I got cold shivers when I read this article in the Mail and Guardian about the destruction of a Great Trek memorial in Standerton. How can a country which claims to uphold multi-cultural ideals (I have problems with that ideological construct in the first place, which I will discuss some other time, but it is official policy after all), and bases its international status on notions of acceptance and reconciliation, condone an action like this? In the wake of the De La Rey issue, this is the type of action that is positively calculated to create dissent.
I want so badly to believe that South Africa is headed in a positive direction. I am staking my future, my career, and in many ways even my life, on it. My parents live in South Africa, and my intention is to rejoin them there when I complete this degree. I am building up a career on the belief that cultural practice offers the type of insight into the functioning of society that is necessary for peaceful and ethical coexistence. I really do believe that we are in the best possible position in the world to make that happen, because we are so aware of how easily things can go wrong, and so proud of the opportunity we have to make them go right. But when I read something like this, it makes me fearful, and leaves me feeling very much alone. Without the country I believe in, I'm just an alien, a foreigner in New York and the whole world. There is no place for me to call home, and there is no meaning in the work that I do. I'm not prepared to accept that.
The threat posed to Afrikaner culture is a threat to the foundations of democracy on which South Africa is build, and it is on an equal footing with the destruction of Sophia Town or District Six, or any of the acts of cultural violence perpetrated by the Apartheid government. It creates angry people, bitter people, and people who feel justified in committing acts of violence. No one wants to be evil, but people will do some pretty evil things in the name of self preservation, and making people feel like they have to fight to survive is like setting a table for evil right in the middle of the banquet hall.
I hate what apartheid did. I hate that it made people feel that acts of ruthless vengence like this are justified. And I hate that it has made so many people so angry. But repeating the cycle all over again is not the solution. Apartheid was the result of so many cycles of oppression and vengence that it is probably impossible to trace a root cause. It is, however, possible to break the cycle. But that means making an effort, if not to fully understand every culture (an impossible task), then at least to acknowledge its importance in the lives of some people, and not destroy it for the sake of destruction. Please don't destroy everything we have worked for, and don't dishonor the sacrifices made to get us to where we are. South Africa is worth more than that.
The Mayor who apparently ordered the damage to the memorial has been issued with a court order to personally pay for the repairs, according to News 24. Read this article here, as well as this one, this one and this one that all pertain to the issue.
On the issue of whose culture gets to be called African, read these News24 articles criticizing Mbeki's reconciliation strategy, discussing the role of Afrikaans in the anti apartheid struggle, and defending government's strategy with regard to Afrikaans