Truth and reconciliation, a false dream of the rainbow nation

Vukile Theo Phanyaphanya

Vukile Theo Phanyaphanya

Published Mar 6, 2024


Vukile Theo Phanyaphanya

At the beginning of the Kempton Park talks in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the winds of change were blowing all over South Africa and the world. The fact that the winds were blowing at an unusual velocity reminded me of Miriam Makeba’s lamentation song “West Winds”.

The winds were blowing fast from the West and across South Africa all the way to Eastern Europe, sweeping clean the land where the Berlin Wall stood majestically since World War II, breaking families into East and West Berlin.

Ironically, in her song, Makeba warns the west winds not to “divide us” and it seemed at the time, that the west winds were bringing unity not only in Germany but in South Africa as well. The language used in South Africa at the time was “truth and reconciliation”.

According to those who were in the government, the terms were coined in order “to help heal the country and bring about a reconciliation of its people by uncovering the truth about human rights violations that had occurred during the period of apartheid”.

The problem with the single-minded approach to peace was that it assumed that while the apartheid regime had violated the human rights of black people, black people themselves had participated in violating the rights of the white minority. Nothing could have been further from the truth. As parties entered the commission’s inquiry, the mandate of the commissioners was clear: all parties had to confess their human rights violations.

In this way, the defence of black people against all sorts of atrocities committed by the apartheid regime was also turned into human rights violations. In literal terms, this meant that if someone kicked you in the face, you should not defend yourself because you would be violating their human rights. Nonsense!

The problem was embedded in the false concept of “truth and reconciliation”. According to the skewed approach, it was assumed that once you told the truth, then you must have been in the wrong and, therefore, had to admit it in order to forge the falsely pursued reconciliation.

The artificial pursuit of reconciliation, which was basically founded on black people forgiving white people and not the other way around, proved to be problematic because white people saw nothing wrong with the apartheid regime and the atrocities it had committed against black people.

While black leaders, like Mandela, were preaching reconciliation to black people, white leaders, like FW de Klerk, never did the same with white people. When Mandela got involved in a deliberate campaign to disarm black people, telling them to throw their guns into the sea, no such lecture came from De Klerk to white people.

The criteria used to grant amnesty became controversial since no white perpetrator was denied amnesty. On the other hand, most guerilla activists never qualified for amnesty. The PAC had even given up on the fight for the release of its political prisoners.

Those who had administered letter bombs on black activists and those who had either thrown activists out the windows of 10th floor in buildings of injustice or kicked them to death, got away with free amnesty. To date, some are even being remunerated by the state.

While white people were guaranteed their administrative and political positions in the civil service and military, many black guerillas were refused integration and military pensions. While white leaders had refused to be dragged to the commission, black people did not have the same luxury.

While the agenda of the commission was the achievement of truth and reconciliation, we see even today that communities have not been brought into integration processes. The Group Areas Act and the Colour Bar Act were scrapped only on paper and as a result, we find coloured areas and whites-only areas. This time, it’s even worse because some have established their own mini countries within a country. As if that were not enough, the DA and its allies are pushing hard to have the Western Cape declared yet another country within a country.

We have seen many examples of black people moving into white schools, white suburbs and white everything but we do not see the same movement on the other side. Instead, white people drift even further away as black people come closer. They have removed their children from the former model C schools into private and far more expensive education.

They have moved from the suburbs into the expensive estates in which black people cannot afford to live even after three decades of democracy, an indication that white household income remains far higher than their black counterparts. The minority petty bourgeois blacks who can afford private schools usually face the drama of their children being excluded on the bases of their hairstyles and things like that.

All this is a clear indication that one-sided reconciliation will never work; it is simply a unity of convenience. It is unity based on what white people will gain from it. It is a unity of white parasites that need black people only so far as it will give them some Broad-based BEE benefits. It is fake reconciliation, a false dream of the rainbow nation.

The rainbow nation itself is a fake, forged on the basis of distrust where others are allowed to train secret armies and have their own currencies, shops, banks and schools far away from the so-called rainbow nation. Again, it is reconciliation that is based on pretentious and suspicious relationships of white and black, where some elite blacks are financed to be in power as proxies of the minority whites that can survive only through a proxied majority by the corrupt blacks.

The political strategy to form and fund small, insignificant political parties that will never make a mark on majority rule is one example of many that the white minority regime use to maintain and cling to colonial power because this means that there will never be any black majority in a multiparty democracy. The irony of the latest development is that the black political parties believe that their funding is an indication of friendship and reconciliation whereas the opposite is true.

No government in the world can forge reconciliation between black and white people where the so-called rule of law is tilted to the advantage of one group over another. In a country where the banking system grants loans discriminately in favour of white people and the government doesn’t see anything punishable in that, there can be no reconciliation. An economic environment where the banks are not scared to manipulate the currency to the benefit of white monopoly capital and to the detriment of the black majority, there can be no reconciliation. It is a false dream of the so-called rainbow nation.

A country where the constitution guarantees the theft of the land as genuine and legitimate ownership has no foundation on which to base reconciliation. In a country where the truth is denied by the minority whites who prefer that colonisation and unlawful settlement of white settlers is buried and not talked about, there is no room for reconciliation. It is just a dream that will never come true.

Vukile Theo Phanyaphanya is a retired teacher and an active author.

The Star