“I can’t see why everybody is up in arms about Zille’s tweets. Sure, colonialism wasn’t good – but she acknowledges that. All she’s saying is, we’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”Servaas knits his bushy brows together in frustration. “South Africa did have the best roads in Africa, the best economical growth and the best infrastructure…”
“And apartheid, Servaas.” Gertruida interrupts him quietly. “There was gross inequality between what the different races were entitled to, remember? It wasn’t right.”
“And, my dear Gertruida, everybody else in the world enjoyed equal rights? The Americans didn’t murder the indiginous peoples and neither did the Australians? Women had voting rights since Noah stranded the Ark and Afro-Americans had the right to vote before 1966?
“No, Gertruida, one simply cannot judge the 60’s by applying current values and wisdom. History – all of it – has to be seen in context. Fashions change, feudal systems get thrown out, the science and reasons for war have evolved, the Kitty Hawk does not represent the cutting edge of aerospace exploration any longer. Just like steam does not drive our factories any more, so society found it’s way past the restrictions of the past. Slavery is out, gender and race equality is in.
“But we had to develop to get where we are, Gertruida. It was a process that took centuries. And let me tell you: development without hardship is just about impossible. We are reaping the fruits of past injustices, but also of the progress forced unto us through those injustices. You see, Gertruida, the moment people start realising that no history is just good or just bad, attitudes will change. Wars are terrible, yet they have contributed to medical science as well as technology. That doesn’t mean that one should defend the acts of one nation obliterating the other, neither does it imply some sort of sick happiness when victory rests on the death of thousands…or millions. But – and this is important – history is just that: it’s the study of the past. It tells us what was bad and it hopes to build on whatever positives there once existed.”
“So you’re defending Zille’s statement?”
“Absolutely. Storm in a political teacup, if you asked me. Being white entitles you to be accused of everything these days. The ANC seems to be intent on shaming whites into submission – and then they have the gall to call you a racist. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, they’re the ones sensitising everybody about racial issues. Whites get blamed for apartheid and colonialism and monopolising the economy for your own benefit. White South Africans have become the perfect political ploy to divert attention from the atrocious way the ANC governs the country. Whereas the ‘old’ ANC had such noble aspirations, the ‘new’ leadership have lost their way. Mandela’s dream of a united South Africa rested on the principle of fairness to all and the right to pursue your dreams. Uncle Zuma, on the other hand, does not believe in fairness at all and grants us the right to pursue our worst nightmares.
“I can’t see what’s wrong with taking the good out of the past and building on it. I also say we must never, never repeat the injustices of the past. We must acknowledge the wrongs, but stop blaming each other. And, for goodness’ sakes, make speeches about the future for a change and stop telling the masses that it all went wrong when Oom Jan dropped anchor in Table Bay.
“Everything about colonialism is bad, is it? Then why do we have men dressed in black suits, wearing ties and calling each other The Most Honourable So-and-so. Why do we speak English when our indigenous languages – even Afrikaans – get less recognition? Why are our leaders calling each other Comrade and shouting Viva? Why is Jacob called Jacob?
“And Africa’s past isn’t brimming with honour and glory either. Shaka wasn’t an angel. Dingaan wasn’t the best host at times. The Difaqane wars didn’t do much to encourage intercultural relationships. Whites made terrible mistakes, that’s true – but so did everybody else.
“But…being sold to the Guptas is just a new form of colonial political slavery and somehow that’s okay for the government of the day. The Gupta/Zuma economical monopoly far outweighs the funds in so-called white hands. These are the mistakes of our times we can do something about. The colonial stuff of yesteryear? We can’t change history, can we?
“It’s time to stop blaming the Vikings for what they did to England. And it’s time for us to do the same and concentrate on the future for a change.”
For once, Gertruida doesn’t offer and argument. She whispers a soft “Amen” before wandering off into the quiet of the late afternoon, shaking her head. “They want to get into bed with Russia? Build nuclear power stations? The biggest coloniser of all? How absurd! The issue shouldn’t be the recognition of the past’s positives, it should be about the present’s negatives.”