COVID-19 Lockdown and the lack of legislative oversight over the executive in South Africa

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Introduction

South Africans responded by and large positively to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s initial call for a national COVID-19 lockdown. Citizens indicated their preparedness to surrender aspects of their civil rights in the interest of the common good and the compelling necessities of the crisis, recognising the necessity of prioritising the right to life of the many who might be susceptible to the virus.

The recent extension of the lockdown for a further two weeks was met with some concerns. It is feared that it will deepen South Africa’s economic crisis. Others argued that it must end and started to look at how and when.

Rights affected by the national lockdown

The declaration of a national disaster in terms of the  Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 has affected several of the fundamental human rights enshrined in the South African Constitution. These include the freedom and security of the person, freedom of expression, assembly, movement and residence, trade, occupation and profession, and the rights to education, privacy, and access to information.

The concentration of power in the executive branch

The concentration of all the power in the executive branch of government to deal with and manage the health crisis, without appropriate oversight, should be of concern to ordinary South Africans.  Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch recently wrote of the inherent dangers thereof in an article How Authoritarians Are Exploiting the COVID19 Crisis to Grab Power.

“Recognising that the public is more willing to accept government power grabs in times of crisis, some leaders see the coronavirus as an opportunity not only to censor criticism but also to undermine checks and balances on their power. Much as the “war on terrorism” was used to justify certain long-lasting restrictions on civil liberties, so the fight against the coronavirus threatens longer-term damage to democratic rule.”

Danger signs of the abuse of such concentration of power

Since the announcement of the lockdown, we have seen excesses by the security forces despite the Presidents pleas that they act with constraint, we have seen worrying signs of kragdadigheid from the securocrats in the executive, we have seen Ministers overreaching in terms of what they are planning to do and we have seen how people are treated differently when contravening the lockdown requirements with the starkest of these being a member of the executive only getting a reprimand and a two-month suspension as Minister, whereas ordinary South Africans are summarily arrested when contravening the regulations.

In addition, serious concerns have been expressed initially over aspects of the executive branch’s intention to use location data in the fight against COVID-19.  The government’s changed position on this is clear from the changes between an initial set of directions issued on 26 March and new regulations issued on 2 April and their change of heart can be ascribed to the pressure civil society put on the country’s surveillance regime even before the crisis.

In the initial lockdown rules, Regulation 11E offered wholesale indemnity for police, soldiers and peace officers like metro and traffic police, collectively defined as enforcement officers from any claims for damages or injury arising out of the performance of their duties in terms of the regulations. Just two hours before the lockdown, new regulations withdrew the wholesale indemnity for enforcement officers. This initial provision was made although such indemnity is banned even in a State of Emergency, according to Section 37 of the Constitution and illustrates the dangers inherent in the executive having unfettered powers confirmed upon it without appropriate oversight.

Role of the judiciary in overseeing the executive branch

Professor Balthazar highlights that securocrats need oversight even in the midst of a pandemic but Especially in the midst of the pandemic. He however, argues that in the current situation such oversight is primarily the role of the courts:

“….the temptation of members of the executive to move out of their designated lane during this lockdown is cause for concern and therefore some independent control. For this reason, civil society needs to be vigilant. While the judiciary has, in the two cases brought to date, been wise to defer to executive decisions made to protect the health of the nation, courts will remain the primary mechanism of oversight under the present dispensation.”

Advocate Gary Pienaar in an article on Democratic oversight in the time of the COVID-19 lockdown highlight that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng importantly instructed the courts to stay open during the lockdown, among other reasons so that citizens could challenge the lockdown rules if necessary. The Constitution makes provision for such challenges, even under a state of emergency, which gives the government extraordinary powers, beyond those it now has in terms of the declared state of national disaster.

The judiciary is therefore well placed and able to exercise oversight over the executive. Speedy access to the courts is however beyond the means of most South Africans and will be beholden to civil society organisations and watchdogs to ensure that the courts are approached when necessary to seek appropriate relief.

Oversight by the legislative branch over the executive

What then of oversight by the legislative branch of government? Parliament commenced its scheduled recess and constituency period on 18 March, within three days of the declaration of the national disaster, suspending all sittings until 13 April 2020. This despite the health crisis facing South Africa and the power now concentrated in the executive branch. With the extension of the lockdown by a further two weeks it is not clear what Parliament is planning to do post 13 April 2020.

A media statement issued on Friday 27 March states that Members of Parliament, who are classified under the lockdown Regulations as amongst those performing essential services, will be fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities during this period, in their constituencies in support of efforts against COVID-19. As advocate Gary Pienaar however highlights –

“The statement provided no guidance or direction as to how the members of parliament are to fulfil these constitutional responsibilities, including the duty to scrutinise and oversee executive action, or the duties to facilitate public participation in oversight during a lockdown.”

On Sunday 5 April 2020 Parliament issued another media statement. The statement opiniates that it is the Executive’s responsibility to ensure that it safeguards the rights of individuals during these difficult times and for Parliament to oversee the delivery of services needed to relieve the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public. It goes on stating that Parliament must not be seen as interfering with the responsibility of the Executive to implement measures for which the national disaster has been declared.

Oversight during a lockdown can, in terms of the statement, be done through, for example, individual MPs carrying out constituency work in various communities and holding the Executive accountable for implementing measures designed to overcome the state of disaster. The responsibility to conduct oversight is, therefore, not limited to committee meetings.

Other than the aforementioned Parliament sees no need to do more in respect of oversight and in summary, indicates that the Legislator will, after this period, still be able to hold the Executive accountable, in the usual ways, over how it executed the state of national disaster.

Parliament went as far as to deny a request of the Democratic Alliance to establish an oversight committee over the cabinet and state organs during the COVID-19 lockdown. In response to the decision of the Deputy Speaker of Parliament the leader of the opposition stated that Parliament has been rendered obsolete by refusing to adapt to the changing government during this time and the changing circumstances surrounding its work.

In comparison, the Speaker of the Western Cape Parliament announced his intention to establish an ad hoc committee to conduct oversight over the Western Cape Government’s response to COVID-19, which announcement has been welcomed.

International experience in oversight over the executive during the COVID-19 crisis

According to the 5 April media statement of Parliament parliaments all over the world are grappling with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on their constitutional obligations, such as oversight, lawmaking and public involvement. The question should be asked whether the South African Parliament have then considered any of the international experience in oversight over the executive during the pandemic?

Ittai Bar-Siman-Tov conducted a comparative survey in March 2020 on Parliamentary Activity and Legislative Oversight during the Coronavirus Pandemic. He highlights that the serious challenges the virus poses for legislatures in many countries around the world are twofold. First, the Coronavirus, and the measures taken to contain its spread, makes it difficult for parliaments to operate given the size of most legislators and the fact that the standing orders mostly require members to be physically present at sittings.

The second challenge is that governments in many countries have treated the situation as an emergency (either in practice or also formally declaring a national state of emergency). He warns that during states of emergency, executives want to accumulate power, centralize authority and be as effective, swift and expedient as possible. They tend to want to circumvent the legislatures’ cumbersome legislative process and evade parliamentary scrutiny.

“The Coronavirus crisis is no different, as many heads of the executive branch around the world declared “war” on the invisible Coronavirus enemy. Consequently, many governments have reacted by adopting far-reaching restrictive measures to combat the spread of the Coronavirus. These measures often infringe on a host of fundamental human rights (such as liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom of occupation, and privacy) and raise rule-of-law qualms. These measures are mostly adopted through executive orders, governmental decrees, emergency regulations and so forth – all being legal norms that are made by the executive branch, bypassing the traditional legislative process by parliaments. This raises crucial questions about the power of the executive and the role of the legislative branch in overseeing this power. It raises vital questions to the wellbeing of democracy itself during the Coronavirus crisis.”

What were the main findings of his comparative survey which covered 26 countries? These can be summarised as follows:

  • In all the surveyed countries it was taken for granted that the government cannot shut down parliament or determine its mode of operation. It was agreed that it was up to the parliament to determine its operation during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The majority of responses received was that parliament must continue to operate throughout the Coronavirus crisis. Indeed, most surveyed parliaments (22 out of 26) continue to operate.
  • This is true even for Italy – the country that has so far been most ravaged by the Coronavirus, and whose death toll surpassed the death toll in China.
  • This is also true despite the fact that in several of these parliaments, such as in France, the UK and the US, several MPs and ministers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus).
  • In the four exceptions to the general trend, even in parliaments that closed their session or suspended their activity, this has always been a decision made the parliament (rather than the executive), and usually at least some legislative oversight was maintained. For example, in Lithuania, Parliament has closed until April 7, but plenary meetings and committees on urgent issues are held; and in Slovenia parliamentary activity was generally deferred, but the National Assembly will hold meetings about exceptional cases.
  • Of the legislatures that continue to operate, there appear to be two models: some legislatures (such as in the US, UK, and South Korea) continue as usual with their regular mode of operation; whereas others have modified their operation with such modification becoming more common even in some of the parliaments who have made no changes to date.
  • One of the common modifications includes a reduced number of meetings and changes to the parliamentary agenda, focusing on the Coronavirus and other necessary and urgent issues, while postponing less immediate issues.
  • Another common modification is finding various means to limit the number of MPs attending a sitting while maintaining the minimal quorum rules and keeping the proportional representation according to the relative size of the parties.
  • Additional modifications include videoconferencing and other technological solutions to avoid or minimize physical presence (albeit in some parliaments this is still considered problematic given quorum rules that require a physical presence).

Conclusion

Given the international experience, the critical importance of the legislative branch exercising oversight over the concentration of power in the executive during the COVID-19 pandemic and the danger signs already seen locally of the possible abuse of such power; serious and critical questions must be asked of the lack of action by the South African Parliament and our elected representatives to date to ensure real and effective oversight.

In her recent article Now is not the time to suspend parliamentary oversight Samantha Waterhouse asks pertinent questions following the 5 April media statement of Parliament. These include on what basis will the legislature call the executive into account during the period, there may be many opinions on what’s reasonable during a crisis situation so what should the limits be on executive decision-making, what the requirements for seeking legislative go-ahead should be beforehand, or reporting on decisions taken after, during the disaster period?

She rightfully concludes that the work of the past two decades to promote an accessible, strong and independent legislature must be increased, not relaxed at this time. The question remains if the South African Parliament will be equal to the tasks and if our elected representatives will stand up for us the ordinary citizens, to keep in check the extraordinary powers accumulated in the executive in this moment of crisis. Only time will tell.

Postscript

This article dealt mainly with oversight by the legislative and judiciary branches of government over the executive in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The media and civil society similarly have a key role to play in this regard and their efforts should be welcomed and supported. Given the role of the media, two recent incidents are of concern – the media being barred from entering a courtroom in a COVID-19 related case and a journalist being shot at when covering police action and subsequently being mocked when reporting the incident.

The following are additional links that will be useful in considering the topic of this article:

The rule of law in times of crisis: COVID-19 and the state of disaster 

Ensuring citizen oversight in Kenya during the COVID-19 pandemic 

What does a COVID-19 national state of disaster mean for rights? 

Ipid investigates 21 complaints of murder, rape and assault against cops during the lockdown 

Concerning lack of parliamentary oversight – DA 

COVID-19: Contact Parliamentary Committees and MPs about government’s actions and response

Opinion: Fear and policing in the time of COVID-19

Security forces are waging war on our constitutional democracy

 

 

Ratshikuni, the SS Mendi and “Psyche of Whites”

Every year on 21 February, the day before my birthday, I post on Facebook about the tragic story of the SS Mendi that sank on this day in 1917 in the channel between Britain and France killing 647 men, mostly members of the South African Native Labour Corps (SANLC).

The Mendi carried five officers, 17 non-commissioned officers and 806 members of the fifth battalion of the newly formed SANLC together with a crew of 33 members (total of 861 persons). The South African Native Labour Corps was one of a number of foreign Labour Corps enlisted to provide manual labour at the front during World War 1. Even though the men had been non-combatants, their duty had been critical for the success of the fighting soldiers, something borne out by the acknowledgement of the importance of logistics not just in war but also by the corporate world today.

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The story of the SS Mendi has personal import for me as one of my ancestors, Lieutenant Hendrik Lawrence Jansen van Vuren, was one of the officers that served on the Mendi. He survived the accident and went on to serve with the Corps in France. At the official hearing into the incident held in July 1917 he provided a sworn statement and therein stated how after the Darro struck the Mendi, the surviving men (estimated to be 750 persons out of the 861 onboard the ship) gathered orderly and patiently on the deck standing at attention.

In an article in Politicsweb on 3 February 2020, Mugabe Ratshikuni, an activist working for the Gauteng Provincial Government wrote an article titled The psyche of whites wherein he also recounts the story of the SS Mendi but this time as a prime example of how, in his opinion, white South Africans has since the dawn of the previous century until today not appreciated the suffering of Black people.

In the article, he makes the following statements to underscore his point that until “we deal with this white psyche; the Rainbow Nation will remain a pipe dream”:

“The book, titled Black Sacrifice: The Sinking of the S.S Mendi 1917, is an insightful and thought-provoking reflection on the unacknowledged, uncompensated, overlooked sacrifices of non-combatant black labouring assistants (my emphasis) who tragically died on their way to propping up the British War effort in Europe during World War 1 when the ship they were travelling on, the S.S Mendi sank in the English Channel on February 21, 1917.”

“They were made to just disappear into nothingness, as if their lives, their sacrifices meant nothing.”

“The unacknowledged, unrecognised sacrifices of those black people that lost their lives on the S.S Mendi, whilst seeking to defend an empire that did not value them, are a microcosmic reflection of the unacknowledged, unrecognised, overlooked blood, sweat, toil and tears of the black South African majority.”

“….when reading the story of the S.S Mendi and the black lives lost without any recognition or reward, one is actually reading a story that is the quintessential South African story, a story of unappreciated black sacrifice towards the advancement of white interests.”

“White South Africans expect blacks to just move on and forget the past with its present day implications, because for them unacknowledged black sacrifice is the norm….”

Ratshikuni sees in the story of the SS Mendi what he alleges a microcosmic and prototypical attitude of all white people, but what he, however, fails to mention is the following important considerations and facts surrounding the SS Mendi:

In March 1917 the South African Parliament unanimously accepted a motion of sympathy and condolences to the families of the men that lost their lives in this tragic incident. Speaking at the time Prime Minister Botha, an Afrikaner, had the following to say:

“I do not think it is necessary to say anything further, excepting this: If we have ever lived in times when the native people of South Africa have shown great and true loyalty it is in times like the present. (Hear, hear.) Ever since the war broke out the natives have done everything possible to help, where such was possible, in the struggle without ever doing that which was in conflict with their loyalty to the flag and the King. Nearly all my life long I have had to do with the native question, but I have never experienced a time when the native has displayed greater tact and greater loyalty than they have done in the difficult and dark days through which we are now going.

It has never happened in the history of South Africa, Mr Speaker, that in one moment, by one fell swoop, such a lot of people have perished, and, Mr Speaker, I think that where people have died in the way they have done, it is our duty to remember that they have come forward of their own accord, of their own free will, and that they have said: “If we can help we will do so, even if we have to show our loyalty by working with our hands.” (Hear, hear.) They insisted on going, and I think, Mr Speaker, they deserve every credit for the good work they have done. These people said: “This war is raging, and we want to help”, and, in doing so, they have shown their loyalty to their flag, their King and their country, and what they have done will redound to their everlasting credit.”

The government of the day also allocated a gratuity of 50 Pounds to the next of kin of each man lost, which is a considerable amount as it was close to a year’s income for the average black South African at the time.

Newspapers at the time described the tragedy with phrases such as “they died to set us free” and “those who died by drowning had given their lives for the liberty of all people of the Empire”.

What he also fails to mention is that the SANCL sacrifice was later acknowledged by a monument in France at Arques-la-Bataille and that the names of the deceased were recorded at the Holybrook Memorial in Southampton. Smaller memorials were also erected in Mthatha, Langa, Soweto and the University of the Cape Town. In 1986 even the National Party government recognised their contribution by fixing a bronze plaque depicting the sinking of the Mendi to the South African Delville Wood Memorial.

A Mendi Memorial Club was founded in 1919 with the support of some White South Africans and foreigners with the aim of keeping alive the memory of the ship and the troops. The tragic event was commemorated annually until the early 1980s when progressive black leaders started to feel uncomfortable with the memory of black soldiers participating in a white man’s war. Black soldiers who had fought in both world wars were seen as sellouts and the commemorations were dropped.

In the 1990s the ANC rediscovered the Mendi with a vengeance and it became a symbol of heroism for the ANC. Professor Albert Grundlingh of the University of Stellenbosch argues that “the ANC appropriated the SS Mendi post-apartheid, perhaps because the organisation has a weak military history. Its military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, was known for armed propaganda rather than armed engagement”.

It is therefore clear that the fallen soldiers of the SS Mendi are anything but the unacknowledged or unrecognised as alleged by Ratshikuni and that their sacrifice meant nothing. Is this oversight on his part perhaps because of the current black psyche at play which argues that nothing good at all happened in the South Africa of old prior to the current democratic political dispensation?

To illustrate why I argue so another example close to me personally. I’m busy writing a book about the township Muniseville near Krugersdorp where I worked at in the late 1980s. The township is named after the then white Chief Medical Officer of the Krugersdorp Municipal Council, Mr James Munsie who played a key role in the early 1940s to convince the Council to establish the new township.

In appreciation for this, a Special Committee of the relocated residents sent a handwritten petition in 1941 to the Krugersdorp Town Clerk recommending that Mr Munsie is honoured for choosing “……such a healthy and beautiful site for the situation of the new location”.

The petition read as follows:

“As a sign of the profound love and respect with which the community regard Mr Munsie, it was unanimously decided by the committee to make the following petition to the Council – (1) That the Council should be requested to alter the name of the New Location to Munsieville as a lasting memory of Mr Munsie as is done in other municipalities and (2) That the Council should be requested to extend Mr Munsie’s period of service for a few more years pending these difficult times if possible”.

The Council agreed to this request. In her 2006 doctoral thesis on Munsieville, Stevenson mentions that when in 2001 she asked the current residents of Munsieville about this honour bestowed on James Munsie people laughed and rolled their eyes and shook their heads saying, “there was no choice.” I personally however firmly believe that at the time and given the hardships that they had to endure, the then residents of the new township were heartfelt in their appreciation.

The request was made by a Special Committee who was unanimous in their decision pointing to an honest and sincere wish to honour James Munsie without any undue pressure. For me, it’s more a point of the current residents of Munsieville not being able to, given the discrimination that they experienced under white National Party rule after 1948, appreciate that back in the early 1940’s it was possible for black people to appreciate anything done for them by a white person. It’s like there is a belief in the black psyche today that all race relations at that time were centered upon animosity and conflict.

To conclude, therefore, it is important that our history be reflected upon accurately especially when it used to cast aspersions on the character of any of the groups making up our wonderful nation. I sincerely hope that Mr Ratshikuni will in future contributions be mindful of this important consideration.

Invoking Mandela to plead for the vote of the Afrikaner

At the time of the 2016 municipal elections, I wrote a contribution The ANC’s dismal attempt, filled with irony, at wooing Afrikaans speaking voters , on the then President Zuma’s futile attempt to attract White voters to vote for the ANC in an English radio advert flighted on the Afrikaans radio station, Radio Sonder Grense (RSG). In the article I pointed out seven ironies of the ANC’s attempt, including that in doing so they, as a supposedly non-racial party, blatantly played the race card. I remarked as follows at the time:

“….maybe the ANC don’t actually need the White votes because they are still generally expected to come out tops this year despite the growing electoral threat of the DA and the ANC’s own stepchild, the EFF. But maybe not in this year’s local government election, but highly possible in the next national election the ANC might just desperately need each and every White or Coloured Afrikaans speaking voter it can lay its hands on just to stay in power.”

Well, it’s clear that time has come that the ANC will need the vote of as many minority voters as is possible. It’s evident when one reads in an article White voters may rescue the ANC, the party’s barely contained excitement that White voters might just save their bacon in Gauteng. This when the expected % of White voters who will vote for the party in Gauteng is estimated to be a paltry 8% as if that is significant in itself, rather than that the said 8% might enable the ANC to just hold on to their majority in Gauteng.

“We have never had [such high support among white voters], even during the Mandela years,” David Makhura, the current Gauteng Premier is quoted as saying.

It is also clear that its desperate times for the ruling party when reading an article An opportunity for Afrikaners to have a Mandela moment by ANC Member of Parliament, Nick Koornhof, which article is based on a speech he recently delivered in Parliament. In his speech Koornhof pleads with Afrikaners to give at least one of their votes to the ANC in the upcoming election and that this will represents the magic “Mandela moment” for Afrikaners, in that it will strengthen Presidents Ramaphosa’s hand against the forces of populism. 

In an A counter appeal to Afrikaners, Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg highlights the following further ironies in this latest attempt by the ANC’s Nick Koornhof to woo Afrikaner voters in that:

  • The appeal is (again) made in English,  the language that the ANC insists on forcing upon all South Africans as lingua franca, regardless of any personal preference they might have.
  • A significant portion of the forces that oppose Ramaphosa in his attempts at positive change is coming from within the ANC itself and that the “forces of populism” that Koornhof believes Ramaphosa needs to resist are therefore largely present inside the ANC itself.
  • Both President Rampahosa and Nick Koornof sat by idly when at least six votes of no confidence in former President Zuma failed, so why should the Afrikaner voter now trust that under the Ramaphosa things will be different in the ANC? 

I wonder if Nick Koornhof realizes that when he says the Afrikaner must join the fight against the tide of populism, that a blind vote of faith for Ramaphosa’s ANC, will place the whole country just one heartbeat away from a possible populist David Mabuza Presidency with Ace Magashule as his Deputy. 

But even so, I’m personally willing to give due consideration to Nick Koornhof’s plea. He says that he speaks as a member of the minority Afrikaner community and as such my possible support, and I suspect that many other reasonable and patriotic Afrikaners, requires his unequivocal pledge and/or guarantees in respect of the following key considerations for the future of our constitutional democracy:

  1. That the ANC abandon its stated aim of achieving a National Democratic Revolution (NDR), which is nothing than a blueprint to move the country slowly down a failed path of more and more socialism (and stop their admiration for failed states like Venezuela).
  2. That the ANC respect all private property and abandon the notion of “expropriation without compensation” and rather accelerate land reform within the current legal framework aimed at addressing the wrongs of the past.
  3. That the ANC desist from nationalising the public Health Care sector through the National Health Insurance, and rather focus on fixing the ailing existing public health care system, thereby ensuring health care for all.
  4. That the ANC respect the independence of the Reserve Bank and not make any moves to nationalise it in any shape or form.
  5. That all legislation based on outdated racial classifications like the Employment Equity Act and many others be replaced with legislation that doesn’t use race a the proxy for disadvantage, but rather real measurable actual disadvantage that’s not based on the race of a person.
  6. That a sunset clause be placed on all Affirmative Action measures that will free all born free South Africans (those born after 1994) from the burden of having to pay for the sins of their fathers and enable them to compete on an equal opportunity basis, as opposed to an equality of outcome basis, with their fellow countrymen and women in all spheres of life.
  7. That the ANC pro-actively advance mother tongue education at primary education level and acknowledge the right of children to be taught in their mother tongue in line with international best practice.
  8. That the ANC in line with Mandela’s stated view acknowledge the need for at least one Afrikaans University in the Western Cape where the majority of citizens speaks Afrikaans as their first language.
  9. That the ANC do away with all those restrive labour laws that hinder rather than facilitate job creation and that place an undue administrative burden on mainly small businesses. 
  10. That the ANC fixes the mess at all the State Owned Enterprises and especially Eskom as a matter of urgency.

I think the aforementioned are all reasonable requests that require serious consideration. My gut feeling however says that any one of the above let alone all of them, even though clearly in the best interest of South Africa, will be a bridge too far for the ANC.

Please proof me wrong Nick Koornhof and you might just get my vote and that of many Afrikaners. The ball is in your and your party’s court.

 

 

Destroying the new and the old: The removal of a mural at the Durban Botanic Gardens depicting South Africa’s transition from Apartheid to Democracy

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The Durban Botanical Gardens was established in 1849 and is the oldest botanical garden in Africa. The Botanic Gardens curates major collections such as cycads, palms and orchids and, in the true tradition of botanic gardens, is several gardens within one.

The Durban Botanic Gardens Trust runs the Botanical Gardens.  The Trust is an independent and discretionary Trust, established in 1993 to support the Botanic Gardens with various maintenance and development projects including projects with a focus on education, biodiversity, heritage, horticulture, research and people, plants and culture.

This week a mural reflecting South Africa’s old and new flags was removed from the Durban Botanical Gardens after the Ethekwini Municipality received complaints that it was offensive and provocative. I have written before about the desirability of banning the old South African flag or not. In my view, a ban will be counterproductive. However, I understand the association of the old flag with Apartheid and I, therefore, personally discourages people from displaying it in public, other than for historical or artistic purposes.

The following newspaper article covered the removal of the mural:

Old SA flag removed from Durban Botanic Gardens

I live in Durban and visits the Botanical Gardens often. It’s a place of tranquillity and reflection, and it often hosts music concerts and other events. Many many people have therefore since it had been put up twenty years ago, walked past the mural at the entrance to the Gardens witnessing its magical transition from the old flag to the beautiful new South African flag. A powerful symbol of transition from the old to the new and symbolising change and renewal. Walking from the other side past the mural and towards the exit of the Botanic Gardens, only the new South African flag is visible unless one looked consciously back over your shoulder to then view the old South African flag. The artist producing the mural created this effect to symbolise the need to look forward rather than backward to a South Africa that belongs to all, Black and White.

Sadly because of a few complaints and the random act by an administrative functionary, Mr. Thembokosi Ngcobo who is the Head: Parks, Recreation and Culture at the Ethewkini Municipality, this beautiful mural is now lost forever depriving patrons and visitors to the Botanic Gardens of its powerful message and symbolism. He instructed that the mural be removed, and this was done in a matter of a day. On Twitter, he describes himself as a seasoned public administrator and political activist who tweeted the following after the mural was removed.

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At the time of the complaints from a few people on Twitter about the mural, the Durban Botanical Gardens tweeted as follows about the history and background to the mural on display, which reveals that the mural was commissioned by the Ethekwini Municipality itself and one of its Public Museums, the KwaMuhle Museum. Mr. Ngcobo therefore not only destroyed something commissioned by his employer namely the Ethekwini Municipality but he did so without obtaining permission from the Municipal Council to do so!

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The random act of Mr. Ngobo raises many serious questions that require answers from him and the Ethekwini Municipality. These are the following:

  • How can an appointed municipal official usurp the power to take what I suspect is in effect an illegal decision, without due process and consultation and that without anybody even batting an eyelid?
  • What evidence does Mr. Ncogo, have to say that municipal protocol was not followed when the mural was put up 20 years ago, especially seeing that the Tweet from the Botanical Gardens indicate that the Ethewkini Municipality itself commissioned it?
  • Were the Trust of the Botanical Gardens consulted on the matter? Looks like not because the IOL article linked above quotes an anonymous employee who says they received an instruction from the Municipality to remove it.
  • What about the patrons of the Botanical Gardens? Were they consulted or don’t they have a say in the matter?
  • What about the person who created the mural? Was he/she consulted and what about the irreparable damage done to his/her intellectual and artistic property?
  • Was the matter submitted to the Ethekwini Metro Council for a decision? Clearly not given the timeline involved.

This act is a clear example of abuse of power by an official who I suspect did not have the necessary authority or delegation to do so. It speaks to how most senior officials at municipalities these days are beholden to the political ideology of the ruling political party, rather than serving impartially all the citizens at large and without fear or favour.

My municipal career started back in the Apartheid days and functionaries of those times are often unfairly accused of having been dictatorial or not following due process. I worked for some 18 years at municipalities in a senior management capacity, and remember, for example, the hoops the Margate Borough and I as its Corporate Service Manager had to jump through to obtain the necessary permission to demolish the old Margate town hall to make space for much needed public parking. It took months of applications to bodies like the Heritage Council and consultation with the public. No usurping of power to do what we thought was in the public interest. We followed the due process in the interest of transparency and proper governance.

Given the wide definition of property in our Constitution, this act is but one example of how as citizens we can be robbed of it without compensation if the Constitution is amended as the African National Congress is planning to do. Let this serve as a warning to us all.

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Verwoerd, Malan & a case of Aggravated Assault – Part 1 (Malan & the Boys of Bird Island)

Chris-Steyn-Mark-Minnie-The-Lost-Boys-of-Bird-Island

This post is the first of a number of planned contributions all under the heading Verwoerd, Malan and a case of Aggravated Assault detailing incidents within two weeks, which had a dramatic impact on my life.

Part 1 will deal with the book “The Lost Boys of Bird Island” and a chapter in it that brings the credibility of one of the book’s authors, Mark Minnie, into question. I immediately bought the book upon release and finished reading it within one day. The accusations made therein of the involvement of at least three National Party (NP) Ministers (one of which the authors don’t name in the book based on legal advice received but which clearly reference Barend du Plessis) are indeed serious and warrants further investigation. I, however, found it a difficult book to read in that it jumps between the two author’s input sometimes without context and mostly without dates. It further contains no bibliography or endnotes, and it is therefore not possible to independently verify the respective stories of the two authors.

Even when the authors quote sources like actual articles published in “The Huisgenoot” or “Playboy SA” these are not referenced by the authors. The book is, in my view, therefore premised mostly on hearsay. Many an anonymous source are quoted but seldom are the identity of these contributors revealed. In one particularly striking paragraph (see postscript 1 below), a matter is stated as a fact followed only a few words later with the words apparently!

Because of the above, I remain rather skeptical of the main claims made in the book, but I’m open to being convinced otherwise by hard facts. That something was amiss and that Dave Allen, and possibly even John Wiley, had a case to answer for what happened at the time is clear, but the book contains no verifiable facts that any other NP Minister were also involved.

In chapter 22 of the book, Minnie writes about a search conducted of an Inkhata Hostel, which the later chapter 24 places within the timeframe of 1988/89. Upon reading this chapter, the hair on my arms stood up because what he describes in it, I experienced first-hand in a search on an Inkhata hostel as an army camp conscript, the only problem being that this search took place in 1991 and not 1988/89.

The following is what Minnie writes in chapter 22 about the search of the Inkhata Hostel that according to the timeline of the book took place in 1988/89:

“The next evening some serious brass are hanging around the parade ground. These are genuinely high-ranking dudes – colonels and brigadiers. Castles and stars line the epaulets of their uniforms. The briefing brings everything to light, and I’m not amused.

We’re going to move into a hostel occupied by miners who support the Inkatha Freedom Party. The government uses Inkatha fighters in a clandestine way to attack ANC supporters, all in an attempt to weaken and derail the liberation movement. Money and weapons are channeled to Inkatha to assist them in destabilising their perceived ‘foe’.

Now we’re commanded to conduct a search of the compound. Why? They’re meant to be our allies, these Inkatha guys. It’s all politics, I guess. We move out in convoy style. Very impressive – until we reach the hostel. Waiting to greet us in full battle dress are more than a thousand impis, Zulu warriors armed with traditional assegais and shields. They heard that we were coming and are now demonstrating that they disapprove of our entering the compound.

It’s a Mexican stand-off. Some Inkatha leaders and our top brass begin exchanging words in no-man’s-land. Zulu warriors assume their traditional battle crouch and raise their spears, shields covering their torsos. Chanting begins. Cops are on edge, fingers on triggers. Rifles at the ready, we’re waiting for the command that will surely unleash untold bloodshed. There can be only one winner.

Eventually, the discussion between leaders comes to an end. The Inkatha guys allow us to enter the hostel. We search for hours and find nothing – no guns, not even a little bit of marijuana. All’s well that ends well. We depart, both sides happy.

What a load of bullshit, I think to myself. The Inkatha fighters knew we were coming. That’s why there was nothing to find. It was all just a show to prove to the ANC that it’s not only their compounds that get searched. A sham display that allows local politicians to score some brownie points in the outside world.”

Compare the aforementioned to the following chapter in the unfinished manuscript of a book that I started writing way back in 2008 about my experiences in the Munsieville Township outside of Krugersdorp, where I worked as Municipal Manager from 1987 to 1992:

“Doing an army camp

I was unofficially exempted from doing any army camps while working in Munsieville. The argument was that I was doing my bit by working in a township and that to call me up would serve no purpose. When receiving call-up papers for a camp, all I had to do was to defer to the Colonel of Witwatersrand Command, and he would release me officially from doing the camp.

One late Friday in 1991 call-up papers arrived for a weekend army camp. I tried to get hold of the Colonel, but he was not available. It was only a weekend camp, and I reported for duty at Doornkop outside of Soweto. At the time violence flared in most hostels with migrant Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP) workers clashing violently with the ANC aligned comrades in the townships. Munsieville was fortunately spared from this type of violence as it had no hostel within its borders.

It was clear that something major was up as many high-ranking army officers were in attendance. While cleaning our R4-rifles, we were briefed about the purpose of our mission. We were told that President FW de Klerk lost his patience with the violence emanating from the hostels and decided to take decisive action to rid them of dangerous elements responsible for the violence and weapons.

One such hostel was George Goch situated in City Deep not far from the famous Ellis Park rugby stadium where the Springboks won the 1995 World Cup final. The hostel was named after the 1904/5 Mayor of Johannesburg and was built to accommodate mainly Zulu speaking migrants who worked on the mines of the Reef.

Our task was to form a protective cordon around the hostel, with the South African Police being deployed at the same time to enter and search the hostel for criminals and dangerous weapons. I noticed that the Friday fell on a month-end payday and had reservations about the feasibility of the operation given this circumstance but only being a ‘troepie’ (ordinary soldier) doing camp duty I kept my concerns to myself.

We were deployed in the early hours of Saturday morning, but unlike planned, the SAP members arrived an hour late. As we deployed, I noticed that most of the hostel’s residents were still awake and in party mood having used their meager income to purchase and consume booze. When the hostel residents noticed the army deploying, and in the absence of the SAP entering and searching the hostel, the mood turned nasty, and they started barricading the entrance to the hostel.

The Police eventually arrived. Tires where set alight and a tense standoff ensued. All the while the army kept the cordon around the hostel whilst the Police started negotiating with the residents to end their barricade. In what was my only army action I placed under arrest two residents who tried to flee the hostel during the siege.

After a further two to three hours, the operation was called off as a total failure, and the police went their way, and we retreated to the Doornkop army base where we were demobilised and released from any further camp duty. Great was my wife’s surprise when I woke her up on the Saturday morning in our Krugersdorp house with a cup of coffee as she expected me back only late on Sunday.”

The similarities between the two descriptions are striking, and in my mind, there is very little doubt that we are talking about one and the same incident which most definitely took place in 1991 and not 1988/89 as per the book. The only difference is that as a member of the army, I know why the Inkhata hostel residents knew that the police were coming and that’s because the SAP botched the operation and arrived an hour late and after the army already surrounded the hostel.

Apart from the similarities between the two incidents, there are other compelling reasons why the search could only have taken place post-1990 and therefore not in 1988/89 as alleged. The African National Congress (ANC) was disbanded on 2 February 1990, and there was no reason for the then NP government to try and please the ANC before 1990 and specifically in 1988/89 as alleged by Minnie. The ANC also only started to put pressure on de Klerks NP government to disarm Inkhata members from 1991/92 onwards, which calls reached a crescendo following what has become known as the Boipatong Massacre on 17 June 1992.

Minnie follows chapter 22 up with incidents described in chapters 23 and 24, claiming that he and his girlfriend were the targets of the Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) to get rid of them both, without any evidence and therefore merely speculation. In chapter 25 he writes of his return to Port Elizabeth upon his request, and a conversation with his commanding officer in which the Brigadier said the following:

“It’s on good authority I’ve been told that they want you out, Max. At least for a while. People are nervous. Hell’s bells, son, you know what I’m getting at. The president of the country is actively involved in keeping this story under wraps. You need to understand the seriousness of this situation.’ He tells me that a scandal of this nature would rip the National Party apart.

The Progressive Federal Party is making great strides in unseating the Nats, and impropriety of this magnitude could tip the scale in favour of the PFP in the next election. And apart from that, there is the disgraceful depravity of it all. That these powerful men who claim to be protecting the country are child rapists shatters the illusion of their superiority.”

The above and the specific reference to the Progressive Federal Party (PFP)  sets the events of chapters 23 to 25 squarely in the 1988/89 timeframe as the PFP was dissolved in April 1989 when they merged with a few other parties to form the Democratic Party (DP), the forerunner of the current official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).

In an article in the Daily Maverick on 23 August 2018 titled Secrets, lies, cover-ups everywhere – here are some of the facts surrounding the entire sordid saga Marianne Thamm writes as follows:

“The allegations, should they ever have been made public, would either have sounded the death knell to the apartheid state or considerably weakened its credibility and hold over the white minority, especially in an election year. The revelations would also no doubt have changed or affected the trajectory of South Africa’s political future and the survival of the National Party itself.

 The National Party, on 30 January 1987, had announced a whites-only general election to be held on 6 May. March 1987, when the docket was stolen from Minnie’s office in Port Elizabeth on the instruction of PW Botha (as has been confirmed by a former colonel in the South African police to Rapport’s Herman Jansen) was the same month the National Party was due to announce its list of candidates. The then Minister of Environmental Affairs, John Wiley, had hoped to appear on that list.

Wiley “committed suicide” on 29 March 1987 after an hour-long telephonic conversation with PW Botha the night before. The previous month, Wiley’s close friend, PE businessman and diver, Dave Allen, who had scored a highly lucrative Bird Island guano concession (which would have been approved by Wiley), “committed suicide” after Minnie had arrested him on charges of sexually assaulting minors (as the charge was at the time) and for the possession of pornography.”

The above narrative explains the importance of placing the search of the Inkhata hostel and the alleged attempt on the life of Minnie and his girlfriend also within the timeframe of 1987 to 1989 as opposed to 1991. As I, however, explained above the search definitely only took place in 1991 and I’m willing to subject myself to a lie detector, so confident am I of the facts.

The question arises, therefore, why Minnie wanted to assert that the search on the Inkhata hostel had taken place in 1988/89 as well as how this affects his overall credibility and what’s alleged in the book? Perhaps he simply misjudged himself with the actual dates, but I highly doubt this.

I can only guess, but strongly suspect that the search and subsequent alleged assault on his life and that of his girlfriend only fits into the rest of the events as described in the book if these took place in 1988/89. This assertion is further borne out by the emphasis placed by Marianne Thamm on the period of 1987 to 1989 as being central to the theme of the book and all the events described therein.

If the events happened later namely in 1991 and not 1988/89 then –

  • Minnie’s transfer to the Soweto riot unit had nothing to do with the Bird Island investigation he had been working on in 1987 to 1989, but was purely for operational police reasons given that the political unrest was at its highest in the Soweto area in 1991/92,
  • Then the claims of an assault on his life were just one of a multitude of incidents where militants shot at police officers in Soweto in the early 1990s,
  • Then the incident where his girlfriend’s car had caught fire was because it was a very old model as described by Minnie himself in the book, and
  • Then his return to Port Elizabeth was simply a routine police transfer based on Minnie’s request.

The above raises serious doubts about Minnie’s credibility and what he and the other author, Chris Steyn, alleges happened in the book, however, for me, this is but one of many important unanswered questions that remain about the validity of the allegations in the book. Steyn in her 2006 book “Published and be Damned” already made most of the allegations contained in the new book, but she did not name Malan nor du Plessis. By 2006 nearly 20 years have already elapsed after the alleged sexual assault yet none of the victims came forward then. Why also the reluctance to publish the name of Barend du Plessis if the two authors are so confident of the allegations made in the book. Another critical question to ask is why nobody is calling for the arrest of the twin brothers who raped Minnie in his youth. He clearly describes the incident and even names his two attackers and the other people present at the time the incident happened.

When I first posted on Facebook what I knew about the 1991 search of the George Goch hostel, some people attacked me and called me a racist, others claimed that I’m on the payroll of members loyal to the former South African Defence Force (SADF) and a well-known feminist that all that I ever do is to defend white people and specifically white males as I believe that white people can’t do anything wrong! This when all I’m after is the truth in this sordid affair, even if this might prove me wrong in the end.

In the next post, I will write about an attack on my Dad and Stepmother a week or so ago and which left them seriously injured and traumatized. I’m seeking answers to the question why this vicious attack, and many others that are happening regularly, can’t be viewed as a hate crime when an incident like the coffin case received widespread attention and condemnation as being racists in nature. In the post after that, I will write about my role in exposing the fake radio advert of the Apartheid Museum which earned the producers TBWA Hunter Lascaris a Loerie award.

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Postscript 1: Contradictory statement in chapter 28 of the book – “Contributing to the success of the cover-up was the fact that some of the original state documents and files on the case were apparently among the countless papers deliberately destroyed in the run-up to the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.”

Postscript 2: Some of those that criticised me on Facebook pointed out that the police also conducted searches of hostels in the townships before 1990. That is, of course, true but the searches then had a crime-prevention focus rather than a specific overriding political goal like the search in 1991 that I describe herein, searches done before 1990 would not have been done to please or pacify the ANC or the outside world as per Minnie (….scoring “brownie points in the outside world”), these searches did not involve a large number of high-ranking officers of the army and/or the police other than those who commanded the search operation, and the police before 1990 would have been more careful to not target only specific Inkhata hostels. Also, such criticism does not address the many similarities between what Minnie describe in the book and the hostel search I was involved in, in 1991.

Postscript 3: For those that might feel that I’m insensitive to the family of Mark Minnie following his apparent suicide that is still under investigation, I specifically held back a week or so in finishing and publishing this blog post out of respect for them. I also publically and on social media expressed my sympathy with the Minnie family and wished them God’s strength and guidance in these difficult times.

Postscript 4: I have forwarded a letter to the Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport setting out in summary format what I describe in this blog post, but they have to date failed to publish it. I have enquired from the editor Waldimar Pelser as to the reasons for the non-publication but is yet to receive any reply. It might be published in the said newspaper tomorrow, but I have nevertheless decided to go ahead with my blog post on the matter.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s Death: Time to Rediscover our Common History

The death of apartheid stalwart, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, laid bare the South African psyche and how much still must be done to heal the wounds of our troubled past. Troubled as it is, our past however presents at the same time, in my view, the ideal vehicle to build social cohesion that our society so clearly lacks.

https://www.news24.com/Columnists/Ralph_Mathekga/winnies-funeral-a-missed-opportunity-20180416 

Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg and in the above article Winnie’s funeral a missed opportunity he writes as follows:

“If there is any subject that brings out the differences in people, it has to be history.

Most conflicts in society are not about how to shape the future, but how to read the past and apportion responsibility. Religious conflicts that divide societies and have resulted in sustained conflicts such as the one we see in the Middle East are based on a historical account of the past. In this instance, religious convictions are largely a historical account of how our ancestors adopted religion and spirituality in their struggle for self-determination and survival in a hostile world characterised by good and evil.

Modern religious convictions are often a choice regarding which historical account of past events you believe, and the corresponding beliefs closely reflect one’s historical ancestry.

History is a window through which to look into the future. A nation that has a sense of a shared history, tend to develop a sense of common destiny. South Africans have conflicting versions of history. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s death has laid bare the fact that we do not agree on a common version of history for this country. In fact, the history of South Africa relating to the apartheid years and the struggle against the regime remains the most contested history and source of major differences in the country. 

Instead of using Mama Winnie’s passing as a moment to forge a common reflection on the glorious history of this country, including the courageous anti-apartheid struggle, South Africans resorted to desecrating that history by casting aspersions on the struggle role played by the giants such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.”

His words rings so true and that goes for White people’s understanding of the history and struggle of Black people but also just as much for Black people’s understanding of the history and struggle of White people.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/lets-stray-back-our-historic-laagers-solly-moeng/?published=t

In response to the above article Let’s not stray back in our historical laagers, I wrote as follows recently on Facebook when the author, Solly Moeng, asked for input on the question “How do we recover ourselves as a united, diverse nation, hold hands again and build together for a better shared future?”:

“…………The second aspect that will in my view make a tremendous difference is not to vilify the history of especially the Afrikaner as if it was all just bad as opposed to the all righteous struggle waged by mainly Black people. Fact is our troubled history is not always as clear cut as black vs white or good vs bad. It’s much more nuanced than that and it takes careful consideration to arrive at a fair, balanced and objective view.

The Afrikaner history for example is full of bad and evil, which we all know of and which will be to our eternal shame, but it’s just as much filled with struggle and patriotism. Struggle in overcoming prejudice by the British who saw Afrikaans speaking people as lesser human beings in the 1800’s, struggle in overcoming poverty when in the 1930’s one in three Afrikaner households were living in abject poverty, struggle in overcoming the trauma of losing thousands of men, women and children during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War in the cruelest circumstance etc. Patriotism in fighting for and securing South Africa’s independence in 1961 from British colonial rule, patriotism in realising the error of our ways and breaking from South Africa’s past of segregation by having the courage to vote overwhelmingly yes in the 1992 referendum for change etc.

Fact is we have a common history rather than an White/Afrikaans or Black/Zulu/Xhosa history and if we celebrate it together, and in the right way, it has the potential to unite us as a country, troubled as it may be. Just a small example to illustrate this – when I worked at one of the big 5 auditing firms, I had a consultant working with me Zwile Zulu, who comes from a Zulu Royal background. We one day discussed our common history and realized that in February 1838 his forefathers killed one of my 8th distant cousins, Stephanus Johannes van Vuuren, together with Piet Retief and all his other men. I indicated that five of my forefathers exacted revenge on Dingane in December 1838 for this at the battle of Bloedriver and probably in doing so killed some of his forefathers. Rather than indulging in a debate about who was right or who was wrong back in 1838, we rejoiced the fact that somewhere back in our history our forefather’s tracks did cross, bonding the two of us inexplicably and irretrievably together, Black and White. Does the same not apply to all who are citizens of this country?”

I must admit that I had mix feelings about the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. I worked in the townships of the then Witwatersrand and also the Munsieville township in the 1980’s where on 13 April 1986 (ironically a day before the date she would be buried exactly 32 years later) she said her by now infamous words “… Together hand-in-hand, with our boxes of matches and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country….”. A few days after her speech a township resident, Doctor Nakale Kgogome, suspected to be a police informer was dragged into an open area in Munsieville where he was set alight with a gasoline filled tyre around his neck. He died of his horrific injuries in hospital and this tragic event left an indelible mark on my consciousness.

Given the aforementioned, it was difficult for me personally to deal with the fawning adulation bestowed on Winnie Madikizela-Mandela following her death. At the same many so-called expose’s, documentaries and interviews came to the fore that added nothing new that was not already in the public domain, but which many and especially those in the EFF fold grabbed onto with their life, to erroneously show that Winnie’s has been misrepresented and that their was a conspiracy to defraud her legacy or even worse that she has been sold out by her comrades. This was a crude attempt at revisionist rewriting of history that went as far as to taint the role played by people such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu as highlighted by  Ralph Mathekga above, and even the reputation of of three respected journalists, Thandeka Gqubule, Anton Harber and Nomavenda Mathiane was called into question (in a rather weak apology the Huffington Post astonishingly said that “they felt the public would understand” and that it was “not making a literal accusation”).

In the end I however had to temper my own personal feelings about Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, by appreciating her role in the wider struggle to rid South Africa from Apartheid and what she meant, wrongly or rightly depending on each person’s own perspective, for so many South African’s. I took a lot of personal convincing for me to do so but in the end, just as in the example of me and Zwile Zulu mentioned above, I came to the realization that somewhere in my past, my path and that of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela crossed, and that this bonded the two of us inexplicably and irretrievably together as South Africans with a common history.

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2018-04-13-has-truth-become-a-casualty-of-winnies-rejection-of-accountability/ 

As Palesa Morudu, a publisher and writer based in Cape Town wrote in the above article  Has truth become a casualty of Winnie’s rejection of accountability?, I in the end also added my voice to those that prayed “May she rest in peace” and “Let us celebrate the glory of her legacy” but who also said lets at the same time “condemn its horrors”.

As Ralph Mathekga noted above a nation that has a sense of a shared history, tend to develop a sense of a common destiny. My wish is therefore for all South African’s to reconsider our common history, troubled as it may be, and what this history tells us it means to be a South African. That we all at the same time acknowledge the past hurt that we caused one another but also recognize that, at various points in our past people, of all races and backgrounds suffered. That we in doing so take off our lenses of prejudice and hatred, and attempts to score points by selectively quoting history, and that we look one another squarely in the eyes, saying that its our common history that binds us all together,  inexplicably and irretrievably, Black and White.

Postscript 1: I’m busy reading a fascinating book by Harry Booyens “AmaBhulu – The Birth and Death of the Second America”. In it he documents the birth of the Afrikaner nation, its struggles to find a home it can call its own in Africa just to be robbed of it every time by the British imperialists and the many interactions my forefathers had with the various African tribes. The book brings vividly to life the fact that many times in our troubled past the Afrikaner and the African tribes worked together for the common good and in many instances exchanged land for goods or assistance rendered which goes against the prevailing narrative the Whites always stole the land. I will therefore in a few posts to follow focus on these aspects namely the cooperation between Afrikaner and Black people throughout our history, the history of land occupation in Southern Africa and also highlight the extent to which the Afrikaner suffered under British imperialism and domination.

Postscript 2: I quoted above the second aspect that I thought would assist to recover ourselves as a united, diverse nation,  and to hold hands again and build together for a better shared future. The first aspect that I thought would make a big difference are the following as I worded it in my Facebook post:

“The first thing that will in my view make a tremendous contribution is to accept all South Africans as rightful citizens of our beautiful country and for our government to be unequivocal about it in all their messaging. For as long as the word settler or colonialist is being branded around, it will make a lot of people, including me, feel that we are not welcome in the country of our birth and make us to doubt the sincerity of our fellow South African’s. These utterances creates unnecessary breathing space for racists to come to the fore and spew hate.”