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There’s a very thin line between hunger and anger…

My intention is not be controversial, nor frighten you, but imagine a day in the future were black people carried pistols with them waiting for a dispute between them and white people to occur. What do you think would happen to the white community in South Africa? Pause for a moment and allow me to talk about our (black people’s) frustrations.

A sad reality I have come to acknowledge is that, we (black people) are walking ticking time bombs waiting for a perfect moment to explode. It is almost as if we have put traps on every white person and cry “racist”. Just look around you and see what I mean. You can even hear it from the tone of our voices each time we speak about white people. We are an angry people. A broken people.

In a conversation I had with a friend on Twitter, I asked her to reflect on the rage we have a black people and in her response, she said “We [Black People] have been mistreated for a long time. Families dismantled, men and women killed, raped, moved from their land. That anger is justified.”

Everything happening to us today, is a manifestation of our bottled emotions filled with animosity and rage. The years of pain, torture, humiliation and intimidation. At times, we hide it through our smiles and that hope of saying “everything will be okay one day”, but motivation and reality are two worlds apart. We wake up each day to a reality that we are still hungry, and our hunger has gradually turned into anger. The thought that at one point in our history, our hard-earned resources have been stripped away from us. Emotions are further boiled when we think about the current government we put in power is snailing down the programme redistribution of land and other resources.

The Krugersdorp Spur Squabble

In the morning of the Human Rights Day (21 March 2017), we woke up to a video that went viral on social media about a case of a black woman and a white male who were in a heated quarrel at a Spur food outlet in Krugersdorp. Apparently, the fight emanates from their children’s fight which led the man approaching the woman at her table. Unfortunately, the video does not provide us with much information about where the argument began and I believe that it is pivotal to our analysis to reach a conclusion whether there was any racial slurs from the white man. We are only shown when the two are in a serious exchange of words with vulgar thrown from all angles.

There has been an issue of racism attached to the white man’s approach and different scenarios have been painted by the public in their eagerness to find racial undertones. Some of them include;

  • If the woman was white, he wouldn’t have spoken to the lady in that manner
  • If the child was who fought with his child was white, he wouldn’t have reacted the way he did

Speaking on Power FM’s Power Perspective with Vuyo Mvoko on 21 March, Gushwell Brooks representing the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) had this to say “Unfortunately we can’t necessarily read race into/or it was necessarily race inspired the confrontation and that doesn’t make it less grievous. The incident was terribly horrible and needs to be condemned on all possible levels because I don’t think a woman should be confronted in such a violent way no matter what the dispute, especially if we can see that this man had a violent intend…” Gushwell who is the Communications Co-Ordinator at SAHRC continued to say that “We need to remind ourselves that the South African Human Rights Commission works within the law – within the ombuds of the law, whether we are comfortable with it or not, the unfortunate fact of the matter is we have to work with evidence. Based on the video, and my emphasis is on the video because that’s the only public record that actually exist, there was no overt exchange or statement from the man that indicates that this was racially driven. In-fact the dispute (if you watch the video), is around children. Supposedly bullying around children…

If the man was to ask everyone who are calling him “racist” and said “Prove to me by law that that I was being racist”, unfortunately no one will have the legal grounds to say that indeed he was racist. My limited understanding of the law informs me that the nature of the law depends on evidence. It is just unfortunate (as much as many black people wish it was all racial) that the incident does not (in any form or shape) suggest that the man was being racist. Even if the lady shouted “Just because I’m black…” and “you f***** racist” to the white man, fact of the matter is that the man didn’t suggest that he was being racist. However if we were to measure the man’s wrong-doing based on violent behaviour, we could be having a different conversation altogether. As far as my minimal legal knowledge is concerned, in the the video shared nothing suggests that the man was being racist. By the look of things, the man was being his normal self (bully) who needs to start attending anger management classes. Here, we are dealing with a case of violence and intimidation. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the case has nothing to do with race.

On Helen Zille’s Tweets

Were we too quick to judge Helen’s tweets?
My offices in Pretoria are right at the church square. One afternoon during lunch, I walked out with a colleague to get food and observed the buildings around us and reached a conclusion that there are some good story to tell about colonialism. As inhuman as the system was, there are few elements we can appreciate about the system. I share the same views about the ANC. I’m not a fan of the organisation, but there are few elements I can appreciate about their work towards developing this country and for that, we need to constantly admire.

The other day I listened to a conversation between three old black men who were complaining about the current political and social setup. They were all echoing their frustrations and sharing their admiration of the apartheid system which in their words was far better than the current system led by our very own black people. They gave clear examples of some of the developmental initiatives that the apartheid system came with and emphasised that things are worse. To my surprise, these are the same old men who said “maburu ne ale sehlogo” (Boers were very ruthless) earlier on in the conversation. For a moment, I struggled to understand how one system can both be ruthless and good at the same time. But when I read what I Helen tweeted, I didn’t jump to attack her, I chose to wait for her to finish talking in order to understand the context in which she was basing her statements from. Unfortunately tweets are only 140 characters and you can’t explain yourself properly even if you were given another change. Once a tweet is out, it is out! Your reputation is on the line.

But why are we angry and when/where did it all begin?
Are we both (black and white people) tired of pretending to each other? Have we tolerated each other enough to a point that we are now tired of pretending? Surely the reconciliation programme since 1994 has serious cracks, and they are rapidly surfacing 23 years later. But who’s to blame for the evident failure of the programme? Did the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Surely there’s great lessons to be learned outside the TRC. Maybe we need to go back to the points of discussion and the compromises made. Maybe that’s where our anger started.

It is sad to see my fellow black people going around with red pens, finding faults in every statement white people make. Everything bad done by white people has turned into a race issue. The media is doing a very good job of fueling the fire by raising the past injustices in their reporting. “Because I’m black and you’re white…” line is rapidly growing within our daily conversations. Our anger towards white people distract us from being objective in calling out wrong-doing. Our anger is confusing clouding our judgement and reasoning towards issues.

I beg not to be misunderstood in my stance. I am in no way supporting whites. My argument is not to dismiss the evident fact that there is white supremacy in our society. All I am saying is that we are so angry to a point that we keep turning every incident into racial disputes which is depriving us from the opportunity to see other whites as human beings. We are promoting black versus white instead of seeing each other as one human race. Yes, let us call out and shame all racists, but careful not to incite violence in our approach.

The 2008 and recent xenophobic attacks suggests to us that we are both hungry and angry. We have turned our anger towards people of our own skin colour. We are afraid to confront the people with economical power and have turned our anger to our African brothers and sisters. Our hunger for land is turning us into monsters who are ready to devour everything around us even if it means killing each other. The increasingly service delivery and the #FeesMustFall protests say a lot about our hunger problem. Maybe Mmusi Maimane was correct after all; “we are a broken nation.”

I dream of a day when we (black people) turn our anger towards coming up with real and tangible solutions to the pertinent issues we are faced with. We do have the power to change our circumstances. Our disunity and tribal egos are getting the best of us. Anger is not the solution to our hunger. Let’s put our brains together and find solutions!

Thabang Phala

Thabang Phala is an award-winning development practitioner, business consultant, brand strategist, facilitator and thought leader with industry experience spanning over 11 years.

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