White South Africans Are In Denial

Watching the funeral of Albertina Sisulu last weekend was a very personal and emotional experience for me. It was a reminder of the potential for greatness that South Africa possesses if we just get our act together. It reminded me of the purity of ideals and conviction that our struggle for liberation was built on. It was a reminder to us all that there was a time when South Africa was the moral leader of the world in the heady days of Mandela’s “Rainbow Nation.” As I was watching the funeral proceedings throughout the day I was struck by the fact that we are a nation that was blessed with a great generation of leaders who had a great moral compass and inspirational vision: Nelson Mandela. Walter Sisulu, OR Tambo, Helen Joseph, Robert Sobukwe, Anton Lembede (I could go on because the list is quite extensive but I will stop here). In the midst of all this  a friend of mine (who just so happens to be white) commented that the current generation of ANC leaders had betrayed this rich legacy of leadership and had made it difficult, if not impossible for white South Africans to embrace the ANC and its undeniable leadership of South African society. This is a comment that often gets thrown around by white South Africans in public discourse. They claim to have liked and respected Mandela and his generation but to have a problem with the current generation with the likes of Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma. They claim that they would embrace the ANC if it had leaders of the calibre of Mandela, Sisulu and Tambo in government today. This is something that white South Africans say all the time and no one dares challenge them on this. Here is the simple truth: even when the ANC was under the leadership of great moral leaders such as Nelson Mandela, white South Africa never embraced it. Instead they were branded as communists, atheists, terrorists and many other derogatory terms and labels. This is the view that most white South Africans held about that generation of ANC leaders.  White South Africa has never accepted the ANC and its leadership and their non-acceptance of the ANC right now has nothing to do with the quality(or lack thereof) of its current leadership. It is just the continuation of a historical pattern which white South Africa has not managed to break itself out of. Even if the ANC was being led by its “golden generation” of leaders at present, white South Africa would still not accept it because they didn’t accept it in the past when these guys where in leadership. It’s time that we call a spade a spade. It’s time white South Africans stopped blaming Malema, Manyi or any other contemporary ANC leader for their inability to support the ANC. They ostracised, vilified and ridiculed Mandela and Tambo’s ANC and hence it is no surprise that they still do the same to Zuma and Malema’s ANC. The more things change, the more they stay the same.  
Profile photo of Mugabe Ratshikuni

Mugabe Ratshikuni

introverted, shy, nothing to write home about

10 thoughts on “White South Africans Are In Denial

  • June 17, 2011 at 7:51 am
    Permalink

    You may well be right about the white South Africans, however I do not fall into that category, having recently immigrated to SA (2009) and I say the same. Malema acts like a thug, a hoodlum who will step on anybody to get his way and shows no respect for anybody (including his own ANC) or anything (like the Constitution) in his speeches and his actions. I will only single him out as the most blatant reason but the truth is that the corruption scandals and the self enrichment from those in high office is disgusting, especially when one thinks of the abject poverty that is still around and needs to be dealt with.

    Another reason not to embrace the current ANC is what I think are misguided policies, half hearted attempts and thecader deployment. Instead of ensuring the right person gets the job so the job gets done they appoint people based on political affiliation. Small wonder that nothing gets done properly. If they wish to employ a black person in a position that is fine, but for goodness sake let the person be qualified and up for the task!

    I love this country and its people, and I will do what I can to make it a better place, but the current ANC is not one to show the way how.

    Reply
    • June 20, 2011 at 8:44 pm
      Permalink

      I agree. HOw can you say white south africans blame anyone. we are not all 49 years old and not all of us grew up in the midst of a goverment that made a race feel as if they were not worth anything? Another thing Malema seems to only be looking out for number 1, has he even faced any hard times in the last couple months, not having food or sleeping on a hard floor? Dancing and singing and trying to set fear into people is not called for, i am 29, white, i was 9 when it all started to end and can hardly remember that time of my life so it did not really leave any scars in my head which i beleive is a good thing. our country needs to make an effort to stop metioning the past and drawing the lines like between the whites and blacks. we just need to start embracing what we have, a counry if done right is endless with the opurtunity that awaits all of us, together we can change our world…..

      Reply
  • June 17, 2011 at 8:10 am
    Permalink

    You raise an interesting point, but fail to take into consideration both the significant diversity among “white South Africans”, as well as the experience of the large amount of many of the young “white South Africans”, who never had a chance to embrace – on a ballot paper – the ANC during the Mandela leadership.  Their first opportunities for voting came after many have experienced significant disillusionment with the post-Madiba ANC.  Although I think you make a valuable contribution to the discourse on this issue, do not forget that to generalize your statements, based on your experience with one white friend, to all “white South Africans”  is as erroneous as me stating that all “black South Africans” would out of mere loyalty support the  ANC until the second coming.

    Reply
  • June 17, 2011 at 9:34 am
    Permalink

    @Eidolon, my post is not based on an interaction with one white friend only, but on observing SA society at large. That was just one example that I used to make a point. Generalisations as always will have their exceptions but by and large an objective analysis of SA society will show my generalisation to be accurate on this particular issue.

    Reply
  • June 17, 2011 at 9:35 am
    Permalink

    @Eidolon, the many white Saffas who got a chance to vote during the Mandela era still did not embrace the ANC so there again my point is proven to be true.

    Reply
  • June 17, 2011 at 10:00 am
    Permalink

    @mugabe ratshikuni But doesn’t the fact that white non South Africans equally turn their backs on the ANC of today tell you there is something wrong? Or do you presume all whites are racist and that this is their motivation? Surely not? 

    I think that the ANC needs to do some serious soul searching about the way they push non blacks away as potential voters. Sure, the black population is the majority, but eventually it will no longer be about race but about issues and the policies on how to deal with them. Denying that fact is a sure way to support the growth in the opposition.

    Reply
  • June 17, 2011 at 10:12 am
    Permalink

    @Hans-Erik Iken, “But doesn’t the fact that white non South Africans equally turn their backs on the ANC of today.” That is a false hypothesis. The ANC got over 65% of the vote in the last national election and just over 63% in the recent local government elections. That hardly constitutes “turning their backs” as you claim.
     “I think that the ANC needs to do some serious soul searching about the way they push non blacks away as potential voters.” Even when the ANC was reaching out to non blacks under Mandela, non blacks still didn’t respond positively to the ANC, which is what the whole article above is about. Blaming the ANC for its lack of support amongst non blacks is a simple cop put for most white Saffas. If that was the case why weren’t they voting for the ANC under Mandela when it was preaching racial reconciliation and nation building? We have to get rid of this denialism which allows us to continue with our prejudice by always blaming the other side.

    “Or do you presume all whites are racist and that this is their motivation?” I never said whites are racist. That is just your assumption. All I am saying here is that whether we admit it or not voting patterns in SA are still largely determined by race and even if the ANC was still being headed by Mandela, the ANC would still be struggling to get minority votes (as indeed it did under his leadership post-1994) because of historical realities and reasons. Those are just honest observations.

    Reply
    • June 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm
      Permalink

      @mugabe ratshikuni You misread the first line you responded to I’m afraid 🙂 I said non South African whites also turn their back on the ANC. Now granted they are of no consequence in the vote (we are not allowed to vote yet) but it is an indicator that it may have to do with policy rather then race. I specifically stay away from the white South African issue because I realize race is still very much an issue here, unlike for me personally. I am trying to be objective.

      To compare the white electorate of 17 years ago with the one we have now is in my view a phallacy. In the beginning there was mostly fear that controlled their vote I would think. And since President Mandela only served one term it is hard to speculate what would have happened had he chosen to run a second time.

      Also I did not assume you are expressing the view that all whites are racist, I specifically added “surely not” .

      Now I will concede that racism is still a presence in the nation (alas), but I think that the policies and the corruption ,nepotism and fraud we are confronted with from officials, and NOT being handled adequately is more the likely reason that people of all races are switching off from voting at all or voting opposition. Simply replying in percentages is not good enough, unless you add the real numbers of people eligible to vote and who didn’t and those who switched vote.

      If a democracy is the true reflection of the will of its people a percentage of 24 that went to the DA equals the will of nearly 10 million South Africans. Surely this is a significant number enough to consider. I admit I assumed a population of 40 million and assumed equally that the votes cast reflect the will of the entire population, but that is the case in a democracy.  So if 24% of the population want to do things differently that is a big number, even if it is a minority. Given the racial numbers you can equally conclude that this represents almost all of the whites and coloured population as well as the majority of the indians and a hefty chunk of black votes. I propose that this has to do with policy, not with race.

      Reply
  • June 18, 2011 at 7:08 am
    Permalink

    I admit I misread your comment earlier.Thanks for highlighting that.
    ” Given the racial numbers you can equally conclude that this represents almost all of the whites and coloured population as well as the majority of the indians and a hefty chunk of black votes. I propose that this has to do with policy, not with race.”That statement betrays a reductionist attitude which neglects the complex nature of people’s voting choices as most political analysts will tell you and not only that,it is also a-historical.
    To reduce the voting choices of any peoples anywhere simply to a rationale choice based on policy differences is quite honestly reductionistic.Most people’s voting patterns are influenced by emotion,identity issues etc as well as looking at policy.
    The reality is that in SA most of the voting patterns are determined by identity issues based on historical realities i.e race
    Most of the stats and analysis that came out after the local government elections has shown this to be true.
    Voting patterns of white Saffas are still determined by fear,even as they where in 1994 as you rightly state.Nothing has changed.It’s not like there is a new generation of white Saffas who are completely different from previous generations and completely free of prejudice.That would be an absurd assumption which is not borne out by the current reality “on the ground.”All I am saying is that white Saffa need to stop lying to themselves and to everyone by claiming that they don’t support the ANC because of its current policies.They have never supported the ANC historically and are continuing in the same vein right now.
    Nothing wrong with that,but just be honest about it.

    Reply
  • June 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm
    Permalink

    Mugabe, You are spot on. White South Africans have not changed a bit, there is no need for them to embrace other cultures and respect other races because they are still enjoying what apartheid gave them, the status quo has not changed. The very same Mandela who they regarded as stupid embraced them despite everything they did to him and his kind. Black people especially those who have access to large audiences e.g. journalists,  must just call a spade a spade and stop worrying about their croissaints; blue cheese and German cars. You are one in a million!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar