Workers who feel uncomfortable voting for a black majority should rather vote for a smaller patriotic party, writes Tony Ehrenreich.
Cape Town - The elections are upon us and the decisions that influence them reflect the history and peculiar pre- and post-1994 developments in our province. The Western Cape in particular has an election dynamic that has its roots firmly embedded in apartheid history.
The history of division among populations of the Western Cape has impacted on the voting trends of the past 20 years of democracy.
The colonial occupation of the Western Cape reflected global developments of slavery and divisions among communities in the occupied countries. The history of the region saw slaves being brought from Malaysia and elsewhere to constitute the workforce, along with the indigenous San and Khoi communities.
The other local black tribes refused to work as slaves for the colonialists and were effectively free in the Western Cape until much later when laws were implemented to stop them competing with white land occupiers, in respect of supplying the ships.
In 1835 with the freeing of slaves, those mixed groups who constituted the slaves (Khoi, San, Malay and mixed) were highly skilled, and had built the colonisers’ houses and estates and planted all the crops of the Cape.
These slaves essentially built the economy of the Cape Colony which started the generational advantage of white people in South Africa that still continues today. The colonisers had, from those early days, promoted divisions between the slaves and those black communities that would not subject themselves to slavery.
This group had defined their own broad cultural identity, which reflected the different groups who shared the historical experience of slavery. They had particular music, diets, dances, language and cultural features that were emerging as being commonly shared between them.
This constituted a race or cultural identity, which must be recognised in the same manner in which we recognise the other distinct cultural groups in the country. For lack of a better word it is referred to as “coloured”, an identification that emerged long before the term was coined by the engineers of apartheid.
The consideration is that this group of people must be engaged with a respect and urgency that undermines the DA’s attempts to separate coloureds from the black community who were historically oppressed. The reality is that the DA’s key agenda is to maintain the apartheid generational advantage of white communities, with coloureds as “allies”.
These divisions had been reinforced by the preferential employment areas created by the National Party to further promote divisions between black communities. The oppressed black communities were made up of coloureds, Africans and Indians, who the apartheid state was intent on dividing so that they could have allies in maintaining the crime against humanity that was apartheid.
The DA has shown how they give white communities preference, by, for example, building the MyCiTi bus routes in those areas first, even though the Cape Flats needs them more urgently.
Schools in Claremont are much better resourced than schools on the Cape Flats; streets in historically white areas are wider with more flowers than the streets on the Cape Flats; there are no decent basic services for back- yarders and informal areas with their “porta potty” toilets put into their kitchens. The tensions between whites and blacks are increasing under the DA, as seen by the near civil war on the farms, where Premier Helen Zille supported the farmers.
The DA has only ever reacted to how the ANC has responded to the challenges in our society, and have never provided any leadership on the direction needed for our country. The ANC has some failings and weaknesses, with Nkandla being a real concern.
This is being investigated now, with a commitment to hold any corrupt parties to account. The bigger things to consider, however, are that since 1994, 3.5 million homes have been built, the economy has gone up from R800 billion in 1994 to R3 500bn last year.
In 1994, 8 million were employed; today 15 million people have jobs. For the most vulnerable 16 million people, we have provided a support grant.
Whites and blacks are not at war anymore, with very real prospects of a united future, if we undo the huge inequalities. We have liberated this country from apartheid, we are building bridges between blacks and progressive whites, we have put South Africa on a path that undoes the legacy of apartheid and extends prosperity to everyone.
Historically, the Western Cape has always been better resourced than the other provinces, even since before the ANC. But we have seen jobs and education levels decline relative to the other provinces under the DA administration.We have seen blacks – coloureds, Africans and Indians – being replaced by whites in senior levels of government by the DA. Equally qualified blacks have been deemed incompetent and inexperienced by Helen Zille, who says that she will use the Constitutional Court to defend the over-representation of whites in senior positions.
Even though some workers, because of all the historical reasons of divide and rule, do not feel comfortable voting for an African majority party, the ANC, because they see themselves as being closer to Europeans, we call on them to not vote for the DA and its defence of the apartheid generational advantages, but to vote for the smaller patriotic parties that also seek to build a better life for all the people of the Western Cape.
Cosatu calls on all workers to vote ANC.
* Tony Ehrenreich is the provincial secretary of Cosatu in the Western Cape.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.