Saturday, August 30, 2008

old-new white identities and rugby

Nico Botha, in a recent paper to an international conference on Human Identity and Reconciliation suggest that we see in South Africa a frigthening reverse to old-styled Apartheid identities. He refered to a few examples and amongst other the recent Waterkloof 4 trial. I'm concerned about something else, related to this court case, which in my view is the tip of the hippo's ears. It speaks of something deeper. I am concerned about the groundswell of popular support for these convicted racist murderers. The argument is that they don't deserve to be in prison amongst other dangerous criminals and that they should be allowed to follow their promising careers in acting and rugby. Afterall, as the mother of Christoff Becker said, God is standing alongside them.

How am I to understand this ? So is it the same God that support the rich and the powerful in their legal quest to keep these murderers out of prison, that also stand on the side of justice? The issue is furthermore, what are we to do with the fact that young people act out their racism in the 'new South Africa', only for their parents, political leaders and the powerful Afrikaans media to either play it down as isolated irresponsible mistakes, or to put all their resources in defending the indefensible ?

For me, this relates to the fact that the public discourse on race has gone underground and private; we have still not been able to deal with the emotional (?) invisible side of it. In public we don't talk about it anymore, yet racism still maintains it's cold grip upon us. My post here would be seen as raising a non-issue, because, of course, we have closed to book on apartheid. I am however more and more convinced that we are failing ourselves and more importantly our children, if we don't deal with this head-on. We need to develop new language to talk it out and the media blissfully does'nt help us either.

The Beeld of today reports on the Waterkloof-four's pending appeal to the Constitutional Court and sort of explain to the public how the lower courts made a mistake and how, on a technicality, a precedent of Supreme Court of Appeals of 1939, they might be free again. I am not versed in legaleze and the closest I got to studying law, was the TV series, 'Beste Professor' in the 80's. So I would not dare to venture on the question where the Constitutional Court would go. I simply see that they (three of the four) yesterday, for the first time in public, admited that and how they committed this heinious crime. They state,'Ons het opgetree op 'n manier wat nie toegelaat kan word in 'n beskaafde, demokratiese gemeenskap nie en daarvoor vra ons om verskoning (We acted in a a manner that cannot be allowed in a civil, democratic community and for that we apologise'). They describe how, amongst others, they played a dark evil, kind of rugby on this man, standing back for impact, stepping forward and kicking him, with heavy duty boots, in the face, like Naas Botha. Kicking him to death, because he was most probably ivading their space, a criminal (afterall he was black).

I'm not convinced that it will help to deny the racism amongst white young people in South Africa today. Jonathan Jansen, seems to be taking this dead-end street. He argues for more understanding for these victims of the 'new South Africa' and that the new government should take the blame and suspend their discriminatory policies of redress and transformation, because this makes these victims angry and bitter. Crain Soudien, in his book, Youth identity in contemporary South Africa: Race, culture and schooling, makes more sense to me. Here we here a more nuanced conversation on the challenges we face. He argues, on the basis of extensive research the last 15 years in schools in South Africa that there are a few white youth identities emerging, namely 'global whiteness' (South African but not for long), 'supremacism' or 'old-new South African whiteness', where the Afrikaner male image is revived with rugby and heavy handed 'ontgroening'. This relates to kind of 'kampstaaldraad' identity. He also points to other positive identifications of white young people, which he calls, the 'priviledge and socially-sensitive' protrait and lastely young people who are not in the same socio-economic bracket, but who see themselves as 'new white South Africans', where 'the white young people are much more conscious of the challenges of living in the new South Africa and talk about it more openly.... they know that the history of whiteness marks then as priviledged people, but they want to build their own identity which is rooted in the country' (2007:75-76).

The question is whether we have been able to provide space for this kind of re-making of identifications where talking of the challenges of living in the new SA are open, without pretending as if there is no history. It is this kind of conversations that emerging expresions of church should keep themselves busy with, and in such a way that God is heard in the dialogue with silent voice of uncomfortable other, in the unnamed black in the park, seemingly with no family. It is here where we transcend the old and where an evident revulsion against racism give birth to new identifcations, norms and ultimately institutions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Voortrekkers toe nie so wit nie...

Ek vind altyd, Max du Preez se skryfgoed fassinerend. Ek was 'n Vrye Weekblad junkie, voor dit skielik gesneuwel het. Nouja, hierdie stukkie is werd om volledig aangehaal te word.

'Daar’s ’n Kleurling in jou Gelofte, Oom'
Aug 25 2008 02:40:00:253PM - (SA)

Max du Preez

Debatte oor die werklike betekenis van die Slag van Bloedrivier van 1838 slaan steeds elke kort-kort uit, onlangs weer op die virtuele geselsblaaie van LitNet. Daar is nie twyfel aan nie dat dié veldslag tussen ’n groep Voortrekkers en ’n mag Zoeloe-impi’s ’n belangrike oomblik in die geskiedenis van die wit Afrikaner bly.

Uit die debatte blyk dat mense wat 16 Desember steeds ingevolge die Gelofte as ’n Sabbat herdenk, meestal nie erg geesdriftig oor die post-1994-bestel is nie. Vir baie van hulle, so het ons pas weer gelees, was dit ’n oorwinning van Goed oor Kwaad en die Voortrekkers se oorwinning het beteken dat God die wit Afrikaner as ’n soort Uitverkore Volk sien – Hy het die Voortrekkers immers bo die Zoeloes verkies.

Ons moet deernis met sulke mense hê. Geslagte lank het Afrikanerpolitici en dominees dié boodskap met vurigheid op Geloftedagvierings verkondig. Afrikaner-geskiedkundiges het ook nooit die punt duidelik gestel dat daar ’n hele klomp mense aan Boere-kant by Bloedrivier was wat nie wit was nie.

As ’n mens die ou Afrikaanse geskiedenisboeke nou nalees, sien ’n mens tog raak dat van hulle meld dat daar 59 “Kleurlinge” was wat touleiers en bediendes in die laer by Bloed?rivier was. Houthakkers en waterdraers, dus, en sekerlik nie deel van God se plan vir ’n Boere-oorwinning nie.

Van die ou historici vertel ons ook dat die verdrag tussen Piet Retief en koning Dingaan wat die Slag van Bloedrivier voorafgegaan het, deur ene JG Bantjes opgetrek is en dat hy ’n lid van die Wenkommando by Bloedrivier was. Daar is plek-plek selfs melding gemaak daarvan dat dié Bantjes die Klerk van die Volksraad van die Republiek van Natalia was.

Maar wat hulle nie vir hul lesers vertel het nie, is dat Jan Gerritze Bantjes nie ’n wit man was nie. Soos William Worthington Jordan wat Willem Jordaan genoem is en die leier van die Dorslandtrekkers geword het wat in Oktober 1885 die Republiek van Upingtonia gestig het, was hy die afstammeling van slawe aan die Kaap.

Jan Gerritze Bantjes was ’n bruin man. ’n “Kleurling”.

Bantjes was nie net ’n volwaardige Voortrekker nie. Hy was een van die mees prominente intellektuele van die Trek en het menige Trekkerkinders – onder andere ’n jong Paul Kruger – in sy ossewa geleer lees en skryf.

Bantjes is op 8 Julie 1817 te Nieuwveld in die distrik Graaff-Reinet gebore. Hy was die derde kind van Bernhard Louis Bantjes en Isabella Johanna Swanepoel. Bernhard se oupa, Jan Geert Bantjes, het in 1755 in die Kaap geland en is op 5 Maart 1758 met Hilletje Agnita Jacobs getroud. Sy was die dogter van Jan Jacobs van de Caab en Agnietie Pieters van de Caab, twee slawe. Swart slawe.

Bantjes het die Beaufort-distrik in Desember 1838 saam met veldkornet Jacob de Clerq en verskeie familielede verlaat en op Nuwejaarsdag 1837 by Thaba Nchu by die Groot Trek aangesluit.

Die Voortrekkers se dominee, Erasmus Smit, het in sy dagboek geskryf: “Mnr. De Klerk het ’n jong kleurlingman saam met hom gebring, en aangesien laasgenoemde sekere talente had, het ek hom versoek om ’n passasie te lees en te sing. Sy naam is Jan Bantjes.”

Dominee Smit se opmerking oor Bantjes se velkleur is die enigste verwysing daarna van daardie tyd wat ek kon vind. In elke weergawe van die Groot Trek is daar verwysings na Bantjes as die “sekretaris” of “skrywer” of “amanuensis” van, tydens verskillende tydperke, Voortrekkerleiers Andries Pretorius, Piet Retief, Gert Maritz en Piet Uys, maar nooit ’n verwysing daarna dat hy ’n “kleurling” was nie.

En dit was nie goeie maniere of politieke korrektheid nie, want die gemeenskap het ’n obsessie met ras gehad. Daar was ’n hele paar honderd bruin mense wat die Trek as werkers vergesel het, en hulle is beslis as sosiaal minderwaardig behandel.

Die verdrag tussen Retief en Dingaan wat op 4 Desember 1838 onderteken is en ’n groot stuk grond aan die Boere oorgedra het, is deur Bantjes in sy eie handskrif opgetrek. Twee dae later, toe Retief en van sy manne vir Dingaan by umGungundlovu gaan groet het, is hulle in opdrag van die Zoeloe-koning met knuppels doodgeslaan.

Dit was Bantjes, in daardie stadium sekretaris van die bevelvoerder van die Wenkommando teen die Zoeloes, Andries Pretorius, wat die nuus van Retief se grusame einde aan die res van die Voortrekkers moes oordra.

Bantjes was in die binnekring van die groep wat op 9 Desember 1838 by Waschbankspruit ’n gelofte aan God gemaak het dat as Hy hulle ’n oorwinning oor die Zoeloes laat behaal, hulle en hul nageslag dié dag as ’n Sabbatdag sal herdenk.

Bantjes het in 1839 breedvoerig oor die Gelofte en die Slag van Bloedrivier in ’n spesiale uitgawe van die tydskrif De Zuid-Afrikaan geskryf. Dit is een van die belangrikste dokumente waarop latere historici hul ontledings van dié twee gebeurtenisse gegrond het.

Bantjes het in 1839 Klerk van die Volksraad in Pietermaritzburg geword en ook as prokureur in die landdroshof begin praktiseer. Toe die weduwee HJ van Niekerk hom vir ’n bedrag geld dagvaar wat hy glo by haar geleen het, het hy terug Kaap toe getrek om die saak te ontduik.

Bantjes het daarna vir ’n paar jaar lank ’n winkel in Prins Albert bestuur en was later die skoolmeester en voorleser van die NG Kerk in Humansdorp. In 1855 trek hy weer Graaff-Reinet toe, en agt jaar later word hy die landdrosklerk en Posmeester van die Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek in Pretoria. Van Pretoria af is hy Lichtenburg toe waar hy staatsaanklaer was, en daarvandaan na Ventersdorp, waar hy ’n paar jaar lank skoolhoof was. (Ja, Eugene, Ventersdorp.)

Jan Gerritze Bantjes is in 1887 aan huis van sy oudste seun in Potchefstroom dood. ’n Jaar tevore het sy jongste seun, ook Jan Gerritze Bantjes, die eerste goudmyner aan die nuutontdekte Witwatersrand geword.

Daar’s ’n Kleurling in jou Gelofte, Oom.

# Die volledige verhaal van Jan Bantjes verskyn in Max du Preez se boek Of Tricksters, Tyrants and Turncoats – More Unusual Stories from South Africa’s Past wat in Oktober by Zebra Press verskyn.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Stop and charge Mugabe...

Robert Mugabe should not be handed a honorary presidential position in Zimbabwe. He should stand trial for his carnage against humanity. I therefor support the call from the likes of Allan Boesak and Tinyiko Maluleke that there's no point in talking to Mugabe and that the prez, should stop defending this cruel dictator. Indeed, Boesak asks, "How can a real, honest settlement be achieved while violence is being perpetrated on innocent people?" The call is for more sanctions and isolation, and that Mugabe be stopped.

my woman's day reflections...

Only days after speaking of her desire for a proper house, Irene Grootboom, who spearheaded a Constitutional Court case in 2000 for proper housing for the poor, died in her shack in Wallacedene. She was 39.....
Eight years ago Grootboom brought an application to court on behalf of 510 children and 290 adults living in deplorable conditions in Wallacedene, demanding better housing.
The benchmark judgment declared that the state was obliged to devise and implement "a comprehensive and co-ordinated programme to realise the right of access to adequate housing".
However, last Wednesday, Grootboom has died "sick and tired" of being on the housing list.

(The Cape Argus, 04 August 2008)

On Friday, a young theological student at the Northern Theological Seminary, Catherine Mabilo, led a Biblestudy at a theological conference on gender, on a fascinating fascinating passage of scripture in Numbers 27:1-8 In the Old Testament, this passage stands out as a critique on the laws of landownership, but also of the tradition of Old Israel, a tradition steeped in patriarchy. How are we to understand it today as we reflect on the significance of Woman’s day, in our Southern African context.

I also listened on Thursday morning, to Prof Yolanda Dreyer, from the University of Pretoria on Thursday, speaking at this conference. She recounted her story as a female theological student. She came into an environment where the topics of discussion, the culture and ethos were foreign to her. She was the only female student in her class. When realising that her input is not going to change things- because the brothers were in charge, she felt like trying to fit into what she calls ‘Brotherland’ and to achieve in terms of the criteria set by Brotherland. It was, for her a lonely journey against tradition, against the expectations of her immediate environment, against who she knew she was. She felt alienated from who she was. I couldn’t identify with her because I am male and part of that power-structure, part of the Brotherland, yet I could identify because, as a coloured theological student, I was in the same situation, whilst I studied theology at the kweekskool of University of Stellenbosch, doing it in ‘Witmansland’. It is dangerous territory..

All these experiences are intimately linked to the ancient story of the 5 young women who claimed their space. This story happened at a time where the daughters of a man were invisible, they were an embarrassment a sign of weakness to the community. Deut 21 gives insight into this: ‘that the son is the first sign of the father’s strength’. The faith of Old Israel was steeped in what people call today, patriarchy – a system where the ‘pater’, the male-father rule the household, hence males also rule the community and society. The practices of society, their interpretation of God’s presence in their midst was shaped by this- hence it was not frowned upon when the 5 daughters of Zelophehad did not inherit the land of their deceased father, and the land of their clan and tribe. There are so many instances where some in communities are invisible, are not capable of, not destined to be…

Yet, an this is what fascinates me-there was something in these women, which Catherine, on Friday, highlighted:
1. they walked up to the public place, spoke up and voiced out their protest to this ruling on land, on property ownership;
2. they declared: we are here- 'ke teng' They affirmed: we are not invisible, we are not sub-human, we are here..

The significance of this protest against what was understood as normal, but also their affirmation of themselves, their genderised selves as females, need to be understood in terms of the patriarchal religious and social backdrop. Here they did not simpy spoke up to be ingored. They risk ridicule, isolation, the possibility of a cruel death in going to stand up in public and declaring their status, in claiming what rightfully belongs to them. Why would people do this kind of thing, I wonder. Surely this was not the first time it happened ? Surely they were not the only daughters in Israel or the only family where there are only daughters or where the father have died and only daughters are left?

This is the same question of what makes it for women, the Irene Grootbooms, Catherine Mabilo’s of this world to stand up, against all odds. The Bible does not make it clear what how we can answer this question. In their argument before the council, we however get a glimpse of how they were thinking and I see the following:

1. they name the history and tradition;- they call it out…
2. they put the finger in the injustice- what was wrong in that history and tradition: it is wrong that only some are recongnised and others remain invisible, unnamed, oppressed… robbed of their history, of their identity, but ultimately of their livelihood- of their economic means.
3. they reclaimed their space. They knew what they wanted: give us the rightfull property of amongst fathers relatives;

Woman’s day is something of a celebration, yet is it also a reminder, a challenge. I was thinking of the other women that currently inspire me. Not that they necessarily inspires others, I admit. The South African Olympic committee gave me the answer: Natalie du Toit. Carrying our South African flag on Friday, epitomised not only her journey, but also the journey of so many other name-less, invisible, against the odds, yet, powerful women. What has driven her to carry the flag… against all odds.
Kevin McCallum sportswriter of The Star, reflects on the significance of this day, but also on the symbolism of her carrying our flag. He writes and in a sense it starts to give perspective on all my questions, on the significance of the quest of Irene, dying the shack in Walacedeen,
“On a hot Beijing night when an 18-year-old dream and 5 000 years of culture were celebrated at the Bird's Nest, Natalie du Toit embodied the words of Confucius, who was among the many elements that made up Friday night's dazzling, and no doubt vastly expensive, opening ceremony of the 24th Olympic Games.
"Our greatest glory is not in never falling down, but in getting up every time we do," has been the credo the 24-year-old Du Toit has personified since that fateful day in 2001 when her leg was taken from her in a car accident. Being the flag bearer for Team Rainbow Nation last night [Friday] was the fulfilment of the first part of an Olympic dream that first took root at the age of 6, a desire that was intensified by the amputation…… Du Toit's and Team SA's lap around the stadium lasted just three minutes, but it mattered little to her. For seven years she was told the Olympics were a dream too far; for seven years she kept falling.
On Friday night she got up yet again. As Confucius said, it matters not how slowly, so long as you do not stop.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

At the heart of our violent society...

The xenophobia and crude violence meted out against dark-skinned, poor Africans is not over yet. Pearlie Joubert, in her article, Murderous welcome for refugees, are right there on the spot (as allways), higlighting the horror of desperate people at the hands of South Africans.

I could (again) go on and lament this, and rightfully add my voice of revulsion and protest. After all, I am a Protestant. The Protestant Social Centre, in Antwerpen highlight in their year report on their work in supporting asylymseekers, 'Hierin mag een protestantse, protesterende en profetische geloofvisie niet ontbreken als mensen in de knoei komen, dichtbij of veraf.' It would however be better for us, also to look deeper into what lies behind this and whether we are in fact, dealing with the fundamental root causes. It's one thing to erect a tenttown haphazzardly or to mobilise volunteers and groups of people of wellbeing, to hand out food; it remains however another thing to work towards sustainable solutions for all concerned. I think on this level the shallow pleas of our leaders on the African-ness of us all or to invoke the fading memories of leaders 'ín exile' in these countries, in the face of our evident opulence and illusions of the great South African (economic) dream, has proven to be just that, illusions. A naive few still believe these and continue to imagine the new African National Congress as the custodians of the interests of the poor. They are not. Their interest is business, big business and yes, for them, even the legacy of our struggle, the legacy of the commitment to the poor is for sale.

What is the alternative? I heard that the National Party, the erstwhile custodian of apartheid, has risen from the dead. Initially I thought that this was a sick, April fool's joke in August, but unfortunatly it is not. They might even be the called the 'Herstichte Nasionale Party of the new SA'. But then, maybe in their ressurection, they also might point to the frightfull deepening of the social divisions, to the point where people indeed find the past more hopeful, than imagining something new; this is where a reclaiming of the past, an essentialist identity provides solace and hope to rally around. This is disturbing, but at the least it symbolises what some knew all along: apartheid is not dead, yet. The establishment of the Bruin Belange Inisiatief (Coloured Interest Initiative), some argue, might also be a case in point, yet, I would suggest that harnessing social support around the question of identity and the material needs of people, is not in itself problematic, only where it excludes the other and are rooted in a racist heritage, ideology and vision. Here we might find an example of a progressive identity based movement that could play a key role in reminding us all what the struggle was all about-equality for all, irrespective of skin-colour. Here we might also find an affirmation of the complexity of Africannes, combined with a commitment to deal with real material needs of people. It is possible that we might find here an experiment of the kind of alternative movements, identity movements that could more effectively challenge the hegemony of the agents of a system that only benefits the few, who ironically, still call themselves, comrades. My definitions of 'bruin' might be broader then what the proponents of BBI envisioned, namely a new broader hybridity, which acknowledge that beyond the stale, outdated white-black binaries, we are all mixed, whether it be culturally, socially and genetically. It might be at this level that links could forged to challenge a cruel system that put the poor up against themselves, but also system that threatens to dehumanize, destroy us all...

Musings.....