On Zille and the quest to make SA white again

If you thought Helen Zille only wanted to share her mind-blowing experience of Singapore with us, think again, writes Tinyiko Maluleke.

Last week, Helen Zille shared seven tweets offering examples of "valuable aspects of colonial heritage". The angry twitterati swiftly extracted a reluctant apology in her eighth tweet.
While initial attention has been focused on Zille and her bigotry, soon all eyes will turn to DA leader Mmusi Maimane and the disciplinary proceedings instituted against her. Zille is arguably, the single most influential individual in the DA. Having recently neglected to act against Johannesburg mayor, Herman Mashaba, for his xenophobic comments, the DA has not covered itself in glory reining in some of their senior leaders.
Her apology notwithstanding, Zille has since suggested her "cardinal sin" is only of "speaking while white" – a tasteless spoof of the "crime" of "driving while black" in the US and in apartheid South Africa. She also cautioned the DA to not follow the ANC in subscribing to "African racial nationalism" – whatever that means.
Her apology notwithstanding, Helen Zille has since suggested her "cardinal sin" is only of "speaking while white". File picture: Tracey Adams
Jeremy Gordin vouches for Zille being a person of "intelligence, (who has) devoted herself tirelessly, conscientiously and honestly to a particular political "vision". Thomas Johnson insists colonialism "brought collateral benefits". AfriForum’s Kalie Kriel swears Zille merely proposed that "technology and infrastructure development came into the country along with colonialism". For Andrew Donaldson, the "frenzied outrage" is only a "fresh distraction" from "the 'self-made' (Sassa) grants catastrophe". The oxymoronic suggestion that there are "valuable aspects of colonial heritage" is vicious and obnoxious.
How can anyone invite victims of colonialism to consider the "valuable aspects"? To shove the idea down the throats of those who have experienced colonial conquest is cruel. It feels sadistic to require the victims of a crime to find something beneficial to them in the commission of the crime. But to proceed and unilaterally compile a list before demanding concurrence from the victims and then proceed to accuse those who disagree of being dishonest? Modimo!
Imagine our government announcing that the 2017 Heritage Month will be dedicated to the "valuable aspects (our) colonial heritage"? Who and what would we celebrate on such a month?
Shall we commemorate the "contribution" of slavery in the strengthening of the African character? Will we foreground the "positive contributions" of the 1913 Land Act in the "discovery" of new farming methods? We might wish to celebrate the spectacular environmental degradation achieved since the eradication of pre-colonial beliefs that plants, animals, lakes, forests and mountain are living entities, right?
Between Jan van Riebeeck and Cecil John Rhodes, whose "positive aspects" should we highlight more, how and why? Why don’t we just offer a national prize for excellence in the ridiculing of the ideas of the likes of Biko, Fanon, Du Bois, Sobukwe, Rodney, * ’Bitek, Wa Thiongo, Achebe and Anta Diop?
In a courageous column, Peter Bruce cut to the bone and called out the racist nature of the Zille tweets, noting that most white South Africans "remain deeply racist". The persistence of racism and the deplorable resurgence of the romantic idea of colonialism as a benevolent institution must be understood in context. Anthropologist, Vito Laterza, has correctly observed that "white scholars rarely condemn colonial conquest in its totality".
The Trumpian quest to make America great again must be read also as a desperate effort to make America white again. Marine Le Pen’s call for the French to join her in "the most beautiful battle which will give France back to France" speaks of her impossible but populist mission to make it white again. Realising that they are losing the demographic majority, some supremacists are resorting to the vilest forms of xenophobia and racism.
Until now, supremacist and racist ideas have been kept alive in coded metaphors and the assumed superiority of Western liberal ideas and institutions. Not any more. No more beating about the bush. All over the world, white supremacists demand the right to speak blatantly and openly. They hanker after a world that was and wish to stop its breathtaking implosion, by any means necessary.
And you thought Helen Zille only wanted to share her mind-blowing experience of Singapore with us, right? Think again.

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