Charles Cilliers
4 minute read
5 Apr 2019
10:08 am

Helen Zille, even if a rapist gives you a cute baby, it doesn’t make rape okay

Charles Cilliers

She's gone and done it again, defending the legacy of colonialism.

Helen Zille. Picture: Supplied

Part of me knew I shouldn’t have been surprised, because even though Western Cape premier Helen Zille once apologised (about two years ago now) for her tweets about Singapore that seemed to be defending the “legacy” of colonialism, her subsequent utterances made it clear she wasn’t sorry, and had never been sorry.

Even this morning, she was in effect simply repeating the same old offensive views.

Her earlier apology makes her subsequent statements extremely difficult to respect. At least if she’d refused to apologise in the first place you could say she was sticking to her guns. But now she looks like someone of low character, who makes hollow apologies and then carries on doing the same thing she supposedly felt so sorry about.

Zille claimed in June 2017 that she had acknowledged how “insensitive” her comments were to those who had suffered under colonialism. But still she persists. She’ll take just about any opportunity, it seems, to remind us how she was right and her critics – including most people in her own party, apparently – were wrong.

Zille did it again just this morning, taking the preposterous position that the “very concept of a state is a legacy of colonialism”.

So of course Zille genuinely still believes her proposition that the legacy of colonialism cannot be dismissed in its entirety, perhaps because she would like to see some more appreciation for the benefits of civilisation itself, and maybe a bit more gratitude from the natives that the white man deigned to place a leather boot on African soil in the first place.

I can’t believe, though, that no one has managed to sit Zille down and get it into her head that colonialism was a crime. It was an excuse for richer and more powerful countries (states, to be sure) to occupy, plunder and enslave.

Japan went to great lengths to ensure it avoided being colonised, because they could see what the results were for the colonised (and they were not pretty). Japan could always have been considered a nation state despite never being colonised (sorry, Helen). Admittedly, Japan also went off and colonised China as soon as it was able to, but that’s beside the point.

ALSO READ: Afrikaners, you’re being hypocrites on Zille’s tweet

War is not legal in our modern world (it was made illegal in 1928 and interstate wars between the great powers now don’t exist after more rigid enforcement of progressive global law by the UN after 1945). Although an agreement criminalising war between countries (such as the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928) was never signed to ban colonialism in the same way, the basic principle is the same. There’s not that much difference between colonialism and war, and the two always went together anyway, like Bonnie and Clyde.

Colonialism often (but certainly not exclusively) involved invading and exploiting another people’s territory because they were less able to resist you, and so it was more appealing to the conqueror – but in many ways such occupations and their effects were indistinguishable from the spoils of war.

One wonders why Zille doesn’t make it a regular goal to defend the legacy of war. After all, war gave us numerous technologies and even sped up the development of the computer. Why anyone would feel the need to hammer on about this point, though – as if useful technologies couldn’t be developed without the need to also kill hundreds of millions of people along the way – would be a mystery.

Imagine someone every so often saying: “Guys, you know, war was awful, but let’s remember it helped to develop mechanised tracks for things like excavators. So its legacy isn’t all bad.”

That’s not factually wrong, but it’s a ghoulish preoccupation to focus on, and that’s what Zille’s picking at this wound seems like to me.

I thought maybe by now someone would have sat the woman down and tried to explain to her that colonialism was a crime enacted on a global scale by the powerful against the weak. Defending any of its after-effects, positive or not, is, indeed insensitive.

I tried to think of an analogy for her to maybe grasp the point, and it’s the one that informed the headline on this piece.

Rape is wrong. Rape can never be defended. Rape is a crime. It should never, ever, happen and anyone who does it to another person is a criminal.

However, many times in history rapes have resulted in children being born. Such children are blameless, and I’m sure they have been loved and loved in return, regardless of how cruelly they were conceived.

It may be true that colonialism left behind a number of its own “children” (such as infrastructure, schools and numerous other systems) that are worthy of being retained, and that are not evil simply by virtue of their origin.

But it takes a very special kind of tone-deaf person to go to a rape victim and tell them (repeatedly, year after year): “You know, rape is bad. Definitely. But at least you got a really cute kid out of it. So the legacy of your rape is not all bad, you know!”

Citizen digital editor Charles Cilliers

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