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Menings | Opinion > Rubrieke | Columns > Afrikaans > Jason Lloyd: Hotnotsgot

Coloured nationalism: Be forwarned

Jason Lloyd - 2011-03-17

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The so-called coloured people – who are actually black – are standing with their “political and economic backs” to the wall, because they have rejected their “ghastly” blackness. This rejection of blacks by the coloureds is, according to a number of blacks, the root of the evil that caused the polemic on the position of the coloureds in post-apartheid South Africa.

Look, Jimmy Manyi’s so-called statement that there is an “overconcentration” of coloureds in the Western Cape, Kuli Roberts’s column on coloured stereotypes, and the proposed amendments to the Employment Equity Act (which will ensure that the national demographics will be applied everywhere, should these proposals be enacted) did not fall out of thin air.

No, there is a reason for the statements by Manyi and Roberts. A black colleague openly asked why the coloureds wanted to claim the fruits of the new South Africa while simultaneously denying that they are black. Another black colleague has pointed that the same socio-economic problems are present in coloured and black areas but that the coloureds are snubbing blacks and associating themselves with whites; “thus, coloureds are denying their blackness and acting as if we are not human,” the colleague stated.

It would then be quite safe to enquire whether the statements of Manyi and Roberts are symptomatic of the “negative” discussions held in black communities about coloureds – discussions that may be justified by the conduct of the coloureds themselves. If I acted arrogantly and answered my own question, I would respond with an emphatic “yes”.

Let me present the context that will explain my “yes” to my own question.

The response to my column “Coloureds must proclaim that they are proudly black”, which was published in Die Burger last month, again confirmed the hatred some coloureds feel against blacks.

I myself was called a “kafferboetie”. I shall not repeat other despicable reactions to my column by some coloureds, for fear of offending sensitive readers.

I call it hatred, because it cannot be racism, because the coloureds are an ethnic group and not a race; in fact, they are part of the black race. The claim that Manyi’s statements were racist is unfounded – how can a black be racist against a black group? The interpretation of Manyi’s statements has also been completely taken out of context for the purpose of cheap political propaganda. Manyi said that coloureds constitute approximately 7 percent of the population, while only 4 percent occupy managerial positions. Therefore, they are underrepresented in these positions, and coloureds would do well also to settle in other provinces and find employment there – not in the Western Cape only.

What is wrong with this?

Anxiety around amendments to the aforementioned Act runs high and is particularly evident in black communities because of the political choices made by coloureds, based – as my black colleagues commented – “on the fact that coloureds look down upon blacks”. Another reason is that blacks do not feel at home in the Western Cape, because of the presence of the white DA government.

An ironic twist to the whole Manyi issue was the fact that Trevor Manuel joined the debate. The minister descended to such a low level that he accused Manyi of racism. In addition, he questioned Manyi’s struggle credentials. Again: how can a black man be racist towards a black group?

Why would Manuel, who is now on the “last leg” (?) of his political career, cosy up to “coloured nationalism” by damaging his own political image? Or is this a cheap political ploy to obtain the vote of the Western Cape coloureds before the elections? Or is it proof that he is a frustrated remnant of the Mbeki area? Did he speak up when Cabinet approved the amendments to the Act in mid-2010? Since 1994 he has maintained a solemn silence on issues that affect the coloureds closely.

He has remained so quiet that the voice of the coloured people got lost in the debate between blacks and whites. It is also noticeable that Manuel’s Afrikaans has deteriorated progressively since 1994. Could this be symbolic of his absence, particularly in the coloured areas on the Cape Flats? What are his views on gang violence, tik and drugs, which are threatening to destroy the coloureds? Others would want to rake in the story of white women where he and Allan Boesak are concerned. However, I would not want to stoop so low.

Because he wrote the letter of his own accord without consulting ANC structures, his response has been interpreted and reduced to that of a “coloured leader” defending narrow ethnic interests. This must have been painful for Manuel, who rejected colouredness or being coloured (did the coloureds notice this in his letter?), because this – according to him – is an “apartheid qualification”. Because of this, he has already lost status and has simply strengthened the hand of self-appointed ethnic coloured leaders who make irresponsible statements such as “I am not black.”

These statements could create fertile ground for coloured nationalism, with the ethnically based Bruin Belange Inisiatief (BBI) singing in the front row of the choir. This could potentially further derail the already shaky relations between coloureds and blacks.

And for coloureds, this will not generate any positive political and economic outcomes. Coloureds, be forewarned.

He is also playing directly into the hands of Solidarity, Afriforum, the DA and the white Afrikaans media, who will do anything to sour relations between blacks and coloureds. Where are the other progressive coloured voices to mitigate the damage?

It is tragic that Manuel has now become the hero of the BBI, an organisation that does not realise that its very existence is jeopardising the pursuit of non-racialism.

Manuel’s letter was and is a huge political blunder which caused more harm than good. Ironically, Boesak – whose credibility has already reached zero levels – also descended to Manuel’s tragic “level of despair” and made a defamatory remark that Manyi had no political credentials.

Talk of playing the man and not the ball!

The emotional reactions of some coloureds to Roberts’s column were not theoretically thought through, because of the stereotypes existing in the coloured communities. However, they do not deny these when Mark Lottering and Trevor Noah poke fun at them. In fact, coloureds are willing to pay hundreds of rands to listen to these stereotypes. Let us be honest: there is more truth than lies in Roberts’s column. Her only mistake was to place it in the public domain, while the coloureds and other groups whisper about it.

In the interim, Avusa sacked Roberts as a columnist, while Die Burger first sacked Annelie Botes as a columnist because of her insulting and racist remarks against blacks, but then reappointed her. Why?

The self-appointed coloured leaders, Boesak, Manuel, Solidarity, Afriforum and the DA have kept mum about this.

Well, silence is also an answer.

Some coloureds have only themselves to blame for their miserable position in South Africa. They must not blame blacks for this. Their rejection of their blackness and their idolising of white people has created their problems with black South Africa. It is about time that they ceased to see the “ghastly” in blackness and find a sense of wholeness in the fact that all people have been created in the image of God.

Jason Lloyd is a freelance writer and a columnist.