The ghost of GodZille has struck again, with the DAs Helen Zille angering many by tweeting that, if FW De Klerk hadn't dismantled apartheid, “the ANC would still be bogged down in the mess of its so-called liberation camps and infighting. They had no viable armed struggle to speak of” and then putting the nail in the coffin by further adding that, “There are more racist laws today than there were under apartheid".
You don’t have to be one of those overrated political analysts that we frequently see on our TV screens, to realise that these two statements are very provocative (deliberately so, one might add) and potentially offensive to many. The least said about the veracity of these statements, the better and others who are much better than me at dissecting and debunking these things have already attempted to do so, hence my focus is on a different aspect arising out these tweets and the responses they have evoked.
Apart from the expected, “uyas’jwaela uZille” response on social media platforms, many have been very vocal about the fact that they believe that people like Zille should be silenced for having such backward views, that in a democracy such as ours, such stone age views shouldn’t be entertained or even allowed room on public platforms.
I found that to be quite interesting, inasmuch as I found the attempt to silence David Bullard a few weeks ago, rather peculiar. Do we shut the likes of Zille and Bullard up for saying things that we may find offensive or disagreeable or do we affirm and defend their right to say those things, whilst at the same time challenging and seeking to expose them on those things on the same public platforms? As an aside, I have always loved Bullard’s wit and humour, whilst profoundly disagreeing with his views.
Do we really want to regulate and harass people out of the public space, for holding views that are disagreeable to us, just so that they can retreat into their “laager” and only state those views, which we may believe are prejudiced, at the dinner table or around the braai stand? What is better from a nation-building perspective, to know where you stand with a certain group of people, or to have them pretend publicly because you have pressurised them into political correctness with its innate dishonesty, whilst secretly holding different views?
This is the challenge we are faced with, if we are to succumb to the whims of the “woke” crowd and their impositions on what is correct to say or do within the public space. We know, from platforms such as this one, that there are many white South Africans who think like Zille, who still look down on black people and blackness and assume the worst as a result.
We know also, that there are many white people like Zille who believe we owe them for having this modern country with all its infrastructure and hence shouldn’t dare complain about colonialism or apartheid.
We know there are many white people who hold to the view that things were much better under apartheid (of course they were for you, duh, because the whole system only catered for you lot in the minority), before the corrupt, inept, useless, “commie” government messed things up. We know there are many white people who see themselves as victims of racism, because of BEE and other such laws, whilst ironically lambasting the “victim mentality” of the black majority as Zille does.
Of course, this is all highly contestable, as one could argue that BEE in its origination in SA, was not from a racist black regime as most white South Africans now lament in their victim state (whilst accusing blacks of perpetually playing the victim funny enough), but rather BEE was introduced and supported by the English oligarchs that have dominated the SA economy for so long, during negotiations in the 1980s, as part of a compromise to protect their (white) business interests in the proposed new South Africa at the time.
For them, BEE was the lesser of two evils, given the expectation that the post liberation “commie” government would nationalise everything and destroy individual enterprise and private ownership. So, we have all these views, that some of us might disagree with vehemently, but if we are to ever become a national democratic society, with non-racialism as one if its core pillars, surely these are some of the views that we must allow to be expressed in the public domain, so we can debunk them and expose them for what they truly are, as opposed to suppressing them under some useless political correctness banner.
In the words of English author Ralph William Inge, “It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism, while the wolf remains of a different opinion.” What point is there in claiming to be building a non-racial South Africa, when the architects and primary beneficiaries of that racism themselves have not bought into that project and are in fact of a different persuasion, but are forced to suppress their views because it is not politically correct or agreeable to do so?
So, I personally think we have become too soft and sensitive as a society, hence we get offended when the likes of Zille express their admittedly ahistorical and unfactual, inaccurate views, rather than seeing this as an opportunity to set the record straight and publicly expose them for what they truly are.
So, we endorse their right to express their warped views, but then aggressively, cogently and compellingly go about breaking down their views on the same public platforms. That is what freedom of expression should mean within a democracy in my view. This is best articulated by English author Evelyn Beatrice Hall when she says, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
We must constantly remind ourselves, when faced with the likes of Zille and their views, of the words of former President Thabo Mbeki, in a famous speech he delivered in 1978 dubbed, The Historical Injustice, “The act of negating the theory and practice of white apartheid racism, the revolutionary position, is exactly to take the issue of colour, race, national and sex differentiation out of the sphere of rational human thinking and behaviour, and thereby expose all colour, race, nation and sex prejudice as irrational. Our own rational practical social activity, rational in the sense of being anti-racist and non-racist, constitutes such a negation; it constitutes the social impetus and guarantee of the withering away of this irrationality.”
We must rationally expose the views of people such as Zille, whilst affirming their right to express those views in public, because at the least, it makes us able to see the “devil” we are dealing with, as opposed to pretensions of being on the same page, whilst back at the ranch we are pulling in opposite directions.
Mugabe Ratshikuni works for the Gauteng provincial government; He is an activist with a passion for social justice and transformation. He writes here in his personal capacity.