For South Africa to move forward, it must acknowledge that the legacy of colonialism and apartheid lives in every sphere of our lives. It plagues our communities and is latent in the structure of the economy.
Apartheid was built on a very simple, but false, assertion of “separate but equal”. There was no equality in apartheid. Instead there was a concerted effort to ensure no unity existed among the black majority. As such, the apartheid regime put in place strict racial and class structures. These social cleavages created a hierarchy which existed for one reason: divide the masses and rule with an iron fist.
They understood that a divided majority meant weakened opposition to their illegitimate minority rule.
As part of their racial classifications, Griquas, many of whom were descendants of the Khoi and who lived in Kokstad in KwaZulu-Natal, were classified as coloured. This haphazard classification not only robbed a people of their culture, history and heritage, but made them foreigners in the eyes of their fellow Africans.
This is what apartheid did to us, and its legacy is still evident in how we think, understand and relate to other races in this country. This is perfectly encapsulated in the words of the architect of apartheid, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, whose instruction to successive administrations was unambiguous. He told the then Parliament that “we must take the implementation of separate development so far that no future government will ever be able to reverse it”.
Today, the legacy of Verwoerd lies in the historical assertions in KwaZulu- Natal to limit tenders awarded on a BBBEE base to coloureds and Indians in the province.
While BBBEE remains a vital tool employed by government to address racial injustices and redress the economic imbalances of the past, this new assertion by the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal goes against the very ethos of the principles outlined by the founding fathers and mothers of our democracy. At the time there was a deliberate effort to recognise Indians and coloureds as black South Africans, because of the divisive racial and oppressive policies of apartheid and colonialism.
As such, it is quintessential to ensure BBBEE reaches all those who were marginalised by both colonialism and apartheid. Coloureds, Indians and black Africans were oppressed both during colonialism and apartheid. In the haste of asserting a position, the ANC in KZN has shown a complete lack of understanding of the historical role of coloureds and Indians in the province.
In Nelson Mandela’s own words, he said that the 1950s defiance campaign undertaken by the ANC was influenced and inspired by the passive resistance campaign undertaken by Indian South Africans, led by the Natal Indian Congress.
What this shows is that the current leadership in KwaZulu-Natal has selective amnesia and is willing to rewrite the historical diversity of the province to meet a narrow objective.
This objective seems logically contradictory to the ANC’s concept of Radical Economic Transformation, which seeks to make the economy reflective (and inclusive) of both the provincial and national demographics, rather than the direct and clear exclusion of other marginalised groups.
During my time in Parliament, when we passed the BBBEE legislation, one of the key arguments put forward by the ANC was that coloureds and Indians must remain part of the broad definition of black, and as such benefit from BBBEE. It therefore seems the ANC in KZN has completely lost the plot, and seeks to perpetuate greater racial divides. DM
Roy Bhoola, Chairperson of the Allied Movement for Change
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Roy Bhoola is a former Member of Parliament in South Africa. He served as an MP for 10 years from 2004 to 2014. In 2014, after leaving the National Assembly, he co-founded a civil society organisation, which aims to give voice to the concerns of those disillusioned by the promise of democracy. Bhoola is currently the Chairperson of the Allied Movement for Change, and Ward Councillor in Umzinto, KwaZulu-Natal.
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