Zille's 'tragic' history lesson
DEAR Premier Helen Zille,
I recently learnt from the media that you blame the Western Cape's "tragic" history for the small black middle class in Western Cape and Cape Town as well as the consequent "very limited skills base among black people".
At first I wanted to ignore it but as the blatant errors in the speech you delivered at the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry's skills colloquium at the start of the month and the hurtful innuendo and damning insult to all people of colour, African and coloured, cannot be ignored.
In the speech you said: "Black and white people were not in the Western Cape over 300 years ago. As black people were migrating down the east coast, white people were arriving in ships down the west coast.
"And you know about what followed: the border wars (along the Fish River) and the subsequent attempts by successive colonial administrations to keep black people out of the Western Cape. We all know it is part of our tragic history.
"We also know about the coloured labour preference policy and all of the other things like influx control."
Anyone who knows the history of Western Cape well would also know that your argument that "black and white people were not in Western Cape over 300 years ago" is misleading, wrong and ill-informed, to say the least.
Ironically, you stated moments before you presented some of the most horrendous inaccuracies as fact, that you don't believe "in any form of generalisation especially not about a geographical location", but still you made a generalisation that suggests that "black people were migrating down the east coast".
The unfortunate truth is that "over 300 years ago" there were black people in Western Cape. So any argument that even slightly suggests that the Khoisan, who called this area home when the colonisers arrived here in 1652, that's 358 years ago, was any other race, should be rejected.
Secondly, it is a historical fact that between 1652 until the abolition of slavery in 1834, nearly 160000 slaves were brought to the Cape Colony; between 1660 and 1690 slaves came mostly from India, Indonesian Archipelago and Madagascar, from then until 1767 most would come from Indonesia and India, after 1667 the majority of slaves came from Madagascar and Mascarene islands and from 1790 until 1834 slaves were imported mainly from Mozambique, various east African countries and Madagascar.
Claiming that all blacks who were or are found in Western Cape or Cape Town, "were migrating down the east coast of South Africa" rings some serious and alarming similarities to the claim recently made by Pieter Mulder, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries who argued that "Africans in particular never in the past lived in the whole of South Africa" and that "there is sufficient proof that there were no Bantu-speaking people in the Western Cape and north-western Cape".
It might not have been "bantu-speaking people" who owned or lived on the land before the Dutch invasion from 1652 but they were rightfully and truthfully African.
Given our "tragic history", it is perhaps wise that someone in your position should rather try to present this history as accurately as possible and not work with others to try and rewrite our history to support objectionable claims.
Another concern in your presentation on July 5, is your continuous contention that black people only progress by "manipulating outcomes" and that "BBEE has been used as a fig leaf to cover the notion of manipulating outcomes for politically connected people under the pretence of promoting equity".
But more worrying is your suggestion that a black middle class can only be grown "through good education, skills development and excellent opportunities in the context of economic growth".
Are you perhaps suggesting that black people who have achieved the heights that they have, accumulated the wealth that they have or progressed to the echelons that they have, have done so despite their lack of good education, low levels of skills and poor opportunities and to ensure progress despite these impediments, outcomes are manipulated and that in order for this to be done, you had to be "politically connected"?
This is a slap in the face for many hard-working black people who went to school in the most difficult conditions, who put themselves through tertiary education through a loan from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme that they are probably still paying off and who used all opportunities to improve their own skills and experiences to get to where they are today.
Politicising their destinies does more harm to their future prospects and insulting them is unfair and also sad.
It is because of this exact attitude of you and others like you that blacks struggle to find employment in Cape Town and in the Western Cape and why employers find it difficult to employ them.
You are right when you talk about "a small politically-connected elite".
The majority of those who are lucky to be employed can never be part of this "small" group and have therefore had to get to where they are without "manipulating outcomes".
Those who prefer to invest their skills elsewhere are not only those who are people who "don't feel comfortable in the Western Cape" because they are "getting where they are on their political connections".
They are people who are subjected to the abuse you and others like you permeate on them every day and who are viewed with the same suspicion that you create through your utterances.
Lionel R Adendorf