THE BLOG

All South Africans Must Be Steadfast In Their Condemnation Of Racism

Our public debate is degenerating into a sham in which bigotry from black South Africans against other race groups is tolerable.

04/10/2017 03:58 SAST
Daily Maverick
The Cosatu head office in Johannesburg.

Michael Sun, a South African of Chinese descent and a servant of mayor Herman Mashaba in the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality has suffered ugly and offensive racial slurs at the hands of Cosatu. This ANC alliance partner is convinced that its leaders are entitled to call Mr Sun a "fong kong", a "Mr Lee" on the basis of his looks and ancestry. Let Cosatu know that our Constitution is a triumph against this bigotry.

Yet the nonchalance of our usual and vocal mob over this brazen racism against Mr Sun compels the question: which racism shall be condemnable in South Africa? By this time, Penny Sparrow's racist comments against black people were all over the place, she was trending and her cell number was all over Twitter. She was justly hounded, swiftly brought before a court of law and righteously condemned for her bigotry.

Again, by this time, Dianne Kohler-Barnard had been swiftly condemned by our vocal mob for negligently sharing a racist post without reading its full content. She was eventually disciplined and relegated to the back benches by the DA. But we already know that there will be no consequences for the racial abuse of Mr Sun by Cosatu's leaders. Our public debate is degenerating into a sham in which bigotry from black South Africans against other race groups is tolerable.

This is a disservice to the genuine struggle against racism and bigotry. Racism risks losing its true meaning and import when we apply double standards. It is fast becoming a handy tool used to silence political opponents and avoid arguments on anything from the economy to corruption.

Imagine if the abuser and victim had been swopped in the Cosatu episode. By now there would be an endless stream of tweets and a hashtag; there would be a flood of complaints at the Human Rights Commission, and there would be court papers filed in the Equality Court to ensure that the racist pays the full price for his bigotry.

But nothing is likely to happen about the racist abuse from Cosatu. Nothing is likely to happen against a Cosatu racist because there is a tangible sense in our public discourse that we, black people, are somehow not racist when we discriminate against others on the basis of their skin colour or origin.

I have said elsewhere that the ANC is in a death spiral. Its good old values of non-racialism are a nuisance today.

At these electioneering times, we are less likely to hear any statements of condemnation from the ANC and even less likely to see any criminal charges laid against the racists –- an ANC trademark in the fight against racism. I have said elsewhere that the ANC is in a death spiral. Its good old values of non-racialism are a nuisance today.

South Africa is in desperate need of righteous and principled leaders more than ever. But there is a vicious warfare against the very few we have. They had Pravin Gordhan's head on the spike for being honest and Dr Makhosi Khoza has ultimately relented after a sustained pursuit against her.

All forward-looking South Africans must be steadfast in their condemnation of racism irrespective of the skin colour or political affiliation of the racist. We must stay true to Bram Fischer's example of inflexible virtue in the face of cruel treatment by his own people because he opposed their racism against black people, while Blade Nzimande approves Cosatu's with a nod.

We must be steadfast and true to Madiba's example of stubborn opposition to both white and black domination. Their examples saturate our Constitution and their simple message of non-racialism echoes throughout its words.