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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
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Please, I'm not a coconut

By Bonolo Cebe | Jun 17, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

LADIES and gentlemen, I have been labelled many things in my short lifetime. Fat, dark, semi-retarded, beautiful and intelligent. I was even called a pioneer

LADIES and gentlemen, I have been labelled many things in my short lifetime. Fat, dark, semi-retarded, beautiful and intelligent. I was even called a pioneer

But there is one label I refuse to wear - I refuse to be called a ... coconut!

Not because I am not tough on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside.

Not because my mother isn't a pine tree, but simply because I am not a white person trapped in a black girl's body.

This girl knows who she is and she is definitely not a coconut. What is this "coconutism" anyway?

I embarked on a fruitful mission to uncover what it truly means to be a coconut and to compile what I would like to call - The Coconut's Manifesto.

On doing my research, I was made aware of three tell-tale signs in identifying a coconut. And I quote:

l A coconut speaks English more than it does its mother tongue.

l A coconut wants to be white - and therefore acts superior.

l A coconut has no consciousness of its heritage and the history of black people.

Friends, some of us present here today attend schools where English is the medium of instruction - as is the case in most South African schools. That means we spend most of our day conversing in English. English - the universal language and the language of business.

Then, is it not right that our children practise this language in order for them to be effective and eloquent communicators one day? And that they too might partake when granted opportunities such as this one?

I acknowledge the fact that our mother tongues should not be compromised. Indeed, we should be proud of our complex indigenous languages, but members of the house, the fact that I continue to converse in English with my fellow black friends, even outside the confines of my school, does not mean that I am ashamed of my mother tongue. It simply means that I choose not to switch the English button off to activate the vernacular button in order to please society.

Ladies and gentlemen, what is white? (if not a colour)? What is the definition of white?

The founders of coconutism seem to believe that coconuts want to be white and so pretend to be like white people by acting and sounding like white people and by wanting nothing to do with fellow black people.

Well, some of my best friends are white but that does not mean I want to be like them.

Furthermore, it does not make me a coconut. This is 2009 - 15 years of democracy and more than 32 years since the Black Consciousness Movement was founded and I am embarrassed by the fact that there are still people who continue to categorise anything that is superior as being ... white!

I was listening to a show on the radio the other day and the DJ was relating a story of how, when a "coconut" was asked if she knew who Steve Biko was, the coconut said: "Is he some kind of kwaito star? If he is ... I don't know him."

Now, ladies and gentlemen, that is an indication of one girl's ignorance.

Ignorance is not a black, a white or a coconutistic trait. Ignorance is the bosom buddy of most young people today, but instead of criticising young people on how little they know about their cultures, society should instil a sense of pride in young South Africans.

OoMakhulu nooTatomkhulu should not cease to relate stories of the past in order to conscientise our young people. After all, is that not part of the spirit of ubuntu?

I have been labelled a coconut because of my accent and because I attend the school I do.

Others are being accused of wanting to be what they are not.

But the thing is, nobody has the right to judge you, especially if they do not know you ... not even the founders of the concept of coconutism.

So let it be known that my name is Bonolo Cebe, a black South African, born of the Sotho people. As a matter of fact, the very shape of my thighs was inspired by the hills in Maseru in the mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho, where my clan - the Mamofokeng - originated.

I am a young communicator who is conscious of her heritage, proud of who she is and passionate about the future.

I refuse to be labelled a... coconut. - This is an edited version of Bonolo Cebe's speech. The matric pupil at Collegiate High School in Port Elizabeth will represent her province, Eastern Cape, in the 2009 finals of the Anglo American and Sowetan Young Communicators Awards, which takes place at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre in Boksburg, Gauteng, on June 20.


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