14 June 2006

Born free, but still not equal


Pretoria News, 13 June 2006

by Linda Daniels

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has rejected
calls for the scrapping of affirmative action for the country's
"born frees".

Numsa joined the debate after a submission to Parliament by the
University of Pretoria's Tuks Afrikaanse Studente to scrap
affirmative action for those born after February 1990. The request
was made at a National Assembly's labour committee last week where
public hearings were held on the policies of affirmative action
and Black Economic Empowerment.

Tuks representative Cornelius Jansen van Rensburg argued that most
young white people born after that date knew nothing about the
former apartheid dispensation and should not be penalised when
looking for a job. Jansen van Rensburg said statistics proved the
number of black students enrolling for tertiary education had
grown by 100% while the number of white students registering for
higher education had declined by 20%.

But the South African Youth council's Sipho Masuku rejected the
scrapping of affirmative action and said the latest income
expenditure survey statistics showed the economic condition of
black people between 1995 and 2000 had worsened by 19% compared to
the 15% improvement for whites.

Numsa's spokesman Mziwakhe Hlangani said while affirmative action
should not be implemented over an indefinite period, it should
remain part of government policy until "the playing fields are
equal". "If we do away with affirmative action we will be creating

He said there had not been major economic and social changes and
that people have not seen "the great results we were supposed to

In 1994 we welcomed the inauguration of a democratic and non-racial South Africa, but twelve years later South Africa is neither democratic nor nonracial.

It's true that racial classification has been removed from identity documents, which no longer identify people by race, and identity numbers were changed to reflect this (though that in fact happened before 1994).

The essence of apartheid thinking was based on groups, group identity and group rights. It was most important to know whether you were Black, White, Asian or Coloured, and if the last, then whether you were a Cape Coloured, Griqua, Rehoboth Baster or Other Coloured. Knowing which group you belonged to (or rather were assigned to by the government) determined whom you could marry, where you could go to school, where you could live, whom you could associate with without being suspected of being a communist, what kind of work you could do and so on.

In a nonracial society one might still use terms like black or white (with a small b and a small w) to describe people, but such terms should be descriptive, not classificatory. But the news article above seems to indicate that the apartheid brainwashing was more successful than we thought, and groupthink still lingers on.

And democracy has withered too, because of the abomination of floor-crossing.

And it should be borne in mind that it was the Democratic Alliance, which now likes to be regarded as "liberal", that opened this particular Pandora's box. The Democratic Alliance, like the Democratic Party and the National Party before it, is anything but liberal. Many people will remember Phony Tony Leon's "fight back" election campaign of 1999. "Fight back" against what? Fight back against five years of democracy, that's what!

And having out-Natted the Nats with his slogans of "swart gevaar", Phony Tony then tried to get into bed with them, and saw floor crossing as a means of doing so. But most of the Nats, with the eye, as ever, on the main chance, saw more gains to be made by joining the ANC. But by then the damage was done. We have an elected government for 18 months of every five years, and after that the politicans auction themselves off to the highest bidder. Four hundred people are enfranchised, and forty million are not.

So what's left of the high hopes we had back in 1994?

Well, we are still free, even if we are no longer nonracial and democratic.

Unlike the other Phoney Tony, Tony Blair, we have not yet reintroduced detention without trial (and he was acclaimed by the media for taking "the high moral ground" for doing it -- how are the mighty fallen!). Banning has not yet been brought back. The press is still free. And the constitutional court is still there to protect our freedoms.

Some people I know think of emigrating, say to Britain. Britain is democractic, but it is not nonracial and is no longer free.

South Africa is free, but no longer nonracial and democratic.

You pays your money (if you have any) and you takes your choice.

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