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South African democratic journey has shown the utter uselessness of political heritage

This bench in Queen Victoria Street in Cape Town with the inscription is an heritage instillation and serves as a memory of apartheid and the segregation in South Africa. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

This bench in Queen Victoria Street in Cape Town with the inscription is an heritage instillation and serves as a memory of apartheid and the segregation in South Africa. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jun 1, 2022

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The date was 26 May 1948. It was a Wednesday. Seventy-four years and four days ago, DF Malan’s National Party beat Jan Smuts’ United Party to form a government whose apartheid policies would, on 16 December 1966, be declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations General Assembly.

White capital and crassness colluded to systematically build a country, using black sweat, death and dispossession to ensure unparalleled privilege for white people for 46 years.

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With employment, ownership and managerial leadership still favouring whites in 2022, blacks continue to wake up as pariahs in their now free land. Instead of breaking and burning the table of apartheid privilege, the ANC government took it off the stage for a few years and has slowly moved it back to centre stage.

While they have abolished racial inequality, they have maintained and extended the power of their privilege to levels of gross ostentatiousness. Even Calvinist apartheid would blush at the privileges being gorged by South Africa's politically connected.

But let's move on from philosophical tables for a moment.

While they did not destroy the table of apartheid privilege, they did manage to destroy much of the infrastructure necessary to build more tables of justice and prosperity for the rest of the country. They could build neither school toilets nor power stations.

The South African democratic journey has shown the utter uselessness of political heritage and Struggle credentials that are not rooted in justice beyond political rhetoric and prison doors.

Participation in the Struggle has proven to be no guarantee of a commitment to building a prosperous democracy for all.

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Much of the great legacies of the Struggle are tarnished beyond redemption. Given the numerous corruption cases, it is clear many of our political elites are struggle averse. Poverty is repulsive to them – their own, that is. It is, however, just fine for the rest of the country though.

But before you develop a deep grin about ANC incompetence, 26 May 1948 was a dastardly day for Black South Africa. It tore families apart, killed countless numbers of black people, robbed them of land and history and impoverished them for generations.

Apartheid became the law 74 years and four days ago. Some people tell us to "move on, stop talking about apartheid; it's in the past." Slavery was abolished in 1865 in the US.

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It is still a much spoken of subject in that country. The Holocaust occurred 78 years ago. There are museums all over the world telling its story over and over.

These are history-determining moments. Apartheid ended 28 years ago. We still have much to talk about for a very long time.

Part of the attack on democracy, aided by the incompetence of the ANC to protect the integrity of the narrative, is to sully the retelling of our apartheid pain. "Get over it” is a common attack.

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Black people are not going to get over it – for a very long time to come. But the retelling of our narratives of suffering under apartheid is soiled by the multiple failures of the ANC to build a table of integrity, where these stories ought to be told as part of building a resilient democracy.

The 2024 general election will be a defining moment for this country, as 26 May 1948 was 74 years ago. A robust reflective process is required over the next two years to get conversations going about what constitutes a prosperous democracy.

There are so many overdue conversations. They are overdue because our leaders did not build a new table.

They craved the privilege of the old table. Our leaders are sitting at the same table our oppressors sat at. That table cannot produce the conversations that will build prosperity for all. It is now time for us to build our own tables.

* Lorenzo A Davids.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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