Give the race card some rest

HISTORY, we have been repeatedly told, is a messy affair. That perhaps is why it is written by at least a generation after the event, when the passions have cooled and the writers enjoy the benefit of hindsight.

I hope what transpired around the resignation of Eskom chairperson Bobby Godsell will one day be recorded as a turning of historical events in our country.

I hope future historians will point to Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and his National Union of Mineworkers counterpart Frans Baleni's refusal to buy into the ANC Youth League and that outfit that thinks it is the ANC Managers Forum's simplistic thinking that accusing someone of being a racist is an adequate argument.

I counted at least four columnists - black, I might add - who brushed aside the argument that Godsell's not being happy with Eskom chief executive Jacob Maroga was based on his being a racist.

I don't know Godsell from a bar of soap. But if I have to choose between the word of a NUM leader and that of a self-serving elite using a national scar (racism) to advance their sectarian goals, I'll take the workers word any day.

One has to wonder why the ANC Managers Forum thinks Maroga was the right man to advance the "developmental state" project when his last act before stepping down was to seek permission to raise electricity tariffs by 45percent, something which whether necessary or not, will hurt those who need to be "developed" the most.

It might very well be that Godsell is a bad manager and a control freak. But that hardly makes him a racist - it simply means that he is a lousy boss.

We have seen too many dubious black people play the race card. Just recently we had a mob wanting us to have as chief justice a man who infamously said he had no idea who was paying for his son's university education simply because their guy happened to be black and was supposedly a victim of some white conspiracy.

There have been times when accusing people of being racist has proven fatal. You might remember Wits University Professor Etienne Mureinik, who decided to jump from the 23rd floor of a Braamfontein building rather than live with the accusation that he was a race bigot.

Mureinik's crime was to allege that Professor Malegapuru Makgoba might have overstated his qualifications, an allegation that later proved to have some merit.

Let us not fool ourselves. White racism in South Africa remains very rife. The end of apartheid only served to privatise this bigotry.

But that is no reason for black people to sink to the levels of racists. How can we call ourselves better than racists when, like them, right and wrong is determined by the colour of our opponent's skin?

In order to advance non-racialism, we need our leaders to speak out against all forms of bigotry and to punish the bigots wherever they might show up.

A good place to start would be to tell the neo-racists at the University of the Free State who want a discussion over whether all student residences should be opened to all.

It is amazing that 15 years into majority rule, we could still be entertaining those who, like the Freedom Front, want us to discuss whether non-racialism is a good idea.

Just like the black thought leaders have pronounced on playing the race card, it is important that we hear from the Afrikaans community in whose name the perpetuating of such racism is done, to disassociate itself with this foolish- ness.