Who would we have been if colo­nial­ism had not occurred?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES - MICHAEL WEEDER By the Way

ON THURS­DAY at The Book Lounge on Roe­land Street, Ferial Haf­fa­jee in­tro­duced her book What if there were no Whites in South Africa? with a fol­low-on line from her Aunty Daria: “You know, then we wouldn’t be here”.

Her re­spon­dent was Xolela Mangcu, an Angli­can whose de­liv­ery style was akin to a Wes­leyan preacher at a re­vival meet­ing dur­ing Holy Week.

Th­ese two South Africans were com­fort­able with each other – Xolela in­formed the house, with a whiff of mock­ing glee, “UCT has made me a full pro­fes­sor” to which Ferial replied, “But they won’t give you a pay in­crease ’cause fees must fall”. But it was Aunty Daria’s com­ment that pre­oc­cu­pied my thoughts. If it wasn’t for colo­nial­ism I might still be in In­dia or Hol­land.

Or on Re­union Is­land from where Louis Evon, my Cre­ole, fish­er­man great- grand­fa­ther, jour­neyed to Cape Town to fall in love with Sarah Ed­wards, a dark beauty from the Pniel area.

And my Khoisan self would be silent in my dreams. His­to­rian Robert Shell refers to the ar­rival of mer­can­tile cap­i­tal­ism on the shores of Ta­ble Bay in 1652 as the clos­ing of “one arc of a pri­mor­dial pop­u­la­tion move­ment that had be­gun in Africa nearly one hun­dred mil­len­nia be­fore”.

The pres­ence of slaves from the East Indies a few years later closed an­other pop­u­la­tion arc. Pro­fes­sor Shell de­clares “South Africans be­gan their colo­nial era with one of the most poly­glot pop­u­la­tions in the world, a dra­matic re­union of all the main branches of hu­mankind”.

Yet this po­ten­tially kum­baya mo­ment comes at a cost ev­i­dent in the lives of those dis­posed of the en­am­our­ing as­pects of their hu­man­ity. The fruit of this root is what Michael Dyson, au­thor and Bap­tist pas­tor, de­fines “the spir­i­tual fatigue and physic trauma oc­ca­sioned by racism”.

Thus we have the Tswana wed­ding song Tswang, tswang, le bone ngoana otswana lili-coloured.

Mthunzi Mgx­ashe, a na­tive of Or­lando West, trans­lates this as:

“Come out, see this beau­ti­ful child, daz­zling and look­ing like a coloured’s lady”.

The con­cept of “the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice” was still out of sea­son. A few blocks away, Strug­gle icon Ahmed Kathrada was awarded the Free­dom of the City at the City Hall. I love this city where, on the Wed­nes­day of my na­tiv­ity, the Call to Prayer from the Muir Street Mosque wel­comed me with the news of the great­ness of God.

When I read of how Muhammed Makungwa, a Malawian na­tional was sjam­bokked by “a sus­pect driv­ing a BMW X5”.

I can understand why Pro­fes­sor Mangcu only be­gan writ­ing about race af­ter ar­riv­ing in Cape Town four years ago. I la­ment for you and me, who Toni Mor­ri­son in­vites to speak about “What it is to live at the edge of a town that can­not bear your com­pany”.

Yet we sing, sis­ter and brother who are white, be­cause you are with us.

How else would the world have been blessed with a Des­mond Tutu and our Madiba, Nel­son Man­dela?

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