The curse of African nationalism
Ivor Chipkin: COMMENT
05 June 2008
The time of Mbeki has been associated with a vigorous African nationalism. It is distinguished from the politics of non-racialism by its insistence that the post-apartheid government is a black government.
This has muddied the waters of what constitutes racism.
Here the analogy with Zionism is informative. Zionism positions the State of Israel as a Jewish state and rebukes criticism of it as the work of anti-Semites.
There are disturbing parallels between the scenario above and the way race has come to be used during the time of Mbeki. Criticism of the government is frequently equated with criticism of blacks in general and Africans in particular — even when it comes from the Congress of South African Trade Unions or the South African Communist Party. We can restate this argument like this:
1. the government is a black government;
2. criticism of the government is, therefore, criticism of blacks; and
3. criticism is racist.
By blurring racism and critique the South African government has refused to hear legitimate criticism. Indeed, the government has been responsible for weakening the accountability of public authorities. The results have been devastating: the hollowing-out of South Africa's democracy....
... South Africa is not an African country or black state.
The measure of a South African should not be one of birth or origin. The country should belong to all who live in it, blacks, whites, migrants and refugees....
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