National General Council
Uprooting the Demon of Racism
1 July 2000
Further, identifying such possibilities and bringing them to the fore requires a corps of cadres skilled in the details of their specialised areas, but keenly appreciative of the broader strategic context.
The demon of racism has to be uprooted in its totality. It brutalizes entire peoples, destroys persons, warps the process of thought and injects into human society, a foul air of tension, mutual antagonism and hatred. It demeans and dehumanizes both victim and practitioner. (Racial Problems in South Africa. Speech by ANC President OR Tambo at the Second Pan-African Youth Seminar, Dar Es Salaam, August 1961)
The ANC in its January 8, 2000 statement said that “the challenge facing the 21st Century is the solution of the problem of the colour line. It will take our country a long time before it wipes out the apartheid legacy of racism. More than many other peoples in the world, we know the destructive impact of the ideology and practice of racism. We must intensify the struggle against racism for our evolution into a non-racial society as a central part of the historic mission of the ANC.”
This discussion paper therefore seeks to address our understanding of racism in a universal context (Section A); its evolution and manifestations in South Africa (Section B); the struggle against racism (Section C); the challenges of building a truly non-racial society (Section D) and the immediate programme to address these challenges. (Section E).
RACISM – ITS ORIGINS AND MANIFESTATIONS
Racism as a universal concept, has manifested itself as an ideology, that underpinned social, political and economic systems of oppression, exploitation and discrimination. Our starting point will therefore be to define ideology, which in its popular usage, refers above all to the realm of ideas.
There are a number of definitions, but we will use a definition that refers to ideology as a system of beliefs that seek to explain and ultimately to change the world in accordance with such beliefs. In its content, ideology is concerned with basic philosophical principles and the bases of political power. In its philosophical aspect it seeks to explain the key problems facing society (the nature of the self, the interaction between the self and the collective, the relation of persons to the natural environment, the nature of society, and the view of history).
Political ideology is concerned with questions such as the bases of political (and economic) power and the interpretation of equality and freedom.
Ideology therefore shapes the purposes and priorities of political action, helping the ruling class in power to gain acceptance for its policies or it can mobilise human efforts behind a cause, such as social equality or freedom from oppression.
As a system of belief, it is not merely a collection of pure ideas, but include feelings, likes, dislikes, hopes, fears etc. It also finds expression in the cultural institutions of a society and in fields such as history, religion, ethics, science, philosophy, literature, art, music and poetry.
The ideology of Racism and its manifestations in the world
Generally, racism refers to a system of belief that discriminates against people on the basis of certain physical attributes or origins. Popular usage also refers to situations in which people make social distinctions between members of groups, who look physically different, speak a different language, different religions/faiths or belong to separate nations.
The most socially harmful kinds of racism are those instances in which beliefs about racial differences and racial inequality are institutionalized, in other words, when they become part of a country’s laws and public life in such a fashion that people with certain ascribed racial identities are treated differently from people supposed to belong to other racial groups.
During the last few centuries its main manifestation has been as a system of belief that justified the subjugation and enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Asia and Africa by countries of Western Europe starting around 1500.
Of this stage Marx wrote:
“The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in the mines of the aboriginal’ population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black skins, signalled the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation.”
“The transformation of the individualized and scattered means of production into socially concentrated ones, of the pigmy property of the many into the huge property of the few, the expropriation of the great mass of the people from the soil, from the means of subsistence and from the means of labour, this fearful and painful expropriation of the mass of the people forms the prelude to the history of capital. It comprises a series – of forcible methods… The expropriation of the immediate producers was accomplished with merciless vandalism, and under the stimulus of passions the most infamous, the most sordid, the pettiest, the most meanly odious,” so wrote Marx.
Such indeed was the slave trade; such indeed was the expropriation of the African peasantry.’ [THE HISTORICAL INJUSTICE. Sechaba March 1979]
As a political ideology, it was therefore a component part and a reflection of exploitative social relations between the colonizers and the colonized, a form of expression of these relations and a means for their justification and perpetuation. It encompassed actual structural relations between the colonizers and the indigenous people, as well as cultural and psychological justifications and attitudes which sought to explain these structural relations.
It applied Darwinist notions of evolution and hierarchy to human races, with white people of European descent believing that they were at the top of the evolutionary scale.
It also used religion to morally justify this process of colonialism, with the maxim that ‘the chosen of God are those who are white.’ Martin Luther had said: “An earthly kingdom cannot exist without inequality of persons. Some must be free, others serfs, some rulers, others subjects.” As part of this worldwide movement, successive colonial governments and (since the Union of South Africa in 1910) white governments therefore practiced racism as an ideology – as a political programme that included conquering the indigenous peoples by force through numerous wars of dispossession, their subjugation as second class citizens and as a reservoir of cheap labour under colonial and later apartheid rule.
Institutionalized racism became an overt part of the apartheid ideology as espoused by the National Party after 1948, when they consolidated colonial power relations, and – like Nazi Germany – consciously engineered political, social and economic life around concepts of racial and ethnic identities.
South Africa was not the only modern institutionalized racist state. Australia’s immigration laws until the 1970’s restricted the immigration of Africans and Asians: ”Keeping Australia white’ and denied the Aboriginal population certain civic rights and economic opportunities. In most former European colonies, the indigenous populous were given full political, social and economic status only after protracted anti-colonial and national liberation struggles.
Racism and ethnic oppression are essentially two sides of the same coin and manifested during twentieth century as the crime against humanity committed against the Jewish people by Nazi Germany and the genocidal killings in Rwanda and Burundi. Hence, at the historic conference Pan African Congress which brought together Africans from the African continent, the United Sates and the Caribbean, the call was made: The problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the colour line!
THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONTEXT OF RACISM
Colonial conquest and subjugation
To understand racism in South Africa, one needs to understand the evolution of its economic basis, its class and social character.
From the first settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 and for the next two centuries, an ideology based on racial prejudice came to sustain the trading interests of Dutch and later British merchants. Inequality between blacks and whites stemmed from the pressing need of European settlers who were producing agricultural products for the world market, to exploit the labour of the indigenous population.
The indigenous peoples were commonly referred to as the ‘Hottentots’ and ‘kaffirs’. They were described to be living a ‘savage life’ – wild, uncivilized, ‘uncultured’, ‘rude’, ‘untamed’, ‘barbaric’, etc. This served as a justification for the subjugation of the indigenous people and once integrated into the colonies, their second class status. At the same time, the life of Europeans was validated as ‘the civilized way of life’.
At this time, indigenous people saw no need to work for others and leave their viable independent societies. Settlers were obligated to import labour from the slave markets of Asia and West Africa. But as soon as the settlers were powerful enough, they began attacking the natives, taking land and livestock by force. Those unable to escape beyond the frontier became settler slaves.
It is interesting to note that there was no inherent racism in traditional African society. During early contacts, shipwrecked Portuguese sailors were integrated into Xhosa communities. Without the means to exploit, whites were embraced as equals and when not threatened with dispossession, blacks welcomed whites.
A series of resistance wars against colonialism were waged by the indigenous people at every possible frontier. The Dutch colonists who were the first to occupy our land by force of arms, later came into conflict with a new colonial power, Great Britain. Sections of the Dutch (the Voortrekkers) continued their wars of dispossession into the inland and eventually establishing the Boer Republics in Orange Freestate and Transvaal, whilst the Cape Province and Natal were under British colonial rule.
Inequalities became much more entrenched as industrial development in South Africa began with the large scale mining of diamond and gold during the late 19th century in the Boer Republics. This process demanded skilled artisans which were provided by white immigrants, minimum production costs and maximum profits to ensure further expansion. To further keep production costs low, they also used labour intensive methods by using unskilled (mainly black) workers. The consequence of this formula was unequal wages, higher in favour of white skilled immigrants. The white workers became protective of their relatively privileged position.
Here was a classical case of a ‘labour aristocracy'(Mzala) allied with the capitalists for the return of higher wages and characterized by an intolerant attitude to the aspirations of the black workers. This relative advantage of skilled white workers, buttressed by the laws of the country, created a social structure that was colonial par excellence.
Colonialism of a special type
British capitalist expansionism led to the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902), which essentially was about control over the mineral wealth of the Boer Republics. ‘In 1910 Boer and Briton entered into a social contract in which the British undertook to help ease the Boer out of the Dark Ages while promising to respect his traditions. For his part, the Boer pledged’ not to resist the advance and domination of British capital.’
Between them, Boer and Briton agreed that they would share political power and, finally, that the indigenous African population would not be party to this contract but would be kept under the domination and at the disposal of the signatories, to be used by them in whatever manner they saw fit.’ [THE HISTORICAL INJUSTICE. Sechaba. March 1979]
The Act of Union marks the political watershed in the history of our country. Through its colour bar clauses it entrenched our status as a colonized and conquered people, drawing a sharp line of demarcation through the South African population. All whites, including the subordinate classes among them, were defined as members of an exclusive community, possessing certain prerogatives at the expense of the blacks. It is this institutional subordination of the blacks that stands at the core of colonialism of a special type.
Colonialism of a special type was therefore used by the liberation movement to describe the unique situation where both the colonizers and the colonized shared one country.
An entire framework of laws and racial practices gave colonialism of a special type a palpable form, and were consolidated when the National Party came to power in 1948. This included amongst others:
- The South African Natives Commission proposed territorial segregation by which the country would be divided into black and white areas: These proposals lay behind the 1913 and 1926 Land Act.
- The Population Registration Act (1950) which allocated all South Africans to a particular racial group, from which flowed differential privileges and prohibitions.
- The Group Areas Act (1950) and subsequent amendments which gave the government power to proclaim residential and business areas for the sole use of particular race groups, which together with forced removals, which together with forced removals constituted one of the most blatant violations of the property rights of black people since the early years of colonial domination.
- The Separate Amenities Act (1953) which wrote into law the principle that members of different races might not enjoy the same public amenities;
- The Bantu Education Act (1953) which redefined the content and purpose of African schooling and vested its direct control in the Department of Native (later Bantu) Affairs, as well as laws on Coloured and Indian Education on tertiary institutions.
Other early apartheid legislation introduced sharp new curbs over the urban residential rights and rights as urban workers of the African population:
- The Native Labour (Settlement of Disputes) Act (1953) excluded African workers from the formal system of industrial relations;
- The Native Building Workers Act (1951) and Industrial Conciliation Act (1956) extended the operation of job colours, and passes to women.
The national question therefore, expressing the contradiction between the black colonized and the white colonial state, became the dominant contradiction in South Africa. The ‘national character’ of the NDR was and is therefore about the resolution of the antagonistic contradictions between the oppressed majority and their oppressors; as well as the resolution of the national grievance arising from colonial relations.
THE STRUGGLE AGAINST RACISM. A STRUGGLE FOR NATIONAL LIBERATION
To uproot racism, it was clear that the first task was the defeat of white minority rule, to be replaced by a non-racial and democratic government, based on the will of the people. The mandate of this new government would be the creation of a free, united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.
Faced with these atrocities and the fact that their interests had been totally disregarded in the absence of a political organization of their own which could voice their grievances and aspirations, African intellectuals some of whom had come back from abroad gave a vision to the people.
This vision turned into action and took the form of awareness around rights, duties, obligations to the State and sought to promote mutual help, feeling of comradeship and a spirit of togetherness among them.
Pixley ka Isaka Seme – one of the founding fathers of the ANC – was vocal on the question of African unity. He emphasized unity that cut across, but did not replace ethnic characteristics, his central theme was that
“the demon of racialism must be buried and forgotten, it has shed among us sufficient blood: we are one people. These divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes and of all our backwardness and ignorance today.”
Even when it was tempting to adopt a narrow Africanist radical position in the 50’s, the ANC was consistent in decrying the ‘demon of racialism’ as this view was articulated throughout the preamble of the Freedom Charter in Kliptown, 1955.
“We the people of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority, unless it is based on the will of the people” (Kliptown, 26 June 1955).
Throughout the 1950’s, the ANC began seriously to sharpen the weapon of mass direct action, which took the form of boycotts, mass demonstrations of women and political strikes, through the unique form of the stay-at-home. There were peasant revolts all over the country. (A HISTORY OF THE ANC: Francis Meli p.129)
The government’s reply was to ban meetings and gatherings and the trigger happy police would open fire to young and old, wounding and killing them. The turning point of our struggle against racism took place on the 21st March 1960, with the anti-pass national stoppage of work. On this red letter day, 69 people were killed by the South African police and army in Sharpeville as they embarked on a peaceful march to the local police station. It then declared a state of emergency and banned the liberation movements.
Out of this provocative response from the racist regime, Umkhonto weSizwe (the People’s Army) was formed to take a new course of struggle as was declared by the MK High Command:
“We are striking out along a new road for the liberation of the people of this country. The government policy of force, repression and violence will no longer be met with non-violent resistance alone.”
Later, at the Rivonia trial, some of the key leaders of the ANC were sentenced to life in Robben Island (Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, R. Mhlaba, A. Kathrada, R. Bernstein, D. Goldberg, E. Motsoaledi and A. Mlangeni). Nevertheless, the ANC continued to advance its struggle against racist apartheid regime. During April 1969 at Morogoro in Tanzania, the ANC evaluated the road ahead and adopted another important historic document: Strategy and Tactics.
The politico-military aspects of the struggle were viewed in the context of historical experience and political reality which were characterized as follows:
“The main content of the present stage of the South African revolution is the national liberation of the largest and most oppressed group, the African people… this is the mainspring and it must not be weakened. It involves a stimulation and a deepening of a national confidence, national pride and national assertiveness.” (Morogoro, 1969)
Following the period of relative lull in the internal resistance during the 60’s it was the students and youth of SASO and 1976 which gave fresh impetus to the national liberation struggle. Their philosophy of Black Consciousness sought to instill a sense of pride in being Black, in Black symbols and culture and it called for the unity of the oppressed through their inclusive definition of Black that included African, Coloured and Indian.
This, together with the revival of the ANC internal underground, formed the foundations for the non-racial content of the mass struggles of the 80’s.
This character of our struggle informed all activities of our revolution up to the point where the balance of forces shifted away from the regime, it became difficult for the regime to rule, ‘as the people acted en masse to make the system unworkable.” (STRATEGY AND TACTICS, Mafikeng 1997).
The regime finally conceded and bowed to the people’s struggles and agreed to embark on negotiations with the ANC.
THE CREATION OF A NON-RACIAL, DEMOCRATIC, NON-SEXIST AND UNITED SOUTH AFRICA
On 27th April 1994, this process of negotiations ushered in the first democratic elections in the history of South Africa. The elections, together with the adoption of the Interim Constitution, the establishment of a new government led by the ANC were major landmarks in the transformation of our society. So was the work of the elected Constitutional Assembly which adopted the new Constitution based on the principles of democratic majority rule, equality and human rights.
April 1994 therefore represented the strategic defeat of the forces of white minority rule and a decisive departure from a colonial system spanning more than three decades.
This marked the end of the first phase of our struggle and ushered in the second phase which is the transformation of South Africa into a truly non-racial, united, non-sexist and democratic country, to create a new nation out of ‘the belly of the beast’ The final Constitution adopted in 1996, contained the framework for democratic majority rule and the platform to build this truly united and non-racial nation.
The 1993 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa ends with an epilogue entitled “National Unity and Reconciliation”. Among other things, it says:
“This Constitution provides a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterised by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice, and a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence and development opportunities for all South Africans, irrespective of colour, race, class, belief of sex. The pursuit of national unity,” it continues “the well-being of all South African citizens and peace require reconciliation between the people of South Africa and the reconstruction of society.”
For its part, the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa has a preamble which among other things, says:
“We, the people of South Africa, recognise the injustices of our past… (and) believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity. We therefore… adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to heal the divisions of the past.. (and) to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person.”
A country of two nations
President Mbeki, two years after the adoption of the Constitution in the debate on ‘Reconciliation and Nation-building’ in Parliament in May 1998, therefore raised the question: ‘what is nation building and is it happening?
He responded to this question with an unequivocal NO when he said:
“We therefore make bold to say that South Africa is a country of two nations. One of these nations is white, relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal. It has ready access to a developed economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure. This enables it to argue that, except for the persistence of gender discrimination against women, all members of this nation have the possibility to exercise their right to equal opportunity, the development opportunities to which the Constitution of ’93 committed our country.
The second and larger nation of South Africa is black and poor, with the worst affected being women in the rural areas, the black rural population in general and the disabled. This nation lives under conditions of a grossly underdeveloped economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure. It has virtually no possibility to exercise what in reality amounts to a theoretical right to equal opportunity, with that right being equal within this black nation only to the extent that it is equally incapable of realisation.
This reality of two nations, underwritten by the perpetuation of the racial, gender and spatial disparities born of a very long period of colonial and apartheid white minority domination, constitutes the material base which reinforces the notion that, indeed, we are not one nation, but two nations.”
As we approached the second democratic elections in 1999, the ANC recognised the continued truths of these assertion and therefore in its Elections Manifesto of 1999 said; ‘We must act together, in conditions of social discipline, to continue to build a South Africa of freedom, prosperity and security for all, and to solve the national problems that confront all of us, including the advancement of national unity and reconciliation. Change must go on at a faster pace!’
Phase 2 – Reconstruction and Transformation
During the long journey to achieve a truly non-racial society, South Africans have resolved that
“the apartheid expression cannot be reformed. Like Nazism, its antecedent and sister crime against humanity, it must be overthrown and uprooted forcibly, in its totality” (Comrade Oliver Tambo)
Following the adoption of the new Constitution, the democratic government proceeded to put in place a firm foundation of democracy through the establishment of institutions such as the Constitutional Court, Office of the Public Protector, the Commission for Gender Equality, the South African Human Rights Commission, etc to ensure that the basic rights of every citizen are protected.
Various laws have been enacted by the government to deracialize, democratize and unite South African society and to establish equality in all spheres of human endeavor. It had to start the torturous process of dismantling the apartheid state – the bantustans, separate departments, etc.
However, the road leading towards a fully united non-racial and non-sexist South Africa is a long and difficult one due to the complexity and all-pervasiveness of apartheid colonialism and its legacy of underdevelopment and the huge social deficit.
The National Democratic forces, in order to achieve its strategic objective of a truly non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and united South Africa must therefore as immediate and strategic tasks transform and deracialize the state machinery, the economy, education and human resources, culture; whilst at the same time meet basic needs, effect land redistribution and ensure a better life for especially the poor, women, youth and disabled as a necessary.
Transforming the State
Paramount to realizing the strategic objective of our national democratic revolution and as elaborated by the RDP, is the establishment of a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist state machinery (including the civil service, the judiciary, the army, the police, intelligence); that in its approach, composition and outlook share the vision of a “new nation” from the ashes of the racist and undemocratic South Africa. It must be the machinery that is representative and reflective of the demography of the country. It must be efficient and sensitive to the needs and aspirations of South Africans and must put them first. (Batho Pele) Above all, it must always be informed by the programme of redressing the imbalances caused by the apartheid state. The new ideology of non-racialism should inform the shape and substance of its daily activities.
The economic structure of the South African apartheid system was influenced by the racist ideology and vice versa. This white racial stereotype ideology was used as an “instrument of the accumulation of wealth by the white minority monopoly capitalists”. Consequently, the majority of blacks were not given access to the means and instruments of production. This situation sustained skewed power relations in favour of the white minority.
It is this kind of reality that we must transform. One of the tasks of the democratic government is therefore to deracialize income, opportunities, ownership and access to the economy, to effect redistribution in the interests of development and growth and in the interests of the historically disadvantaged. It is only under these conditions that we can be assured of a vibrant and dynamic economy.
Opening the doors of learning to all
Institutions of learning were used as centers of racist ideology during the apartheid era in South Africa. Since 1994, we have started the process of ensuring that the doors of learning and culture are opened to all. However, much more needs to be done.
Tertiary institutions remain largely untransformed in their demography, ratios of student populations, access to research opportunities, in the numbers of women and blacks at post graduate level and occupying senior positions in management. According to the Human Sciences Research Council, in South Africa: 21% of graduates are African (76%of the population); 68% of graduates are white (12% of the population); 4% of graduates are Coloured (9% of the population) and 7% of graduates are Indian (3%of the population).
Despite our Constitutional and legal framework cases of racism in schools are still emerging, six years after our democratic elections and schools integration. White parents still resist black children coming to what they term “ons skole”. The reconstruction process of the new education system is no easy matter, it needs support from all sectors of society, with the aim of creating a ‘new person’.
Our policies and strategies should be targetted towards creating the ‘best person’ and also focus in making education accessible to the majority of those who are in the periphery of the economy so that they are not condemned to the status of being better labourers – whilst those coming from affluent backgrounds enjoy the best opportunities.
Our objective must be to develop technical, technological and scientific culture compatible with the requirements for progress. The critical assimilation of humankind’s achievements in the field of art, science and literature should be ‘Ours is to produce the best person for the future’.
Land, Poverty and Race
In order to deal with the crushing poverty to which millions have been relegated, government must intensify its programme to provide food security and basic nutrition to those in dire need. This has to be based on proper tracking, improvement in efficiency and integration with community development.
A central pillar of colonialism of a special type was the skewed distribution of land. As part of the programme to deracialise our society, land reform processes (redistribution and security of tenure, etc) which seek to address this imbalance in ownership, have been introduced.
However, this process has been very slow, and the land hunger of our rural masses and abuse of farmworkers are producing a potentially explosive situation, unless we speed up change in this sector. The process of land redistribution have been slow, because of reasons of capacity, because of resistance from some of the current land owners who use various methods to stall the process. This include unrealistically high prices or refusal to sell, which makes it difficult for government to access such land on a massive scale, particularly agricultural land.
The Security of Tenure Act which have been enacted to protect the rights of farmworkers, has yet to be effectively implemented and monitored. One of the priorities of the democratic forces, will therefore be to ensure that the implementation of land and agrarian reform programmes are intensified to provide affected rural communities with a decent living, to encourage agricultural production and in the context of an integrated rural development strategy.
A major constraint to women’s efforts to overcome poverty has been the lack of rights and access to land, we must ensure that land reform programmes specifically reach out to women, and take their needs – such as information, training and resources into account. (Resolutions of the Mafikeng Conference, 1997).
More overtly than most sectors, the farming communities remain cesspits of racism and exploitation. Daily, workers rights are undermined with regard to pay, tenure, leave, education and other basic human rights.
Whether it is the worker who is forced to eat faeces by his boss, or the 79 year old retired worker who is evicted from a farm, a farmworker who is painted with a metallic paint on instruction from his boss, or one who is driven over by an annoyed boss – the examples of abuses are endless.
The SACP in its submission to the Human Rights Commission hearings on racism in the Media (April 2000) therefore asserted that 75% of the poor in South Africa are black and almost 20% fall in the category ‘ultra – poor’. Addressing racism therefore means fundamentally changing the quality of lives of the black majority and Africans in particular. As was observed in the Mafeking Conference ‘social change cannot await the transformation of the state machinery and other instruments of power”
Racism and gender
Colonialism and apartheid sought to reinforce patriarchal relations, manifested in male dominance and the subservient position of women in all racial and social strata of our society, with African women in rural areas being at the bottom of the heap.
Women therefore took their rightful place in the struggle alongside the other motive forces and was due to such struggles that the liberation movement integrated in its vision, the building of a non-sexist South Africa. Certain fundamentals of the theory of women’s oppression in South Africa emerged characterized by:
- The recognition that black women are oppressed as part of the black majority, as women and as workers, suffering from triple oppression;
- The recognition that it is necessary for women to organize as women and within the liberation movement to overcome gender oppression;
- The recognition of the struggle for gender equality is an integral part of the national liberation struggle.
The present situation provides an enabling legal framework for women to advance their rights in a free and secure society. Much has been done with the establishment of the Gender Commission and the Office on the Status of Women.
However African women continue to constitute the majority of the poor, and mainly in rural areas. They are found in the lowest paid jobs in the formal employment sectors, amongst the unemployed, the micro enterprises and in the rural parts of our land. They continue to bear the brunt of poverty, heading single family households with the lowest levels of income if any at all, illiterate and facing the scourge of HIV/ Aids with the primary burden of caring for Aids orphans.
The ANC needs to ensure the implementation and monitoring of 1997 Mafikeng resolutions on the empowerment and equality of women – in the organisation and in society.
Racism and youth
Black youth in apartheid South Africa were deprived of their youthfulness. They were forced to bear the brunt of poverty, inferior education, lack of adequate recreation facilities and repression from the state.
The challenge of the youth is the creation of the new nation from the ashes of a divided South Africa. To successfully achieve this mission, the youth must learn about our past an our vision for the future.
Further, they must project the future based on the present. The accumulation of ideas and knowledge contained in the culture of the liberation struggle and by society will ensure forward movement in this regard.
It is this knowledge of the past and present in relation with the future that will build a strong youth so that they are able to withstand all counter-revolutionary programs of the reactionary forces that seek to undermine our democracy.
The youth as the future and flowers of the nation must equip and empower themselves with various skills, science, technology, literature and in many forms. They should take up the challenges that relate to participation in the family of nations as well as domestically building a vibrant society.
Culture is a historical phenomenon, its development is determined by the succession of socio-economic formations and it is therefore directly or indirectly the product of the activities of the masses.
In any racist and class society, culture assumes a racist class character, both as to its ideological content and practical aims. History teaches us that when violence is used to dominate people, it is above all used to destroy and paralyze its cultural life.
This was also the case with the racist theory of apartheid, created, applied and developed on the basis of the economic and political domination of the people of South Africa.
Apartheid colonialism through violence and other means attempted to liquidate and deny the culture of the black majority. This was only partially successful, for even during the heydays of apartheid the oppressed masses clung tenaciously to part of their culture and developed it, even under adverse conditions.
Part of building a non-racial society is the conscious and ongoing development of a national culture, building on our history and recognizing the diversity of our people. Through this process, we must constantly promote political and moral awareness of the people as well as patriotism, the spirit of sacrifice and devotion.
Whatever the ideological or idealistic characteristics of cultural expressions, culture is an essential element of the history of a people, culture is the product of this history just as the flower is a product of a plant. (Cabral).
Social movements and political organisations
Our social formations and movements, in fact civil society as a whole tended to mirror the divisions of the past. In this sphere too we should seek to build truly non-racial organisations.
The trade union movement in our country remains divided racially in part, because job reservation defined the type of work that different races could engage and enforced separate organization according to grades. The new labour law dispensation provide for the emergence of truly non-racial trade unions and working class movements. The deracialisation of the working class and the development of a working class consciousness has still to emerge in the country especially within the white working class.
Political organizations, outside of the liberation fold, have constructed a discourse based on ‘equal opportunity’ which denies that the playing field is not level. Any attempts therefore at introducing corrective measures to deal with apartheid’s legacy is being met with outcries of ‘reverse racism’.
Another dimension has been the tendency to try and explain the national contradiction (sometimes even within our own ranks) as no longer between the historically disadvantaged black majority (African, Coloured, Indian) and whites, but rather to refer to this contradiction as between the African majority and other national minorities (whites, Coloureds and Indians).
Affirmative action in particular is regarded as undermining the advancement of “minorities”.
This kind of analysis has led to a situation where many Coloured people believe that once again, they are caught in the middle between black and white. “We used to be too black, now we are too white” and where many Indian people have chosen to exclude themselves from political engagement, seen particularly in the low registration figures in predominantly Indian areas.
The media in South Africa, too reflected the divisions of the past based on race. Since 1994 there has been a tendency for sections of the media to position itself above their social responsibility to inform and to reflect the broad diversity of views in our society. Any criticism leveled against this tendency is interpreted as a challenge to press freedom.
They, like the opposition, see themselves as the protectors of South Africa’s liberty against ‘the natural inclination of a predominantly black government to dictatorship and corruption.’
In this regard, we should motivate for the acceptance of the recommendations contained in the ANC submission to the HRC “Hearings on Racism in the Media.”
While racism clearly remains a fundamental problem of South African society, recent events (particularly the Human Rights Commission investigation into racism in the media) pointed to the absence of a common national discourse and reference point amongst South Africans.
It points to the absence of a common understanding of the history of racist ideology, its socio-cultural, socio-economic and psychological manifestations and therefore how this legacy affects our society today.
While racism continues to bedevil all areas of South African society, one form that this takes is the active denial of race (in all its manifestations) as an issue in our society today.
Another form is to acknowledge racism as a problem, and then argue that whites, as a minority, are its victims. The black majority, it is argued, practice racism against whites. This racial inversion is often employed by powerful sectors throughout our society to resist real transformation of the power relations that underpinned apartheid.
Eradicating racism therefore necessitates a two-pronged strategy. While defining the actual and subliminal forms of racism in contemporary South African society, it is necessary at the same time to understand resistance to addressing racism as well as their capacity to undermine attempts to eradicate racism.
Legal remedies to deracialise our society (such as the Equality Act or the transformation programmes of the RDP) need to be accompanied by a strong, public education and cultural programme that animates public opinion in accordance with non-racist, human-rights and multi-cultural thinking and practice.
IMMEDIATE CHALLENGES FACING THE DEMOCRATIC FORCES
The ANC as a vanguard organization of the forces for national democracy, will have to pay attention to this as an important and strategic task of the NDR in the current phase. It will have to unleash all its organizational machinery, both in practice and in theory to lead the process of deracialisation of South Africa.
The first part of this process is to intensify the political discourse on racism at a branch level and amongst all sectors of our society.
Secondly, we need to build and work for the development of a common and national vision (or national consensus) on the path towards the creation of a truly democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous country and nation.
This vision should ensure the contribution of all South Africans – black and white – to creating a better life for all and for the common development of their country.
We should develop a micro-plan of action that focuses on the implementation of the resolutions on the National question as adopted in the Mafikeng Conference in 1997.
We should identify key tasks and challenges in preparation for both National and International Conferences on Racism organized for August this year and early in 2001.
We should encourage the African Renaissance Institute and other similar institutions to include issues of racism as part of their agenda and establish forums with other civil society organizations to continue the debate and campaigns against racism.
This discourse should deepen understanding amongst all South Africans, of our history, the nature and manifestations of racism, its social effects and relationship with religion and culture with the aim of building consciousness on the need for all of us to work together towards uprooting the demon of racism and setting an example to the world.
The struggle for freedom still remains incomplete as long as the legacy of apartheid remains. This task therefore demands that we achieve the greatest unity of the masses of our people, inspired by the new patriotism, to continue to intensify the fight against racism for our evolution into a non-racial society.
Forward to the African century!
- Racial Problems in South Africa: Speech at the Second Pan-African Youth Seminar, Dar es Salaam, August 5, 1961 (President Oliver Tambo)
- ANC Strategy and Tactics, Morogoro 1969
- Jack and Ray Simons: Class and Colour in South Africa; 1850-1950, ANC website
- “Historical Injustice” Speech by Thabo Mbeki, Ottawa, Canada, February 19 to 22, 1978
- Church and our Struggle: Speech at the World Consultation fo the World Council of Churches, Holland, June 16-21, 1980 (President Oliver Tambo)
- The history of the ANC: South Africa belongs to us: Francis Meli, 1988
- The National Question in South Africa: ed Maria van Diepen for the Dr Govan Mbeki Fund, 1998
- Strategy and Tactics Document as amended at the 50th National Conference, December 1997, Mafikeng
- Statement of the African National Congress at the Human Rights Commission hearings on Racism in the Media, 5 April 2000
- Statement of the South African Communist Party at the Human Rights Commission hearing on Racism in the Media, 5 April 2000
- The Unbreakable Thread: Julie Frederikse
- Deployment of racism in South Africa: Rahav, Malaysia
- African Philosophy – An Anthology, ed. Emmanuel Chukwudi Ezs
- A paper by K Mothlanthe in the 80’s addressing a miners workshop.
- A paper by Claudia Braude on Racism, April 2000
- Statement of Deputy President Thabo Mbeki at the opening of the debate on Reconciliation and Nation Building, Parliament, May 1998.