Whites Must See That Apartheid Hurts Them, Too

Beyond race and faction, we're all South Africans first

IN 1962, in my last public speech before being placed under house arrest and subsequently sentenced in the Rivonia trial, I showed a gathering of students at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg a handful of bones which I brought back from the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. I brought back these bones as a reminder to myself and to my fellow South Africans of the evils of racism which dominates every aspect of South African life.

Now, 27 years later, after the glorious Soweto uprising of 1976 and other massive antiracist events, we have come back to South Africa where racism is still firmly entrenched.

There have of course been changes - and many of these have been to the good. Hotels and parks, public transport, libraries, cinemas, lifts, beaches have to a considerable extent been desegregated.

The Mixed Marriages Act and Immorality Acts - barring sex and marriage across the color line - have been done away with and so has the hated system of influx control known as the Pass Laws.

These are all to be welcomed, just as we welcome any move away from racism. But the fundamental cornerstones of apartheid still remain firmly in place.

We, the oppressed people of South Africa, are still waiting for President F.W. De Klerk and his party to explicitly repudiate apartheid. We are waiting for them to acknowledge their mistakes and show genuine remorse for 40 years of misrule by the National Party.

We are waiting for them to apologize for all the hardships, cruelty, and suffering that they have inflicted on the oppressed people of South Africa.

We are waiting for them to stop fostering fear and suspicion among the white people in this country. The rulers are playing an irresponsible, despicable, dangerous, and short-sighted game by creating the image of a wild black monster which is supposedly bent on destroying the white people, their language, and their religion.

By their behavior they are consciously creating obstacles in the path of reconciliation, peace, and stability. And they know they are doing it for selfish political reasons in order to maintain Nationalist Party rule.

We are obliged to point out to our white compatriots the ridiculousness, the impracticality of apartheid.

We have to persuade them that the greatest dangers facing them, their children and their future, are not the black people, are not the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party, not Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu or Dr. Allan Boesak; their greatest enemy is apartheid, the Nationalist Party and the Conservative Party and all those who still propagate - under different names - the policy of white separateness and white supremacy.

We challenge them to prove that the ANC stands for exclusive black majority rule. They will fail to do so because the ANC has never advocated black majority rule. The policy of the ANC has always been - and still remains - majority rule which means rule by people who accept its policies.

They could be all black, or mixed or even all white. It is going to be a state and a system of government where the services of the best people would be invoked and where color will play no part whatsoever, and where policies are formulated and implemented which will be for the good of all the people of South Africa regardless of race, color, or creed.

One of the encouraging developments in recent years has been the fragmentation of white politics, and, of particular significance, the huge crack in the hitherto solid Afrikaner monolith.

Side by side with the birth of white groupings, which have unreservedly identified themselves with the national liberation movement, we have seen the development of tendencies, particularly among Afrikaners, to boldly and openly establish contact with the ANC.

We are not claiming that these people have come back as members or even supporters of the ANC and its allies but what we do say is that they are contributing immensely towards the process of understanding the ANC, of ``de-demonizing'' the ANC and helping to project the true image of the organization.

White South Africans must know that we are very much aware of fears that exist among them, fears that have been deliberately fomented by the rulers and which have reached paranoidal levels.

There is no magic formula for the existence of harmony. The simple requirement is to stop thinking of ourselves as Indians, coloreds, whites, or Africans. And be proud to be just South Africans.

We must regard one another as fellow human beings, respect one another's languages, political beliefs, customs and religions and - by so doing - we will be building the foundations for the free nonracial democratic South Africa.

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