New Internationalist

Stop using white history as a smokescreen


The African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa celebrated a hundred years since its formation on the 8 of January 2012. An estimated 100 million rands was spend during the celebrations. Many questioned this kind of expenditure in a country with a very high unemployment rate, an alarming crime rate and a critical shortage of housing. But the amount of money spent by the ANC for its centenary celebrations is not what I am concerned about; after all, even larger sums have been spend on even more ridiculous causes all over the world.

What concerns me is the constant talk of the wrongs, the evil that the white perpetuated on the black community during the apartheid era. There was a musical that featured all the great artists of South Africa and it chronicled the history of the ANC and the history of the ANC means talking about the evil Boers. Didn’t South Africa have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission where people admitted to their apartheid era crimes and were forgiven?

I wonder how the white community felt during the celebrations. Were they squirming in their seats and praying for the whole thing to come to an end quickly? Granted, they are guilty of every bit of evil they are accused of, but the bottom line is that they were forgiven. Can’t we embrace the true meaning of forgiveness? Surely it is not possible to build a united, successful nation if we are constantly saying, ‘Do you remember what you did? Do you remember all the people you killed?’ All it boils down to is that ‘we are watching you, we haven’t forgotten and one day you will pay for your crimes’.

According to the ANC: ‘The centenary is at first and foremost a milestone achievement of the ANC, as a liberation movement. It seeks to celebrate our proud traditions, values and principles that earned our movement an indelible place in the hearts, psyche and soul of both our people and the people of the world. It reflects the ANC in all its facets and dimensions, for example, mass mobilization, the underground; armed struggle and international solidarity.’

Really? Isn’t it time to move on? Surely all this talk about the atrocities that were done in the past is not good for the development of a country. It has been talked about enough, let’s move on. All over Africa ruthless dictators harp on about the evil that the white man committed. All this is meant to blind us to the obvious shortcomings of our liberators. It is meant to blind us to their terrible human rights record.

Heidi Holland, the author of several books including Dinner with Mugabe and Mandela’s ANC, in an interview on Morning Live on South African Broadcasting Corporation 2 (SABC 2) says the struggle heroes are not as selfless as they would want us to believe. It was not only about liberating a people for them, but also about getting into power. About enjoying the luxuries that being in power bring about. Are they perhaps not sure about their standing that they have to constantly remind us of how evil the white man was? An ‘if it wasn’t for us, you would be in chains’ kind of syndrome.

A case in point is how Zimbabwe’s ZANU PF hogs a lot of airtime on national television and radio to remind the citizens of the evils of Ian Smith’s regime and how ‘they’ liberated Zimbabwe and that Zimbabwe will never be a colony again. When the people of Matabeleland try to speak of the Gukurahundi genocide, they are thrown into jail. It is when that happens that you realize that it’s not about the truth, but about consolidating power.

Thirty two years after the independence of Zimbabwe, white people are still not considered citizens of Zimbabwe even if they carry Zimbabwean passports and most were born in Zimbabwe. There are a lot of white people who are second, even third generation Zimbabweans who can lose their property overnight without compensation at the whim of our so-called liberators. This circle is not going to stop until we stop this habit of always reminding ourselves of how evil the white man was. What’s the use of burying hatchet if we are going to put a market on the site?

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