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Outburst Over Tumi Morake Shows All Is Not Well In White South Africa

White spaces, both physical and nonphysical, are invented and jealously guarded.

14/09/2017 17:04 SAST | Updated 15/09/2017 11:20 SAST
Broadway World

There is nothing that makes a bully drape himself in feigned victimhood as quickly as someone standing up to him and calling out his behaviour. We all knew the kid who pushed around the other kids in the play area and then ran crying to the teacher if so much as a harsh word came his way.

Let me state this unequivocally -- Tumi Morake did not bully me. She did not bully any Afrikaner, and the outrage against her is fuelled by the cognitive dissonance caused whenever a black woman dares to stand up to a white man bullying her.

The feigned victimhood measured in the conceit of an imagined right to privilege can't ever endure intellectual discomfort when confronted with ideas that can't be neatly wrapped and labelled and boxed in the kraal of the quasi-victim. In modern history, the people who staked the biggest claim to quasi-victimhood must be the post-apartheid Afrikaner.

It sounds counterintuitive, but the biggest beneficiaries of the end of apartheid are, in retrospect, white people, and specifically Afrikaners. Having relinquished control of a system at the exact moment at which they could no longer sustainably plunder a country by oppressing the majority of her people, the peaceful -- though not entirely voluntary -- handover of power set up the continuation of a victimhood narrative that has been central to the Afrikaner identity since Slagtersnek.

As much as the end of apartheid and its predecessor, colonialism, left the perpetrators as the privileged, the handover of power without the violent redistribution of resources and economic opportunity left the victims as the disadvantaged. Affirmative action was implemented to act as a restorative measure against the inequality entrenched in South Africa by centuries of oppression.

Even this measure implemented imperfectly at best served the interests of the perpetrators. The rapid creation of a black middle-class and restoration of at least a semblance of economic participation to the disadvantaged formed, at least for a while, a bulwark against a violent revolution.

Post-'94, therefore, rang in not an era of proper reconciliation and integration of an unsavoury past, such as we saw in post-Nazi Germany, but rather a rise in apartheid denialism.

Afrikaners did lose something at the end of apartheid. If we understand identity to exist as a tension point between your understanding of your past and your expectations of your future, the end of apartheid represents a purge of Afrikaner identity. Within a short space of time, their understanding of history got swept aside, and the security blanket provided by the state and its apparatus pulled away. The Afrikaner identity was cut loose from its moorings.

In response, a new identity had to be forged. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, another instrument of transition, offered an anchor for this identity. Sadly, however, taking cues from apartheid-era politicians such as PW Botha and FW de Klerk, and captains of industry such as Ton Vosloo, the Afrikaner ignored this opportunity and cast suspicions upon its veracity. This laid the groundwork for the new Afrikaner identity that once again manifested itself in the attack on Tumi Morake.

Post-'94, therefore, rang in not an era of proper reconciliation and integration of an unsavoury past, such as we saw in post-Nazi Germany, but rather a rise in apartheid denialism. Apartheid which was declared a crime against humanity in terms of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court underwent a slightly different treatment. Any apology from Afrikaner groups or individuals for the sins of apartheid was met with an outcry, and, initially, it was said that the past was the past and that we should move on.

Then with the help of the Afrikaans media and its constant diet of apartheid pornography, the idea slowly merged into a pervasive notion that, in fact, the ills of apartheid were but a woolly cold and that, in fact, the country was better off under the National Party regime. To this day, the NG Kerk could not adopt the Belhar Confession as a statement of faith.

Proof of this is that leaders of some of the biggest Afrikaner political organisations won't -- either through personal conviction or fear of supporter backlash -- condemn the sins of apartheid or admit that it was a crime against humanity. Imagine someone referring to the Holocaust as a woolly concept in Germany in 1965.

For years Afrikaners have been fed an uncritical diet of apartheid denialism by a monopolised media.

Tumi Morake, who bases her appeal on the continued suffering of the victims of apartheid, will not convince her audience of the suffering because her voice is being diminished by a mostly uncritical Afrikaans media, who with the exception of a few brave, lonely voices has seemingly normalised racism and apartheid denialism.

Racists and apartheid denialists like Steve Hofmeyr are often not presented for what they are –- ethnic fascists who find kinship in the alt-right and new fascist movements of the Nigel Farrages and Steve Bannons of this world, but, as on Netwerk24 today [Thursday], as fathers going on an overseas trip to perform in a concert.

The normalisation of, support for and making light of crimes against humanity are what Tumi is facing. This is the base of the attack against her. For years, Afrikaners have been fed an uncritical diet of apartheid denialism by a monopolised media. Her voice will ring out quietly with a small group of Afrikaners derisively referred to as the "Seunse Weenkoor" [choir of wailing boys].

The cognitive discomfort her words caused was not met with introspection and nuanced force, but, as we have seen, the childish attack of a bully who is ashamed and angry [there is a lovely Afrikaans word, "skaamkwaad", for this].

Denialism on its own would have been bad enough, but a cottage industry has sprung up around the notion that Afrikaners and white people are in fact victims in their own country. I lie of course.

The promotion of ridiculous notions such as the white face of murder victims in this country, a so-called genocide and the notion that Afrikaans -- the only indigenous language with several private TV channels and tertiary teaching institutions -- is dying, has reaped the purveyors of this misinformation tens of millions of rands per month. Farm murders that represent a tiny portion of murders in this country enjoy the lion's share of the Afrikaans media's crime coverage.

More people are murdered just in the Westen Cape in a 24-month period than the total number of people who died in farm murders since the end of apartheid. The murder rate has been halved since its high point under the apartheid regime, but still, helped by the one-sided coverage in the Afrikaans media, Afrikaners have been led to believe that they live under threat of imminent genocide.

Her only sin was to forget that unbeknownst to her she was considered as an inconvenient guest in what Afrikaners saw as their little safe environment

The reaction to Tumi's comments, which asked Afrikaners to do some critical introspection about the racism in their midst, will fall on deaf ears when they believe as many do that they are the victims in this country. Tumi has shared some of the racist reactions to her tenure on a station that is considered by many Afrikaners to be their domain. I can assure her that those reactions will pale into reasonableness when compared to the racist utterings around a braaivleisvuur on a Friday night.

Her only sin was to forget that, unbeknownst to her, she was considered as an inconvenient guest in what Afrikaners saw as their little safe environment, where they should be pampered into absolute victimhood and where any information to the contrary must be shouted down. The Afrikaanse Taal- en Kultuur Vereniging [Afrikaans Language and Culture Organisation] recently decided to engage in open and constructive engagement with other communities. So great was the fear that caused among the purveyors of the myths of apartheid denialism and Afrikaner victimhood that an attack of the most vicious kind was launched on them.

The result of this myth-mongering has been a reinvention of a type of "informal" apartheid. White spaces both physical and nonphysical are invented and jealously guarded. Apparently, Jacaranda FM was, in the mind of these men, one of these spaces. Tumi made the mistake of committing an imagined crime in what they consider to be their piece of 1948 apartheid South Africa.

She became at that moment the terrorist blowing up a piece of an apartheid safe space of the imagination. She dared to disrupt, and she dared to make uncomfortable. That is the one thing these purveyors of myth can't abide. They will look the other way in the face of racism, sexism and homophobia, but they will not be discomforted by speech, especially that of a woman.

Sadly for them, intellectual discomfort is the breeding ground for intellectual exploration and growth and their actions to bully and silence those who differ from them will only lead them to their nirvana of intellectual irrelevance. Whether or not they will take the Afrikaner down with them remains to be seen.

For trying to help Afrikaners veer from this sad suicidal course my people seem to have taken -- I stand with Tumi Morake.

** This blog has been edited for accuracy.