It’s happened again. Helen Zille has tweeted. This time, not about colonialism or ubuntu, but about cadre deployment.
This is what she said a week or two ago:
“The old NP ‘cadre deployment’ usually managed to build strong state-owned entities, a capable state, and led to significant industrialisation and economic growth. Quite the opposite under the ANC…”
Most people respond to Zille’s tweets in an emotional way. People who disagree with her, do so vehemently. Many agree with her, even if they do so secretly.
Lindiwe Sisulu also had this effect on people. As, in the more distant past, Steve Hofmeyr.
Let’s not waste our time with Hofmeyr and Sisulu here. They have been quoted a billion times. Their remarks have sparked a litany of responses, many of them so derogatory that they seem almost like personal attacks. It is not my intention to attack anyone personally.
That’s why it took me a while to figure out why I was irked by Zille’s latest tweet.
I think I finally figured it out, and I am now responding to her (better late than never).
We need to understand exactly what she is saying, but also what she is implying, because, as is almost always the case with Zille, it is the hidden implications, rather than the first-level meaning, that conceals the really poisonous part of her message.
This is the question: did the NP’s Broederbond cadres build up our country, or did they cause systemic collapse, like the cadre deployment of the ANC did?
Well, okay, under the NP we had fewer potholes, fewer power failures, a better rail system, better hospitals, et cetera, et cetera.
But what is she implying? Is, or is she not, implying that, under apartheid, there was no corruption? Or that their corruption was somehow less important than the corruption under the ANC, just because they managed to keep most of the lights on and at least some of the roads tarred?
What about The Citizen? What about Eschel Rhoodie? Oh, and let’s not forget, those were the things we knew about, because, believe it or not, we had less media freedom — much less media freedom — under the Bothas than we have now.
This is the flipside of the coin: the NP might have been efficient, but their so-called efficiency came at a ghastly price.
I am not just talking about the resettlements, the murders, the apartheid laws, the unspeakable cruelty the Bothas visited on black South Africans. I am referring to the cruelty they visited on their own people, their own children. I myself was a victim of that intolerable mindset.
I recently read Damon Galgut’s book The Promise. It helped me remember how dark and desperate those years of white domination had been, how absolutely evil, how mind-numbingly depressing and bland.
Calvinism, at least the brand of Calvinism that was preached by the Dutch Reformed Church of those times, was a particularly brutal and sadistic form of child abuse. What audacity they had, those dominees, to tell us, their own children, who they were supposed to love and cherish and encourage to live lives of self-respect, that we had been “conceived and born in sin”? That we had to strive to “kill” the “old self”? That there was somehow something wrong with us, something that would only be fixed if we believed in the God of white Nationalism?
I have always felt extremely uncomfortable with the popular narrative that states that all white people benefited from apartheid. I am white, and many of my friends are white, and, believe me, many of us were traumatised, and are still traumatised by experiences in the “border” war. We were psychologically maimed and tormented on so many levels. It was usually the ‘intelligent’ ones who suffered the most, those of us who questioned the status quo. We were not allowed to listen to the music of our choice, we were pressurised into conforming to their barbaric values and to pay homage to the ideology of apartheid. Not to mention the utterly unnecessary guilt complexes about ridiculously unimportant things like masturbation, interracial love, and, in fact, all sex out of wedlock!
Apartheid was the political ideology of the National Party regime, sure, just as the absurd leaning towards communism and socialism is the political ideology of the modern-day ANC government. Yet both these ideologies were somehow more than just political ideologies. They impacted us not just economically or even culturally. As with the socialist tendencies of today, the apartheid way of thinking was a stench that permeated all of society and left nothing untouched. Today, mainly because of the ANC’s old-fashioned policies, there is hardly a single state-owned enterprise that works the way it was designed to work. And I am not sure if, back in the old days, there was a single Afrikaner family that was not, to some extent, dysfunctional.
Sure, I detest the inefficiency and the ineptitude of the modern-day ANC, but, for me, my feeling of antipathy towards them — and, make no mistake, this feeling is extremely strong — does not even begin to compare to the absolute contempt I, as a youngster, felt towards the National Party.
Under the National Party, we may have had a better Eskom, we might have had Sanlam and Die Huisgenoot, but we were a nation of sleep-walkers, alienated from ourselves and from other South Africans, uninformed and oblivious.
This is why I believe Zille’s latest tweet is dangerously skewed and can be easily taken out of context.
If by tweeting statements like these she inadvertently encourages people to idealise our apartheid past, it would lead to ghastly mistakes in our thinking; mistakes almost as terrible as the ANC’s inability to grasp the fundamental principles of a modern market economy.
So, to sum up: were the Broeder cadres better than the ANC cadres? Such a statement might indeed not be an outright lie but it surely is a very dangerous half-truth. I am afraid that Zille’s tweets might have the potential of destabilising our social cohesion.
Helen Zille, of all people, as a seasoned and experienced politician and public figure, should have realised that. DM