Uncomfortable conversation about apartheid legacy
South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark, Zindzi Mandela, has dominated the public debate over her tweets on land and those she called ‘apartheid apologists’.[/vc_column_text]
As an ambassador and a diplomat, former president Nelson Mandela’s daughter must know that she does not represent herself but the government — more specifically, the head of state that sent her. To that extent, her public views must always be of the highest diplomatic order. When she is unable to do that, she is unable to be a diplomat and must therefore resign from her post.
That said, it is disingenuous to pretend that the views she expresses are maverick.
South Africa does need land reform and to deal decisively with the effects of racism. To pretend otherwise is akin to being an apartheid denialist. Apartheid was about privileging whites over blacks and about dispossessing black people’s land as per the 1913 and 1936 Land Acts.
Pope John VI’s memorable quote, “if you want peace, work for justice” applies here. It is unhelpful to hope that those who are living with the effects of having been rendered landless and those who continue to suffer from racism, get over themselves.
Talk of apartheid and its effects divides South Africans because of a lack of a common South African approach to the subject. A people united in their expression of a shameful past cannot have that past used against them.
Societies such as Germany cannot be held to emotional blackmail over their Nazi history because they have faced their vile past head-on and made institutional changes, such as making Holocaust denialism a crime punishable by law.
The practice of shutting down any uncomfortable conversation about South Africa’s past will continue to haunt us, unless we learn to have an honest and open conversation about our sad history.
Polite conversations about the structure of the South African society merely open up opportunities for those on the extreme sides of the debate. That is why it is the responsibility of those of average temperament to have an honest discussion about the legacy of apartheid.
This past will come in handy for those whose politics benefit from keeping us divided. Building a cohesive society is not for the faint-hearted. It requires courage to step out of our comfortable mindsets and take the bull by the horns.