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The struggle against fear is permanent

If there is anything we learn from Nelson Mandela is that an important yet normally overlooked facet of struggle is the struggle against fear. In his prison cells Mandela realised that the liberation movement could not win if it did not defeat white fear of a black government. He rightly realised that had he been party of a minority race and done the heinous crimes against another race, he too would fear losing power. He therefore began to put himself in the shoes of the apartheid generals and leaders. He immersed himself in understanding their language and culture. It was a stroke of genius if you ask me. He realised that among the motivating factors for the continued enforcement of apartheid despite world condemnation was a deep-seated fear by the Afrikaner race of a possible political apocalypse should a black government take over.

Fear was therefore that big elephant in the room. No one would boldly stand up to the world and say “actually we fear what will happen to us when we lose power”. It would be a faux pas but equally an honest and truthful assertion. Once Mandela had understood the current that drives apartheid he began to use their language, from among other things, to strike a chord with them, at times bending backwards just to assure them that there would be no revenge or vengeance once the ANC was in power. Many people who were locked in years of perpetual fear and uncertainty began to integrate themselves in a healthy and productive reconstruction of South Africa once this fear had been defeated. Many a time this fear of “a black take-over” was dressed up in teeny-weeny intellectual arguments yet it was nothing else but fear. It was the same fear that led to a mass exodus of whites at the dawn of democracy but those who had defeated it stayed behind and enjoyed being part of a rainbow nation.

In years to come white people’s fear of a black government subsided even though mistrust of what would happen when Mandela dies lingered stubbornly. Sometimes this fear was projected in newspapers and other media outlets as rational arguments against the ANC government. Mandela died late last year and doomsayers who had predicted a race war were forced to eat humble pie. The country is still progressing peacefully. So was this fear justified? No. The unfortunate part is that this fear finds expression in legal, intellectual, moral and other discourse often hiding mistrust about each other’s vision for the country. I argue that in the same way that there is a struggle against forgetting or better put, a struggle for memory, there should be a struggle against fear.

Fear continuously holds back this country from advancing politically and entrenching more firmly democracy. Fear therefore is the main obstacle to progress. The DA recently learned that many black people mistrust it because they fear they may introduce apartheid. So worried was the DA about this fear that it even attempted to reinvent itself and its “heroic” struggle credentials. But is there any basis to allege that the DA would bring back apartheid? Of course not. Those who have read the DA policies and heard their rhetoric would ridicule the mere assertion. But a majority of black people fear a return of apartheid should they lay their hands on the levers of state power.

Even when an “uneducated” man from Kwazulu-Natal was inaugurated as president there was a depressing fear that the country would plunge into economic chaos. That Jacob Zuma would roll back the gains of the last decade and that his traditionalism would undermine women’s rights, from among other things. This was nothing else but a fear projected by mainstream media as a reality. To better appreciate how fear plays a role in South African politics one has to look at Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as an example. Despite several assurances that the EFF’s policies would benefit all, most white people have concluded that it is borne of a desire to fight them. Those who harbour this fear then project it as a reality and engage in a facile attempt to force the EFF to “assure” white people they will not be driven to the sea. EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi dealt with it well on 702 radio recently when he said white people project this fear onto a public domain to force the EFF to lose its radical and militant character and consequently become an apologist organisation.

Zuma, and by extension the ANC, have been a victim of this unfounded and sometimes unsubstantiated fear. The ANC has had a two-thirds majority for most of its governing life and had all the legal rights to change the Constitution. They did not. But recently we have been inundated with reports that the ANC will change the Constitution. As the country prepares itself for the upcoming elections we are bound to see an upscale in the projection of sectorial fears. Some will vote out of fear either against an ANC getting yet another two-thirds majority or a DA getting to take over Gauteng or even an EFF ascending into power. Each time we allow fear to cloud our rational judgement, we must remember that this country was arrested for years in brutal conflict simply because a section of our society refused to confront the opium that was fear. We should remember too that we shall never experience something new if we allow fear to colonise us.

Let us allow our vote to change the conditions that we agree define contemporary South Africa. Let this vote not be influenced by fear. All our fears are of the past and only sustain the illusion of our past identity. The struggle against fear is a permanent struggle.



  1. Momma Cyndi Momma Cyndi 23 January 2014

    “Each time we allow fear to cloud our rational judgement …. ”
    ?? but should we ignore our rational judgement ??
    Many of the fears when Zuma was elected, have become reality. All minorities are fully aware of what Malema, Floyd and Andile think of them. Would it not be reasonable to take that into consideration?

  2. aim for the culprits aim for the culprits 23 January 2014

    Good article. Many truths.

    If Julius Malema and his fellow EFF leaders reject personal materialism I will vote for them.

    Otherwise I fear BIG MAN syndrome: jobs and tenders for pals, and a frantic cutting up rather than the growing of the pie.

  3. manquat manquat 24 January 2014

    Fear also plays a role in investor confidence in the country. Fear shapes the culture of SA. It really and truly is a powerful spiritual force that effects the destiny and lives of millions in SA and around the world.

    The media really enjoys reporting on and magnifying negative images and we seem to enjoy sensationalism, it livens up our dull, boring lives caught in the humdrum of repetitive routines.

  4. Collins Collins 24 January 2014

    Great article indeed , South Africans should confront these fears and conquer for a healthy nation

  5. nguni nguni 25 January 2014

    The Afrikaner feared the chaos that would ensue if blacks ran the govt. They also feared the commies would take over such a govt.
    When the iron curtain fell the one fear disappeared and they let the blacks run govt. Commies and chaos ensued..
    Most fears are not irrational, they arise from experience, the African Experience.

  6. Kgositsile Mokgosi Kgositsile Mokgosi 27 January 2014

    I think you are quite confused Manqoba. Struggle was against colonialism, ie resistance to dispossession of land that was accompanied by obliteration of indigenous culture, and apartheid, ie the enactment of anti-African prejudice displayed by subjecting Africans to subhuman existence. The struggle was never about addressing white fears. It was in fact about instilling fear in the oppressor’s psyche so that they can give in. The only fear that was ever addressed in the struggle was the fear the oppressed acquired after the Rivonia Trial. Black Consciousness dealt severely with this hence the 1976 Soweto Riots. It is the fear that made them to capitulate and it must now be clear why the chose to approach Mandela in jail instead of the ANC president in London.

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