Columns 15.10.2015 06:00 am

DA has to flush out racists

Former Citizen Editor Steven Motale. Picture: Michel Bega

Former Citizen Editor Steven Motale. Picture: Michel Bega

Apartheid was not declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations for nothing.

Under the murderous system, many atrocities including abductions, mass murder, rape and torture were committed by the security forces. The majority of the victims of these crimes were blacks. Many of the survivors of this state-sponsored gross violation of human rights still carry the scars.

That is why many people who never experienced these atrocities, and those who benefited from the crimes of apartheid, still find it easy to glorify leaders of this evil system.

Look at the DA’s Dianne Kohler Barnard, who unashamedly shared a Facebook post calling for the return of PW Botha, one of apartheid’s most brutal leaders. For those who don’t know and those with selective memory, this is a summary of what he did: Botha vigorously advocated the preservation of white minority rule through brute force.

His tenure as prime minister was punctuated by the enactment of security laws that enabled the government to arrest, detain, imprison and even execute those who fought against his regime’s racist laws. Botha implemented a policy of destabilisation of SA’s neighbours, including cross-border raids that killed hundreds of innocent civilians, including women and children.

As we are reporting elsewhere in the paper today, Kohler Barnard will only learn her fate at the end of the month. Many of her fans who, like her, never experienced the brutality of prejudice, went on social media to defend her. Some of her supporters even wrote letters and columns in newspapers justifying her atrocious post.

This barely comes as a surprise since most of Kohler Barnard’s supporters never experienced the savagery of PW Botha’s regime. A recent study established that 47% of white South Africans believed apartheid wasn’t a crime against humanity. According to the 2014 SA Reconciliation Barometer, whites were less likely to remember the oppressive nature of apartheid than other citizens.

The study found whites were half as likely as black South Africans to agree with redressing the injustice of the past. These are the same people who see nothing wrong in singing the praises of a human rights monster like Botha. These are the people who feel offended whenever anyone utters the word “apartheid” and are quick to tell everyone how we have to forget the past and focus on the future.

They are the same bigots who are fierce critics of a democratically elected government which has the unenviable task of undoing in 21 years the more than three centuries of damage inflicted by racially divisive legislation. Although apartheid has been relegated to the history dustbins, constantly reminding ourselves about the evil system will create awareness among citizens about apartheid’s legacy and allow for healing and transformation.

As the past has shown us, racism is an ill that can systematically destroy a society. That is why it is imperative for a political party like the DA, some of whose members envy old South Africa, to flush out racists who are hellbent on rubbing salt in the wounds of millions of victims of racial discrimination.

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