC supporter).

      Fun fact – The original gun/Canons were made by the Chinese, so no… you didnt “make better weapons” you stole that too.

  11. how selective our memories are……. the local population from zimbabwe down, drove out and exterminated the indigenous ,peace loving people,
    the bushmen who roamed their lands untill they were driven out by their greedy aggressors driven to a place where they finaly settled,because there was nothing of value the desert!!!!!! now when diamonds are discoverd ,they are being slowly dispossesed again …… If you want to right the wrongs of the world give, all that land back to who you stole it from in the first place!!!! If you are so eager to prove how better things are now in our enlightened times do something productive and stop laying blame for your own incompetence ,to make any winning combination work !!!!! there is a huge difference between a statesman and a politician!!!!! HOW FORTUNATE, most people are like sheep and are so easily manipulated , believing propaganda and lies !!!!!! I dispair for the entire human race ……

  12. Wow Ben?! I am impressed. You have given us all lots to talk about over lunch or dinner. Judging from all the comments, you have certainly stirred our emotions and conscience and got people talking (even Molise Moloi joined the fray).
    On a lighter note, I take it you were sober when your wrote this? 😉 Sorry, could not resist this jibe. Just think that if you do this more often, you may suffer withdrawal symptoms … and then where will we be?!

  13. I’m sure the human race finds your despair comforting, as your esoteric knowledge of events makes us all feel safer at night. I wouldn’t have a problem with giving land back to the San, as I’m actually part San, as are many black South Africans from the northern part of the country. We could go an eye for an eye and give them (us, as Im one as well)… It’s remarkable how you comment on people being easily manipulated when you fail to acknowledge Khoi san genes are the oldest genetic family in humanity – so playing your genealogy card goes like this – Sans lived in peace, sans were dispossessed by Sans who had moved away at an earlier date. So who are you gonna blame there? the sans or the sans? Like I said – If you justify colonialism, and the crimes perpetuated by it, you have no business complaining when one day someone breaks into your family’s house and takes what belonged to you.

  14. Interesting comment – Care to expand? It is my understanding that you need money to acquire and maintain arms… at its end apartheid was no longer economically viable due to the embargo. Alternately the ANC had sympathisers in the fastest growing continents on earth, and thus had nations quite prepared to land them a hand, or arms (pun intended) in the liberation moment. Not sure apartheid government wins this war…

    Secondly, I’ve heard a few times that the SADF had one of the best forces in the world, but the border wars took 24 years and still didnt end with a winner, just negotiations… that’s 24 years of war against countries just formed and a win couldn’t be fashioned… How do you reconcile that with one of greatest forces in the world? Nuclear threat was real, but that doesn’t end well for anybody (Castro and Soviets were sympathizers… if all bets are off, apartheid government loses that fire fight)…

    I’m not saying you’re wrong… Im just interested to see how a bankrupt military wins a war against a movement with global financial backing, especially after giving up the nukes.

  15. What! and the madams and those drinking cappucinos must share! travesty trovato! 😉 you speak the truth but it is a sharp uncomfortable blade to those accustomed to lives of luxury ….

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