Friday, May 14, 2010

what is a south african?

Below is my response in the form of a Letter to the Editor to Ivor Chipkins' article in The Times of 11 May 2010:

Ivor Chipkins’ comments “What is a South African?” (May 11, 2010) touches on an area of deep national significance: the present social crisis in our country. What are we celebrating sixteen years on from 1994? We should be celebrating a society driven by our Constitutional norms of tolerance, respect and equality; but we are not. This points to massive failure of political leadership, and it is not the fault of Apartheid any longer.

One of my most painful experiences after voting for the ANC in 1994 was filling in a government form that required me to define myself by race, and sixteen years later I am still required to do so. I objected to being classified this way during Apartheid, and the fact that I continue to be classified this way means that I have not yet experienced freedom in the land of my birth. I accepted in 1994 that race classification may be necessary for righting the wrongs of Apartheid, but after sixteen years I am only convinced that it has sustained racially negative perceptions and classist attitudes.

When will I be allowed to forget that I am “White” and be allowed to remember that I am South African? I may be, in Max du Preez’ words, a “pale native”, but I am a native none-the-less.

Government needs to take our Constitution seriously, and lead from the front. Our leaders, from Mr Zuma down, need to renounce the present essentialist focus on race and culture, and focus our society on the essential principles of our Constitution: tolerance, respect, equality.

It interests me that, despite the debacle in Mr Malema’s disciplinary hearing (May 14, 2010), he was pulled up for his lack of respect. Perhaps there is hope here that the ANC has not truly lost its heart, and that our confidence shown in the ANC in the 1994 elections was not in vain?

Mark R D Long, Pretoria

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