Fifty years after the historic Morogoro Conference, which was held in Tanzania from 25 April to 1 May 1969, and which was a pivotal moment in the history of the ANC, the people’s party is facing another watershed moment.
That moment is about the recognition, future and role of the indigenous people, a group for whom the vanquished apartheid state created the identity known as coloured. This is a term that the apartheid rulers introduced into legislation to drive a wedge between different African communities in South Africa.
This wedge was further hammered in by the lie that so-called coloureds were a different group of people which was not African, but which enjoyed more privileges tossed off the white master’s table than those whom the National Party had legally classified as African.
Many swallowed this lie, which was also meant to foster the perception that coloureds were the fruit of sexual relations between different groups. The result was that this convenient myth further alienated so-called coloureds from the rest of the African community.
This division is still noticeable in the Western Cape, on some radio stations, on social media, and, even in the ANC, as ANC Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) Jessie Duarte has said.
Delivering the Albertina Sisulu Memorial Lecture in Soweto in November 2019, she said:
“We won’t accept the fact that non-racialism is a core value of the ANC. We don’t want to accept that, we even go as far as creating myths. I don’t like the term coloured people, I never refer to myself as a coloured, ever in my life and I never will.”
Touching on the contentious allegation that so-called coloured people benefited from apartheid, she said:
“Then I ask those who say that: ‘Have they ever been to Westbury? I doubt. Have they ever been to Riverlea Extension or Newclare? I would very much doubt that’,” said Duarte, adding that ANC members had the habit of speaking “without knowledge and the benefit of real information”.
Off course, the DSG kept quiet about those who had benefited from the necklace of homelands that the National Party had created and about former leaders of these areas who had sat in our national Parliament as if they were the greatest of freedom fighters. But that’s another topic for another day.
In Soweto, the DSG said ANC members often asked who marginalised “coloured” people under apartheid and that they do not need anything from the democratic state. She added:
“So today what you have is a national group of people in this country who don’t vote ANC, they just don’t vote, they stay at home. They don’t see the ANC as their home and yet in the 1980s and even some time before the 1980s we all worked together.”
Just in case what the DSG has said is dismissed by some as a diatribe by a so-called Coloured woman, let’s recall the words of Nelson Mandela spoken at the 1995 National Conference of Idasa.
He said countless individuals, of all colours and backgrounds, contributed to South Africa liberty, justice and democracy.
“Many are from the coloured community, which has nurtured a long tradition of struggle against oppression. It has given our nation outstanding leaders whose contribution and sacrifice for the ideal of non-racial democracy has been immense. In the past, they helped shape resistance politics, through each of its phases. Today they represent our nation as a whole, in Parliament and provincial governments, leading the transformation of our society,” he said.
According to our first democratic president:
“The special abuses under apartheid laws which the coloured community suffered — Group Areas and Mixed Marriages in particular — are a thing of the past. Under our democratic constitution, all South Africans enjoy the right to be protected and not abused by the law.
“South Africa shall never, ever, repeat the horrific abuses of detention without trial. Never again will our nation be at war with itself. Imam Haron, Basil February and Ashley Kriel will be remembered as towering monuments to this, our commitment.
“Freedom, justice and fairness are ideals for whose full realisation we must strive. But already all our people, from whatever sector, feel the dignity and pride of a nation which freed itself in the elections of last year.”
“Non-racialism is one of those ideals that unite us. It recognises all South Africans as citizens of a single rainbow nation, acknowledging and appreciating difference and diversity.
“Turning ideal into living reality will, among other things, require undoing the consequences of discriminatory practices of the past, in particular in employment and education. Affirmative action is a strategy of corrective action to bring previously disadvantaged people to the same competitive levels as those who have been advantaged.
“This policy has awakened fears among sections of the Coloured community. It is sometimes said to be intended to benefit only Africans, and there are claims that there are a few employers who misinterpret it in this way.
“It is necessary therefore to repeat categorically that anyone who says that affirmative action reserves jobs or opportunities for Africans only, is grossly distorting the policy of the government and the ANC. Anyone denied an opening in this way is denied a right that belongs to all who have been disadvantaged, and they should take it up with the authorities.”
So back to the present. What the DSG has said is not politically correct, but also politically relevant.
“I believe that ANC activists from the coloured and Indian communities have assisted with the marginalisation and alienation by giving up,” she said.
I am convinced that it’s time for the ANC to take on this, the national issue, which is the so-called Coloured people. Coloured people are the descendants of the Khoi and San and are African and also the first people. Not being recognised as Africans means that they are at the discriminating end of a policy that favours blacks in general and Africans in particular.
As the MP for Greater Athlone, I represent all people. However, I have witnessed the effects of the implementation of this policy. They are ugly and create hopelessness, an alienation from democracy, and a myriad of social nightmares.
I believe that there is a serious crisis in the so-called coloured community. Just as it did at the Morogoro Conference in Tanzania, the ANC must face the crisis that is ripping apart the so-called coloured community.
Failure to do so will have a disastrous impact on non-racialism, democracy and our future as a country. This is a national crisis that calls for the attention of the ANC president, as well as an NEC task team headed by the DSG to examine and come up with recommendations to bring so-called coloureds into the African family. DM
"Charms strike the sight but merit wins the soul." ~ Alexander Pope