Was the choice to remain ”white” on the part of liberation struggle fighters a conscious and deliberate one?


By: Clyde Ramalaine 

Political correctness, in a form of expediency, defines an apparent quest for social cohesion which in turn demands that some topics are skirted around in our discourse. I, therefore, expect to be accused of being divisive and not working for social cohesion.

Let me then upfront put my disclaimer, I do not think social cohesion is a sacred cow since we in collectiveness are yet to engage as a society the entrusted and bandied social cohesion notion. I have long ago rejected the rainbowism of Tutu for it’s ill-conceived an uncritical arrival in our discourse again as thrust upon us without our consent.

I am also not convinced that there is a need for a hegemonic defence of a South African nation, nationalism or even patriotism when we are yet to determine in commonality the nation so easily espoused.

It has also been my experience that usually, those who call for social cohesion and nation-building find themselves on the plus side of jaundiced disparity as the economically privileged. Their epistemology sees South Africa through the lenses of their attained economic standing, job certainty and proximity to a political association where patronage often affords them a subdued attitude in facing  the real challenges of this country. Discussing social cohesion is a luxury item for the truly poor, unemployed and those on the negative side of the inequality equation.

Challenges that detail gross economic disparity that finds meaning in racial description. It remains as WEB Du Bois the sociologist observed colour is the problem of the 20th century. I have elsewhere contended what Du Bois observed is relevant even in the 21st century. South Africa attests a society high on dope of evaporating clouds of nationhood. It intermittently argues it is building a society of patriots while this is used as a means to muzzle necessary dialogue. On another score some in the ANC appears desperate to find the elusive unity it’s 54th Conference resolved on, and increasingly shows an intolerance to have natural discourse on subject material it sees as divisive.

I start by asserting there must be no further confusion or even deception on this score, that if there is one thing apartheid and colonialism could never do it was to either take away or deny it’s crafted invoked white identity beneficiaries their identity even when some were contrarian to it. Regardless of how apartheid’s henchmen may have detested it’s own to choose against its ideology it, unfortunately, could never disown them of that privilege of white identity.

I guess I am trying to argue apartheid’s  “white” enemies could never be made “black”. It would have been ideological and political suicide if it was even possible to imagine it could do exactly that. You would have thought that any association with an abhorred “black” identity struggle on the part of those who lived off the debasement of others should have automatically translated to blackening of that white identity.  It should have naturally disowned them from it’s bequeathed identity and privilege.

Yet the issue of race is not as simple to navigate while it is simplistically explained. Any true identity stripping of the traitors would have exposed and confirmed the fallacy of a white identity when its primary striving was the upholding of the fallacy of a white identity in distinction to and in differentiation of what it deemed the others. In a sense of what social scientists refer to as othering.

To this end apartheid could never remove their privilege, status afforded and accrued in the description of whiteness. It depicted a society predicated on the falseness of race, fragile in its numbers and insecure in its own sustained defence, brutal in its upkeep and vulnerable in its distinction of a white identity preserve.

Apartheid could not even draw a distinction between the Anglosexan and the Dutch despite the Anglo boer war and the disrespect served by the English on the Boers, who they regarded as backward, unintelligent and aggrarian. It needed whiteness to stand as a collective regardless to it’s intricate deficiencies and ideological differences. It’s agreement was the essentiality of a white identity however defined.

Apartheid easily labelled those who share in identity beneficiary sense an in deviance of its ideology ”kaffirboeties” yet it recognised the same could never become ”kaffirs”. It regarded those who betrayed it as an embarrassment to the volk since it’s superior logic questioned how anyone who shared in the benefits and benevolence of its special race frame could prove not loyal to it.

Apartheid’s lexicon on those who chose against it, saw them referred to as traitors “verraaiers” of the ”Volk”, but it stood powerless in stripping them of that white identity caste.

Not only could apartheid not strip away its betrayers and beneficiaries of white identity but on the part of the very ones defined as betrayers and labelled kaffirboeties these equally never disowned their whiteness as status and essential humanity.

Right here we are compelled to ask what this meant then, and what role did it serve to sustain the falseness of white identity? We must also engage how this led to what I deem an accrued-apartheid-borne-benefit in a liberation struggle until I  refer to them as “investors” in a struggle that immortalized and continues to reward them more than handsomely. Or until people like Gavin Watson are eulogised as icons of the liberation struggle by some self-defined “blacks” in social media spaces.

Their white privilege regardless of their conscious choices against a heretical system never could or attempted to strip them from what apartheid defined as a superior race. They lived off and served from that uncritical white identity to the fullest of its afforded benefit index.

Even when they rebelled against apartheid and was confronted with its draconian criminal justice system in sentencing they could not automatically become “black” and share the same spaces of incarceration as predetermined by a system that deified the doctrine of race. Case in point to remember when the 1963 Rivonia Trialists, which comprised a cross-mix of South African racial identities, ultimately were sentenced they did not share the same prisons but the fallacy of race, prisons apartheid saw to it that white identity holders be kept in it deemed human for white criminal spaces, while that apartheid exacted a denotation of “black” in otherness to its white identity were banished to Robben Island, their counterparts were sent to Pretoria Central.

It is from that very bedrock of white privilege that some was able to leave SA, go and do research, document and write books of a struggle, enjoy an international community member status and shared from that with liberation leaders until they became valorized as struggle heroes. I think here involuntarily of the some such as Raymond Suttner.  Another group because they shared in benevolence in piecemeal scale with the Mandela’s, Biko’s etc became the storytellers of the aforementioned with scripts such as Cry the Beloved Country. I wish to postulate that when the traitors of apartheid declared their choice to join the oppressed they never joined as equals and never became equal to “black” they remained “white” and were regarded and engaged as “white”. That white identity began to define their social space loci standing in a struggle of those who were declared subhuman.

Is it then possible that the same benefit they shared from the white apartheid frame became transposed into a liberation struggle context where they would naturally lead, be considered very useful to define if not inform strategy and ultimately in sacrifice felt entitled to claim theirs equate that of the “black” masses.

Let us therefore not be deceived the apartheid and colonial white even after he enjoined himself to the liberation struggle did so from trading in the currency of their established whiteness. They never denounced the false white identity notion. Neither did they ever denounce whiteness as problematic in a universe of consciousness in the quest to make singular common humanity where race is it in debunked 18-century Eugenist Kantian doctrine or its almost seventy year old social constructionism stand. They uncritically believed and continue to believe in different races to this day.

In the end, they owe their status in a liberation struggle as directly and in causality if not intrinsically linked to the bequeathed blessedness of that apartheid white identity. They, therefore, have consciously upheld the very false white identity the heritage of a heretical apartheid state promoted to thank for who they are life space.

In a twist of events in the aftermath of apartheid, this same group of people who are necessarily a tiny group threatens to have earned more than a right in rights to be of more value than the “blacks” whom they joined in the struggle. We see this in the Derek Hanekom case when Hanekom did what he did so in the whiteness of supremacy to defy an ANC agreed position to work for a personal agenda that he uncritically claim many wanted. It was also Hanekom who felt entitled to defy the ANC on its land expropriation without compensation policy which he mocked among fellow whites in a AfriForum gathering. Hanekom felt it his inalienable right to lead the charge to remove an ANC president. I will submit it’s that same white identity extrapolated from the apartheid residue that entitles Hanekom to behave with such impunity.

It is also interesting how the same identity group naturally assume a custodian role of values and moral standing in what defines an African National Congress. They naturally arrogate a right to  lead the charge on what is right and wrong. I say this here not in defence oh wrong but to underscore the visibility of the white identity holders to break rank, we saw that with a Ben Turok and also Andrew Feinstein to name a few.

Even when the ANC in apparent egalitarian sense shouts in confused talk of non-racialism it is really in defence of the relevance of an apartheid white identity at an internal level. I guess I am remonstrating the ANC’s non-racialism is essentially for the benefit a white identity, it has often used this to justify the existence of whites in its cabinets whether at provincial or national levels.

It can thus be concluded that apartheid’s white identity beneficiaries joined the ANC liberation struggle in a double benefit. They remained white under apartheid and enjoyed the fullness of that identity in access and opportunity, means and privilege. By not irrevocably disowning or denouncing that questionable white identity they chose to continue remaining white while joining a struggle defined by the blackness of experience of pain misery until they became the saviours of those categorized as black. For that, they are today eternally rewarded and revered as struggle icons.

To this end they never contested the questionable notion of a white identity and its privilege which lives on long after apartheid in statutory sense protests dead. It lives comfortably nestled and ingrained in an organization the African National Congress, who happens to lead.

Yet we have shown an obduracy never to engage the topic because we are duped to assume it is not in the national interest as working for social cohesion. How sustainable is this and what does this mean.

Clyde Ramalaine
Political Commentator and Writer
Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation – The Thinking Masses of SA
PICTURE: Supplied