The trouble with whites’ relationship with transformation in South Africa is that the term has been so abused and corrupted that it has become a repugnant concept to them. In many cases, it has become a proxy for anti-white nationalism. What the government calls transformation is a means to increase state control and erode civil rights. In the media, the concept of transformation has been abused to limit freedom of speech and shield the government from scrutiny. To show how far the term is being abused, I recently witnessed a group of black private school-educated businessmen whinging about how disadvantaged they are. In the hands of certain black activists the term ‘transformation’ is abused to represent nothing more than ‘white-hate’. Yet it remains essential that young whites remain committed to advancing true transformation in pursuit of a just and prosperous society.
I also think that many whites understand that Professor Jonathan Jansen is correct in key respects when he writes on Luister: “For white children who come from insular environments onto university campuses, the presence of black persons with their own voice and authority is still bewildering. There is the compulsion to put such persons in their place. And one speaker after the other on Luister gives testimony of how this happens — abusing a black student who dances with a white woman; tapping a black restaurant worker on the head in the presence of others; attacking a student of colour with the ‘k’ word. These are not random acts of racism — they are intended to remind the newcomers onto campuses who is in charge.”
The mistake that I think Professor Wim de Villiers made in his defence of Stellenbosch is to quote examples or statistics of where the university was transformed. It is almost as if the university sees transformation as an event or a project with a budget that must meet a target. However, it is not that – it is an attitude that says “can I use the position I am in to try and make South Africa a little bit better of place for the people around me?”. Some years ago in I wrote in Rapport newspaper, to much controversy, and more than one death threat, that young whites do have to pay for the evils of Apartheid.
By this, I did not mean that they must buy into all the socialist claptrap about redistribution and equality. This is a negative and destructive approach to transformation. What I meant is that they must use every opportunity to make the country better for all its people. This does not mean handouts or anything as paternalistic as that blacks need whites’ help if they are to succeed. What I mean is that young whites must use every resource they have to help build South Africa into a world-beating nation. They must invest themselves in launching new businesses, building the economy, creating employment, contributing to innovation, paying tax, building new skills, and increasing exports. They must work hard to create an opportunity for someone else – especially if they come from a different background. It means becoming teachers, and doctors, and university lecturers in order to help shape new generations of world-beating South Africans. It means as a third- or fourth-generation Stellenbosch student going out of your way to make the first-generation student feel welcome and included. It means intervening when you see a fellow student tapping a black restaurant worker on the head and calling the police to lay a charge of assault against that student.
I cannot think that the majority of whites would reject this approach and many already embrace it. There are many whites who do far more for real transformation than many black business leaders, academics, journalists, and activists – a truth that the white-hate brigade seek to deny. Many whites owe their fellow citizens a hell of a lot for the ravages of Apartheid. They can best repay that debt by doing everything possible in support of the true transformation that builds the country and economy to ensure that, for all its people, today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today. DM
Frans Cronjé is CEO of the South African Institute of Race Relation (IRR). Follow the IRR on Twitter @IRR_SouthAfrica.
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