Mondli Makhanya: Malicious or just ignorant?

Gideon Joubert responds to City Press columnist's description of Louis Botha as an architect of apartheid

Upon reading Mondli Makhanya's commentary in the Rapport regarding his distaste at Louis Botha's statue being displayed in front of Parliament, and then referring to it as an apartheid symbol, I am curious as to whether he made the statements out of malice or ignorance (see here). I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is indeed ignorant of the fact that Louis Botha is most definitely not an apartheid relic, but an inseparable part of South African history and an early hero in our nation's struggle for independence.

Louis Botha died on 27 August 1919, roughly 29 years before DF Malan won the 1948 general election and the National Party implemented the system of racial classification and segregation. Louis Botha was a member of the South African Party (SAP) and opposed the NP in the then Union of South Africa's political landscape. It is beyond my comprehension how he can be considered an apartheid symbol when the very system only came into being nearly three decades after his death.

If Mr. Makhanya's objections are rooted in the fact that Louis Botha was the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa during the period in which the Native Land Act of 1913 was conceived, he may as well refer to British monarchy and the commonwealth as symbols of apartheid in the same breath, as the country was a British dominion at the time. This would of course be ridiculous considering how vehemently opposed Britain was against the apartheid system, but the selective hypocrisy of Mr. Makhanya's comments are noted.

Louis Botha was among our country's first modern freedom fighters. He was a Boer general who risked all he had in the fight against British imperialism and to preserve the independence of his republic. He was part of only a handful of Boer generals resourceful and hardy enough to see the Anglo-Boer War through the guerrilla phase to the bitter end, the others being Generals De Wet and De La Rey. Botha was also a divisive and controversial figure in Afrikaner history and politics, many condemning him as a traitor for his close ties to Britain during his tenure as Prime Minister of the Transvaal, and later of the Union of South Africa.

Individual opinions on the methodology and principles of Louis Botha aside, Winston Churchill referred to him as one of "the three most famous generals I have known in my life." He represented South Africa at the Treaty of Versailles after the conclusion of the Great War, and correctly protested that the conditions imposed on the Central Powers were too harsh. He did not live to see the consequences of the treaty culminate in the outbreak of World War II.

General Louis Botha was a hero and a great South African. He is to be celebrated as a rich historical figure who played a key part in the founding of our modern nation. Using a statue of him as a cheap political chess piece is disingenuous and insulting to the history of our country, when instead it should serve as a catalyst to reflect upon the countless sacrifices made by so many in our country to fight for what they believe in and hold dear.

Gideon Joubert, FF+ Youth media Relations, Western Cape

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