Cape politics takes the biscuit
THE Hertzog cookie emerged from Bo-Kaap kitchens during a season of political promise.
This was during the election campaign that resulted in the Pact government, a coalition between General JBM Hertzog’s National Party of Afrikaner nationalism and Colonel FHP Cresswell’s Labour Party, in June 1924.
The coloured vote, a qualified franchise, was influential in determining who governed the Cape. Hertzog assiduously courted the coloured electorate. He promised exemption from restrictions applied to Africans. Coloureds would benefit from the privileges legislated for white workers – but as a separate racial group who “shared the values and culture of whites”.
On the campaign trail in the run-up to the 1929 elections, Hertzog made constant reference to the swart gevaar as part rationale for segregation and in contrast to the qualified non-racial franchise favoured by Cape Liberalism.
His civilised labour “policy”, a clumsy euphemism for protecting the interests of white workers, was not without its appeal for a section of the coloured community.
Support was forthcoming from the Cape Malay Association and the African National Bond (ANB) under the presidency of NR Veldsman, a veteran conservative who left the African People’s Organisation in 1912 in protest at what he viewed as Dr Abdurahman’s militant rhetoric.
The separatist-driven ANB was unapologetically pro-coloured and its newspaper, Die Bond, declared the “coloured man did not receive his civilisation by environment but from heredity”.
The tenor of their policy was their natural affinity with whites because of shared values and culture derived from a mutual kinship.
And from grateful hearts and cooking and baking skills nurtured in the kitchens of slave-holding estates of the past the hertzoggie was conjured.
This tasty offering of desiccated coconut mixed with egg white, baked over a dollop of apricot jam on crust pastry was named in honour of General Hertzog.
Yet despite the Pact victory, the promises of the New Deal for coloureds never materialised. And the jilted ones expressed their dissatisfaction in a unique, culinary manner: the hertzoggie was coated with proportional halves of brown and pink icing and renamed a tweegevrietjie.
On the last weekend of September 1991 with a non-racial, universal franchise in mind Nelson Mandela addressed the Western Cape ANC. The task at hand was primarily to elect a new executive. Madiba made it clear it was desirable the leadership reflect the demographics of the region.
He noted the coloured community constituted 54 percent of the province’s population, Africans 25 percent and whites made up the difference with 21 percent. Surveys indicated the National Party was the party of choice for coloured potential voters.
Alluding to underlying racial tension, The Weekly Mail’s report on the conference was prefaced by a joke: “The struggle would be fought by the Africans, theorised by the whites, paid for by the Indians and the coloureds would celebrate the victory”.
A variation of this ethnic caricature was the proposed profile of the ideal national soccer team: the goalkeeper should be either white or Indian because once they had hold of something, they never let go; the warlike Zulus, resolute and intimidating defenders; the playful Xhosas in midfield where they could hold up play when necessary, and coloureds, being opportunists, were ideal strikers.
Mandela, when he took to the podium, would have been aware of the degrees of prejudice that travelled the length and breadth of South Africa’s ethnic terrain.
The ANC president related an occasion when as a young man, he had visited an uncle at a workers’ kampong on the outskirts of Wynberg. “Who lives over there?” Madiba had enquired. “Oh no”, replied his elder, “you must avoid those people. They are coloureds”.
He had said that they were lacking in respect, as “they did not know how to speak to white people”.