Presentation to the South African Human Rights Commission by Ernst Roets Deputy CEO of AfriForum, 16 February 2017
Anti-white racism in South Africa
My name is Ernst Roets. I am the Deputy CEO of AfriForum. AfriForum is a civil rights organisation that operates with the aim of protecting minority rights. Our philosophy is that the test for a healthy democracy is vested in the question of whether minority communities also feel that they are welcome, included and protected.
AfriForum’s membership base currently comprises just over 186 000 individual members.
Let me state from the outset that if I seem angry or frustrated during my presentation today, it is because I speak for our members. And as a representative, it is my responsibility to convey to you the frustration that our members experience on the issue of racism. However, I am not here simply to convey the frustration, but to explain exactly why our members are frustrated.
Firstly, let met state that racism in South Africa is often blown out of perspective. Racism is a problem because of extremists at the fringes of society and not because South Africans are inherently racist. Every study on racism done by independent research organisations that I have ever seen has found that racism is not as big a problem in South Africa as we are led to believe. I mention a long list of statistics in my written submission, which I will not repeat now.
It is clear that racism is a problem that deserves attention. To talk of it as if it’s the biggest problem that this country has to face, however, is to reduce a long list of crises that are in fact much more damaging to our society. These include the education crisis, unemployment, crime and corruption, and so forth.
Racism and minority rights
In South Africa, we frequently hear the argument that white people should stop complaining because white people are believed to be rich. This means that white people are “economically dominant” and as a result do not have a right to protection as a minority community. We hear this quite often. There are many sources – particularly the United Nations – that indicate that communities which are small in number but believed to be wealthy are precisely the communities that need protection.
If economic status were the determining factor, it would imply that the vast majority of minority communities across the globe who have fallen victim to genocide or ethnic cleansing in the 20th century would not have been entitled to protection as a minority community. This would include the Jews during the Second World War, the Armenians and Greeks of Anatolia, the Muslims in Serbia and the Tutsis in Rwanda. It is precisely this alleged wealth that necessitates the protection of communities which are small in number.
Racism and double standards
On the topic of racism, we find alarming levels of double standards in the manner in which society at large deals with racism. These double standards are particularly also manifested in the manner that the media reports on racism.
Let me list some examples of how double standards on racism manifest in our society:
1. Penny Sparrow
Just over a year ago, Penny Sparrow, an unknown estate agent from KwaZulu- Natal, referred to black people who had littered the Durban beachfront as “monkeys”. In contrast, Velaphi Khumalo, an employee of the Provincial Department of Sport, Culture and Recreation, wrote in response to Sparrow’s post that he wanted to cleanse the country of whites and that whites should be treated in the same way that Hitler had treated the Jews. In a second posting he said that white people in South Africa deserved to be butchered like Jews and be killed.
What are the differences between Penny Sparrow and Velaphi Khumalo?
- Sparrow was an unknown estate agent, while Khumalo was – and, I believe, still is – a government employee.
- Sparrow offended black people, while Khumalo called for a butchering and genocide of white people.
- Sparrow was fined R150 000, while Khumalo was only subjected to an internal investigation.
2. Hart vs. Xingwana
Standard Bank economist Chris Hart was instantly converted into yet another example of the evil that is white racism when he tweeted that South Africa had an entitlement problem, which had a negative impact on economic growth. On the other hand, Lulu Xingwana, Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, went on international television, making the most atrocious statement imaginable:
“Young Afrikaner men are brought up in the Calvinist religion believing that they own a woman, they own a child, they own everything and therefore they can take that life because they own it.”
I find this statement extremely offensive. What the Minister did was to go on international television and insult the very core of my identity as a young Afrikaner. What’s the difference between Hart and Xingwana?
- Hart was an economist for a bank, Xingwana still continues to be a Cabinet Minister.
- Hart made an economic observation based on his research, suggesting that many black South Africans have an entitlement mentality, while Xingwana made a false racist attack right at the very core of what a particular minority community holds dear: their religion.