By Lerato Lephatsa
“The function, the very serious function of racism, is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly, so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Someone says you have no art so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”- Toni Morrison
Nothing underlines this above stated fact than Helen Zille’s tweets on how colonialism was not all bad and her subsequent statements after that, including her recent article on the Sunday Times titled “White-bashing cancer destroys SA from within.” This storm, which has become an annual festival in South Africa, is here to distract us from doing the work of uprooting white supremacy and restoring the power of Black people by expropriating land without compensation and destroying white monopoly capital.
However, I believe Zille’s blatant racism, given her position in society, and the lack of Black Consciousness amongst many Black people, needs to be challenged.
Firstly, Zille makes a claim that her views on colonialism are simply a repetition of what other Black leaders like Nelson Mandela and Kenneth Kaunda have said. She argues that what prohibits her from expressing similar views is a “white-bashing cancer” that she claims has become a way to scape-goat whites for the failures of a Black-led government. What Zille misses is that colonialism as a system of conquest and dominance created a world reliant on its workings and systems, from the form of education to systems of governance. The modern world was created through conquest and dominance, thus its very functioning hinges on these aspects. In hailing the products of colonialism like the purported independent judiciary, Zille throws scorn at legal systems used by African people before their violent interruption by white colonialism and falsely arrogates civilization to whites. Underneath this view, is the perpetuation of white supremacy and Black inferiority. She airbrushes the violent imposition of the current systems used by our Black government and every aspect of this democracy. Zille conveniently forgets that it is colonialism that forced Blacks to rely on its trappings to live and survive.
The second issue is Zille’s failure to understand why she has no right to speak on this matter and how her framing of this as a virus of anti-whiteness is racist. Zille is a beneficiary of colonialism and racism, her views on both, especially to Blacks, are null and void. She holds no moral authority to tell Blacks what’s beneficial and what’s not, more so with regards to colonialism. Her insistence to make herself a victim of an instructive political position undertaken by Blacks, thanks to the teachings of Black Consciousness, that whites have no right to prescribe how victims of their racism ought to react to it. She wilfully replaces the reality and plight of Blacks with her flimsy cry to be heard as a beneficiary of colonialism. Her white arrogance as a result of white supremacy and colonialism is shown through her reference to Black Consciousness as a ‘populist, blame-shifting’ philosophy.
To Zille, the problems afflicting this country are not the centuries-old colonialism and racism, that has benefited white people exclusively, which are now projected through white monopoly capital. Rather, they are due to the incompetence of a Black government which is forced to operate within a realm of colonialist legacy and market centered systems of governance and their scapegoating of white people. She goes on further to dismiss white monopoly capital as an invention of the ruling elite, to deflect attention from its alleged chronic corruption. Zille deliberately obfuscates the fact that corruption is a by-product of the crisis of capitalism, whose bedrock is colonialism and racism, not the inherent penchant of Black leaders to misrule.
Helen Zille arrogates herself the position of a Madam, clarifying, educating and directing the misdirected ‘South African born-free generation’, especially the young, educated elite. She has all the answers, and has people like Mandela and Kaunda in her bibliography to vindicate her. This all but shows that the struggle against racism, whose lifeblood is white monopoly capital, ought to be waged vigorously and the government needs to quickly accelerate the implementation of the Radical Economic Transformation, which in turn will quicken decolonization and smack the smug off the racist Helen Zille and her arrogant belief that she can adre lecture Black people in their own land.