Davidsonville: Perhaps, Identity-Doublespeak, not ‘Coloureds’ to blame!
Neville Alexander in arguably his last work poignantly reminds us “But societies and the global village have changed so radically that to continue to analyse and describe things as though we still living in 1848 or 1948 or even 1984 is to be woefully blind and self defeating”. (Neville permit me to add things and people)
The Roodepoort Primary School impasse is not a unique challenge but it is symptomatic of what we dealing with because we as a collective refused to deal with the thorny subject of political identity over the last 21 years.
Ebrahim Harvey in his City Press article bemoans the fact that it is 21 years into a non-racial democracy. It is exactly here that I wish to start arguing, this non-racial reality so easily advanced by all and sunder is never unpacked. Does non racial imply a doing away with race? Or does it mean we still have races? Is racism possible where there is no acknowledgment of race?
Perhaps it is as I have coined it the Democratic State engaging in “identity-doublespeak”. We not asking what a non-racial democracy means at experiential level, particularly since we in 2015 still use apartheid identity markers for our collective human agencies. No one is asking the 1994 Democratic State why it’s holding on to these denotations.
Let me also in the beginning condemn any racial slurs and attacks from any side veiled or bold, because that simply does not belong in our non – racial society.
Harvey commits the same error so many do to subject the Roodepoort Primary School situation in isolation to the intolerance of ‘Coloureds’. They accuse ‘Coloureds’ for not wanting an ‘African’ (Black) principal. Yet whilst this may or may not be the case, to pretend communities are no longer stratified as previously apartheid defined whilst we hold on to racial classifications for identity constitutes a major contradiction.
The second error committed by most who comment on this Roodepoort Primary School saga is the conscious denial of the community, which is known as Davidsonville. The denial of this geographic location is a central problem for it articulates a mind that says it is not Davidsonville its Roodepoort. When we let Davidsonville stand for what it is as a community maybe our approach will alter and we may find solutions. People take pride regardless to how their communities were formed. SOWETO for example will never become Johannesburg South; it has an intrinsic value that the people of Soweto attached to that transcends its apartheid description. Can we allow Davidsonville as a community to be afforded the same respect?
The third error committed is on the part of the MEC Panyaza Lesufi. In an earlier note I had to caution the MEC that he cannot call the Davidsonville community racist, but identify rather elements in the community. The MEC furthermore is on record for having expressed his confirmed opinion on the ‘Coloureds’ of Davidsonville who intent to remove ‘Black’ officers currently operational at the police station. I had to caution the MEC that he should have left this to the MEC of Safety and Security to pronounce because his utterances on safety and security matter as MEC for Education further racially polarizes this unfortunate situation.
Another mistruth advanced is that only ‘Coloured’ parents refuse their children to go to the designated Lefureng – Protea School. This sophism fuels the belief that it is the ‘Coloured’ community who proves troublesome, when ‘African’ parents were interviewed on SABC who for no dissimilar reasons expressed their displeasure with the closing of the school and the bussing of pupils to others schools.
I concur with Harvey that the Department has to answer questions on the process for the appointment of the principal. The department equally must explain why an acting principal was not considered fit for the job irrespective of his/ her racial identity The department must explain why the process for appointment is claimed as flawed and not according to standard procedure. This may prove the legitimacy of a the impasse.
What is perhaps lost in the translation is the subject of political identity in a non-racial post apartheid society.
It is my submission that we cannot expect to hold on to the apartheid racial classifications for our collective human agencies (black, white, coloured and indian) and expect this dream of a non-racial reality. All these terms are necessarily racist and entrenches the praxis of racism.
Race as a formal construct is not thousands of years old, but was captured when Immanuel Kant produced his German ‘rassen’ articles in 1785. Kant had much opposition when he categorized people in this race classification strata in which the ‘white’ colour proves superior, yet Kant’s stance found friends until we in 2015 undeniably believe in race for identity. It is important to note that by the end of 1945 Eugenics was long declared defunct and race as scientific notion proven non- existent.
Our problem is the Democratic State of 1994, has yet to lead in affording people space and time to engage on the issue of political identity.
The 1910 Segregation State identified its ‘client’ until the 1913 Native Land Act spoke. The 1948 Apartheid State equally identified its ‘client’ until Act 30, of 1950 Section (c) declared people that always existed ‘Coloured’.
The Democratic State of 1994 is not expected to do exactly what its previous States did, but has the responsibility to break with the markers of (black, white, coloured and indian) for identities. In my assessment the 1994 State ought to have leaned on the 1955 Freedom Charter, which proved unambiguous when it articulates ‘ THE PEOPLE’.
The 1994 Democratic State talks about non-racial reality yet it addresses, serves and continues to identify its people with the outdated apartheid markers for identity. Whilst one may speculate the reason for the Democratic state holding on to these apartheid racial classifications as a means to measure or track progress, I contend when we afford an opportunity to frankly engage the subject of political identity as afforded by the State we will develop the vocabulary to reconfigure identities and find new expressions.
Our Constitution speaks in Section 1 B of this non- racial reality. The African National Congress as the leading party prognosticates non-racialism, but its in praxis a lived experience of multi-racialism, which unequivocally acknowledges race for identity.
This identity-double-speak is not escaping even the DA as official opposition. Its Vision 2029 states ‘we see a non-racial south Africa where all races are recognised’.
Thus, Davidsonville and the Roodepoort school impasse is perhaps the fulcrum of our identity challenge and symptomatic of a much bigger and brewing reality that is being stirred and education is not the epicenter for it manifests in other areas.
For as long as we engage in this identity – double- speak in refusal of engaging on the pertinent subject of political identity in South Africa we will have the incidents and unfortunate occasions of Davidsonville.
Clyde N.S. Ramalaine
Political Commentator & Writer