Raceballs 24: Throttled by whiteness

Dr Ntando Sindane explains to Dr Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh why the black majority is in such a precarious position right now in SA

South Africa is in a precarious position, and risks being completely throttled by whiteness. This was the stark warning raised by the UWC academic and leading decolonial intellectual, Dr Ntando Sindane, in response to the formation of a coalition government between the African National Congress and the Democratic Alliance. Dr Sindane was speaking with fellow Fallist Dr Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh -the Old Johannian, Oxford trained intellectual, and son of Adv Dali Mpofu SC - on his SMWX podcast, which was posted online on Sunday. Dr Sindane was asked by Dr Mpofu-Walsh what his reaction was to the recently formed ANC- DA coalition. His answer, and some further extracts relating to the problem with whiteness and white people, follow below:

“I react to it with profound sadness, precisely because of who we are as a country. But also because of who the Democratic Alliance are and what they represent. And who are they? They are a white led organisation. And what do they represent? They represent the interests of whiteness, white people, or the bourgeois class, or the business people. So for me I approach this with profound, profound sadness because I don’t think this is what Steve Biko died for. I don’t think this is what Mandela fought for. We can talk about the DA being white as a problem. I don’t want to mince my words. We cannot have white leadership in South Africa in 2024. We can’t.”

“I have white colleagues, some of whom are my friends, and I say to them that Steve Biko is probably very important for this moment, than any other revolutionary scholar philosopher, because one of the things that Steve Biko tells us, particularly about the DA… Because you will remember during apartheid you had conservatives and then you had the liberals and the liberals always behaved as if they are the better whites, that they are with black people. But Steve Biko teaches us that this liberal grouping of white people were not any better than conservatives.

They wanted to have relationships with us as black people at an individual level but were fundamentally not opposed to a system of apartheid and a system of whiteness. Now, when these white friends and colleagues ask me what is it they should do? And I say white people as a group must relinquish that which makes them white. So, they must commit epistemic and ontological suicide. What makes white people to be white in post-apartheid South Africa? 1. White privilege. 2. White Supremacy.

Now, until white people amongst themselves as a group – those who say they are progressive whites – until they relinquish white privilege and white supremacy, they remain white people. And that is what the Democratic Alliance represents: White people and whiteness. And, the Democratic Alliance is far from dealing with these questions because in their own discourse they deny that race is an issue. Mmusi Maimane had a moment when he said ‘if you don’t see I am black you don’t see meat all’. So they are far from dealing with that, they are far from relinquishing white privilege, white supremacy.”

“Now you have white privilege and white supremacy in government. Imagine how throttling… it is very scary. A black person who is not scared this morning, after the DA has entered into a coalition, must wake up and smell the coffee. We live in precarious times. I’ll give you a very bland example. The new Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Annelie Lotriet [aged 64] … The DA, if they had a sense of self-contradiction, when they were going to present her name, I heard of someone like [DA Chief Whip] Siviwe Gwarube [35] …

If you put Siviwe here and you put Lotriet here… Let us say you forget for a moment the one is black and the one is white, check the opportunities that the two of them have had. Lotriet studied up to a PhD, you know. After the PhD got another degree, in a different discipline, has been an academic. If you check the CVs of the two, it is very easy to tell that the white woman got the more opportunities than the black woman. Now if you had a Democratic Alliance that was able to contradict itself, that was able to introspect, they would have put up a black woman there. But the robustness of whiteness does not allow them.

We are Marxists. We are decolonial scholars, so everything we say is rooted in scholarly literature and science. Science wants us to read history. You see the position were Siviwe is in currently is a position where other black leaders of the DA were, and today they’re not there. The likes of Makashule Gana, Mmusi Maimane, Lindiwe Mazibuko, and others. Because it is a party that does not want to relinquish that which makes them white. So whiteness in South Africa, and white people, are a problem.”

“I say to a daughter of one of my white colleagues – young twenty year old – and I say to her what you and your family have today is a product of theft. And if you’re going to sit with me here and we have dinner I must be able to say that to you twenty times or more than that. And you, on your own, when you go to bed, you must assess how that makes you feel. You must know that your presence in Africa… you were not touring, you were here to conquer, to kill. And the constitution they celebrate disavows some of these things, colonial horrors.”

“Whiteness will be throttling us, because whiteness throttles. White people – you know we mustn’t be afraid – because whiteness is not a spirit, it is not a ghost. It is made up of white people. White people throttle us. This is the time for us to speak, and our voices must not shake. Our friends, our cousins, our siblings, who work in corporate, daily complain about how whiteness is throttling them. They can’t even speak properly when they are speaking to their white colleagues. Even a white colleague who is your junior.

Now imagine how hard it is going to be now that Annelie Lotriet is the Deputy Speaker of parliament. We might wake up next week and John Steenhuisen is the Deputy President of South Africa. And let us say Parliament impeaches Cyril Ramaphosa. Cyril will now come to the black corner and say ‘ah, but guys, if you are impeaching me, you must say that John must be President’.

So, we are in a very precarious position. We are in an extremely precarious position because of white people. And why? Because of white people. You know at an individual level some of them are very wonderful people. One of my mentors is a white person, a very nice guy…. He taught me how to write academic writing, so I wouldn’t be writing to journals today, might even write a book soon, because of things I learned from him.

But I mustn’t mince my words in saying, he and his people are horrible, because they don’t want to relinquish white privilege. They don’t want to relinquish white supremacy. They precisely protect this constitution because it safeguards their privileged position in society.”


The full podcast can be viewed here: