Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Thanks Bleeding Liberal Hearts can expect

Reading this article on the GuardianUK site reveals just how low the ANC government has stooped. Not content with attempts to eradicate the history of the Boers and Voortrekkers, the ANC, in its all out obsession with black racism and African Nationalism, is slowly cutting out the historical contributions of white liberals made to SA and the eventual success of the ANC itself.

Its a feeding frenzy. The ANC has become an inward looking, race obsessed organisation where the only qualifying criteria for merit is your black skin. Only black people are exulted and venerated. Ask Helen Zille, ask David Bullard, ask Jonathan Shapiro, ask Llewelyn Kriel. These are all liberals that were previously vociferous opponents of the apartheid regime, now shunned and hated by the very ANC they helped bring to power. Does any one remember Bram Fischer? Yes, even the dead white heroes of the so called "struggle" are being forgotten and all trace of their contributions are being wiped away. This is the thanks you will get liberals. A swift kick up the arse and consignment to oblivion. Wake up!

This is a longish article and from a left perspective, but the predictions being made and the outcome that is being glimpsed, even by the liberal left in the UK, does give me some hope that at last the world is starting to cotton onto the real ANC.

South Africa is in danger of airbrushing non-black anti-apartheid campaigners, such as Helen Suzman, out of its history.

On Monday night I went to honour and celebrate the life of one of the greatest anti-apartheid heroes at the South African High Commission. She was Helen Suzman, who died aged 91 on the first day of this year.

For 36 years Suzman was a white liberal member of the South African parliament who represented the interests of the disenfranchised black majority. She used the privileges of her position to expose the evils of the apartheid system and personally visited and supported many black leaders imprisoned on Robben Island, including Nelson Mandela.

Her daughter Francie Jowell, a friend, organised the London event which included a screening of the filmed speeches made in Helen Suzman's honour at a memorial celebration in Johannesburg earlier this year.

A hundred or so people assembled in a stuffy screening room in the bowels of the landmark high commission building on Trafalgar Square. I left moved and angry.

Moved by a life of moral clarity and public service. A woman who believed that an individual could make a difference. A woman who was tested beyond endurance. For 13 years the sole opponent of apartheid in the South African parliament was vilified on a daily basis. But she triumphed with her integrity, piercing intelligence and ready humour intact.

I was angry that there was no sign of a representative of the present South African government. No high commissioner welcoming Helen's family and friends. No cultural attache. No first secretary. No one. Shame on them.

Francie did it all herself and graciously thanked the high commission for making the space available. Apparently the high commission usually charges for the use of its facilities but in this case it waived the charge, but could not provide any refreshments. Not even a glass of wine to toast one of its heroes!

Helen Suzman was of the world's greatest parliamentarians. She was made a dame and bestowed with 30 honorary degrees and doctorates from leading universities. She was a shining example to us all – women and men. Why had the high commission not initiated and organised the event itself? It should have been an honour.

I knew another extraordinary white South African hero – Helen Joseph. Unlike Suzman she decided to try to effect change from outside the parliamentary system, with the black activists. She focused on the plight of black workers, especially women. She was the first person, white or black, to be house-arrested – for over 20 years. She devoted her life to the cause. She made a difference. Today few people in South Africa know she even existed.

In the 15 years since South Africa shed the apartheid system there has been a Soviet-style airbrushing-out of the contributions of those who helped undermine and expose apartheid, who were and are not black or members of the ruling party – the African National Congress or the South African Communist party. Post-1994 Suzman was sidelined, forgotten and virtually written out of history. At her funeral the acting state president made an appearance and the country's flag was flown at half-mast that day. Too little, too late.

There may not have been many white heroes in South Africa, but there were a few who tried to signal to the oppressed black majority that not all white people supported and were actively complicit in one of the cruellest systems of racial discrimination ever known.

Watching the filmed speeches of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others recalling Suzman's massive contribution to the undermining of apartheid, her tireless energy and her humanity, I was struck by the absence of any senior member of the South African government in that university hall. Yes the ex-president, Thabo Mbeki, was there. As was Graca Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela. But like the audience at the high commission on Monday it was mainly a sea of grey-haired white people.

As South Africa faces the challenges of the immediate future – the effects of the recession; 40% unemployment; xenophobic violence; corruption in government and the public services – it is most likely that the white people of South Africa will be made the scapegoat and racism will flourish once more. All the more reason then to hold up to the light the contributions of those few white heroes.

A country that forgets its heroes is condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past. Shame on the South African high commission. Monday night was not your finest hour.

13 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

...and what about Black Coffee? Will he be forgotten too in the years to come?

Anonymous said...

Was it ever going to be any other way? Perhaps some of us laboured under an illusion of a coming Utopia. I wasn't one of them. I remember as a youngster, following the atrocities being committed in Rhodesia, and I remember thinking that it would be no different in South Africa, except that the demise may take slightly longer, given the larger white population. All of this from a boy that was no older than 8 - 10 years of age. What is strange though, is that I never considered emigration an option until I was an adult. Perhaps that was the ignorance of youth, perhaps I didn't believe my world could be larger and more fulfilling.

FishEagle said...

@VI. "...perhaps I didn't believe my world could be larger and more fulfilling." That's awsome!

Exzanian said...

12 July 2009 3:34 AM - Puhlease, BC is nowhere near the Icons you see in this post, he is a total non entity.
VI, I was a confused liberal. Perhaps it was more boyish stupidity. I believed all the stuff I was fed by the Nats, checks & balances etc. I guess I believed in "the man". I am a late bloomer. It made me leave SA late, at age 39. But now in life, I know myself, I know what makes me tick, I have got eyes, and a critical mind. Now I am on a new journey! I see it as a second chance.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to believe the Nats, I trusted them, and supported them all along, but deep down I felt that it was all for naught. I discounted this as being Afro-pessimism, not that I was able to articulate that at the time. I started to think about emigration just after the 1994 elections. I could no longer ignore that nagging voice.

Black Coffee said...

Exzanian - you are probably right. At this point I am a non-entity, but I hope to change that when I become a professor. Despite whatever this article says I seriously doubt that anyone is going to write Helen Suzman out of history. The problem with much of the historiography (a fancy term us historians use - means history of the history) is that much of the "history" of Africa and particularly South Africa is written, up through this day, from a white perspective. This perspective can come from racists, moderates or sympathizers or as you and VI and others would put it - "bleeding heart liberals." By the way, definitions of what or who is "liberal" and who is "conservative" change all the time, but that is another discussion. On history, it always warms my heart so to speak when I hear or read about a black South African who is researching and writing about his or her country's history. This is because IMHO a black African historian can bring a particular perspective to the discussion and writing of history that I never can, no matter how sympathetic to blacks I may be.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what Mandela himself said, that the ANC was using white communists to advance its own agenda.

Those ladies of the Black Sash who stood on street corners silently protesting apartheid. The noisier protesters outside the city hall, shouting at classical music lovers to come to Soweto and listen to African music instead.

There was never going to be an in between. If you said you wanted to emigrate, you were told you were being negative.

Fact is, whites didn't want to see for themselves what the country was inevitably headed for, and wanted to suppress the thought of other pastures, in other whites.

Anonymous said...

Now there's a scary thought, BC could become a history Professor and rewrite history as he sees it, namely with a distorted black spin, which he deems necessary because, hey, all whites lie and cheat. So this pornographer, he of uprighteous morals and principles, has made it his life's work to correct this past wrong. I eagerly await his published material, which I suspect will go down like a lead balloon.

FishEagle said...

VI, my bleeding heart liberal prof at university is good at shagging his students. Makes me wonder what else academics are good for, apart from distributing porn and shagging.

Anonymous said...

So BC wants to become a university professor in post-apartheid South Africa. (South Africa will always be known as either pre-apartheid or post-apartheid.)

Well I suppose we all need something to do.

Exzanian said...

BC - Just as a footnote and to comment on Bram Fischer (the photo of whom I took licence to insert although the article makes no reference to him) - I read his biography a couple of years ago.
It is the story of a brilliant man, a fearless maverick. He was an advocate of note: Queens Counsel par excellence, but also a South African guy I could identify with, a leader I would readily look up to and follow blindly. His mind took him to some strange places. He became a communist at a very early age after going to the USSR in the 1930's where he fell in love with communism. Yet all through the purges that were happening around him in those decades, he never recognised it, not one little bit. He stoically and resolutely bought into the greatest lie of the 20th century! He grimly held to this ideal of equality, he believed it could be applied to SA, and he refused to give in. Later he became a fugitive from the law in SA, always on the run, always trying to prove equality. I still respect him deeply, and I wish he could have squared that circle! But he never did, not even close. Neither did Mandela or anyone else in SA. This ideal of equality is a myth. It's "winners or losers" all the way to the end. Bram Fischer serves as probably one of the saddest, truest stories of reality denial in SA history.

Anonymous said...

There are some parallels. BC is Ukrainian, and therefore should be well versed on the shortcomings of Communism, and yet they elude him.

Also, I was contemplating the historiography, where BC alludes that past history is probably biased because it was written by white men. Well that depends on the epistemology (what we scientists consider the theory of knowledge). How were the historical facts recorded and presented? This is usually a transparent and rigorous process, requiring proofs and substantiation. So BC can get all warm and fuzzy when a black man writes about Africa, but the African epistemology still needs to be considered. Simply being black isn't enough.

Black Coffee said...

VI - of course being black or African is not enough. Bernard Magubane and Sifiso Ndlovu come to mind as two black historians who have written about various aspects of South African history. Both have works which are extensively footnoted and include bibliographies. Magubane is admittedly of a Marxist bent, but that is no different than say Martin Legassick. The latter is a white historian of South Africa who went into exile during struggle years. He has always been a committed Marxist and during early 1990s, when Soviet Union fell apart, he along with Joe Slovo argued that problem was Soviets simply did not build nor apply socialism correctly.