Cape pol­i­tics takes the bis­cuit

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

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”.

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