Wednesday was Reconciliation Day and in his official speech President Jacob Zuma thanked the black population for choosing reconciliation over retribution and bemoaned equality skewed heavily in favour of whites.
What is reconciliation? Here are two definitions: “the restoration of friendly relations” and “the action of making one view or belief compatible with another”.
A photo was taken of a lone ranger in a Ford bakkie trying to hijack the march against the president in Pretoria on Wednesday. This cowboy, or girl, had two giant old South African flags fluttering in the winds of freedom in the capital.
All twenty eleven of the old-flag pirates have made national headlines. An old Irish toast says: “As you slide down the bannister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction”. If post-1994 South Africa is a giant bannister we are all sliding down, then these hangover groupings are surely the pricks that threaten a smooth ride to prosperity.
That said, the majority in this country is not all reconciliatory. There is a subtle tone of emotional abuse – a bit like the white pricks on the three-colour bannister.
Some middle-aged blacks are forever reminding whites on social media, whenever race is mentioned, that soon the
majority will stop asking nicely for them to share their wealth – the subtext being they “will come take it with force”.
How does passive aggression engender “friendly relations” or make “one view or belief compatible with another”?
Let’s not forget the many liberal whites who seem oblivious (or act stupid) to their condescending tone towards blacks and inequality, which drives some blacks, and other whites, to turn every banal event into a mudslinging
match over white privilege.
Then there are apologists for apartheid who could make Ricky Gervais cringe, followed by reactionaries defending Zuma and his antics purely because of his race – as if everything is “us-versus-them”.
There’s whites who think blacks can’t run anything – they are probably part of the afore-mentioned splinters – and emotional blacks who play the condescending bogeyman card: “don’t trust them, they will bring back apartheid”.
This is the kind of atmosphere the leadership in this country has fostered. Criticising this context is in no ways a sentimental longing for Desmond Tutu’s Rainbow Nation, it is an acknowledgment that nation building and national dialogue has been replaced by a defensive mindset that has neatly carved chips onto the shoulders of whites and blacks with equal aplomb.
A white gets a job and it is white privilege; a black gets a job and it is affirmative action – a third reason is never contemplated.
Calling spontaneous marches against Zuma a white agenda to bring back Apartheid is as laughable as calling Fees Must Fall activists a bunch of thugs who want to burn down buildings.
Disruptive minorities will try spoil everything, but the willingness of chipped, jaded and, frankly, overhyped white and black commentators to draw battle lines instead of debate lines destroys reconciliation and prevents any meaningful strides towards emancipation.
Maybe all the old folk – everyone over 30, myself included – should go watch reruns of the #FeesMustFall activists. The young South African does see race, unfairness and institutional segregation, but while the adults bash the same old arguments back and forth, the kids have already turned the house upside down.