Our country is still divided by race

Phiri Cawe

Brackenfell High School’s alleged all-white privately organised matric ball and the subsequent violence which has erupted around the issue illustrates two issues we are reminded about ever so often – there is still a racial divide in our country and we appear ill-equipped to deal with racism and racist incidents.

While I do not condone violence, I do believe the country is too soft on racism and perpetrators thereof.

Our blood is still boiling and the unfortunate thing is that what happened in Brackenfell is not an isolated incident.

After all, if we are so serious about ending racism and discrimination in the country, why do we still have places like Orania and why do we see such incidents as we recently did in Senekal where the killing of farm manager Brendin Horner led to racially-charged protests in the farming town?

While I was tempted not to say a thing about what’s going on at Brackenfell High, after reading all the condemnations and suggestions about the school, teachers, parents of the white pupils, I found it difficult to sit back, fold my arms and say nothing. I read on social media that some politicians were even suggesting that black children should have organised their own farewell. Really now?

I read a post by one of my friends – on the same platform – suggesting that whites should be driven out of the country back to where they belong. As much as we all have our own views on the matter, I didn’t agree with either of these comments.

Part of the problem and the reason for our continued division, I believe, is that we rushed into the belief that we are reconciled. We have never been reconciled.

Another problem, I feel, is that our freedom fighters who spent time in jails and in exile were never rehabilitated. And while we cry about racism, there is still xenophobia, ethnicity, tribalism and we use derogatory terms to describe each other.

We still have members of Umkhonto We Sizwe chasing foreigners out of KZN. I can go on and on about the problems we face as a country, but I’d like to bring the focus back to Brackenfell where I feel both sides could have done better.

While I feel the EFF was right to go picketing outside the school, I also believe they should have anticipated a violent reaction.

In recent times – think Clicks and think Senekal – EFF protests have turned violent, so people have become afraid of their protests and pickets. I also feel that, with matrics writing their final exams, perhaps it wasn’t the right time for a protest.

Other important points I’d like to point out is that racism affects all black people – not only the EFF – but so far it appears that only the EFF is being vocal about its outrage. And both the EFF and the parents were wrong to turn to violence in their efforts to address this matter.

Another disappointment for me is Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, whom I believe should have taken disciplinary action against the principal rather than defending the school as if she herself were part of the organising committee of the whites-only matric dance.

The truth is, we still have a long way to go. When our rugby team wins the World Cup, all we talk about is unity, but we are far from being unified.

And unity will never exist for as long as we don’t deal with the root cause of the racial divisions that still exist in South Africa.