Barclays disinvesting from South Africa

Johannesburg – Barclays is poised to lose around £400m of the £3.8bn capital it invested over the past decade into South Africa’s leading retail bank, Absa.

Although the SA operation’s profit performance in local currency terms has been adequate, a continued slide in the value of the Rand means that in the currency that matters for the UK group, Pound Sterling, the value of the injected capital has fallen by 12%.

Just over a decade ago, in May 2005, Barclays invested £2.6bn to acquire 56.4% of the Absa Group. This shareholding was raised to 62.3% in July 2013 when it accepted Absa shares in return for injecting £1.2bn worth of other African banking assets into the SA group, which was then renamed Barclays Africa.

This morning the Financial Times of Londonreported that the UK group is set to announce the divestment of its stake in Barclays Africa on Tuesday when it reports its 2015 financial results.


This has been on the cards since the financial shock created by Nenegate on December 9 last year.

At Friday’s closing level of the JSE-listed operation’s shares, the stake which Barclays owns translates into a recoupment of £3.4bn (R76bn) on the £3.8bn it paid for them over the past decade.

Although Barclays has received dividends during the period when it controlled Absa, those inflows would not have covered the costs incurred in servicing the invested capital.

Two days after Nenegate, BizNews reported that the UK’s largest retail bank Barclays had decided to offload its R120bn South African subsidiary Absa.

That marked a significant reversal in a strategy which has seen SA’s largest retail bank progressively change its image – with the Absa red and name progressively giving way to Barclays blue – including the listed company whose name was changed to Barclays Africa.

But according to the Financial Times of London, the new Barclays management team has gone through the motions over the past three months and is set to confirm the biggest disinvestment in South Africa since the spate that hit the country during the mid 1980s.

Sceptics are concerned that the Barclays sale will spark a similar exodus.


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SA farmers not thiefs. SA land grab similar to Zim’s

As I was contemplating this opinion piece, I remembered the old adage; if you tell a lie several times, you may end up believing it. Moreover, some of your listeners may start to believe your lie. That’s exactly what happened in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean government and its governing party’s propaganda created an impression that white farmers owned most of the country’s farming land. This was not true; Zimbabwean white farmers only owned about 20 percent of the land. The Zimbabwean government portrayed white farmers as the author of poverty among blacks. Again, this was not true because there were actually thriving black farmers in Zimbabwe, but their participation in farming was disrupted when the land grabs destroyed the value chain and agri-business. The government sponsored land grabs in Zimbabwe exacerbated poverty in that country.

There are lots of disturbing similarities between Zimbabwe and South Africa (SA). The South African public policy in agriculture and land affairs was meant to empower black people and to eradicate poverty. However, since the African National Congress’ (ANC) government introduced the minimum wage regime in the farming sector, more than one million jobs have been lost and the biggest losers are black farm workers. Where Zimbabwe once had a thriving agricultural sector, it has now been all but destroyed. This is also happening in SA – thanks to ill conceived public policy this country has now become a net importer of food and things are getting worse. While the Zanu PF government in Zimbabwe discouraged investors through its indigenisation policy (black empowerment), the South African government is contemplating a 50/50 redistribution land plan.

I don’t foresee the unconstitutional 50/50 redistribution land plan being implemented, but it has already created huge damage by discouraging foreign direct investments. Of course, local investments will also be negatively affected; farmers and banks will largely suspend investments in the agricultural sector due to policy uncertainty. Like the Zimbabwean farmers, some South African farmers will continue to leave this country. We used to have a thriving agricultural sector in SA, but our farmers have been forced into early retirement and migration. Twenty seven countries have approached the agricultural union, AgriSA to recruit our farmers to their countries. More than 800 South African commercial farmers have migrated to Mozambique; yes – SA is importing their products. Half of the farmers in Zambia are South Africans. Some foreign countries are offering 0% VAT on primary supply of agricultural products to our experienced farmers and some of these farmers have already benefited from the Georgian offer of 0% of property tax on property transaction.

The ANC and its government have created a narrative which portrays white farmers as thieves of land that rightfully belongs to the indigenous people of this country. Although these farmers benefited from the apartheid system, it’s disingenuous to attribute the 1913 Land Act to them; they were not yet born. On the other hand, the government’s bad public policy and corruption are responsible for escalating poverty in SA. It’s unfair to blame white farmers for the mismanagement of the land restitution; the blame should be attributed to the poor project management within the government. Most of the land that was attained by black farmers through the land restitution process is commercially redundant. The government failed to craft a Local Economic Development (LED) framework that will assist traditional communities to use the land commercially.

The Royal Bafokeng and Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela were able to formulate their own LED framework and governance structures. The upshot of this has been impressive economic development by these two traditional communities. My ‘thumb-suck’ estimations are that there are about 10 million beneficiaries of the land restitution policy who could maximise the acquired land commercially and become economically empowered. Interestingly, these people automatically acquired the mining rights when they received the land. It is very clear that the government has no plan for how to assist the people who have already acquired land.

If we are serious about fixing South Africa, we should create a public policy that would enable the ‘boer’ (farmer) to come back to farming and ‘maak ‘n plan’. Experienced farmers (white) and new (mostly black) farmers should work together. Black farmers will bring the land while their experienced counterparts bring their massive experience.

The ANC government and unions should start to appreciate the role of farmers in providing food security and creating jobs. Our public policy should be formulated in such a way that most experienced farmers can still own land because in the absence of land, banks won’t give them funding. Actually, all farmers should be given financial support and subsidies regardless of their race.

While the Asian countries and Europeans appreciate and empower their farmers, here in SA the ANC government treats them with contempt and suspicion; this should stop. Massive economic development in China and Asia were stimulated by a thriving agriculture sector. Growth in agriculture boosts productivity in manufacturing and services sectors – this leads to job creation.

Dagada is a Development Economist based at the Wits Business School.


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Education in SA: Is Verwoerd to blame?

Bantu Education: Destructive intervention or part reform?

As the crisis of education in black schools has worsened, or rather become more evident, so the tendency to "Blame Verwoerd" has intensified.

Senzo Mchunu, MEC for Education in Kwazulu-Natal, declared in late July: "One of the points we found was a problem in Maths and Science. It was Verwoerd who made the subjects difficult because he thought blacks would be a threat to him’.[1]

Addressing the Limpopo textbook crisis on Talk Radio 702, President Jacob Zuma said: "What is happening today is what Verwoerd did, where the black majority were historically not given education. We are dealing with a system that had put black people back for centuries." According to Zuma, Verwoerd created the textbook crisis in Limpopo. [2]

Redi Tlhabi, who interviewed Zuma on Talk Radio 702, expressed outrage over the president’s remark that he did not know who was to blame for the textbook scandal, but agreed with him about Verwoerd. "The president was right in that Verwoerd worked to create a system that was intent on stifling the black child and making sure that she or he did not thrive." She added: ‘Today, in 2012, I did not expect that the ‘liberation party [the ANC] would want to further Verwoerd’s goals: to keep the black child poor, uneducated and deprived." [3]

President Zuma’s comments attracted a retort from Mamphela Ramphele, a product of Bantu education and a previous UCT Vice-Chancellor. Speaking at an education conference she commented on the current state of black education: "The monumental failure in South Africa was not Hendrik Verwoerd’s fault but that of the current government". She continued: "Children under apartheid’s ‘gutter education’ were better educated than children are today."[4]

Hendrik Verwoerd, National Party Minister of Native Affairs from 1950 to 1958 and Prime Minister from 1958 to his assassination in 1966, remains one of the most complex figures in South African history. In the contemporary debate, he is, however, little more than a demonic figure, denounced and excoriated as the architect of all our misfortunes.

Equally, while his policy of Bantu Education looms large in the popular imagination it is very poorly understood. Despite the significant work that has recently been done by historians in this area, many opinion-formers’ knowledge of this policy does not stretch much beyond a notorious single quote by Verwoerd in a 1953 speech.

Although the Bantustans and Bantu education were inextricably linked, Bantu education could, to a considerable degree, also be considered on its own merits. This article attempts to focus only on some of the aspects of this system, such as funding and the relative value of mother tongue education, and not on the more ideological aspects like the attempt to use the schools to foster distinctive ethnic identities.

Verwoerd’s Bantu education signalled the introduction of mass education in South Africa. After 1994 a new regime has removed all forms of racial privilege, but black public schools remained in a state of crisis. It is important to go back to the founding years of the system to establish to what extent the roots of the crisis could be traced back to these years.

The indictment

The indictment of the education system Hendrik Verwoerd, Minister of Native Affairs, introduced in 1954 consists of several charges. The most important are:

He closed down a functioning system of black education that included some good mission schools like Lovedale and HealdtownHis policy based on ‘the assumption of an inferior potential of African minds’ was ‘explicitly designed to prepare blacks for a subordinate place in society.'[5]He discouraged the teaching of Mathematics and ScienceThe policy deliberately starved black education of funds

Closing down a functioning system?

Missionary societies dominated the provision of black and coloured education before the accession of the National Party to power in 1948. In 1939 the Minister of Education in the United Party government admitted that two-thirds of black children were without any school experience whatsoever.[6] During the war years the government improved the provision of education to blacks considerably, but by 1950 less than half of black children between the ages of 7 and 16 were attending school, and only 2.6% of black pupils were enrolled in post-primary standards. The average black child spent only four years in school.

Among the mission schools there were a few excellent high schools, but, as a historian commented, the renowned reputation of these schools ‘should not obscure the fact that most mission schools were poor primary schools with large dropout rates’ and that the ‘mission system was breaking down at all levels.'[7] With the demand for education growing rapidly, schools had to take in far more children than they could teach effectively.

The state helped by providing salaries for approved teaching posts, but overall state aid was insufficient in a modernising economy. School buildings were dilapidated and classes overcrowded. Most schools were understaffed and there was a severe shortage of competent teachers.

In the mid-1940s both the United Party government and the Natives Representative Council, the main body for articulating black opinion, sensed that the system of black education was in need of drastic overhaul. The main sticking points lay elsewhere. There was firstly the question of funding.

ZK Matthews, the leading black authority on education and a prominent member of the ANC, demanded the modernisation in terms that, implicitly at least, meant apportioning resources for equal educational opportunities. But whites baulked at the expense. RFA Hoernlé, a leading liberal, observed that while a large number of the white voters do not mind ‘native education’ as such, it would be suicide in most constituencies for a Member of Parliament ‘to advocate, let alone vote for, the proposal that whites should be taxed in order that natives could be educated.'[8]

Another major point of conflict was over the extent to which traditional black culture had to be made part of the school syllabus. Matthews argued for the ‘preservation of the African heritage and for using the powers of the vernacular languages to effect social rejuvenation.[9] Some ANC leaders, however, rejected any ‘Bantuization of native education’. Blacks had to be educated ‘to live side by side with Europeans’.[10] Developing proficiency in English was generally regarded as much more desirable than using the Bantu languages as media for instruction.

In 1954 the government took over the coloured and black schools that the state partly funded and moved control of black and coloured education from the provinces to central government. As part of his ambitious plan to overhaul black education Verwoerd insisted that black education had to be rooted in the ‘native community’. ‘It is in the interest of the Bantu that he be educated in his own circle. He must not become a black Englishman in order to be used against the Afrikaner.'[11]

To the extent that the policy tried to foster different ethnic identities in the black community it was a dismal failure, but that was not the sole rationale of the policy.[12] In , the decades that followed, however, the issues of promoting the Bantustan policy through the education policy and mother tongue education became hopelessly confused.

Both Werner Eiselen who headed the commission that laid the groundwork for Verwoerd’s policy, and Verwoerd himself, firmly believed in mother tongue education as the best form of education A Professor of Anthropology before he became a chief inspector of native education in the Transavaal, Eiselen had a great respect for the particularity of blacks and genuine concern for the preservation of Bantu language and culture.[13] To him there was little doubt that blacks would learn better through their own languages.

Verwoerd received his secondary school education in the medium of English in Milton Boys School in Bulawayo before enrolling at the University of Stellenbosch. He became the first student in the country to write his doctoral dissertation in Afrikaans. In 1924 he received his doctoral degree, a year before Afrikaans was proclaimed an official language. Afrikaans quickly developed from a low-status language to one that could be used in all walks of life. Afrikaans-speakers, along with English speakers, now began to experience the benefits of what language expert Neville Alexander called "mother-tongue education from cradle to university."[14]

Bantu education, as introduced by Verwoerd in 1954, entailed the provision of eight years of mother tongue medium education (MTE). In addition well-trained teachers and competent speakers of English and Afrikaans taught these languages as second languages. In the ninth year of school, students were expected to switch to learning through the two second languages, Afrikaans and English.

The department laid down the principle that it would not use African languages as media of instruction in secondary school until the black community requested it. An education advisory council, which was established in terms of the policy, polled the boards of control of black school all over the country to asses their support for different options: It provided the following result[15]:

1 Afrikaans and English 64%
2 Only Afrikaans 5%
3 Only English 31%
4 Mother tongue 1%

The scant support for mother tongue as medium of instruction in the two highest school standards is an important indication the black population – unlike the Afrikaans one – were not convinced of the merits of mother tongue instruction.

Yet Bantu education was not out of line with what many Western scholars regard the best educational practice. Developed countries teach their children in the mother tongue because they are convinced that such a policy is pedagogically much sounder. They also believe that it improves people’s ability to make a contribution to the economy than those taught in a second or third language. Many developing countries, by contrast, tend to use the colonial language of instruction because they believe, incorrectly as it happens, that it is a short cut to a good education and job opportunities.

In South Africa the results of Bantu education between the mid-1950s and mid-1970s was positive, measured by pass rates. Kathleen Heugh, an acknowledged authority on language use in education, writes: "Between 1955 and 1975, there was a steady improvement in the achievement in literacy and numeracy… Eight years of MTE resourced with terminological development, text-book production, competent teacher education and competent teaching of English, resulted in a school-leaving pass rate of 83.7% for African students in 1976. This is the highest pass rate to date."[16]

One of the reasons for the disastrous downturn in black education after 1976 is the introduction of a policy that limited mother tongue education to the first three years, which is generally accepted as quite inadequate. Heugh concludes: apartheid’s education policy consisted of two phases. The first part, up to 1976, worked to the educational advantage of black students; the second part, from 1976 on, to their disadvantage, with mother tongue education limited to three or four years.[17]

Based on racist assumptions?

Those who charge Verwoerd with implementing a policy with racist assumptions usually base it on a reading of his speech in parliament in 1953 when he introduced the policy. Here Verwoerd attacked the existing policy, which, in his words, showed the black man ‘the green pastures of the European but still did not allow him to graze there’. By that he meant pupils were provided with skills that employers did not want from black workers.

He criticised the existing policy as uneconomic, because money was spent on education with no clear aim. This frustrated educated blacks, who were unable to find the jobs they wanted. He said: ‘Education should have its roots entirely in the Native areas and in the Native environment and the Native community … The Bantu must be guided to serve his own community in all respects. There is no place for him in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour. Within his own community, however, all doors are open.’

This comment is quoted in virtually every article on the subject. It is often distorted by quoting only the first part – ‘There is no place for him in the European community above certain forms of labour’ – and by omitting the qualifier that Verwoerd added: ‘Within his own community, however, all doors are open.’ [18]

Today the first part of the quote sounds very harsh, but it was not out of line with existing policy. A study states: ‘The overwhelming demand among urban employers was for workers with basic literacy, who could be employed as unskilled labour. In most cases "tribal labour" was preferred.'[19] There was little demand for blacks who had completed the more advanced standards.

The previous United Party government had also seen little need for the training of large numbers of black artisans for employment in the common area. The policy emphasised the training of whites for skilled labour in the so-called "white areas". Blacks could only expect to do skilled work in the reserves. In terms very similar to those Verwoerd would use later, the secretary of the Department of Native Affairs told the De Villiers Commission on Technical and Vocational Training in 1947 that ‘the unfolding of extensive government development schemes’ in the reserves would produce a large number of skilled posts.[20]

White supremacy was clearly incompatible with a steadily rising, better educated, urbanized black population moving up to strategic levels of the economy. Recognizing this, J.G. Strijdom, Transvaal NP leader, warned D.F Malan in 1946 that it would be impossible to maintain racial discrimination if the quality of education of the subordinate people was steadily improved. ‘Our church ministers,’ he added, ‘were far too eager to compete with other missionary societies in trying to provide the most education to blacks.’ If the state in the future tried to withhold equal rights from educated people it would lead to ‘bloody clashes and revolutions.'[21]

To put it in non-racist terms, by modernizing the provision of education to the subordinates, however incompletely, the apartheid state ran the risk of sowing the seeds of its own destruction. An opinion survey conducted in 1981 showed that black children’s rejection of segregation steadily increased with higher education levels. About half of the children with only 4 years of schooling said whites could keep their own housing areas and schools, against only a third of those in Standards 7 to 9, and only one tenth of those in Std 10 and higher. See Table 1.[22]

Table 1: Black political responses (%) according to level of education – 1981

Whites can have their own…

Std 2 or below

Std 3-6

Std 7-9

Std 10 and above

Laws against mixed marriages





Own housing areas





Own schools










Recreation facilities





Transport and Buses





Note: Only percentages accepting segregation are given

Source: Hermann Giliomee and Lawrence Schlemmer, From Apartheid to Nation-building, p.119

Yet for the Afrikaner nationalists to deny the subordinates a proper education would undermine their conception that they were serious in their commitment to rehabilitate the subordinate population. Verwoerd’s compromise would be to expand black education greatly, with the provision that it be closely linked to lower level jobs in the economy and, in the case of skilled work, to service to the black community.

The first half of Verwoerd’s formulation in 1953 affirmed what was already the situation on the ground. Blacks had always been excluded from skilled or other advanced jobs and the central state bureaucracy. What was new was, as a recent study noted, ‘Verwoerd’s aim of creating new opportunities for blacks in the homelands and what was called ‘serving their own people’.

It is ironic that Verwoerd today is branded as a racist when he was the only member of NP government in the 1950s who, as far as I know, is on record explicitly rejecting racist assumptions. In his class notes, as Professor of Sociology at the University of Stellenbosch between 1927 and 1936, he dismissed the idea of biological differences among the ‘big races’, adding that because there were no differences, "this was not really a factor in the development of a higher civilization by the Caucasian race." He also rejected the notion of different innate abilities. He observed that what appeared to be differences in skills in the case of Europeans and Africans were simply differences in culture due to historical experience.[23]

In the first few weeks of his term as Minister of Native Affairs Verwoerd made an astounding proposal, which historians surprisingly have ignored. It shows that he initially did not intend to limit opportunities for blacks to do advance jobs to the homelands. Verwoerd became Minister for Native Affairs on 19 October 1950, and six weeks later, on 5 December had a meeting took place at his request with the members of the Native Representative Council, which included several leading ANC members. Stating that he expected large numbers of blacks to remain in the big cities for many years, he announced that government planned to give blacks ‘the greatest possible measure of self-government’ in these urban areas. All the work in these townships would have to be done by their own people, enabling blacks to pursue ‘a full life of work and service.’

For this reason, Verwoerd continued, blacks had to be educated to be sufficiently competent in many spheres, the only qualification being that they would have to place their development and their knowledge exclusively at the service of their own people. Verwoerd invited the NRC members to meet him after the session for a ‘comprehensive interview’ about these matters and to put forward proposals, offering a prompt reply from government to their representations.[24]

This was a fateful turning point in South African politics. A new field for black politics could have been opened up if this offer had been accepted, particularly if it set in motion a political process that could have entailed talks between government and the urban black leadership on the election of urban black councils, the formula for the allocation of revenue, the staffing of the local councils’ bureaucracy, property ownership and opportunities for black business. It would have opened up a whole new area for the development of black managerial and administrative capacity, something that country would sorely lack when whites handed over power in 1994.

Discouraging the teaching of Mathematics and Science?

In his 1953 speech Verwoerd also remarked that it made little sense to teach mathematics to a black child if he or she could not use it in a career. Probably taking its cue from these words, a recent study alleges that as a result mathematics was no longer taught as ‘a core subject in black schools’.[25] In fact, the policy did not change and mathematics continued to be a school subject.[26] The small number of blacks who matriculated with a school-leaving certificate remained steady. From 1958 to 1965 a total of only 431 black matriculants passed mathematics.[27]

The main problem was a lack of qualified teachers in key subjects, particularly the natural sciences and mathematics. Nevertheless, the overall impression of scholars writing in the 1960s was of a definite improvement in the provision of mass education and the general standard of literacy, contrary to the popular perception today.

A 1968 study by Muriel Horrell of the SA Institute of Race Relations was critical of Bantu Education, especially its use of mother-tongue instruction, but wrote approvingly of the syllabi. Those for primary classes were ‘educationally sound’ and an improvement of the previous syllabi, while those for the junior and the senior certificate were the same as those used for white children.[28] Ken Hartshorne also states that the syllabuses were ‘very much the same as those used in white provincial schools and were an improvement on those in use previously’.[29]

Deliberately starving Bantu education of funds

Strong criticism has been directed at the insufficient and discriminatory funding of black education. The common assumption is that the blame for this dreadful discrepancy lies squarely with the policy as announced by Verwoerd. He stated that the state’s allocation to black education would be pegged at R13 million; any additional money had to come from direct taxes that blacks paid (2 million). As a result the gap in the ratio of white to black per capita spending widened in these years from 7 to 1 1953 to 18 to 1 in 1969.

But it would be wrong to concentrate only on the racial gap in per capita spending. What firstly should be taken into account was major increase in the number of black pupils, the figure rising from 800 000 in 1950 to 2,75 million in 1970. This drastically affected the per capita spending on blacks. Secondly the spending on school buildings, along with other capital spending, was in the case of black education not brought into the budget of the education department, as was the case in white education, but in that of the Department of Public Works. It is estimated that capital expenditure represented roughly 15 to 20 per cent of the spending on black education if all expenses had been brought into the budget for black education.

Table 2: State spending on education 1952 to 1987 in real 1987 rands (‘000s)



% change


% change


% change


% change


874 582


99 706


27 319


144 385



969 553


122 561


38 213


165 776



1 280 105


146 742


49 960


169 532



1 747 764


289 399


97 031


254 344



2 719 104


357 346


152 092


476 671



3 181 656


523 088


220 598


640 922



4 098 822


807 884


390 698


1 959 922



3 320 700


1 007 569


404 647


3 400 250


Note: Black figures include TBVC states.

Source: Hermann Giliomee and Lawrence Schlemmer From Apartheid to Nation-building, p.106. Researched and complied by Monica Bot.

Finally and perhaps most importantly the policy on pegging education funding to the revenue from black taxpayers was not implemented as announced by Verwoerd. From the table above it can be inferred that the policy was adhered to only between 1957 and 1962, when there was an increase of only 2 % on spending. In the next five years, between 1962 to1967, spending grew by nearly 50%. The government had accepted that the great increases in the enrolment of black pupils had made the policy quite unrealistic. According to Joubert Rousseau, later a Director General of Bantu Education, Verwoerd secured approval for the amount allocated to black education to be supplemented from the loan account. The loans were never paid back.[30]

A serious problem affecting the implementation of the policy was the inability to attract a sufficient number of black teachers to meet the growing demand for education. A recent study passes a measured judgement of the system: ‘The experience of black schooling during the 1950-70 period was one of partial modernization, generating a higher enrolment of black pupils, without providing additional teaching resources at a comparable rate.’ [31] It is to be doubted that the main opposition party in parliament, also subject to white electoral pressure, would have substantially narrowed the gap in per capita at a much faster rate.

The table gives a good indication of apartheid’s rhythm. The severity of the 1950s, particularly as far as blacks were concerned; the slow relative improvement in state spending on blacks in the 1960s and the substantial increases in expenditure between 1970 and the end of the 1990s, particularly in the periods from 1977 and 1982.[32]

Vewoerd in perspective

Any assessment of Hendrik Verwoerd can only be done within the context of his times. He was an academic who was impressed with the way in which social scientists in the USA between the World Wars sought to find ways in which the modernisation of society could occur without intensifying conflict between ethnic groups and classes. He believed that the modernisation of the South African economy after the Second World War made it imperative to establish a system of public education for blacks that would provide literacy and numeracy for blacks, who in the 1950s, could not hope to progress further than semi-skilled jobs in industry. No one foresaw the very rapid economic growth in the 1960s.

Phasing out the state subsidies to some top black schools like Lovedale and Healdtown was a bitter blow to members of the urbanised black elite, intensifying its resolve to reject the apartheid system outright. Yet for twenty years after its introduction Bantu education encountered little black opposition, with black parents failing to heed the calls for school boycotts. This opposition only surfaced in the mid-1970s after the policy had been adapted to enable large numbers of black children to advance to much higher standards than was possible in the preceding decades. Inevitably this was accompanied by the increasing politicisation of the pupils as JG Strijdom had warned.

Was Verwoerd sincere in his stated commitment to educate blacks for service to their own community?David (Lang David) de Villiers, who was one of the top advocates in the 1960s, worked closely with him in the 1960s preparing South Africa’s case in the dispute over South Africa’s mandate of South West Africa that was heard by the World Court, He judgment was that it was totally alien to Verwoerd’s character to mislead.[33] He made it abundantly clear that defending and promoting white interests was unambiguously his priority.

As far as Bantu education was concerned, he never seemed to understand that blacks in the top rate mission schools resented the loss of the identity of the schools as much as the Afrikaners would have done if an alien government had changed the character of a Paul Roos Gymnasium or Paarl Gymnasium.

Unlike many supporters of the National Party, Verwoerd did not consider well-educated blacks a threat as long as they directed their aspirations to their traditional "homelands". But the Bantustans were not necessarily the end of the road. When a follower questioned the wisdom of establishing new black university colleges, he replied: ‘We shall have to negotiate frequently with [blacks] in the future over many issues, including education and politics. It would be better to negotiate with people who are well informed and educated.'[34] He died in 1966 just when it became clear that the homelands had no or little hope of becoming viable states.

Despite the elimination of racial disparities in spending and classroom numbers black public education is in such a dismal state that, in the words of an authority like Mamphela Ramphele, it compares poorly with the Bantu Education of the 1950s and 1960s. The black matric pass rate of 1975 has not yet been emulated. The fault seems to lie somewhere else.


The article firstly posed the question whether Verwoerd abolished a functioning system. To that the answer was that there were a few well functioning church schools, but the rest of the system was in drastic need of overhaul. Was the policy based on racist assumptions? If by racism is meant the ideology of a biologically-based distinction between superior and inferior abilities the answer is negative. The policy discriminated against blacks by insisting that they would be able to do advanced forms of work only in the homelands. Studies found that the syllabi of schools in the higher standard were the same as those in white schools. The increasingly high disparity between the per capita expenditure on white and black pupils was related above all to the rapid increase in black numbers. As table 2 indicates actual spending increased rapidly after 1962. If capital expenditure, which was put on the budget of another department is added, the increases were quite substantial.

A character in Julian Barnes’ novel, The Sense of an Ending, which won the 2011 Man Booker Prize remarks: If one can pin the blame on a single person no else is really guilty; but if one blames a process everyone is somehow complicit. Blaming Verwoerd for the current failures of black education seems to be so much easier. The alternative view — that we are all complicit — is perhaps too ghastly to contemplate.

*Hermann Giliomee’s The Last Afrikaner Leaders: A Crucial Test of Power (Tafelberg) will appear at the end of October this year (see here).

This article was published with the assistance of the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit (FNF). The views presented in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FNF.


[1] X Press, 25 July 2012.

[2] The Citizen, 23 July 2012.

[3] Sunday Times, 29 July 2012.

[4] SA Time, 25 July 2012.

[5] Rodney Davenport and Christopher Saunders, South Africa: A Modern History (London: Macmillan, 20000, p. 674.

[6] Cape Times, 18 May 1939.

[7]Jonathan Hyslop, The Class Room Struggle: Policy and Resistance in South Africa, 1940-1990 (Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1999), pp. 8-11.

[8] RFA Hoernlé, South African Native Policy and the Liberal Spirit (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1939), p. 18.

[9] Cynthia Kros, ‘Deep rumblings: ZK Matthews and African education before 1955, Perspectives in Education, 12, 1 (1990), p.35.

[10] Peter Walshe, The rise of African Nationalism in South Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 191971), pp. 150-52.

[11] Die Burger,16 March 1957.

Mail, 16 March 2012.

[13] T Dunbar Moodie, The Rise of Afrikanerdom (Berkeley: Universityo f Californai Press, 1975, p.272.

[14] Cited by Braam, "A Boost for Mother-tongue education’.

[15] Joubert Rousseau, ‘Iets oor Bantoe Onderwys’, in Wilhelm Verwoerd (compiler), Verwoerd: So onthou ons hom(Pretoria: Protea, 2001), p.175/

[16] Kathleen Heugh, "Multilingual Education Policy in South Africa constrained by theoretical and historical disconnections", paper due to be published in Annual Review of Applied Linguistics.

[17] Kathleen Heugh,. 1999. Languages, development and reconstructing education in South Africa. International Journal of Educational Development19, 1999, pp. 301-313

[18] AN Pelzer, ed., Verwoerd Speaks (Johannesburg: APB, 1968), p.83.

[19]Deborah Posel, The Making of Apartheid (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), p. 186.

[20] Hyslop, The Class Room Struggle, pp. 4-5.

[21] H.B. Thom, D.F. Malan (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 1980), p. 279.

[22] Hermann Giliomee and Lawrence Schlemmer, From Apartheid to Nation-building (Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 119.

[23] Millar, ‘Science and Society’, pp. 638 – 646.

[24] Pelzer, ed., Verwoerd Speaks, pp.28-30.

[25] Francis Wilson, Dinosaurs, Diamonds and Democracy(Cape Town: Umuzi, 2009), p. 88.

[26] Rousseau, ‘Iets oor Bantoe Onderwys’, p. 177.

[27] Horrell, Bantu Education to 1968, p.72; Rousseau, ‘Iets oor Bantoe-onderwys’, in Verwoerd (compiler), Verwoerd, p. 177.

[28] Muriel Horrell, Bantu Education to 1968 (Johannesburg: SA Institute of Race Relations, 1968), p. 58-59, 71.

[29] Ken Hartshorne, Crisis and Challenge: Black Education, 1910 -1960 (Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 41.

[30] Rousseau, ‘Iets oor Bantoe-Onderwys’, p. 172,

[31] JW Fedderke, R de Kadt and J Lutz ‘Uneducating South Africa: The Failure to address the need for human capital’, International Review of Education , 46. 3, 2000, pp.257-81

[32] Giliomee and Schlemmer, From Apartheid to Nation-building, p.106.

[33] David de Villiers, ‘Die Wereldhofsaak in Den Haag’,Verwoerd: So onthou ons hom, .144.

[34] Gilles van de Wall, ‘Verwoerd, die Hervormer,’ Verwoerd, so onthou ons hom, p.166.


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Zuma says SA considering ICC exit

Zuma was giving his assessment of the African Union(AU) summit, which had just ended here.

He noted that he and his fellow leaders had discussed Africa’s growing concerns with the manner in which the ICC had conducted itself in relation to African countries.

Zuma said that in a discussion on the ICC and the Rome Statute, he had expressed South Africa’s concerns.

“Our strongly held view is that it is now impossible, under the circumstances, for South Africa to continue its participation in the Rome Statute,” said Zuma.

“South Africa is seriously reviewing its participation in the Rome Statute and will announce its decision in due course,” he told the summit.

Zuma’s threat to withdraw from the ICC came in the wake of the last AU simmit, in Sandton last June which was attended by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is a fugitive from the ICC for alleged atrocities in Darfur.

South Africa as a member of the ICC was obliged to arrest him. The North Gauteng High Court also issued an order to the government to arrest him, both because of its obligations to the ICC and because the ICC Rome Statute has been incorporated into South African law.

But the government did not arrest him and the same court ruled that it had broken the law and contravened the Constitution.

The ICC has asked for an explanation of South Africa’s failure to arrest Al-Bashir.

Zuma said he was pleased with the outcomes of the summit, which were “substantive.”

He said the summit had noted with satisfaction that the AU was rolling out the first 10-year-implementation plan of its ambitious Agenda 2063 development plan and member states had begun linking their national developmental plans with it.

Zuma is chair of the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative to fasttrack regional infrastructure projects of Nepad – the AU’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development. (NEPAD) He presented a report on the progress made in infrastructure development.

Zuma expressed his pleasure at the re-election of South Africa as a member of the AU Peace and Security Council for a two-year term.

He noted the summit had also discussed security in Burundi, South Sudan, Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo among others.

Zuma welcomed the decision to revive the AU High Level Panel on Libya “which had worked effectively a few years ago”.

He said he was also pleased with the appointment of former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete as the AU Special Envoy to Libya.

The decision would help the AU get the warring parties in Libya to resolve their differences.

Zuma said the summit decision to send a delegation to Burundi “to assess the political and security situation and to discuss the proposed deployment of the AU peacekeeping force with the government of Burundi is a step in the right direction”.
– Africa News Agency (ANA)


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Germans warn of investment retreat following signing of investment Bill

South Africa’s Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill, which was signed into law by President Jacob Zuma in December, is likely to dull the appetite of potential German investors, as provisions contained within the newly enacted legislation effectively deprive the investor of any protection against discrimination by domestic legislation or administrative Acts, says the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAGCCI).

Addressing a gathering of German business leaders on Thursday, SAGCCI CEO Matthias Boddenberg said the chamber’s concerns over the then-proposed Bill were last year disregarded, when it, along with business chambers representing other European and US interests, requested certain amendments to the investment legislation to pacify rattled foreign funders.

The law would come into force on a date yet to be revealed by Zuma.

“Most of the companies [represented by the chamber] are unhappy about the new law, as there is a feeling that their investment is not properly safeguarded,” he commented during an address at the SAGCCI’s offices, in Forest Town.

Johannesburg-based think tank the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) last year described the proposed legislation as counterproductive, vague and in violation of South Africa’s trade commitments under the Southern African Development Community, or SADC, Protocol.

IRR policy research head Dr Anthea Jeffreysaid in October that the dissolution of the Department of Trade and Industry’s various European bilateral investment treaties (Bits) and the shift towards a more protectionist investment policy signalled an intensification of government ideology that veered away from trade with the West and towards ramped-up trade with its Brazil, Russia, India and China, or Brics, partners and other emerging States.

Pointing to issues of concern, the SAGCCI last year called for further information on the circumstances – if any – under which the special treatment of foreign investors was justified, calling for this to be conclusively listed in the Act.

“It should be clarified that such different treatment may qualify as nationalisation, expropriation or an equivalent act and may thus entitle the investor to compensation,” the chamber outlined in its submission.

The SAGCCI further asserted that it should be clarified that foreign investors had a right to establishment – to the same extent as local investors and on the principle of equal treatment.

“The Bill provides for national/equal treatment only in ‘like circumstances’. We acknowledge that, in order to determine the scope of equal treatment, the circumstances under which the investments are made have to be evaluated.

“However, the fact that the investment is foreign cannot be considered in such evaluation, given that the purpose of the provision is to provide for national/equal treatment in like circumstances. ‘Regardless of nationality’ should thus be [included] and references to the fact that the investment is foreign should be removed,” held the chamber.

The Act also did not clearly state that acts having a similar effect as expropriation entitled the investor to compensation and, to encourage foreign investment, the Act should grant investors access to international arbitration in respect of investment disputes.

“We will see what effect [the Act] has, but we haven’t seen major new investment in the last two years [and we think] that new investment will be negatively affected by this law,” remarked Boddenberg.

He nevertheless noted that trade ties between South Africa and Germany remained solid in 2015, with trade volumes hitting €15-billion – equalling trade flows between Germany and Canada, Mexico and Japan respectively.

While German exports to South Africa increased by 18% over the year, South Africa’s export of goods and services to the European State expanded by 20% year-on-year to reach €5.4-billion


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A descent into racial madness

the early weeks of January much of the South African intelligentsia descended into a state of what can only be described as racial madness. There was a loss of all sense of reality, proportion, consistency, fairness and common decency.

Although some of the fever has now passed this episode once again displayed a disturbing inability by many of our institutions to remain cool, stand firm and do the right thing under social media mob pressure.

The ongoing discussions about the enduring problem of “racism” in South Africa have also highlighted a basic lack of understanding of the poisonous and insidious forms that racialist agitation can take.

One of the standard methods of racial propaganda – or what the Germans call volksverhetzung – is to focus obsessively on isolated but inexcusable actions by individuals from the targeted group. These are then used to foster a particular stereotype about the group as a whole and create a climate of moral panic whereby violent or arbitrary measures can more easily be taken against members of the group.

The Penny Sparrow controversy is almost a textbook case of how such propaganda works in the age of social media. A bird of little brain posts a vile, racially-insulting comment to a small group on Facebook in reaction to the mess left on beaches by New Year’s Day revellers.

A screenshot of those remarks – equating black South Africans to monkeys – is taken by someone and then rapidly distributed on social media (and then by the media). This is done either recklessly or knowingly, given that the predictable consequence will be to inflame racial tension and hatred. Sparrow’s personal details are found and gleefully circulated online and death threats made against her and her family, and the white minority more generally.

The ANC lays criminal charges against Sparrow and various others but not against Velaphi Khumalo (though others do) – for subsequently saying that whites deserved to be “hacked and killed like Jews” of Nazi-occupied Europe – as he had been provoked.

A completely one-sided debate then ensues in the media on the continued ‘problem’ of white ‘racism.’ Demands are then voiced by politicians and in the media that members of the still relatively advantaged white minority be displaced from their ‘dominant’ position in the economy and dispossessed of their property (and particularly the land). The argument here is that continued white economic dominance implies a superiority that can no longer be countenanced two decades after the end of apartheid.

Finally, in Business Day, Stephen Friedman decrees that the “real problem” facing the country is not President Jacob Zuma – or, it could be added, the worst drought in a hundred years, massive unemployment, the great commodities depression or the collapse of a completely ‘transformed’ state into a swamp of corruption, criminality and dysfunction – but rather “the domination of a racial minority and the economic ills that go with that.”

The Chris Hart affair – though running parallel to that the Sparrow one – constitutes a different though not unrelated matter. In the same 24 hours in which Sparrow’s Facebook comments went viral the Standard Bank economist commented, in a long series of tweets, that “More than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities….”

Quite what he meant by the “victims are increasing” is not clear (the actual victims, or those with a sense of victimhood?) But his remarks about the increase in hatred towards minorities caused particular offence to those public intellectuals and politicians who seem to regard it as their life’s work to stoke racial resentment and division. The call went out to “black Twitter” to “roast” Hart and he proceeded to be monstered on social media as a “racist”. (Hart’s academic transcripts from Wits were later leaked to, and then widely circulated online, and he was ridiculed for the failing grades he had received in two of his degree courses.)

The following day the ANC laid criminal charges against him and Standard Bank released a statement which claimed that Hart’s comments were “factually incorrect, make inappropriate assumptions about South Africa and have racist undertones” and that he would be suspended and subjected to a disciplinary inquiry. Quite what these “racist undertones” were, or what was factually incorrect about his comments, was not explained.

The answer recently arrived in a letter to staff by Standard Bank Group CEO Sim Tshabalala. In remarks clearly aimed at Hart’s comments on “increasing entitlement”, though not mentioning him by name, Tshabalala stated:

“Racist opinions are usually weapons in a struggle for resources. Some white people, for instance, appear – despite the provisions of our Constitution and our laws – to be tempted to argue that poor black people are not entitled to various goods because they are ‘dirty’ or because they have a ‘victim mentality.’ Some black people seem to think – despite the values and principles stated in our Constitution – that white people are not entitled to be full citizens because they are ‘all racists’. As can be seen from these examples, ‘entitled’ is often a key word in racist thinking.”

This letter was then posted on the Rand Daily Mail website under the heading: “‘Entitled’ is a key word in racist thinking.” This effort to link the word ‘entitled’ with ‘racist’ is somewhat unpersuasive, to say the least. Which white South Africans believe that poor black people are not entitled access to various goods because they are ‘dirty’ or have a ‘victim mentality’? Certainly not Hart. And where has this outrageous view been publicly expressed by any white person of substance over the past decade? Politicsweb reached out toStandard Bank to ask if it could provide one or two examples or illustrations of this apparently widely held view, but was told there would be no additional comment on the letter.

If ordinary white South Africans have an issue it is clearly with the sense of entitlement of President Zuma and the political elite more generally, precisely because it diverts their hard-earned tax money away from the needs of the poor.

Up until the 4th of January 2016 terms such as a “sense of entitlement” or a “culture of entitlement” were a common, accepted, and arguably over-used, part of the political lexicon. The following usages of the term are purely illustrative, as press archive searches through up literally hundreds of similar examples:

“It is important that we rid ourselves of the culture of entitlement which leads to the expectation that the government must promptly deliver whatever it is that we demand.” – Nelson Mandela, February 1995

“The opportunities we provide must be of a kind that builds self-reliance and rewards hard work – anything that encouraged a culture of entitlement would undermine our hard-won freedoms.” – Nelson Mandela November 1997

“The culture of entitlement, so prevalent in our community, has contributed to the ‘name it, claim it’ syndrome where individuals seek an elusive moral justification for engaging in criminal activity.” – Thabo Mbeki November 1998

“Many among us believe that to be poor is to be nobody. We believe that democracy has given us the possibility to prosper. Some believe they are especially entitled to material success because, personally or otherwise, they spent many years in active struggle against apartheid.” – Thabo Mbeki, July 2002

“But with the dominant freebie mentality, all that initiative to better oneself has been destroyed. It has been replaced with a culture of entitlement: The government promised me a house, they must give me a house.” – Khathu Mamaila, August 2006

“Another serious challenge facing the democratic government is the seeping culture of entitlement. As revolutionary agents for change, we should work to wean the people from this debilitating state of mind” – Vusi Mavimbela, September 2009

“We have allowed a culture of entitlement to develop, where people believe that other people owe them something.” Jabu Mabuza, November 2009

The first step is for black youth to squeeze drop by drop out of themselves the victim mentality, sense of entitlement and dependency syndrome that misleads them to believe life owes them something. – Sandile Mamela, July 2015

“Despite the fact that we have provided 3.7 million housing opportunities over the past twenty years, we are still facing a gloomy picture. All this happens against an unfortunate culture of entitlement amongst our people.” – Lindiwe Sisulu, July 2015

“… the various ANC governments of the past 20 years are mostly responsible for any culture of entitlement that South Africans have become addicted to. So the state doesn’t have the moral authority to lecture any lazy or demotivated or entitled citizens.” – Eusebius McKaiser, October 2015

“Entitlement” has thus been an issue of debate and discussion in South Africa for two decades, mostly among black politicians and journalists. It was clearly in this mainstream tradition (not some fringe white supremacist one) that Hart was commenting. It was also hardly unreasonable for him to have taken a view on whether a widely discussed problem was increasing or decreasing.

The truth is that Chris Hart’s offence (Gareth Cliff’s similarly) was not “racism” – according to any common sense definition of the word – but rather racial impertinence. Elements of the dominant group want deference from those they regard as their moral inferiors.

This is why precisely the same statements by white and black South Africans are likely to be met with vastly different responses. The elite’s sensitivities on this score are also immeasurably heightened whenever President Zuma embarrasses them, as he did spectacularly during the Nene affair in December last year.

Any sign of impudence, by a white person, is likely to be met with furious reaction, shouting down and demands for punishment. If the label of ‘racist’ can be successfully pinned on a person (however tenuously) they can then be destroyed.

Even some of the more moderate comments on the recent controversies – arguing that they should not detract from other critical issues – have contained this basic underlying message. Given the misfortunes whites were responsible for pre-1994 white “arrogance” or “ingratitude” today will no longer be tolerated.

As illustrated by the above while South Africa certainly does have a racialism problem it is not the one our race-conscious intelligentsia is currently obsessing over. Indeed, as some have perceptively observed, a law against racial incitement – of the kind that prevails in Germany and the United Kingdom – would, in the unlikely event that it was fairly and consistently applied, have something of a chilling effect on some of our most fashionably outspoken intellectuals and politicians.


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Over reaction on racist language

There is no intellectual tradition of the black individual

There is no intellectual tradition of the black individual; throughout history the black person’s identity has been discussed as a collective phenomenon. The end of apartheid should have brought about not only external liberties but freedom in defining one’s self apart from the group. Yet as victors of a system that endeavoured to create a generalised idea of the black person it is ironic that given the freedom we still choose to embrace the caricature and not the real individual person who by incident of birth happens to be black.

The fragile collective identity

Penny Sparrow brought together the ingredients for the perfect storm; on one hand a group of black people for whom blackness is a defining part of their identity, and on the other a group of white people who are desperate to be on the right side of the racist dividing line. Incidentally I had a similar experience in London last year.

My colleagues and I were walking back from a team dinner, with two colleagues (black men) walking slightly ahead. On the side of the street was a woman whose swigs from a beer bottle were interspersed with words in the direction of our group: “you look like baboons because women fuck apes in Africa.”

Was my sense of self so assaulted that I would have brought it to the attention of others around me, paraded her in the street shouting ‘here walks a bigoted woman’ then cheered as she was fired from her job and lost her livelihood? I couldn’t stand by and watch them take away from her more than she took from me.

What did the people on that beach lose from Penny Sparrow’s comments, and what has she lost? The punishment hardly fits the ‘crime’. A perfectly rational response to Penny Sparrow would have been to concede the zoomorphism (comparing people who litter to monkeys), then correct her for ascribing the characteristic to black people only by pointing out that white people litter as well.

This response seems facetious but only because we have succeeded in South Africa in making the rational sound absurd. This response would require not only rationality but a high degree of an individual self, such that when another black person is criticised you don’t feel vicariously insulted.

Are our identities so fragile? Does a comment by an obscure woman with no public standing put so much at stake? The sad answer to both those questions is yes, because what South Africa witnessed was not the surprising discovery that there are people who make insensitive analogies or who are at worst racist. We all know that.

What we witnessed was the irrationality and destructive power of two fragile identities: the collective black identity that has been attacked so must fight in order to save itself, and a white identity fighting defensively in order to shore goodwill with the black collective.

The dishonesty of identitarian politics

In 2015 there was a palpable resurgence in identitarian politics in mainstream discourse in South Africa buoyed by a concurrent wave in the North American and British media. The trouble with collective identities is that they cannot describe all the individuals within the group; their interests, their values and all that they find objectionable.

But it makes an attempt to do so, and in 2015 there was a particular focus on what the collective black identity finds objectionable. The attempt to capture a myriad of feelings unsurprisingly results in contradictions, contradictions that make it possible both to offend a black person for speaking well (because what did you, as a white person,expect them to sound like) and simultaneously insult them for correcting their English (because it is not their mother tongue).

All potential triggers for offence become clustered in the term black pain. Individuals who attempt to reject the idea of collective feelings are criticised, as I have been among friends and acquaintances, for not understanding black pain or for having a colonised mind. The structural integrity of the collective identity begins to unravel in my view if black people can be accused of not understanding the pain they are expected to feel.

It is not only that collective black pain makes us respond irrationally as highlighted above (in Penny Sparrow’s case) nor that it makes black people dishonest (because as the ‘eloquence’ issue shows the offence is often contradictory and not genuinely felt by all black people) but it begins to rob language of its integrity.

There are numerous examples of the degradation of language, for example in 2012 Helen Zille referred to pupils from the Eastern Cape as education refugees. It was manipulative on the part of many to ignore the obvious metaphor and instead opt for a literal interpretation which requires believing that Zille is unaware of the legal concept of a refugee.

Language can convey different meaning but that is not the same as believing that any interpretation of meaning is legitimate. When black identity is so fragile it requires a perverse mollycoddling to take place and exaggerated responses to incidences that are capable of simple rationalisation.

Black identity I believe is what Jean Baudrillard would have referred to as simulacra, a copy of something real that no longer resembles the original; in the case of black identity I would argue that it never did. More concerning is that, as Baudrillard argued, there is a blurring of the real and the copy such that in many instances the copy eventually takes precedent over the reality. This is true today, in that few to none are interested in what black individuals actually feel instead we are obsessed about defending the group identity (the copy).

My friends do not need to understand black people, they need to understand me and repeat that approach for each black individual they come across. I certainly have no guide map as to how to behave when I meet a white person yet we accept countless of self-righteous letters from black and white people alike typically with the patronisingly affectionate words ‘dear white people’.

These letters often attempt to help white people understand black people and then advise how they need to alter their behaviour. The Gillian Schuttes and Scott Burnetts of the world seem to believe that they need to educate other white South Africans on their interactions with me as a black person yet they have never consulted me.

This should make it clear that not just black South Africans are complicit in this ruse to satisfy every emotional whim of black South Africans; it is also a cohort of white South Africans who think pandering is the same as empathy. Slavoj Zizek, the Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic, in an interview spoke of what he enjoyed about travelling. He said one of his favourite things to do is to ask someone to tell him an embarrassing or terrible thing about themselves. He will often then refer to that person by that embarrassing thing, and he says it builds a wonderful intimacy.

I think I am saying something similar to Zizek. I don’t trust someone who is too afraid to offend me, someone with whom I cannot make light of my insecurities. The white person who has internalised racial difference and views black people as a group to be understood perhaps will eventually find appropriate ways of being with black people (it’s called being agreeable which incidentally can ingratiate you with any fragile identity). But I do not believe they will share true understanding or friendship which can only be with the individual.

Seeing ourselves in ideas

The perverse thinking of some elements of the decolonisation project is that in order to be well adjusted individuals with self-esteem we need to see ourselves reflected in the world. That may be true, but it should be a colourless and sexless self. I was never spoken to by my parents growing up as a child in Umlazi township about Joseph Schumpeter, A.C Grayling, Christopher Hitchens, Karl Popper, Bertrand Russel etc. Often reading or listening to them was an awakening of the sort when someone articulates what you have always thought but hadn’t yet been able to put into words. But to racial identitarians, including many of those supportive of the decolonisation project, many of my most validating life experiences should be the ones I find alienating.

It does not bother me that my intellectual influences are mostly white men, what resonated where the ideas. I only discovered, as an example, the black economist Thomas Sowell much later in my time at university. But when I did it was not a watershed moment, my principles were not solidified by now having a black liberal reaffirm them, (nor is there now still a gaping hole for a black female liberal to fill). He was just an addition to the list, the weight of his influence based on his arguments not our shared skin colour.

The decolonisation project is akin to the oft made call for “African solutions for African problems”. What does this mean? It cannot mean a closer alignment to black identity because as the examples above show it is a shape shifting mirage. Perhaps then it entails having less parochial and Eurocentric academic curricula that reflect the scientific and philosophic advancements made in other parts of the world.

This I fully support but on the basis of intellectual integrity not as atonement or a psychological exercise. If there are bodies of literary works, histories and innovations that we do not know of because of imperialistic oversight then of course academic institutions should seek to uncover them and have them included in curricula.

As a student this would have been important for my intellectual growth but not the integrity of my identity. Because one’s sense of self worth or dignity cannot sustainably be buttressed by the fragile support of thinkers and innovators who share one’s skin colour or geographic origins. It is for the same reason that if I am ever in the position to pass Zulu on to future children it would be purely as an intellectual preference. The preference being for multilingual children and my belief that their expressive abilities would be improved by learning a richly idiomatic language. A lesser part (I would argue non-existent) would be because my identity is informed by Zulu culture. But that is not sad, it is a sign of unparalleled personal freedoms.

But the power to govern oneself and be the curator of your own feelings and value systems is available under all regimes. Enormous pressures can be placed on that power by external forces but it cannot be taken away. It is frustrating to see that most powerful and personal of freedoms neglected when the external environment for individual definition is at its most favourable.


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