Letter to the editor: Sidley is asking blacks to be good, even if it kills them

TOKELO NHLAPO first published on 24 Oct 2016 

This letter was written in response to Steven Boykey Sidley’s opinion piece, ‘Are we still welcome here?’published 19 October 2016

 Many whites like Steven Boykey Sidley would have us believe that our anger over our ancestors’ brutal slaughter, and being made to be poor, landless, uneducated and servants in the country of our birth, is unjustified. There is an attempt to silence black pain by invoking “broad-shouldered men and women who thought carefully and unemotionally” about our co-existence with white people. Of course the 1994 “breakthrough” is used to silence us; it works perfectly for white people because they keep all the loot.

In his article, Sidley seems to follow the logic that blacks must get over racism and all crimes that come with it. In other words, black pain must not expressed because it makes white people feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.

Ahistorically, he takes issue with Fallists who declare “fuck white people”, and seem to suggest that those who say the words are racists who seek revenge, but does not explain why blacks are angry, particularly at whites. He further takes issue at the demand for white people to “shut up”, but does not note that blacks have been silenced for decades, and that blacks only had their right to express an opinion, let alone be called South Africans, since 1994. The rest of the time blacks were Bantus, Kaffirs or natives who provided cheap, easily disposable labour for the comfort of whites, who spoke only for themselves at our expense.

Black people were violently dispossessed, by whites, of their land, humanity and dignity through capitalist, colonial exploitation, apartheid and structural racism, and many continue to silently enjoy those privileges today.

Sidley confirms white privilege that remains in our society, that white people feel that they are the centre of everything, and that every time they feel uncomfortable it must be treated as an emergency. The arrogance of white power is that they are part of the problem and still demand to be part of the solution.

If whiteness is a social construct out of the indignity of others, especially blacks, to value certain bodies (based on their pigmentation) over others, I wonder why the Sidley considers himself “white.”

Identifying as black or white is not simply a matter of pigmentation or appearance. If I ask, “Are you black or white?” I am not simply asking about your appearance or pigmentation. I ask about your socio-historical existence. Albinos are light in appearance, but they’re not white in the sense that they exploited others for their comfort. I am black because of socio-historical existence of dispossession; I am a descendant of colonialism, discrimination and indignity.

In other words, by identifying as a white person, Sidley would be accepting the history of the violent creation of whiteness out of the indignity of black people. The black condition is a white creation; we are turned into workers and servants for white comfort.

I therefore find it extremely offensive that a beneficiary of racial exploitation now tells the same people who have suffered so much how they should speak. The fact of the matter is even if blacks are angry at whites, nothing we say will impact negatively on their lives, jobs or careers, or on their safety or wealth.

Sidley is asking blacks to be good and decent even if it kills them, if not for him, then for his children. He asks of blacks to accept the white socio-economic and cultural dominance and ultimately black submissiveness to white demands. He is asking blacks’ humble compliance with CODESA agreements, for him or his children’s comfort, without complaint, because for him the violence of his ancestors is history; yet blacks are still rebuilding their lives from the chaos of white violence. I wonder if Sidley is willing to give up the loot.black_fear-1



No heritage without land

TOKELO NHLAPO first published 22 Sep 2016
The 24th of September is celebrated each year as “Heritage day” but it is unclear exactly what the public holiday is intended to celebrate. The dominant discourse around heritage day is our supposed shared culture, diversity and traditions in context of a nation that belongs to all.

The repeated message during the costly public celebrations is often about building the rainbow nation and uniting in our diversity. Whatever that means. This is done so as to avoid the primary contradiction of heritage without land which 79% is privately owned by a minority settler. In order words, the landless and those that own it should unite, sit around the fire and braai meat when the braai is done, the blacks must return to the space-less spaces they call home.

There is no heritage without land, land is our master heritage for any art, culture or language to find expression. Until it is returned, our heritage will continue to be a flux to be cheated into a braai day. The dangerous illusion that our heritage is to wear “traditional gear”, dance, sing and braai is absurd.

About four generations of my lineages can be traced to what is now in the Eastern Free State called Dihlabeng municipality, in a small town now called Fouriesburg named after a white Huguenot descent from France, Christoffel Fourie, who donated to the land to use as a temporary capital during the Second Boer War.

Since the forced removals I returned in 2014 to do diteboho (thanksgiving) to my ancestors as tradition, a part of which has to be a respectful visit to where they last rest. In order to perform this simple tradition, my family had to ask permission from the white owner to allow us to see their graves. My ancestors even in their death remain guests in the country of their birth.  

The heritage of the South African arts flows from the rock art of the Khoi and San people to the Tsonga nwana dolls that are used in initiation, the colourful wall painting of the Ndebele, with their rainbow beads making bracelets to the exquisite dance of Batswana.                  

Our heritage cannot simply be reduced to the Tshivenda minwenda or to the Sesotho Modianyewe or Xitsonga xibelani. Our heritage is our shared historical existence to the only corner of the world that we and our ancestors find ourselves and our right to self-determination.

The colonial subjugation of black people was sealed through violent conquest and the resistance from Khoi-San against Dutch colonial authorities, to the Godongwana, son of Jobe the King of the AmaMthethwa to King Moshoeshoe of Basotho and others has always been about land, our master heritage. Land for defeated people like us Fanon teaches us, gives us bread and more notably dignity.

Under Christian idealism, we know that God created us out of the dust of the earth and when we die we return to the land from which we were made.

Land is our identity, it enables us to belong, to express our culture and produce beard. Land is our heritage, everything that is beneath, the mineral wealth, the seas, the animals, including the skies. The land is the only thing that connects us in this corner of the earth, it is worth working for, worth fighting for, and worth dying for because that is the only thing that lasts for ourselves and our descendants.

It is only through the collective ownership of land that we would truly share a collective identity, self-worth and become a truly reconciled society. 

SA’s poor graduates condemned

TOKELO NHLAPO first published 18 Sep 2016

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) will go after beneficiaries who have failed to pay back their study loans by using the National Credit Act. In other words, young black graduates will be blacklisted.

According to Nsfas chairperson Sizwe Nxasana, this will help the scheme recover R21 billion in loans owed to it.

This while the Fees Commission continues to look into the “feasibility of free higher education”.

No wonder student organisations such as the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Students’ Command and the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania withdrew from participating in the commission; and no wonder it was generally met with hostility from members of the Fees Must Fall movement.

All government-sanctioned commissions that have come before – from the Arms Procurement Commission of Inquiry to the recent Marikana Commission – have exonerated key political figures from responsibility and provided no justice or satisfactory outcomes.

Importantly, the question of higher education is not a judicial one, but a policy one.

Generally, basic education at South Africa’s public schools is inadequate, especially for blacks and the poor, with many schoolsfailing to meet the minimum standards of quality education.

Against this background, understandably, poor black students entering university face difficulties.

Despite South Africa’s history of racial discrimination, universities continue to replicate inequality and privilege.

The problems students face to access higher education – and the struggle for free, quality and decolonised learning – are fundamentally about the reconstruction of post-apartheid South Africa into a more equitable society.

I am a beneficiary of Nsfas and it works this way: To obtain funding, I had to ask my mother, who is a domestic worker, to request an affidavit from her white employers confirming that she was their employee and that they paid her R150 a day – amounting to R3 000 a month.

In addition to enduring the annual embarrassment of standing in long queues at the Nsfas offices to prove I was poor, the struggle to get accommodation close to campus was a nightmare for many black students like me.

The reason students received financial aid was because of their socioeconomic circumstances, which do not miraculously change when they earn a salary or stipend.

In his submission to the Fees Commission, Ntuthuzo Ndzomo, the deputy general secretary for equal education, encapsulated the black graduate’s predicament.

“I am the only one from my own home who went to university. My income is not my own income; it is my family’s income. Circumstances are quite important, and we cannot run away from them,” he said.

The burden of the black graduate is that he or she would naturally be expected to alleviate some of the burden of poverty on their family.

These conditions remain after the student graduates. Many of them, who have job-hunted for months, end up becoming back yarddwellers at their parents’ home.

The cost of an average year of study at the University of the Witwatersrand amounts to R30 000, excluding residence fees.

This means a four-year degree without accommodation can easily cost R120 000. According to Nxasana, a graduate on a R30 000-a-year internship would be expected to pay R900 annually – to clear a debt totalling more than R120 000 – for at least 11 years.

So, blacklisting black graduates is condemning them to poverty.

Government and universities have reduced the demand for free quality and decolonised higher education to “cost” – a cost which the individual student is liable for, not society as a whole.

Universities have been reduced to this factor, to such an extent that cleaning, gardening and kitchen staff at universities are outsourced mostly to white, privately owned companies that exploit the structural unemployment of black people to reduce operational costs to the universities.

Free quality and decolonised education is possible without bullying already poor graduates and sentencing them to more poverty.

This is possible if education is viewed not only as the student’s responsibility but also as part of society’s role to advance its development.

We cannot condemn poor graduates without questioning why vice-chancellors can earn as much as R250 000 a month, and get personal chefs and accommodation paid by the university, when no sufficient, affordable accommodation for poor students is provided.

In addition, it cannot be that government spends about R158.6 million on the salaries of 35 ministers and 37 deputies when students are deprived annually because they are poor.

Given that higher education in South Africa is supposed to play a crucial role in our socioeconomic and political transformation as a collective, costs should not rest on the individual student alone.

F*** white people’ is an appropriate expression of black pain


Offensive: Wits Student ZamaMthunzi

TOKELO NHLAPO First published 09 Feb 2016 

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has pledged to investigate all racism-related complaints, regardless of the perpetrator’s race. All political parties, including the EFF, have in principle agreed that racism should be criminalized. However, this should not be used to police black pain.

Recently a black Wits student wore a t-shirt with the slogan “fuck white people,” and this caused an uproar – mostly from white students accusing him of racism, and asking why the student was even allowed to walk on campus with such a t-shirt. These statements by white people follow the logic that blacks must “get over it because apartheid is over”.

It is important to explain what racism is. Racism is the violent process of black people’s subjugation which requires institutional power to continue the subjugating, something black people never had, even post-1994. If we don’t define racism it becomes everything, and everyone can be a victim of racism. Perpetrators become victims and victims become perpetrators.

Whiteness is a social construct created from the indignity of others, especially black. It values certain bodies based on their pigmentation over others. But identifying one as black or white is not simply a matter of pigmentation or appearance. If I asked “are you black or white?” I am not simply asking about your appearance or pigmentation. I ask about your socio-historical existence. Albinos are light in appearance but they’re not white. I am black because of a socio-historical existence of dispossession; I am a descendant of slavery, discrimination and indignity. In other words, by identifying as a white person one would be accepting the history of the violent creation of whiteness itself at the expense of the dignity of black people. The black condition is a white creation; we are turned into workers and servants for their comfort.

Whites have undeserved privilege and power generated over centuries of black exploitation and indignity. All whites who mastered the racist exploitation of black people, killed and raped black women, children and babies were given executive clemency even before they went to court. Even those that did not actively support apartheid and colonialism enjoyed and continue to enjoy its privileges silently.

I therefore find it extremely offensive that beneficiaries of more than 500 years white supremacy and undeserved privilege further want to police black pain and how it should be expressed. I honestly don’t like white people; I have every reason not to.

It is not a “prejudice” defined as “prejudgment, or forming an opinion before becoming aware of the relevant facts of a case”. The fact of the matter is even if blacks have an attitude towards whites, nothing we say will impact negatively on their jobs or careers, on their safety or wealth. In fact, black people must guard what they say about whites because whites have the power to punish what we say through institutions such as the SAHRC, yet not a single one of them will take responsibility for the fact that my mother, like many others died a servant in their fancy kitchens when her dream of becoming a professional nurse was shuttered simply because she was black. So, fuck white people!

The structure of white supremacist racism remains intact. 12 million black people live in extreme poverty, they simply do not know where their next meal will come from. 79% of our land remains in white private hands. A conservative figure of 27.9% of blacks is unemployed in comparison to only 7% of whites. White families earn an average of R365,134 annually while black families earn a mere R60,613. In other words, whites earn five and a half times more than blacks. 70% of top management positions are held by whites, with only 13% held by blacks.

This reality translates into almost all forms of relations between whites and blacks in South Africa. The whites are patrons in restaurants and blacks are their servants, we live in the townships while whites live comfortably in mostly secured suburbs. The fact of the matter is black people were violently colonised by white people; they forced us into the ghettos and drove us away from economic activities.

We no longer want empty reconciliation without justice, we demand justice and the expression of our anger is not a mere baseless prejudice. There is no vocabulary to explain black pain or the fact that white people never had to give anything for all the evils they committed.

So, “fuck white people,” is an appropriate expression of black pain. I worry that if racism is not properly defined, victims of centuries of racism will be arrested for telling the truth about white people and their evil deeds.


So, Cronje, is this how you legitimise white wealth?

TOKELO NHLAPO first published 09 Sep 2015

It is unclear whether South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) CEO Frans Cronjé wrote in his personal capacity when he defended and legitimised the wealth of white South Africa while trivialising the violence through which the wealth was generated.

Cronjé’s notion of ‘transformation’ is when whites “invest themselves in launching new businesses, building the economy, creating employment, contributing to innovation, paying tax, building new skills, and increasing exports”. In other words, blacks should share in the surplus of the growth of the economy already in few white hands and whites must not “buy into all the socialist claptrap about redistribution and equality”.

Cronjé reminds us why Nelson Mandela is celebrated so much among whites in South Africa. Madiba is a symbol of reconciliation without justice, who extended his hand, called for peace and for us to embrace one another, while leaving untouched whites’ ill-gotten privileges. He gave all whites who stole our land and turned us into their savants, murdered and raped black men, women and babies, executive clemency even before they went to court. He equally absolved those whites who enjoyed the privileges of white racism silently. Madiba guaranteed whites freedom, equal rights, land and the economy but white South Africa gave up absolutely nothing in return.

I often wonder how whites in South Africa in their collective morality live with themselves knowing that the privileges they enjoy today are generated from the indignity of the black majority. Cronjé seems to be deliberately ahistorical in his attempt to appeal to whites’ consciences, and more importantly to legitimise their wealth and assure them that ‘transformation’ is in the interest of protecting their existing unethical wealth if they create new opportunities for blacks.

It is baffling that he even quotes Professor Jonathan ‘Uncle Tom’ Jansen who is the president of the SAIRR claiming: “For white children who come from insular environments onto university campuses, the presence of black persons with their own voice and authority is still bewildering. There is the compulsion to put such persons in their place. And one speaker after the other on Luister gives testimony of how this happens — abusing a black student who dances with a white woman; tapping a black restaurant worker on the head in the presence of others; attacking a student of colour with the ‘k’ word. These are not random acts of racism — they are intended to remind the newcomers onto campuses who is in charge.” The expectation that blacks must be tolerant to racist white students is a calculated strategy to strip black students of their claim to these universities as their own spaces. That black students could either be ‘good’ by fulfilling the roles that white authority has assigned for them, or suck it up and be grateful.

I find it deeply offensive that Cronjé thinks that blacks need whites to go out of their way “to make the first-generation (black) student feel welcome and included”. The arrogance of whites, it seems to me that there’s always an expectation that black students need to adjust to racist institutional cultures but no space is given to black students to express their lived experiences. The reason white students can tap black restaurant workers on the head is their socio-economic power.

It is because 79 percent of South Africa’s land is privately owned at the expense of the black majority who remain landless. White students know and are taking advantage of the racist structural unemployment in this country because the poor black restaurant worker would not dare stand up for herself and risk her job.

Whiteness is not simply the pigmentation of one’s skin; it is a system of discrimination based on an artificial ideology of race power and privilege, and Cronjé clearly takes anti-racist work personally. Race is nothing more than a socially constructed classification that attaches powerful meaning to perceptions of skin colour and the more than 500-year-old social construct consequently privileged whites over others. Besides the fact that whites have social power over blacks, whites enjoy the highest average household income of R365,134 per annum, approximately six times more than what black families get. Whites are safer and more secure than blacks in Gugulethu. Only seven percent of whites are unemployed in comparison to 27.9 percent of blacks. Whites are only 10 percent of the economically active population but occupy more than 60 percent of the top management positions. Two white men have more wealth than half the population this country.

The denial of this reality is the denial of colonialism and apartheid and ultimately denies our place in humanity as blacks. It worries me that the head of the SAIRR seems to legitimise white wealth as though whites gained all they have today through ethical means. The racist undertone in his dismissal of black businessmen with private school educations who complain about discrimination is similar to whites in Stellenbosch who expect black students to be silent about the racist institutional culture of that university. In other words, blacks should be grateful that they’re even in universities.

UCT’s poo protest: Violence is a perfect reaction



Poo over Rhodes: Chumani Maxwele UCT student

TOKELO NHLAPO first published 11 March 2015

Rhodes, who died on 26 March 1902, is today associated more with Oxford scholarships than with the black mass killings he committed. It was Rhodes who originated the land grabs to which Zimbabwe’s current miseries can ultimately be traced. It was Rhodes who told the House of Assemblies in 1887 in Cape Town that “the native is to be treated as a child and denied the (Cape) franchise. We must adopt a system of despotism in our (whites’) relations with the barbarians of South Africa”. Rhodes’ attitude towards Africa and its people was bluntly racist; in his own words he “prefer(ed) land to niggers.” Moreover, Rhodes is linked with the Jameson Raid, an illegal attempt to annex Transvaal territory then held by the Boers, a primary cause of the South African War in 1899-1902. He is clearly an enemy of black people.

The university’s attitude, in media reports so far, ignores the fact that Rhodes is responsible for countless black mass killings, connived his way to wealth through lawlessness by exploiting South Africa’s diamond and gold deposits, and used his bloody wealth to fund the invasion of East Africa to seize almost a million square miles of land from black people.

UCT’s communication manager and media liaison, Patricia Lucas, is reported to have confirmed the incident, and said that the protesters did not follow “procedures in place to allow students to hold peaceful and safe protests on issues that concern them”, and by failing to inform the university “violated the law”.

UCT is a university with only 48 black academics out of a total of 1,405, and not a single black South African woman full professor. The expectation that black students and blacks in general must be good and decent about institutional racism, colonial symbolism and the celebration of black genocide within the context of white intellectual, socio-economic domination, involves the submissive acceptance of self-humiliating obedience to white values, attitudes, rules and regulations, even when they are manifestly biased against blacks. It is simply white privilege and arrogance.

Rhodes’ statue is not the only statue that celebrates racist colonialists. There is Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, named after Lieutenant-Colonel John Graham; Rhodes University, and the very precincts of our democratic Parliament, where there are statues of Queen Elizabeth and Louis Botha, which stare to mock the raging landlessness and hopelessness of blacks daily. The EFF in Parliament, of course, raised its objections about the presence of colonial monuments, which obviously divide the nation, and proposed their removal, to which the ANC and the DA were opposed. In fact, the DA is naming Cape Town’s busiest road after a racist who was education minister in 1976, when unarmed and defenseless black school children were shot in their back by white police. It’s like asking white Jews to accept a monument of Adolf Hitler in Tel Aviv because he promoted respect for women, children and strong family values, with the total disregard of the history of human tragedy for the Jews.

The reaction to the defacing of Rhodes’ statue is a reflection of South Africa’s white supremacist values under the stewardship of a black government, to pacify black rage into humble compliance with white demands, even when such demands are offensive, humiliating and unjust. UCT, a white university, wants black students to submit to white domination without complaint, or that their complaint be processed within the defined legal channels, processed and reduced within a white dominated system, when 47% of whites in South Africa already think Apartheid was “not that bad”.

Like the 1994 reconciliation project without justice, in the name of national unity and the “rainbow nation”, whites expect all blacks to suppress or passively restrict our demands, to renounce or greatly reduce our active, self-determined pursuit of self-determination, for rejecting colonialism in all its manifestation.

Finally, whiteness requires blacks’ silence in our justified and valid demand for the removal of all commemorations of those who oppressed and exploited us, and defenselessly permit whites to abuse us and to be ready to indiscriminately be compassionate to others, including our enemies, like Rhodes. The bravery of the black students to publicly challenge white arrogance and the institutional racist colonial symbolism is truly inspiring necessary anger to sharpen the contradictions in the university and perhaps in South African societies.