In conversation with Annelie Botes – [Exclusive]

As mentioned elsewhere in my blog in which I defended the now controversial writer, Annelie Botes, for her alleged comments in the Mail & Guardian newspaper last year after reportedly said she did not like and understand us black people, I now believe she may have been “quoted out of context”.

My belief that she was “quoted of context” by the newspaper’s journalist was informed by my engagement with Botes herself not only by email exchanges but on Facebook too. The engagement came after I posted the same article on my Facebook Notes defending her against the South African Literary Awards’ decision to withdraw the K Sello Duiker Memorial Award in the last minute for her comments on or about black people, a decision I think was not only uncalled for, unfair but that it was unprofessional too.

Since that time we have engaged one another on a number of topics, especially those centering around issues on racism, reconciliation and living together as one as ‘black and white’ people, sort of. Although the conversation was electronic – email and Facebook – it was, however, quite informative and engaging than I had ever imagined it would be. In one of those, she also said that “we don’t have to flatter one another of (sic) make false pretences” when dealing with racism/race/transformation/reconciliation. And I agree with her.

Below is one of the email exchanges I have had with Botes, one I think I need to share with the rest of you. But before I do that, I would like all black people to know that I do believe that Botes was “quoted out of context”. And even if she had said that – there’s no “hate speech” in her expression and right to freedom of opinion. I mean we cannot always expect people to agree with everything we like, believe in, trust, love and hate. Even if Botes hated us black people, so what? Or you want to hate her back? Get real…

One of the most important issues that made me believe Botes that her comments were quoted out of context” is that just about two weeks before the 28th March 2011, she learned that the “same journalist [Yolandi Groenewald or Tarryn Harbour as the M&G article was co-written by both of them ] had an interview at the Woordfees on RSG, I heard it with my own ears”. Botes said journalist was asked: “Did you foresee such an uproar about the interview with Annelie Botes?” and she “calmly remarked, to be heard country-wide: “Yes, I knew it was going to happen.” So there you have it South Africans.

I agree with many of the things you have said in your communication with me and sorry that I took my time to respond, it is just that I have been busy. In your own words, yes, I did “experience high traffic in keeping up with all the communication routes” due to other commitments and not because I had had enough of our very interesting talk.

And if I must say – I bet and guarantee that this is the first time (except your helper at home) – this is the first time you have communicated with a mature and young and black male, nogal, like myself. Anyway I do not mean to moan as we just happen to be two adults engaging in life activities and developments we see them unfold around us. Right?

1. On black people.

I believe and trust that for you as a white person and for many other white people out there to understand us as black people you would first have to get to know us.

By this and trust me I will not try and “flatter you” and neither should you flatter me but that I will only “put matters straight” to you for both of us and many others like us out there to “arrive at a point of peaceful living”. And I am glad that at least you and I can engage in this level, one level you have not been enable to engage with other black people. Even with some white people too (Mail & Guardian reporter who had reported you as not liking us black people and other white counterparts at SALA).

In doing that (understanding black people) you would have to engage them at a level you have never done before. For example, if you have been afraid of them because of what you have heard they were capable of doing (killing, stealing and doing other bad things associated with the colour of their skin) – you would have to start engaging them on a serious and informative and engagement level like you do me now although I may be way mature than many or some of them. And still, even when you can engage me at that level, you would have to understand that there are those that are way stupid (some for their own league) such that you cannot engage them at all while with some you’ll regret having engaged them in the first place. Or that there are those who at times make sense while at other times they just don’t (Malema).

By doing this you would be giving yourself an opportunity to understand us better than you did before. Of course I am not referring to your visiting us at our villages where we grew up (unless you feel conformable in doing so or that I, too, make it easier for you to visit my home village). And by visiting you should know it would not be that we want to cut off some parts of your body or something as we are portrayed to be doing. NO! You can just decide to visit a particular village for a week or so when you have got time, of course.

When you do this you will further get to understand, even if you do not get to fully understand and agree with what they do, and have some kind of an idea and information as to why they do what they and therefore would not see them as racist. They, too, will/may not see you as racist as they first thought of you. This therefore not only helps you but that it will also clear, although not on all of them and certainly not in a short period of time, the misunderstanding and racist views black people have had about their white counterparts.

At the end there will then be some kind of a tolerance of “white stuff” and “black stuff” and an understanding of why these people do certain things.

With this “tolerance” you referred to in your communication to me before about “black and white” people there will then be a development of some “tolerance and humanity towards one another”. However, and I think this is where I tend to differ with you, not necessarily meaning all of a sudden you can “get rid of crime and poverty and distrust [about what black and white people  have of one another]”. But yes, there certainly will be some changes here and there although that may take time.

Also, need I say this, I have this belief that it is sometime people living in tight security homes and buildings that have heightened the high level of crime in the country because that creates the impression, at least to me, that this section of, for example, Glen Village or Lynnwood in Pretoria has money and is rich and therefore you’d find people saying: “let us go there and break into their houses”.

2. On taking ownership

You say the “consequences of apartheid will never-never-never vanish if (we) black people don’t start taking ownership of our country and their own lives”.

This, and I must give it you, is damn true. However, and having said that, you would also need to understand that it is difficult to take away and make vanish the scars, left-overs and remains of what the apartheid government – headed by people of your [white] coloured – had done. This can and may take longer than had ever been anticipated by Nelson Mandela himself or even De Klerk and his cronnies.

Freedom was not and can never have been achieved in just one day or within 17 years or so, the number of years since this limited dispensation. No. It was a process.

Negotiations for the ‘taking over’ with Mandela and whoever had accompanied him at that time from De Klerk may have taken less or more than the 21 years the former had spent in jail. So yes, although we have taken “ownership of our country and our lives”, this and many other things have to be taken into account but they should not be made stumbling blocks to the ownership and freedom and democracy.

As you and I now speak here, while trying to lift the majority of our (black) people from situations created by your (white) people with their discriminatory laws and rule – our government is also failing at the same time its people. But that may as well be a topic for another day, I think. Or maybe not.

This is so true because you admit yourself that the government of De Klerk and whoever came before him was unbearable and kak to black people. This is so because you state that: “make no mistake, if I close my eyes and imagine myself to be black in the times of apartheid, the shivers run down my spine”. So, yes and as you also rightly state, black people “absolutely understand that their future is in their own hands”.

“Oh, my Lord, [white people] treated black people like scum”, you admit.

Of course white people did and I am not sure about you and neither am I sure if you still do that. But that does not matter, at least not to me. Again, and as you may be aware, there are still many white people out there who still treat black people like that to this very day.

And it is also funny that there were – although I do not have the numbers but I just suspect that much – other black people who treated other black people the same way white people did black people back then and some still do that do this very day. However, and as you stated yourself “but that was then” and this is now, I should add.

You say we “black people will have to realize that those times are bygones”. That may be easier for you as a white person to say because for this you may be seen as someone who was not on the receiving end of such a degrading and barbaric treatment the black people were on. They were not seen as human beings.

You claim that “the white people ofSouth Africagave a huge majority vote in the referendum back in the 1990’s. That goes to show that the majority of whites were against the practice of apartheid. We voted it out!”

Well, yes, you may have done that but that may be seen as not your liking (or maybe less or just over majority of you guys) but some of you thought at the time that you did not have any other better choice as the only choice you guys had at the time was not worth it. Therefore, you have done so because of what your leaders thought at the time to be the ‘right thing to do’, if you ever understood what the hell that ‘right thing to do’ meant. And I suspect the ‘majority’ of the white people may have given a “huge majority vote” because they were very much fearing for their lives, thinking the “Kaffirs were coming to get us”. Or worse, that “these kaffirs are going to kill us as they always do and have always done”,

I imagine your white brothers and sisters thinking this of us black people at that time.

It is true as you say that we “black people can gain zero-minus-ten by hammering on apartheid” as I may have said before in my previous comments.

And you are further correct and it is quite true that “the sooner they [black] “forget” about it [apartheid] and develop a strong driving force within their own souls, the sooner they will escape from the dependency-syndrome”.

“Or call it slave mentality. Call it whatever you want. But don’t get stuck on scapegoating, as scapegoating always has a negative impact. Rather use the energy and time that you engage in scapegoating to develop skills”, you said.

And just how I wish that was easy for some people to do, people who are not and should not be hamstrung about apartheid especially those who have not lived through it to tell the tail thereof just as some of your grandchildren should not be judged on or blamed for what your fathers, grandfathers and great-great grandparents have done to the black people’s ancestors then and even today.

3. On BEE and “grants for trifle”

You say “our government is doing black people no favour by handing out grants for trifle”. I am glad you said ‘our’ and not ‘their’ or ‘ANC government’ or ‘black government’ as others would have preferred to say. This, in my world, shows that that not only is it the government of the black people but that as a white person yourself you also regard it as ‘yours’ despite different views and opinions you might hold on or about it and the policies it has.

Of course BBE has not, to date, achieved what it was set to achieve. This is evident on the many annual reports from government departments.

To further add insult to this, the private and business sectors, too, have not achieved any of the targets on BBE they had for themselves. This failure – whether negative or not – has resulted in the BBE policy being seen as “anti-white” and “anti-business” and ‘uneconomically achievable’ and given many other terminologies. And it is no wonder you see it as ‘this thing’ which is, in your eyes, very “evil”. And it may well be the case that ‘this thing about BEE is evil’ and that also ‘this thing about affirmative action is evil’. I think that would be because of the reasons mentioned before of being seen as ‘anti-white’ and all that kak.

So, yes, for now I will be Jimmy Manyi and you will be Trevor Manuel. This is because of your wanting when you say: “let’s forget for one moment about whether I’m probably thinking from a white perspective … Let’s simply look at the psychological perspective, which has no colour at all …” Lol.

Remember what Manuel said to Manyi in his open letter a while back when he addressed the latter’s criticism on the coloured people?

Manuel said in the first paragraph of his letter that: “Let us drop titles for the purpose of a necessary exchange. So let us forget for now that I am a Cabinet Minister and that you are a Director-General equivalent, in the same government. I want to address you simply as a compatriot South African.” This was an indication of what was about to follow.

So when you said we should drop (or forget rather) the ‘white perspective’ thing I could just imagine what was awaiting my ears and eyes. But I loved the engagement though.

It was your “white perspective” which then led you to ask:

  • What does BEE and affirmative action teach black people?
  • How does it benefit black people in the long run?
  • What is psychologically handed over to the next generation of black kids? If you sit down in a quiet corner and really think about this all deeply and solidly, the question remains: what is handed over as a foundation for generations to come?
  • BEE and affirmative action and the handing out of all sorts of grants are a sure-sure-sure way of keeping black people enslaved. Why doesn’t the government rather invest in uplifting the complete being and existence of black people?

Before I get to your answers to these questions, I would like to offer my silly response as follows:

  • It somewhat teaches some black people that for as long as they are a bunch of lazy slap-gat mense who do not want to get up and do things themselves, there’s may always be a better way of earning big bucks and that would therefore lead to the next point whereby,
  • In the long run it creates a ‘dependency-state’ which will then lead to what you called a “slave mentality”. This ‘slave mentality’ would mean creating the impression that black people cannot think for themselves as they are “mentally enslaved” by the government’s BBE and affirmative Actions policies.

In moving forward from this I agree with you completely that we must acknowledge that “yes, BBE and AA policies have back fired” at us. By this back-firing you would have to look at newspaper reports on these policies and many others systems in place “not followed” in as far as tenders are concerned in many government departments. This, need I say, is even worsened when people who are doing this are the very same people who have been entrusted with the ability and knowledge to making sure that things are done according to these laws: people who were trusted and elected and at times voted by the poor communities.

The appointments of people because they are not white or black enough are also an issue. Remember this police official who was refused or overlooked for an appointment despite her availability for and being qualified for the position just because she was white?

But look where we are today.

In your answer to the questions you said “If the black government keeps their black voters enslaved, never teaching them the skills to exist ‘independently’, they can be sure to stay in government”. And by “unflinchingly supporting ways of uplifting the mental processes in the minds of black people, the government runs a definite risk to loose power. They bargain on a mass of hungry, impoverished, scared, uneducated and helpless slaves to keep them in the comfortable government seats.” This would then make government be seen as being “so dumb as to push white people out of jobs and leadership positions”.

You further as:

  • Why don’t they rather apply the mind of a fox, and actively (but quietly an eagerly and purpose-driven) tap from the rich sources of white skills and how tapping into those skills could benefit them in the long run? After all, we are only about 5 million compared to the about 50 million non-whites in the country.
  • Why don’t the government use and use and use ever ounce of strength they could possibly wrench from whites resources?
  • I hope and pray that the government with this and many other allegations leveled against it is not trying to “chase (you white people) away”, that it does not “shut (white) up” white people and that it will not let this “source pass by as a missed opportunity”.

And yes we should probably “forget about apartheid” but as I said before it will not as easy as that.

That we should “forget about exactly how and why and when did whites gain that knowledge” as “it’s past tense” may be difficult for some people but it will have to happen one day.

Remember apartheid happened for more than the 17 years ago since democracy, and that it had existed for hundreds of years. So expecting us to all of a sudden to “forget about apartheid” because “its past tense” is not going to be an easy road as you may seem to think it is. Apartheid may seem as “waters that have gone under the bridge” and that “it’s history” but it is more than that.

So, yes, we will eventually “stop scapegoating” and then “obtain skills by stealing from whites with (our) eyes” by being “inquisitive”, “eager to learn” and “steady in gaining independence of the soul”. But even this will take time too. But that’s if the “whites” will also care to transfer the skills they have to those who are willing to change all this. By doing this and at the end of the day we (black people) wouldn’t see “whites as oppressors” but as “walking centres of info and knowledge – no matter how that came to be”. They would also be seen as “possible bridges to a mentality of ‘I am my own person; not government’s puppet’”.

4. On SALA

I like your “old saying” that “when devil speaks to devil, then the devil responds. And the devil is always to be paid”. “Currently the entire nation in our country is paying the devil a very profitable share. To whose advantage? What will the inheritance be? And never forget, the devil always wants more. He’s a glutton. His task is to rob and deprive and humiliate. “If we keep on following that stinking route, we are surely heading for big-time disaster. That’s why I cannot stand the likes of Hendrik Verwoerd. That’s why I cannot stand the likes of Julius Malema. Because they are willing agents to promote the devil’s policies.”

And it is because of these men that you “could never forgive the malicious journalist who twisted [your] words and intentions, and by doing so she actively sowed the seeds of distrust and disharmony. And she couldn’t care a damn. As long as she had a scoop. And as long as she could put the blame on me. Oh my Lord, what a shame on her”.

Again, and as said elsewhere in my blog, SALA was damn wrong, “uncalled for and not professional” for having reversed its decision in awarding you with the K Sello Duiker Memorial Award (in the last minute?) for your comments that you did not like black people because you did not understand them and did not intend understanding them at all”.

At the time, I wrote that:

Of course there any many other black people who hate white people and one is not sure why Botes should be treated differently and by this one is not condoning hate speech in any way. Or is it because at least they (“white and black people haters”) do not let known their hatred for white people as Botes did hers of black people?

Even if that were true it is not like her comments would amount to anything close to hate speech and or ‘kill the boers’ comments by African National Congress Youth League President Julius Malema. And still, that would also have to be proven true or otherwise in a Court of law which seems very unlikely as no-one has threatened to take Botes to Court for her alleged ‘hate speech’ comments.

One other important thing is that the withdrawal should have been made against the criteria or award requirements which Botes’ work had to satisfy, criteria which should have been set in the first place and known to or by her before she was shortlisted or entered into the Award as a runner up. Had that been then been case then surely we’d all understand.

But the above is not the case for the withdrawal was made after she was informed she had won the award for her literature work and not her failure to reserve her private and or public comments and or opinions about either black or white people.

Further, the withdrawal may be understood to have been made by SALA after both civil and political pressure which is unprofessional and unfair the as a professional body should not bow down under any pressure from any political party or group from within the public as this would precisely amount to ‘self-censorship’.

In the end, Botes deserved the award as she met the SALA criteria and requirements. More than that, she deserves it for there has not been any comprehensive and logic explanation to her award’s withdrawal.

That SALA “had the unique opportunity to make the nation understand that, irrespective of pressure that was put upon them (SALA)” and should “not [have been] influenced by any political (and devilish) views whatsoever” is quite true. But that did not happen, didn’t it? It was even more horrific because its “purpose was to judge the quality of literature” and it should not have been “pushed off the track” as it allowed itself to be. Unfortunately, as you rightly further state, it “missed the opportunity” when it “poked the fire and cooked the devil a delicious plate of food to feast on”. And this, “oh my Lord, what a shame on them” got the industry and me, of course.

5. ‘Unburdened piece of my Heart’

As for your having “unburdened a tiny piece of my heart to [me]” is not a problem and you should never regret having done that in the first place.

And I am so not “furious with (your) arrogance” as you thought I would be. But even if I were to have been, “then so be it”. Who cares? I don’t.

I am grateful that we very well manage to “unburden the pain and joys of our hearts to one another” so that we can “understand the complexity of the human mind” and thereby “find a golden midway to a reasonably peaceful and soulful society”.

In your questions you asked if you are “talking a bunch of crap” and my answer is: HELL NO, YOU ARE NOT!

With that, and so the journey to finding a “golden midway to a reasonably peaceful and soulful society” continues…

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