Ed Herbst: Staring down the Race Merchants

By Ed Herbst*

“The clever blacks have spoken.”Matthews Phosa 5/8/2016

“Despite the polarisation, all the race-baiting, all the intolerance that has been shown in our country over the last year, the people spoke and said they wanted a united, non-racial shared future and that is enormously powerful.” – Helen Zille 10/8/2016

Ed Herbst, former television journalist
Ed Herbst, former television journalist

I recognised it at the time as a seismic moment in South African politics but many, it seems did not – or rather, they chose not to see the writing on the wall.

At the beginning of May 2014, just prior to the legislative election in that year, the poorest of the poor, the shack dwellers, chose after an absolutely democratic deliberative process to endorse the Democratic Alliance as the political party which would best serve their needs and their interests.

It was a pragmatic rather than an ideological decision made from the heart as Sibusiso Tshabalala, an ABM (Abahlali baseMjondolo) leader explained in an interview with the Groundup website:

The difference though [between the DA and the ANC] is that the DA engages with us courteously. They recognize that we are human beings. In Durban, the ANC has been unable to engage with Abahlali meaningfully. Violence and arrogance characterize the attitude of the ANC to the poor.

If you meet a DA councillor working in the eThekwini council, he/she will not ask you for a membership card.

Playing off a 52 race card deck in the prelude to our recent election, the African National Congress in general and President Jacob Zuma in particular have sought to portray a minority group which is rapidly declining in numbers as the source of all our country’s problems.

We were told by Zuma that the reason South Africa has slipped precipitously in almost every international measure of governance in the past two decades was solely the fault the country’s white population and every South African woe known to humankind could be traced back to the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck.

We were told that had it not been for this first white coloniser and his religious beliefs there would be no orphans and neither would there be any need for institutions that care for the aged, like the one in which I live.

Propaganda offensive

Listening to television interviews before the 3 August election it became clear that the ANC’s propaganda offensive to convince South Africans that the Democratic Alliance was intent on bringing back apartheid had been very successful.

Mmusi Maimane was depicted by Zuma as a stooge of the offspring of Jan van Riebeeck and a “scarecrow”.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane gestures as he speaks to members of the media. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane gestures as he speaks to members of the media. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

“No other party can govern this country… not even a white party with stooges. The ANC must win back Cape Town and make sure transformation reaches that part as well… Cape Town is a tale of two cities, where the needs of rich are prioritised those of the poor are not… the ANC will work hard to win Cape Town.”

As it turned out, 2.4 million people voted for the Democratic Alliance in the Western Cape and the ANC got just more than a million. The DA obtained an overall majority in 17 out of 25 local councils.

After the 2014 election Helen Zille said that about 760 000 black South Africans had voted for her party.

It must be well in excess of a million now and, if you believe the ANC, they are either stupid or deluded.

When ABM endorsed the Democratic Alliance, in May 2014, the Cape Times, a newspaper that under Dr Iqbal Survé routinely tries to ratchet up hatred against white South African citizens, carried the following attack on them by a white male, Jared Sacks:

I believe that this is a hugely mistaken move for the most important post-1994 social movement – both from an acknowledgement that the DA is a right-wing, white supremacist political party, and also from an understanding that electoral politics undermines, destroys, and co-opts rather than helps social movements. Despite my love for Abahlali, it is very difficult for me to continue to support an organisation that votes for the DA – a party founded on white supremacy.

In a recent article posted on Politicsweb, Ernst Roets of Afriforum quotes a South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) survey which found that only 4.7% of all South Africans perceive racism and xenophobia as the country’s greatest unresolved issue and that 79.4% of the black South Africans polled in the study had indicated that they did not experience ethnic animosity.

He goes on to say:

Race merchants are people who shape their career by pretending that racism is South Africa’s greatest crisis and then attempt to present themselves as the heroes in the battle against (especially white) racism.

The careers of race merchants depend on you and me believing that South Africa is overflowing with racism and that they have the solutions.

Innately wicked

He specifically names Eusebius McKaiser but could he also have been referring to Gillian Schutte who would have me believe that because I was born a white male, something over which I had no control, I am not only innately wicked but irredeemably so?

When Sir Walter Raleigh was composing himself seconds before his execution he was asked by the axeman whether he would like the block to face the east, whence his soul would shortly travel. He replied in his last words: “What matter how the head sits, if the heart be right?”

On 3 August, South Africans stared down the Race Merchants and showed that the heart is right.

  • Ed Herbst is a pensioner and former reporter who writes in his own capacity.


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