Mandela Rhodes Scholars
Mandela Rhodes Scholars

There are many Oranias in SA

By Athambile Masola

As a product of a Eurocentric, former white educational institution, I was once very quick to embrace non-racialism (that race should no longer be used as a marker to understand our experiences). I’ve been living in Cape Town for over a year and have come face to face with the politics of being black in the new SA. As someone who teaches young people who have been labelled as the “born-free” generation I am sceptical of non-racialism. At some point there needs to be an acceptance that the rainbow nation does not exist. The nexus between race and class highlights the complexity of simply wanting to be “over race”. The income disparity drives a wedge between people rather than the wonderful and awe-inspiring image of a rainbow where all the colours come together leaving people with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary about Orania. While watching the documentary I considered how most of the people in the audience would probably be appalled by the idea. There were moments of mirth in the documentary with awkward laughter from the audience and I wondered “why are we laughing at this ludicrous idea?”. There are people in this country who are convinced that black and white people cannot and should not live alongside each other.

There are many Oranias in SA.

There are many people who have been raised, educated and socialised with people who think, look and sound exactly as they do. They experience diversity only through the warped version of popular media and stereotypes they are fed about other people who do not come from their communities. Most of the focus has been on the spaces that protect “white privilege”. Where many white South Africans grow up in a world of privilege, cocooned from other realities unless they are forced to confront the world around them. When we think of spaces that have protected white privilege we seldom think of what the alternative has been for black, coloured or Indian people who have not made it up the middle-class ladder of success.

So what now? We should begin by discouraging people who say “we need to get over race”. It seems the only people concerned about race are comedians, which has limitations of its own, but thanks Trevor Noah and Nik Rabinowitz for helping South Africans laugh at themselves.

Slavery happened many decades ago but Americans haven’t forgotten it. The Holocaust happened and we dare not forget that. Apartheid supposedly ended two decades ago but we lambaste anyone who wants to raise the “race issue”. Error! We should know better especially because we dare not forget the injustices that happened in other countries, but when it’s too close to home, we invoke amnesia or ignorance, especially for those born post-1994.

Biko’s words ring true for me: “Does this mean I am against integration? If by integration you understand a breakthrough into white society by blacks, an assimilation and acceptance of blacks into an already established set of norms and behaviour set up and maintained by whites, then YES I am against it. I am against the superior-inferior, white-black stratification that makes the white a perpetual teacher and the black a perpetual pupil (and a poor one at that) … I am against the fact that a settler minority should impose an entire system of values on an indigenous people.”

Integration needs to be revisited. Who are we integrating with and why? The public and political failure of integration brings into question what happens in people’s personal and private lives. What happens when we are not in public, without the judgment of any gaze? Do we seriously consider our own consciousness and what it means to have certain privileges or no privileges at all? I’m not one to re-imagine a consciousness as Mamphela Ramphele would have us vote for. It seems it might be another form of glazing over the complexities in South Africa. Like Koketso Moeti I am of the opinion that the rainbow nation illusion must come to an end if we are to see this country for what it is. Harsh, complex and uncomfortable.

Athambile Masola is a high school teacher in Cape Town.

Tags: , , , , , ,

  • The Place of Sara Baartman at UCT
  • It is time
  • Committed to teaching in the midst of smog: Five turnaround strategies for rural schools
  • Pauw’s revelations and democracy
    • Dave Harris

      Well said!
      The hijacking of the WCape should be a wake up call that the struggle continues!!!

    • Skerminkel

      Interesting argument and one that deserves some thought. You, however, only propose what practices and mindsets should be broken down. Nothing to replace it with.
      On Orania: Clearly Afrikaners agree with the idea. That is why they are moving there in their thousands.

    • Momma Cyndi

      …. so within a year, you have become your own little Oranja. That is desperately sad.

      One should NEVER forget the past. Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it. We need history to learn but we don’t need to live in it.

      What building blocks do you need in order to build a bridge over the chasm you are facing? Would a trip to a desperately poor white school help? Maybe if more white people were dirt poor? Perhaps a vacation in a city where everyone gets along?

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Surprising that Whites are moving into the White Homeland, when Black are streaming out of their Homelands all over Southern Africa, like the one-way traffic that crossed the Berlin Wall during Communism.

    • Yvonne

      The Cape has never been hijacked by the genuine Capies Dave Harris,Tt seems now under some sort of attack by influx arrivals who do try and hijack it by trying to force their strange culture on the indigenous Western Cape people.Whilst trying, they are still keeping ONE FOOT in their ancestral lands as well..! You yourself have no roots in the Western Cape to speak of,that is why you do not understand the culture of the Western Cape either. It is like people from the Western Cape trying to understand Zulu, Xhosa and other cultures in their ancestral lands-They also do not completely fit in there.socially. So if people feel ill at ease and their noses are out of joint in the Western Cape ,it is because they have no roots, no culture of theirs here to fall back on, that will make them feel at home.! They are NOT going to change over 300 years of Cape Tradition easily. So accept it,or move on home !It is a waste of time trying to be “PART and PARCEL” of Social Circles who have nothing in common with you all over the World.We have lived in many foreign Countries.You adapt and accept it because locals are not going to adapt ,change to just embrace you. What for?They have their own lives and you must live yours.Funny how it seems to bother just certain people.Then again these people seem to have this “struggle” wherever they go in the World.It is in their genes and just expect local PEOPLE to clap hands in glee that they have arrived to grace their shores.

    • Richard

      You say that slavery happened decades ago. That is incorrect. It continues in parts of Africa to this day. There is far too much use of slavery for political purposes with no care for the thousands or millions of black people in slavery in Africa in 2013.

    • Yvonne

      I have nothing against Orania. I have nothing against the BLACK Oranias or the Indian people building a beautiful Hindu temple and getting their own Orania, Or the Chinese building a Buddhist temple in an area populated mainly by them- like the Chinatowns all over the World, Little Italy in New York, the Jewish suburbs i New York etc..There are many Oranias overseas as well.Maybe having lived in so many diverse Countries, this is normal to me. I would not go and live in Orania. I am a “Capie” out and out.This is where my culture is. So go and make a life amongst your own and let others be.I certainly will never try and force my presence upon other people just because I have some complex or suffer from a sudden ENTITLEMENT MENTALITY that everything must suit me, allowance be made for me, I must be accepted,. It is freedom of association worldwide and races,cultures prefer their own and prefer to live amongst their own too,where they establish their churches,community activities, celebrate their cultural events,speak their languages
      eat their traditional food etc- why would I want to go ad force my way in there as a stranger. I would not fit in and be very very lonely.Race has got nothing much to do with it if the cultures clash.I cannot become Jewish ,Italian ,Indian or Hispanic or Chinese if I am not BORN ad BRED as one Why would I want to live in their neighbourhood and not amongst my own where I feel at home. YOU have a problem Sort yourself out man! NO LAW is!

    • Percipient

      I looked outside my kitchen window just now and saw a flock of guinea fowl running around in the field. I didn’t see two hadedas, three guinea fowl and one mynah scuttling around in formation, I saw a flock of guinea fowl. Same with humans, they simply like to be with their own kind and this is completely natural. Let me tell you right now if a vulture had appeared those guinea fowl would have headed straight for the horizon with their young desperately tagging behind.

      To all you wannabee social scientists out there wielding your Safeway Human Blending Machines… for the most part I think you’re wasting your time and would suggest that you belt up.

      Do eagles fly with budgies? No.

    • ‘whiteness’

      @Athambile Masola

      * “Apartheid supposedly ended two decades ago but we lambaste anyone who wants to raise the “race issue”.

      The majority of people I know don’t want to lambaste people who bring up racism.

      What they have a problem with is when racism is used as an excuse to allow our government to be very corrupt and incompetent and get away with it.

      The government has the power to help overcome the injustices and inequalities of apartheid but they lack leadership and the ability to implement good policies to do this.

      Many top politicians are too busy stuffing their pockets with benefits to worry about those who suffered under apartheid and vote for them.

      Even Trevor Manual has said very clearly:

      ‘It is time for government to take responsibility for its actions, Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel said today.

      “We government should no longer say it’s apartheid’s fault,” Manuel told reporters at the government leadership summit in Pretoria.

      “We should get up every morning and recognise we have responsibility. There is no longer the Botha regime looking over our shoulder, we are responsible ourselves.”’

      Full report:

      *I note that you refer to Koketso Moeti, I too read her columns, and she too likes to blame the apartheid past and ignore the current governments incompetence and corruption.

      So thank goodness for Trevor Manuals voice of reason.

    • Pieter Pretorius

      At last someone has woken up to the fact that the rainbow people is a dream (of politians?). Everybody wants to evaluate the relations between ethnic groups in this country in terms of race. Yvonne (above) is the only one that has acknowledged the differences in culture.
      The Africans honour their ancestors by slautering an ox to the chagrin of their suburbian neighbours. Black people who don’t fit this category are called coconuts. Then there are the New Agers and evolutionists that cut accross “race” barriers. Then there are the Christians and the Muslims. Islam is not just a religion, they have political ideals.
      As long as we continue to look at the so called colour of a persons skin and categorise the situation only in terms of race we will continue to end up in a dead end street as Athambile as so aptly described for us.

    • Comrade Koos

      Ubuntu, ubuntu, ubuntu…………..what part of ubuntu does the Zuma regime not understand?

    • Brian B

      This constant preoccupation with race is destroying this country. Its a cop out.
      Instead of facing facts we constantly harp back to the past .
      How about making an honest effort to eradicate crime, poverty ignorance and disease instead of licking our collective wounds.

    • Greg

      I am so sick of people wanting to force integration between the different races or continually flash the race card!
      Why can`t people just accept that people mix with whom they want (freedom of association) and normally people mix within their own class, with those who share their religious, cultural and personal value system…it really has got nothing to do with skin colour!

    • Chris

      The truth is that there are many young black South Africans who share the writer’s sentiments, but unfortunately when we express this view some South Africans are apparently either too frightened of, too uncomfortable with or really just don’t care about any sort of meaningful interrogation of racial relations, and it’s easier for them to dismiss discussions on racial inequality as bellyaching. There’s nothing to fear: acknowledging the lived reality of millions of black South Africans (and many white South Africans) does not turn you into a racist nor does it excuse the failures of the government, but it does show a level empathy, nuanced understanding and open-mindedness that will go a long way in building a sincerely united country.

    • @NATE_IV_SA


      Well said

    • Sithembiso Malusi Mahlaba

      our apologetic approach did solve colonial apartheid mess, two decades later we must deal with stinking decaying truths as they emerge, for truth can hardly be buried, for it tends to emerge like weeds after summer rains.