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Symbols of African genocide – like Parliament – must fall

Protesters gather in front of Oriel College during a demonstration of the 'Rhodes Must Fall' campaign in Oxford, England. A revolution that celebrates its oppressors was never a revolution, the writer says. Picture: EPA

Protesters gather in front of Oriel College during a demonstration of the 'Rhodes Must Fall' campaign in Oxford, England. A revolution that celebrates its oppressors was never a revolution, the writer says. Picture: EPA

Published Jan 6, 2022


Godrich Gardee

Pretoria - The best-kept secret of South African politics is the untold story of Dimitri Tsafendas, the assassin who killed the father of modern-day apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd, in 1966 at the now-burnt House of Assembly, then the whites-only Parliament.

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Tsafendas is said to have quoted a Turkish poet, Nâzım Hikmet, telling two Greek priests who visited him in 1994: “You are guilty not only when you commit a crime, but also when you do nothing to prevent it when you have the chance. If I don’t burn, if you don’t burn, if we don’t burn, how will the light vanquish the darkness?”

The story of Verwoerd and Tsafendas has come to haunt us today with the appearance of a visibly mental health-care patient, who is allegedly a homeless person, accused of arson. Tsafendas was depicted as “a wandering schizophrenic who killed Verwoerd “because of a tapeworm”.

The democratic government ignored a 2018 report of 2 192 pages by a learned jurist indicating convincingly that Tsafendas was not a schizophrenic who believed that his actions were determined by a tapeworm.

In fact, the study compellingly demonstrates that he was a man with a deep social conscience who was bitterly opposed to apartheid and viewed Verwoerd as the prime architect of the policy. Tsafendas told the police after the assassination that he killed Verwoerd because he was “disgusted with his racial policies” and hoped that “a change of policy would take place”.

The killing of Verwoerd was therefore a political assassination, and “not the act of an insane man”.

Likewise with the motive for Verwoerd’s assassination, we shall never know the truth of the fire that gutted the symbol of white supremacy. That is how dictatorships censor the truth. A monumental and colossal symbol of colonial conquerors and subjugation of Africans to the periphery has fallen.

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Many people who did history at Grade 12 or matric prior to the 1994 dispensation have no appreciation of how Parliament ended up in the enclave of Stellenbosch Mafia, the apex city of white monopoly capital and white supremacy.

Let us help you. A prototype Berlin Conference that partitioned and balkanised Africa into village sovereign borders was convened, popularly known as the Treaty of Vereeniging. The compromise peace between the two white native settlers was the sharing of the disposed land from Africans among themselves to the exclusion of black Africans.

This culminated in the 1910 Union of South Africa wherein the English white settlers were rewarded with the seat of the legislature in the Cape Colony and the two Boer republics in the Transvaal and Orange Free State (now Free State) were rewarded with the seats of the executive and judiciary respectively.

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These rewards are trophies of land dispossession wars. The establishment of the Constitutional Court housed at the apartheid female prison in Johannesburg was a correct decision to return the dignity of Africans by a new political dispensation. The failure to uproot the legislature from the whites’ enclave is the betrayal of a noble cause for which many lost lives and limbs in the struggle for the return of the land. It is an apologist and pretentious rainbow nation where the oppressor offered no apology.

Advanced democracies throughout the world have not only done away with symbols of barbarism, they try very hard to eliminate them and put them away from the public as a form of atonement. They are embarrassed to be associated with such human brutality and, at most, keep it in a museum and declare it as such. There is no statue of Hitler in Germany or the world.

In America, the statues of Confederate soldiers and slave owners have been taken to museums. In Venezuela, statues of Christopher Columbus were brought down. In Italy, there is no statue of the Fascist era.

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There is a growing movement that Rhodes Must Fall by UK citizens who feel ashamed to be associated with a brute force that subjugated other nations in the far shores of their ancestral home solely on the basis of racism. A revolution that celebrates its oppressors was never a revolution. No revolution publicly displays and honours its sworn enemies.

Racist settlers committed genocide to own the land. They cannot don our public spaces. Buildings like the Parliament in Cape Town and the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein should be museums that house the statues of all the racist murderers like Louis Botha, Verwoerd, Jan Smuts, Paul Kruger, Mahatma Gandhi, DF Malan, FW de Klerk and others.

A new dawn after a revolution should be characterised by statues, street and town renaming and the naming of buildings after the heroes of the liberation struggle of the African people, scientists, eminent persons of business, academics and fighters who resisted land dispossession. That class of iconoclasm should be reserved for the revered in human development and not those who stood for the antithesis of human freedom.

It would be provocative in the extreme to demand that the Jewish State of Israel put in its parliament the statue of Hitler. Yet, here in South Africa it is like we were never angry enough when we committed to root out the apartheid state. Here today, we must pass and salute those who castrated and hanged our forefathers and those who raped our grandmothers as a weapon of war to dispossess them of their land.

There is no sovereign state that has three political cities in Africa and the world. Neither the US and UK nor any G20 countries. There are political and financial considerations. South Africa is no exception. Politically, it is a symbolic return of our sovereignty and dignity from the commonwealth of the crown queen.

In financial terms, it is logical to save flights and accommodation of the executive and its officials across the departments and state-owned entities flying two hours for a half-hour meeting or a two-hour sitting of Parliament.

The investigation of the fire would be as useless as the investigation of State Capture and the so-called July “insurrection”. All this could have been prevented if not for the inept government controlled by white supremacy puppeteers.

Statues and symbols of genocide against Africans in the land dispossession wars must fall. As for the ‘scapegoat’ Zandile Christmas Made, we expect to see the return of the Phoenix: The Story of Verwoerd and Tsafendas retold.

* Gardee is director of Gardee Godrich Attorneys and the EFF’s Commissar for International Relations. He writes in his personal capacity.