South Africa, as diverse as it is, is not combined to form a nation based on shared values, heritage and history. It remains polarized, both racially and ethnically. This does not mean South Africa’s democracy is dysfunctional. Iit merely states that South Africa still faces challenges of a united society, manifested in issues such as identity, race, ethnicity and class.
By Thobani Mzabalazo Matheza.
Scholars, researchers and academics examined non-racialism in relation to the concepts of race, generic humanism and universalism. This was done in order to establish conditions under which non-racialism can be implemented as an emancipatory concept.
After centuries of racial discrimination, oppression and class divisions, South Africans welcomed the political transition from apartheid with joyous enthusiasm. Twenty-five years after the political transition, general public opinion reflects a downturn, as people have grown increasingly discontented with continuing, deep socioeconomic inequality. Race does exist historically and socially. To ignore its existence in addressing the question of non-racialism would be to deny the validity of the experience of racial inequality.
Despite a Constitution that is welcomed as one of the most progressive globally and despite the implementation of numerous policy programmes and initiatives, many feel that not enough has been achieved to realize the promise of fundamental human rights and to reduce income inequality, poverty, human underdevelopment and uneven access to basic services. The issue of underdevelopment, poverty, inequality and uneven access to basic services emanates from historical and socioeconomic racialism.
This is coercing one to strongly argue that the notion of non-racialism in South African politics is neither a myth nor reality. The provision of services and levelling of the economic playing fields that were so drastically skewed by the apartheid system must be absolutely central to any concept of transformative constitutionalism.
Historical perspectives, socioeconomic differences and racial dispossessions forces one to argue using racial spectacles, precisely because since 1910 the state has been utilized at all times to secure and develop the capitalist mode of production, whilst corporations have endorsed a racial form of political domination. Therefore, grounded on evidence based results, the main analysis of this paper is stating categorically that the notion of non-racialism in South African politics is neither a myth nor reality.
For instance, the South African Constitution as the key guide of the country, advocates for a non-racial South Africa, at the same vein the Constitution and policies of the African National Congress (ANC) as a governing political party is also proclaiming a South Africa that is advancing nation building and social cohesion, stepping up the fight against racism, sexism, homophobia and other intolerances. Therefore one cannot say the notion of non-racialism in the country’s politics is a myth, precisely because there are serious efforts and successes that have been made by ANC and its Alliance prior and post 1994 to fight the scourge of racism. Even though the demon of racism is far from defeated, South Africa is having a society that refuses to accept racism as the norm.
South Africa has been notorious for racial segregation and apartheid that dominated the country’s twentieth-century history. The country was so much a special focus of international contempt that it is sometimes hard to recall how commonplace racial oppression has been in other societies. It has also proved very difficult for even the wealthiest societies to dismantle the mechanisms that perpetuate institutionalized racism.
The degree to which apartheid deformed both its victims and its beneficiaries has become ever clearer. This historical legacy also influences citizens’ varied prognoses for the country’s future. Pessimists view the ‘new’ South Africa’s political destiny through the lance of African decline. Seeing South Africa’s transition to democracy as just one more step along the road to civil war, ethnic division and one-party rule that has characterized much of post-colonial Africa.
In analyzing whether the notion of non-racialism in South African politics is a myth or reality, one could further project it by stating clearly that skeptical Whites often liken the country to post-independence Zimbabwe. A society that proved unable to overcome its historical divisions and that fell victim to predatory political elites. Optimists, in contrast, have seen the new South Africa as a rainbow nation, unshackled by the miracle of transition from economic and social chains of apartheid.
For the first two post-apartheid decades, many of the supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) understood the liberation movement as a glorious locomotive of African renaissance that would pull the continent into a brighter twenty-first century. While Blacks in general and Africans in particular have been more positive about the future than White South Africans. No doubt because the burden of racial oppression has been lifted from blacks in general – though black South Africans still feel the legacy of the past regime.
There has been growing public discontent in recent years. White hopes that the scars of centuries of oppression might somehow fall away overnight have been dashed. Blacks’ aspirations to lead dignified lives, free of poverty, have not been sufficiently widely realized. Therefore one cannot say the notion of non-racialism in South African politics is a myth or reality. For all South Africans, the alleged miracle of transition to non-racial democracy has begun to turn sour, when incidents such as the Marikana Massacre took place.
Institutionalized policies of dispossession and the destruction of black people in general and Africans in particular laid the historical foundations for poverty, which cannot be separated from the influence and power of the business sector. The notion of non-racialism in the country’s politics is neither a myth nor a reality, while continued state of dispossession amounts to a system of neo-apartheid, which affects the largely poor black population, poverty, unemployment and inequality has persisted after 1994 in spite of a growing black capitalist class.
South African Constitution recognized about eleven South African languages. Language is not an instrument of exclusion in principle as anyone can learn it. Therefore looking at South African racial groups one notes that the majority of white South Africans are unable to speak other South African languages except English and Afrikaans. While South Africa is having eleven official languages, what impression is the high level of language illiteracy on white South Africans is saying about the notion of non-racialism?
No one lives long enough to learn all languages. Print-language is what invents nationalism, not a particular language per se. To greater extent in South Africa many ethnic groups and racial groups seek to be recognized through their languages – Afrikaners advocate for the use of Afrikaans in schools, while Khoi-Sans feel excluded in their country of origin. The Khoisan for a very long time feel that they were not recognized until recently, when the ANC Government came up with the Leadership and Khoi-San Bill.
Apartheid capitalized on differences in race, culture and gender. Though South Africa is a democratic country since 1994, the country still faces major challenges of nation-building and the establishment of the common identity based on South African nationalism and a shared patriotism. These challenges have proved to be difficult to overcome, precisely because they are rooted in South Africa’s society. South Africa is a diverse country in terms of ideology, class, linguistic, cultural, racial and ethnical nature.
South Africa, as diverse as it is but it is not combined to form a nation based on shared values, heritage and history, it remains polarized, both racially and ethnically. This does not mean South Africa’s democracy is dysfunctional, it merely states that South Africa still faces challenges of a united society, manifested in issues such as identity, race, ethnicity and class.
One can argue that South Africa remains separated, citing a number of case studies. Looking at the case of Orania, an Afrikaner only town, where only Afrikaans is being used as a language, because on fears about diluting culture. Boshoff is one of the leaders of this town founded by his father Carel Boshoff Senior, an Afrikaner intellectual and son in-law of apartheid architect, Hendrik Verwoerd. This part of South Africa in the Northern Cape Province shows that the spirit of racially, ethnically and linguistic division is live.
However, there have been unifying events, such as the successful hosting of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Nevertheless, a relentless sequence of tragedies and scandals has buffeted popular sentiment and led even congenital optimists to fear for the future of their country.
Looking at case study such as the Orania, one may argue that the notion of non-racialism in South African politics is a myth. Orania has also proved to be the answer for those Afrikaners who felt displaced in the land their people had ruled for many decades.
Black people in general and Africans in particular cannot live in Orania because residents are screened by the town council using a strict criterion, which includes first and foremost being an ethnic Afrikaner. Therefore the notion on non-racialism in South African politics becomes a myth in this instance. This can also force one to look at the issues of socioeconomic aspects in racial terms.
Poverty is still racial in South Africa, therefore this coerced one to use racial lances to look at the issue of poverty or even inequality as well as unemployment. Due to the fact that these three challenges are still alive and very stubborn, this shows clearly that the notion of non-racialism in South African politics is a myth. According to South African Statistics, the official criteria in 2011, 40% of black South Africans were poor, as were 22% of coloured, 3% of Indian and 0.4% of white South Africans.
The democratic government led by the African National Congress (ANC) is acknowledging how deep rooted is the notion of racism, ethnic division etc. When it came to power in 1994, the African National Congress envisaged to unite all the people of South Africa, for the complete liberation of the country from all forms of discrimination and national oppression. To end apartheid in all its forms and transform South Africa as rapidly as possible into a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic country based on the principles of the Freedom Charter and in pursuit of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), to promote economic development for the benefit of all.
This is what the governing political party ANC envisage for South Africa. As a governing party, the ANC is striving for a non-racial society, which means in its policies the notion of non-racialism in South African politics is a reality that it is working towards its full results based evidence.
Looking at the South African Constitution, which is a guiding document for a democratic South Africa, one may argue that in South African politics the notion of non-racialism is a reality, while theory and practice when it comes to South African politics is a totally different issue. The preamble of South African Constitution stated that we, the people of South Africa, recognize the injustices of our past; honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; respect those who have worked to build and develop our country and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.
We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law; improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.
Noting the South African Constitution preamble and the chapters of the country’s Constitution, together with the Constitution of the political party in Government, one may conclude that the notion of non-racialism in South African politics is a reality. The Country’s Constitution as well as the ANC Constitution are aspiring of a non-racial South Africa.
Therefore one may reject the notion of non-racialism in South African politics, arguing that a major reason for the rejection is the snail pace in pursuing the economic transformation promised in the Freedom Charter and the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), though a large proportion of the ANC still aspires to the kind of sharing of the economy envisaged during the struggle against apartheid.
On 9 June 2008 when the former President Thabo Mbeki addressed the Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics in Cape Town, he stated that the immediate reality is that all of us know that the poor are knocking at the gate. If this gate does not open, because we who have the key are otherwise involved, the masses will break down the gate.
One may argue that let alone the fact that the issue of non-racialism is not yet fully accomplished in South Africa, in our politics the notion of non-racialism is neither a myth nor a reality but an aspiration that the Tripartite Alliance (ANC, SACP & COSATU) and ANC Government is striving to achieve. The majority of South African political parties are in favour of the South African Constitution, therefore this gives an impression that the issue of non-racialism is favored by the majority, though it is not a myth neither a reality yet.
The ruling party and its Alliance South African Communist Party (SACP) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) are stuck to non-racialism as the ultimate policy. Non-racialist democracy as a policy, however did not eliminate African identity.
The notion of non-racialism in South African politics is neither a myth nor reality; non-racialism is the policy that the ANC as a political party with its Alliance Partners as well as the government of the ANC wish to achieve, non-racialism in South African politics is a work in progress.
South African politics explicitly shows that every revolutionary is having a primary duty to understand classes, which were responsible for oppression and those which might form an alliance against that oppression. Evidence suggests that stabilization achieved its principle objective of bringing some control over the major financial variables such as domestic debt, inflation and interest rates, but a heavy price was paid in the persistence of inequality, unemployment, poverty and the huge cost of consequent social problems such as crime, Aids and disease and all the aforesaid social ills forces.
Non-racialism as a concept has a rich and contentious history in South African politics. For many it was a core feature of the struggle against apartheid, uniting a range of forces fighting for a society free from racial discrimination. Indeed, it is a central tenet in South Africa’s Constitution, forming a core part of the founding provisions of the country. However, there is widespread contestation over what the concept entails, both theoretically and in practical terms. Yet the notion of non-racialism in South African politics is neither a myth nor reality.
The ANC government has made only modest gains in elaborating a common citizenship, institutionally. It is sufficient to say that many of the changes made since 1994 were introduced with the intention of extending services to areas that the apartheid state had deliberately neglected, expanding access to services and equalizing the quality of services between blacks and whites and between provinces. It is also true that the success of these various measures is extremely uneven, and in key sectors, especially health and education, the results are poor, therefore it is inevitable not to use racial spectacles when analyzing socioeconomic issues in South Africa and looking at social ills. The notion of non-racialism in South African politics is neither a myth nor reality.
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