David J Smith
David J Smith

“Refugee”: a dirty word in South Africa

We hate refugees. We burn them out of their homes. We chase them away. We burn down their businesses. We tell them go back to where you came from. Bloody refugees. We really don’t like them.

So when Helen Zille comes here and tells us that kids from the Eastern Cape are refugees, we get upset. Yes, they are poor. Yes, they can’t get an education in Eastern Cape. Yes, they would prefer to go to school near their homes rather than cross into another province to get an education. Yes, they have no choice. But why call them refugees? They are not dirty like those Zimbabweans or those bloody Congolese. They are not dodgy like Nigerians or scheming like those no-good Somalis. They are South Africans, just like us.

Helen Zille, take your 30 schools and shove them up your backside, we won’t go to a school that compares us to those scumbags from across the border. You can’t call our children “refugees”.

What I wrote above is bullshit. Bullshit semantics.

Semantics allow us to find a thousand meanings in a word. It allows me to extract a bullshit line of thinking from just one word. It allows me to insinuate that you hate the word “refugee” because you hate refugees. It allows the ANC to infer that Helen Zille is a throwback to apartheid. It allows a whole bunch of people to get on their high horses.

Because, at the end of the day, words are always so much easier to deal with than problems. And really, that is what we have got here – a problem. Education in the Eastern Cape is rubbish. So rubbish, kids have to go to another province to be educated. That is a problem.

But we would rather cloud the problem in bullshit semantics. Oh well. I guess if we look on the bright side, the kids in the Eastern Cape won’t be doing this. You need an education first.

Tags: , , ,

  • A question of balance…
  • Roger Collins: A Higher Education
  • What parents can do to make up for gaps in our basic education?
  • The Place of Sara Baartman at UCT