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Africa

PW Botha and stains of blood

The South African flag is flying at half mast this week and Mandela and Mbeki singing the praises of PW Botha. Reconciliation can mean a lot of things but this is not one of them. It sounds more like appeasement and is an insult to those who suffered, struggled and died under Botha’s rule. Kamellahwrites gives her take on his death and responses to it

shall i tell palestinians to give a high five to the IDF and the israeli government? should we go back in time and get slaves to lead a ceremony for slave owners and leaders of the confederate army? i mean damn.

botha died without ever apologizing or ever acknowledging his wrong. apparently, his wife barbara believes that her husband had been “terribly misunderstood” and that south africans would come to realize what they had lost. she says and i quote, “the man cared about everyone, irrespective of what politics said. he really cared. he wanted everyone to have a piece of the pie.” if apartheid was a manifestation of this ‘care,’ i’d hate to see what he would do if he didn’t ‘care’ about black south africans.

Icarus Redeemed has a different take on the death of Botha in a piece on “White South African Society”

First of all, white South African society is one which has largely been untouched by the Enlightenment. That may be seen as a good thing in many ways and in many quarters. But, it also means the white South African has been untouched by the reality check features of some Enlightenment concepts like “Utilitarianism”.

Second, the white South African appears (‘appears’ being very much the operative word here) to be the carrier of those traits to which his Teutonic counterparts of an earlier era may justly have laid claim — of being at the cutting edge of Western or European civilisation.

My take – I cannot bring myself to say the words RIP and I believe my feelings are more representative than those of the likes of Mbeki. COSATU spokesperson speaks

PW Botha will be remembered with “hatred and disgust” as a brutal dictator who presided over a system that denied the majority all their basic human rights, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Thursday.

“His hands were stained with the blood of hundreds who were murdered during the struggle for democracy and liberation under his presidency,” Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said.

“The overwhelming majority of South Africans and the people of the world will remember PW Botha only with hatred and disgust.”

Reconciliation is one thing but I dont see that it means writing a revisionist history and to quote Kameelawrites once more

…….there is forgiveness, then there is praising your colonizers, slave owner and the man who put his foot in your neck.

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8 Comments

  1. The man was a party hack and a thug. He never apologised and admitted he was wrong (but then Mbeki & Manto couldn’t find it in themselves to admit that they were wrong about HIV/ADIS…it’s a common human trait).

  2. sokari, thanks so much for cross-posting my commentary on pw botha! i just started blogging a few months ago and it always help with others cross-post and link to me. the situation is actually quite disturbing and illustrates how these politics of reconciliation can really instigate a dangerous historical amnesia which neville alexander (in ‘an ordinary country’) says made it ‘possible for yesterday’s racists and fascists to be ‘transformed’ as if by magic into ‘anti-racists’ and ‘democrats.’ (64).

  3. first off, call me a dumb american, because i didn’t even know he had died.

    we are consumed right now with mid-term elections, priests in gay sex scandals, and bickering between the right and left.

    this didn’t even make the news here … or if it did, i was just unaware.

    thanks for keeping the real world generation informed.

  4. It’s not good to speak ill of the dead, but in Botha’s case, I make an exception. The man was evil………[Better leave it at that].

    @Sokari – How is the SA trip going?

  5. It is a measure of how far we have come as a country that if South Africa still espoused the values that Botha tried so hard to preserve, he would not have been allowed to live so long, but would have been strung up like Saddam Hussein, or died in jail awaiting judgment like Milosevic.

  6. Sokari, you know better than this…

    “First of all, white South African society is one which has largely been untouched by the Enlightenment. That may be seen as a good thing in many ways and in many quarters. But, it also means the white South African has been untouched by the reality check features of some Enlightenment concepts like “Utilitarianism”.

    “Second, the white South African appears (’appears’ being very much the operative word here) to be the carrier of those traits to which his Teutonic counterparts of an earlier era may justly have laid claim – of being at the cutting edge of Western or European civilisation.”

    This is a gross, uneducated sweeping generalisation that spits on the memory of many white South African activists (for example, Bram Fischer and Joe Slovo) who openly campaigned against Apartheid and the war on the poor that has been waged by the ANC since 1994. Their contribution is and has been welcomed by the oppressed in this country.

  7. Dear Tristen,

    Those comments are mine.

    I would like to elaborate on them a little if i may. As you may know most people outside S.A. have no direct contact with the average white South African. Neither did i until the 1990’s.

    Most internationally minded people in the West probably (secretly) thought or still think that the white South African could or should “rule over” the black man because he is so naturally superior if not racially then certainly culturally.

    In just one blog post it is impossible to address the issue comprehensively but let me at least make an attempt from my own experience.

    I worked for many years as the accounting manager of a very large express delivery company. I had responsibility for setting up operations all over Africa- in North Africa, in Black Africa and also the Republic of South Africa. I went to these places, trained staff and these operations reported to me.

    Well, let me tell you, we had problems with the (white) SA staff like no other staff in any other country – African or non-African for that matter! It was a disaster story.

    They were unique in their inability to follow our clear and simple procedures & instructions and in their singular inability to “wake up and smell the coffee” no matter what mess they were creating and no matter what we did or said to them.

    In the end, we had to write off over $500,000 (in 1995 dollars) because of their dullness and it also cost the job of one my supervisors. We in our office would marvel at how such dullards could for so many years enslave another population 5 times its’ own size.

    That may have been a one-off bad experience.

    Or so i thought, until i went to another job and this time my boss is right off the plane from S.A. Always had and will have the greatest respect for this man’s integrity but he suffers from the same white SA dullness. His ineptness this time cost me my job but his neck is next on the line. I think he realises his days are numbered but he just can’t change. It’s the same cluelessness as i witnessed before. Nobody can tell these guys anything. I don’t give him more than another year.

    Anyway, that’s it. Comments welcome here or on my blog.

  8. Celal,

    Thanks for the response, and I’m sorry to hear you have had some bad working experiences, but that still doesn’t excuse your statements. You cannot take from isolated experiences and then generalised to an entire population group, bad logic, bad philosophy, and the road to racism (you do it again, btw, “Nobody can tell these guys anything”). In fact, as I tried to point out, white South African society has been touched by the enlightenment, and, in some quarters, significantly so.

    While I do agree that white South African society is generally racist, that does not excuse blanket generalisations. What it means is that you’re experience of South Africa has been too shallow. South Africa is a very complex society, and one that continues to surprise. Further, it shows a lack of historical knowledge of the country. I say all of this with the nicest intentions, and, with the hope, of increasing your knowledge of a difficult society to get a handle on.