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“Look at Yourselves – It’s Very Abnormal”: Thando Mgqolozana Quits South Africa’s “White Literary System”

Eusebius McKaiser, Thando Mgqolozana, Marianne Thamm and Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela
A Man Who is Not a ManHear Me AloneUnimportance
Could I Vote DA?Rusty BellThis One TimeTales of the Metric SystemHere I AmDare We Hope?

It’s perhaps a reflection of the nature of South African literary festivals that Thando Mgqolozana could upstage Kenny Kunene at the Franschhoek Literary Festival this year – who in his session called Julius Malema a “mixture of Hitler, Idi Amin and Mobutu Sese Seko”. Mgqolozana’s intentions – to opt out of literary festivals forever – caused quite a buzz, and by Sunday were even being discussed at events that did not feature him.

At one point, during an event chaired by Eusebius McKaiser, an audience member shouted out “bullshit!” while Mgqolozana was speaking, and a minor ruckus ensued. Later on that audience member stood up in tears and spoke at length about being tired of experiencing white guilt.

On the other hand, during an event on Sunday afternoon, when Imraan Coovadia asked Mgqolozana about his plans, another author on the panel, Alex van Tonder, said “I feel like I’m on the wrong panel! I feel like we came here to discuss how we found our voice” – which was the title of the event – and some members of the audience agreed vehemently.

Perhaps as reports and opinion pieces begin to emerge this week the importance of Mgqolozana’s stand – whether you agree with it or not – will begin to register.

Related news:


The origins of Mgqolozana’s discontent date from the year he was first published – 2009 – but came to a head last year at the Open Book Festival in a panel discussion entitled Writer’s Rage, with Zukiswa Wanner and festival organiser Mervyn Sloman.

Listen to a podcast of that event here:

Podcast: Writer’s Rage – Why Thando Mgqolozana and Zukiswa Wanner are Seriously Pissed Off

Mgqolozana, the author of three books, the most recent being a campus novel, Unimportance, reiterated his position at the Time of the Writer Festival in Durban, and in a recent interview with The Daily Vox:

I feel that I’m there to perform for an audience that does not treat me as a literary talent, but as an anthropological subject – as though those people are here to confirm their suspicions that somehow I am inferior to them.

The author says he would rather concentrate on his writing, and attempt to right the wrongs that exist at an infrastructural level through his work.

During the Finding Your Voice session, featuring Van Tonder, Nthikeng Mohlele and chaired by Imraan Coovadia, Mgqolozana said: “An assumption must not be made that we haven’t made attempts to change this system. A lot of us writers talk about it all the time and we try to do things.

“I’m part of a group of writers that started Read SA with Ben Williams, Zukiswa [Wanner] and others, which was because we want to encourage South Africans, especially black South Africans, to read, and particularly to read South African literature.

We come from a history where black writers were banned and the stories that would most resonate with a black audience were suppressed. There have never been as many black writers as we have now, there has never been as much diversity in terms of voices and stories.

“But that campaign fell off because the literary infrastructure at the moment is in the cities, in white set-ups, like here, for example. It systematically excludes black people. So what is needed is the establishment of that infrastructure. That’s what we need. Not just campaigns. We need to get libraries in the black communities. There are some now, built by the democratic government, but they are fake libraries. The ones that are functioning there are functioning because they are sponsored by Canadians and Australians, and they bring books from there. For example, I went to Harare Library in Khayelitsha [for a conversation with Cyril Ramaphosa about a national book club - ed.] and it’s sponsored by Carnegie. We need libraries and bookstores with relevant, affordable books in the black community.

“I don’t think private individuals can fund the kind of infrastructure that’s needed. We need the government to step up. Between festivals we need other literary activities, book launches and all the kind of things we have here. And that is a massive project, but I would rather be focusing on that than come here and say the kinds of things that I’m saying, ‘please change, please change’. I don’t think it’s going to work. We’ve tried to do it. My greatest focus is going to be writing, and I’m going to try to make this kind of change through my writing.”

Mohlele believes the problem is just one part of a much larger issue: “I don’t think it’s a problem of literary festivals, and what have you. The problems and the faultlines are much more fundamental than that.”

He illustrated his point with a story about being asked by a doctor at the emergency room at a private hospital why he hadn’t gone to the township hospital. “For me, the situation of festivals and so on are a problem, but it’s a very shallow reflection on society and its general imperfections,” he said.

An audience member asked Mgqolozana if he had considered whether a more sustained critique would be more effective than a once-off protest.

“This is not the first time,” Mgqolozana replied. “It’s the kind of thing we have been talking about for a long time.

But I don’t want this literary festival to change any more. I feel that it was wrong for me to ask of it to change in the first place.

“It’s the same argument as the Rhodes Must Fall kids are making at UCT. They are not asking the university to change, because that would mean tweaking a few things and it remains the same, fundamentally. So now they are talking about the complete decolonisation, and that means a demolishing of the entire system, which would provide us with an opportunity to imagine something new, something different. For me, that’s what I wish and hope will happen to this system. Changing this and that would still not be comfortable for any black writer, I think.

That’s like asking to be integrated into a fire.

“What I’m talking about is not just literary festivals. It’s not just literature. I’m talking about this society, the way it is. But in order to do that I focused on this small point of literary festivals, in order to be able to say: what this society needs is a complete decolonisation.”

Earlier that day, Mgqolozana took part in a panel discussion entitled Is Anger Underrated, which was a deliberate continuation of the Open Book event in 2014.

Chaired by McKaiser, and featuring award winning author Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela and journalist and author Marianne Thamm, this event seemed to cause the most discomfort of the festival.

Mgqolozana began by outlining his plans, for those who had not yet heard the rumblings on the Franschhoek grapevine.

I’m quitting what I call the white literary system in South Africa.

“I was first published in 2009,” he said, “and since me and other black writers have been begging to be integrated into this white literary system in a more comfortable way, and it hasn’t happened. Whatever changes we called for has not taken place. It is upsetting for me to jump out of literary festivals like this, and I’m upset that I’ve had to make this kind of decision, but I think it’s a necessity, because I want to be able to sleep at night, I want to be able to honour myself and stick to those principles.”

Addressing the audience, in which there were just two black faces, Mgqolozana said:

You can just turn around and look at yourselves – it looks very abnormal. In this country, it should never be like this.

Eusebius asked where Mgqolozana’s anger was directed, “at these wonderful people in the audience or the black people who are not here?”

“I’m very proud of the black people who are not here,” he replied, “because I don’t see why they should come here. I’m angry with the people who think this is normal. Who think the Franschhoek Literary Festival is normal, that the Open Book Festival is normal. Most people who are in charge of those things are our friends – nice people – but they think this is okay. I’m angry at those people. There is very little I can do about it, but I can remove myself.

“In this country there are certain conversations that we should be having and we are not having. One of them is this one. I don’t think it’s accidental that we have things like Rhodes Must Fall or the EFF popping up. Time has come. The black people in this country have realised, after 20 or so years, that, fuck it; we need to talk about these things. We need to be angry at Nelson Mandela. I don’t think black people are angry enough at Nelson Mandela.

I think in this country there is a moment that we missed; we should have unleashed our anger, which had been accumulating for centuries, and we didn’t.

“There were many things that we could have done but we chose to go through a Truth and Reconciliation process that didn’t work, which basically postponed the anger that people had and now they are starting to unleash. What black people are missing is that moment of victory. We didn’t have it. The elections in 1994 were not that.”

McKaiser asked: “Describe to me an alternative. Drive them into the sea?” This got a loud laugh from the audience, but Mgqolozana’s answer restored the uncomfortable silence pretty quickly.

“One of the things could have happened, which I think many of the people who got into the negotiations thought was going to happen, was that the white people in South Africa would realise ‘this was horrible, and we benefited from this’. And once they realised and made this admission, would say: ‘Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have this house. Maybe my father or my husband or me should be the last person, the last generation, to own this farm. Because I don’t really own this farm, it was theft’. And you can donate it to the next random black person that you meet. So that’s one of the things white people in South Africa could have done, and they didn’t.

“What could black people have done? I don’t know. In that moment of anger, it’s difficult to know what you can do when you’re angry.”

Mgqolozana’s next remarks were too much for certain members of the audience to take.

“One of the things I advise – when young white people come to me and say ‘what can I do’ – the first thing you can do is stop the charity work you are doing in Khayelitsha, it’s not helping anyone. Just stop it. Stop the soup kitchens and donating blankets. It’s just making people more angry, it doesn’t change anything.”

At this point an audience member shouted out “bullshit!”

Mgqolozana continued: “The problem is not the poverty that you see …”

But another audience member shouted: “That’s bullshit too!”, with others responding with: “He’s speaking”, and “Let him speak!” One woman then said firmly: “Please wait your turn” and to Mgqolozana, “We are listening, please continue”. It may be worth mentioning that this woman was of the few black people present, and mentioned in the Q&A session later that she had been politically active “in the trenches” in Durban during apartheid.

Clarifying his statement, Mgqolozana said: “The problem is not in the shacks. It’s a problem with whiteness. So if there’s anything that a young white person want to do because he/she is saying ‘I was not there’. The thing that I would advise them to do is go home – when racism is taking place there in conversations over tea or dinner, that’s your responsibility. There’s very little black people can do to stop this racism. We’ve tried for centuries. That’s what the Struggle was about. The people who can do something about it are people who belong to the same race – especially young people.

“Stop the charity work. It’s not welcome. Go home and deal with it there, at university, among your friends.”

Eusebius asked: “Do you think those are mutually exclusive? Me working privately on my damaged and stained white self, and me helping to reduce inequality?”

Mgqolozana replied: “There’s no point in doing charity work when we are not dealing with the main issues. I wouldn’t mind if a person was doing the kind of work I was referring to and at the same time doing all these other things. What I’m completely against is when you think being nice is making the world better. It’s not.”

McKaiser, referring to Rhodes academic Samantha Vice’s advice that white South Africans “work on their private selves”, said: “Even if you are not a perpetrator yourself, if you have unearned privileges – and I have them too, just because I have a penis – you need to reflect, morally, on what it means to be a beneficiary or privileges that you did not, through merit, earn. That is not done enough. But at the same time we recognise that, quite apart from what each of us need to do on a personal level, there are real macro-economic factors that correlate with the anger. We’ve got to simultaneously urge more South Africans, black and white, to work on their damaged private selves, but not to stop cross-class solidarity.”

His remarks got an enthusiastic round of applause.

Gobodo-Madikizela moderated Mgqolozana’s assertion slightly, saying:

I agree with you that these processes have to run alongside one another. And the idea of, as Thando says, feeding people in the townships as a way of cleansing one’s guilt, that has its role. And it serves an important purpose because people are hungry. But if it’s to cleanse guilt rather than to restore some dignity among people, then it becomes a challenge.

Shifting perspective slightly, Thamm asked the audience to consider what the conversation would be like if the focus was on gender rather than race.

I keep on having this image conjured in my head, imagining what it would be like as a woman to have a whole lot of empowered, possibly white, men coming to me and saying ‘we’re here to help you, we want to give you tools to unpack your life and the disadvantages you’ve encountered in your career, and I would just want to say ‘fuck off!’ That’s I think why women sometimes have spaces where they don’t want men to be, and I think that’s what black South Africans are asking us: ‘Butt out. Go work on yourself.’

“Rick Turner did this, understood that, and Steve Biko, back then. Unfortunately they’ve kind of been erased from the landscape in terms of what we need to engage with, which is not to receive Thando’s anger and dismiss it. Because it takes a lot to face yourself in the mirror as a white person. It’s not easy. In the end, you sleep with yourself at night. And as you head off towards infinity, you must make peace with yourself. Do not be afraid of it. And to be a white person standing here telling you not to be afraid of a black man’s anger is ridiculous, all of it, but it’s part of the process.”

During the Q&A session the women who had shouted out “bullshit” stood up, and said, through tears:

I don’t know when I can stop feeling guilty for being born with this skin.

She continued to explain how she had studied medicine and specialised in HIV, works at an NGO, how she would rather give money to a black beggar than a white beggar.

“But,” she added, “I need black people to understand that I’m so tired of feeling guilty. Yes, I might have inherited things that I don’t deserve, but from the age of seven in 1977, when I remember those Soweto riots, and hiding under the bed and thinking ‘this is so wrong’, and my parents thought I was wacko, being at Wits and fighting against racism, I just need to know that there is a place for me in this country where I am sometimes giving out blankets and clothes.”

Mgqolozana’s next statement stressed the importance of how the Rhodes Must Fall movement had “completely refused to be infiltrated to older people” who “come with experience and say they learnt to deal with anger”, adding: “We need urgent interventions. It’s urgent.”

As the audience began murmuring again, McKaiser interjected that Mgqolozana was responding to an earlier question about intergenerational difference in responses to anger, but even if this was Mgqolozana’s intention his response was perhaps deliberately provocative.

Mgqolozana recalled the situation during the transition in the early 1990s, when the ANC Youth League consisted of “older” people like Jackie Selebi and Peter Mokaba – “something was missing”.

Gobodo-Madikizela agreed, saying: “There’s a sense in which young people expressing raw emotion does change the poles.”

McKaiser then said he wanted to respond personally to the tearful audience member:

“I cannot speak for all black South Africans, but I my response is that I totally feel you, don’t stop doing the amazing work that you do. I have family who live in poverty, I feel the burden of what I call ‘black tax’, I can’t develop wealth and get out of that poverty myself. Like many black professionals, including the few who are here, we are actually secretly indebted – we’re not genuinely middle class – your work is very important. But I have two points.

“There’s a difference between guilt and reflective awareness of unearned privileges. You are not Verwoerd; you should not feel guilty because guilt presupposes you did something wrong directly. You didn’t. What you are exhibiting is not resting with guilt. You are reflectively aware as a white person of your unearned privileges and you’re not being challenged on it.

But in acknowledging your story and affirming the amazing work that you do, let’s not pretend that your story generalises across our society. If every white South African was like you, this conversation wouldn’t happen.

DA MP Michael Cardo was next to stand up, saying: “I was glad that the previous speaker shouted out ‘bullshit’ in the middle of a session, because I think she was exactly right, I think a lot of this discourse around white privilege and self-flagellating discourse is exactly that. It’s the basest form of racial identity politics.” Cardo also asked McKaiser, who has written a book about the opposition party entitled Could I Vote DA? A Voter’s Dilemma, about his “flip flop” on the work of Samantha Vice, which he had previously been critical of.

“My answer to you is very simple,” McKaiser replied. “I’m allowed to change my mind. I read Samantha Vice differently after Rhodes Must Fall than before. You call it flip flop, I call it intellectual development.

“Number two, I say it’s bullshit – yes, I’m emoting now – to pretend that because in the DA’s future you might have to be colourblind that there’s something fundamentally amiss in Thando self-identifying racially and experiencing a space like this painfully and racially. I think you need to hear him differently.

“Of course a white person should be an active citizen; you pay taxes, you’re a citizen of the country. Samantha’s basic advice was be humble and be silent and don’t perform in the public space. I think she spoke badly as a good philosopher, and that’s why we re-read her. If we take her literally, she’s wrong, and I’ve written a paper on it in the South African Journal of Philosophy. But the generous reading of what she says – which I now hear because I hear people like Thando differently to how I heard them before, as a liberal – what Samantha intended to say but used poor language, even as an academic, is don’t be so arrogant as to assume you have the monopoly on truth and only your understanding of the phenomenology of race is morally the most appropriate way of thinking about race and living racially.

“What she should not have implied and I acknowledge that she did, and this bit I do not agree with, is that as a white person you must literally shut up, not participate, not run for political office. And that cannot be right, not only because you’re entitled to those things as a white person and a citizen, but also because if I have an inferiority complex as a black person, it’s not going to help me to practice confidence speaking to Thando, who’s also black. I need to learn how to slam-dunk Michael the white person, and I can only do that if Michael and I are in dialogue publicly and not trying to live apart in terms of apartheid geography. But I think what Samantha is calling on you to do is put aside the normativity of whiteness.”

Later that day, Cardo tweeted:

Check out Twitter timelines from the events:



The 2015 Franschhoek Literary Festival was covered on Books LIVE by editor Jennifer Malec (@projectjennifer), deputy editor Helené Prinsloo (@helenayp), assistant editors Erin Devenish (@ErinDevenish811) and Annetjie van Wynegaard (@Annetjievw) and Jennifer Platt (@Jenniferdplatt) of the Sunday Times.

Have a look at our Facebook page ( and our Twitter profile (@BooksLIVESA) for more information and pictures!

Keep an eye on Books LIVE for write-ups of the best events this week (including the panel discussion featuring Kenny Kunene).

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    May 18th, 2015 @15:56 #

    Very curious to see where this goes. Anger and / or a desire for change can spark amazing things:
    Ben Williams saw a hole and created Books Live.
    Kwani? began after people, such as Wanjiru Kinyanjui, faced the question, 'Are Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Meja Mwangi the only writers Kenyan publishers are interested in?'
    Colleen Higgs felt there were gaps in the publishing world and started Modjaji.
    Mary Karooro Okurut led a group of women into forming Femrite.
    Rachel Zadok saw a need and founded Short Story Day Africa.
    Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire saw a gap in the writing world and co-founded Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACE), the organisation behind Writivism.
    And more and more...people are building, creating.
    Interesting times.

  • clark1
    May 19th, 2015 @12:06 #

    I think he is right to challenge the portion of society that I am part of. He echo's many of my frustrations as I engage with others (read whites) or their 'business as normal' attitude. We cannot keep agreeing with each other at dinner parties and the like to keep the peace. There is no time left for that - we do not have the luxury for that. We need to reflect deeply on how we are showing up and how it is contributing to black anger.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Rachel Zadok</a>
    Rachel Zadok
    May 19th, 2015 @12:33 #

    I hear Thando, and agree to a large extent with what he is saying. There is an inherent problem with racism in our society, and that extends beyond whiteness. I know he does not believe this, but these heated conversations do take place around the table in the homes of white people, at least in the homes of white people I know - and these people are trying to raise their children into a different society. But not all, and probably a very small percentage. I can't say I understand, because this experience is not mine to understand, but I can say that I hear you, and it's fucking depressing. And I'm sorry I said to you, Thando, let's do something. I am deeply sorry, because I wasn't hearing you. I guess I was too much of an optimist believing we have the power to make the change. The problem is beyond the individual, other than in their own home, as you say. Up until now, up until this, I believed in civil politics because all I see is the failure of government politics - not only here, but beyond our shores too. One thing that has not been mentioned in your anger, is how our government of the past 20 odd years has propped this up. Is collusive in propping up this system of whiteness, as you call it. Politicians getting into bed with rich business men, they too are benefiting from the Apartheid system. Our political systems are corrupt, not all, but at the top, yes, so asking the government to change it is just as foolhardy as expecting people to hand over their homes and turn their children out onto the street because they benefited from Apartheid.

    I did, until now, believe in civil politics. In the civilian's responsibility to be the change, to work on the ground, to remake the world. Not talking about charity, as I don't believe in aid work or charity work because, as you say, you steal dignity. It's why I started SSDA. It's why I sit on the board of the Observatory Community Centre. You've made me rethink that. I don't believe in government political institutions either. So where to now?

    (As a weird aside, my husband works for the Western Cape Health department, not because he feels (white) guilty, but because looking a middle class tonsils is as boring job a job as can be, and he believes in the health system our government is currently working to put in place, in our current health minister, and in many of the people working in that system. I know many state doctors who do. I don't know why I put this in, but maybe because I want to say not everything in our country is hopeless. And he says, if any of our family are in an accident late at night, we should go to Groote Schuur, not Medi Clinic if you want to live.)

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Rachel Zadok</a>
    Rachel Zadok
    May 19th, 2015 @12:35 #

    Also, in response to Tiah's comment. This is an problem in South Africa, not all of Africa. So Kwani and Writivism and Femrite are not relevant in this change. And probably neither is SSDA.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    May 19th, 2015 @12:53 #

    I would have given A LOT to be present for this. Such an NB conversation, such NB things to hear. And can we please agree that making black South Africans listen to protestations of white guilt/defensiveness must stop here and now? I think how the "not all men" response to feminist activism makes my teeth grind in rage -- I always want to say "I have an IQ in 3 figures DO YOU REALLY THINK I HAVEN'T FIGURED THAT OUT YET? Stop interrupting what I need to say to insist that I kow-tow in yr direction to reassure you that you aren't that bad" We (and I include myself in that we) need to shut up and listen. Really listen.

  • MsLee
    May 19th, 2015 @14:45 #

    As Thando Mgqolozana was a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, I find his position on so-called "white colonialist literary festivals" spectacular in its hypocrisy. If he's so offended by the colonial legacy in South Africa, why did he accept the scholarship and why is he only taking this position now?

    More pertinently, while I'm not a fan of literary festivals myself, I'm offended that Mgqolozana's opposition to them is positioned as a racial issue. I'm equally offended that white people feel they need to stand up and tearfully beg for their place at the table in what is supposed to be a non-racial democracy. No-one of conscience denies the legacy of the past, but I believe this kind of opportunistic racism needs to be challenged for what it is.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    May 19th, 2015 @14:48 #

    I don't think my point has been understood.

    The book industry is full of many different problems and challenges. My brief list hit a smattering of people who, across the African book world, saw a something they were either unhappy with or felt that there was a need for, then started to try to do something about it. Colleen, for example, believes (amongst many things) that poetry should be published. She now publishes it. She hasn't solved the dearth of poetry being published, but she is actively working to keep poetry alive.

    I, in no way, stated that any of those organisations tackled the issues Thando addressed. Thando has done a fine job articulating what is wrong without my needing to repeat it. It is an issue he has spoken passionately about before, too. What I am curious about is - what happens next? There is a problem, what will grow out of it?

  • Chiara
    May 19th, 2015 @17:58 #

    @MsLee, whether Thando received the Rhodes scholarship or not is totally irrelevant to whether his feelings about the FLF are worth hearing.

    Besides, your standards for living a non-hypocritical life are unreasonable and impractical (and probably also hypocritical). If you ideologically disagree with the policies and management of the South African government do you also boycott / refuse government services? I imagine not. If you ideologically reject the notion of having to pay bank fees, do you also boycott the use of financial institutions and keep all your money under your mattress? I doubt it.

    Unfortunately we live in the kind of world where many black scholars cannot afford the luxury and privilege of turning down scholarships despite how painful it is to carry the name of Rhodes in order to obtain it. Your charge or 'hypocrisy' is the sort of lack of understanding that's precisely part of the problem here. According to that sort of thinking, students who disliked the presence of Rhodes' statue at UCT are hypocrites if they didn't drop out of UCT in protest.

    We should be ashamed and aggrieved that the best available education comes tinged in racist legacy, not claim it as some kind of intellectual failure that many people are forced to make compromises in order to get by in a world that discredits them at every opportunity.

  • kvg
    May 20th, 2015 @11:42 #

    On Sunday, I was one of the few young white attendees at this talk named "Is Anger underrated". I came alone and sat between a middle aged white woman and a slightly younger Indian woman and we rustled about before the discussion commenced. It began with humour and ascended into a reality check which has since resulted in many moments of introspection, untampered emotion and conversation.

    During the talk Thando was encouraged to speak his mind by Eusebius and his fellow forum speakers, which, as outlined above, created multiple stirs in a relatively uncomfortable and frustrated audience. The talk was about anger, the role of emotion and how it is disregarded in conversation as it is considered 'irrational' or unworthy of discussion until it is in well and truly rationalised, repressed or dispelled. Yes this is a product of a certain system put in place, possibly related to some idea of power and behaviour, possibly instilled by years of ideology: rationalism, liberalism, etc.

    Pumla provided insights into complex issues and gave us the tools to understanding Thando's perspective in a way I feel has been somewhat disregarded. Listening to her way of unpacking deeply set reactions (which were rapidly manifesting in the room), I realised she was speaking to us about years and years of experiencing exactly what Thando was saying and showing us so humbly what it means to feel, unpack and feel again.
    Thando's way of speaking is quiet and the audience became outraged when he tried to defend himself in this quiet, considered manner - probably also defeated by the murmuring and displeasure at his perspective. Full circle?
    I was deeply frustrated by the woman sitting to my left who thought it necessary to tell her husband that he is wrong, she wants to leave the room. Hadn't Pumla given her enough reason to stay and introspect on that exact reaction?

    I grew up as a middle-class (upper middle class?) South African white girl. I happened to choose to study history, art, and whatnot, in school and then onto an array of humanities subjects at university, majoring in politics and philosophy. I happened upon these decisions by way of interest and choice, but as I've realised so many of my peers do not understand these themes in ways that is so necessary to give us the tools to listen. I'm not saying I'm better than them, rather seeing such urgency in my generation and peers to adopt a far deeper understanding and articulation of our history and political environment than they are currently aware of. The Rhodes Must Fall movement has pushed the topic to the front of the social-awareness agenda and finally I see people outside of the humanities arena engaging in very deep and important topics. Indeed, this way of thinking and understanding the themes upon which Thando articulated himself almost by virtue of an education which in some ways touches on ideas of 'self-determination' and 'political, social and economic transformation' which, in my opinion, is what he was so quietly, yet desperately, trying to articulate. Unfortunately for him he was talking to a crowd that was not yet hearing the depths of his thinking or connecting the themes of his conversation to a much larger discourse of decolonisation. And he is right about the failure of the TRC to deal with anger. The prioritisation of forgiveness and (conditional) amnesty overwhelmed what was (and is) a natural urge to celebrate victory of the Struggle, quell centuries-old frustrations, understand "justice".

    Personally, and for many of people my age, I was too young to articulate this TRC thing, and by the time I was at school the history books were adapted to encompass this idea of 'rainbow nation' and 'reconciliation' - to us it was normal and we didn't question the state of the nation. I think a similar acceptance was drilled into the post-apartheid, god-fearing white population (who stayed), thinking yes it's fine, it's fine, it's fine (but also fok, fok, fok). No time for introspection because we were not exposed to the deeply routed anger and subliminal violence of our society. Then on Sunday the emerging cracks ruptured our cosy environment of apathy or even denial about the attitude of the black mindset against the white supremacy in everything around us. It's not about the soup kitchen or about charity work. It is in fact a tuning-in to the reality of the system. This is something that came up in Mark Gevisser's discussion of his book "Lost and Found in Johannesburg" through his description of the mapbook he used to page as a young boy. On page 75, Alexandra. On page 77, Sandton. 75 knew how to get to 77, but 77 had no way of getting to 75. The boundaries are subliminal and tangible. We need to see them both and acknowledge pain and speak about it and articulate it.

    I know I am young and there is so much to learn, but there is also a new way of seeing things, and thanks to this talk and the highlighting of themes such as black consciousness that the synapses are flying and conversations are moving forward. So I am reading and listening and talking about it. This is the first time I've ever written on a public forum about my thoughts on the topic and I am afraid of commenting and opinion sharing, but perhaps this is a product of my position in society - again, time to introspect and reflect - these conversations are happening and cannot be avoided by simply walking out of the Old School Hall. I just hope the men and women who mumbled discontent at Thando's opinion can learn to understand their fears and his anger through the tools Pumla provided, if anything.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Rachel Zadok</a>
    Rachel Zadok
    May 20th, 2015 @12:14 #

    Thank you for your well articulated thoughts, kvg. Take a leaf out of Thando's book, where he said: You can troll but it will mean nothing to me. ;-)


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