We cannot move on as a society until every last legacy of apartheid's eradicated

Today, in the thick of a disaster, we see that those who suffer most are still profiled by the systems of oppression we have inherited.
Today, in the thick of a disaster, we see that those who suffer most are still profiled by the systems of oppression we have inherited.
Image: Felix Dlangamandla

The conversation about moving on from our nightmare past has been going in circles since accountability for apartheid crimes were up for discussion. Some say that the hardest thing to find when apartheid ended was a white person who supported the National Party.

Entire voting histories and general memories of day-to-day life under fascist rule were erased.

The power to take generationally powered historical injustice and redirect responsibility for it to the victims of that injustice reaches way beyond spats on social media. Why is it that we just can't move on?

The colonial mindset that native populations rightfully belong under the control of white overlords still endures. The basis of claiming SA as "our land" or more poetically amongst Afrikaner nationalists "ons vir jou Suid-Afrika", is the fantasy of this land as a white birthright.

The white South African imagination has not fully reckoned with the need to renegotiate the place of whiteness and privilege in relation to the rest of the population.

Admitting to the past will require a negotiation about the place of privilege in the present, which ultimately requires giving up power. It would require a critical diversity literacy that, among other things, recognises that the current social problems faced by the majority of South Africans are mostly still a consequence of apartheid.

What we tend to forget is that apartheid was not just a way of life, but a carefully executed social engineering project that designed the impoverishment and social divisions we live with today.

It was designed to last long after it ended too. Those who say our current failures are purely a consequence of our government's corruption ignore the fact that we inherited a poisoned chalice.

It was so unbalanced that those who inherited it would have to be almost saint-like not to be enticed by corruption.

We also forget that those in power today were chosen for their inclination to be easily compromised, hence this dispensation of leaders is also a legacy of apartheid.

Rebuilding this country was always going to be a long-term project, now made longer by the greed our leaders have succumbed to. We still see the consequences of apartheid and colonialism, today, so how do we move on when we are still in it?

As a country we have been vulnerable to disaster for some time and today, in the thick of a disaster, we see that those who suffer most are still profiled by the systems of oppression we have inherited. We know a virus has no preference for class or race, but we do.

It is ironic that in critiquing the failures of the government, privileged people don't recognise this system was created by the very apartheid legacy they deny.

To truly want an end to the current political order, is to want an end to the apartheid legacy that still sees the majority of black South Africans systemically impoverished. Until we have eradicated every last legacy of apartheid, until reparations have been made that significantly impact the lives of impoverished black people, whatever they may be, we cannot move on from it.

-Khan is an author and PhD Critical Diversity Studies candidate

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X