True reconciliation still to be realised in South Africa
As South Africans reconcile what happened on this day in 1838, in the battle of Blood River, we still have a lot to mend.
The Battle of Blood River was where the Voortrekkers under the leadership of Andries Pretorius and the Zulu’s under the leadership of Dingane, the Zulu King, clashed. About 10 000-20 000 Zulu warriors led by Dingane’s generals attacked the Voortrekkers, but the 470 Voortrekkers, with the advantage of gun powder, warded them off.
The battle is understood to have begun at dawn and was over by midday where more than 3000 Zulu warrior casualties were counted. Only 3 Voortrekkers (including Voortrekker leader Pretorius) were wounded, and none were killed. The Ncome River became red with the blood of the slain. Hence the river became known as “Blood River”.
This battle now highlights the racial divide and power struggles between blacks and whites all those years ago which still live with us today. That is why scholars like historian Leonard Thompson have said that the events of the battle were woven into a new myth that justified racial oppression on the basis of racial superiority and divine providence. This victory over Dingane and his warriors was reinterpreted as a sign that God confirmed the rule of whites over black Africans,
Coming back to democratic South Africa in 2016, 22 years into democracy, on what is known to be the day of reconciliation, we reflect on what we saw at the beginning of this year with Estate agent Penny Sparrow calling black beachgoers in Durban monkeys. Sparrow was charged and was taken to court. The Equality court fined her R150 000.
This case and others that followed sparked a conversation across the country about race relations. How easy it was to hurl racist insults at each other. South Africans then called on parliament to come up with punitive measures to deal with the issue of race.
The process is now underway to put legislation in place that will criminally charge anyone who defames another on the basis race. The draft Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill aims to –“ * give effect to the Republic’s obligations in terms of the Constitution and international human rights instruments concerning racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in accordance with international law obligations; * provide for the offence of hate crimes and the offence of hate speech and the prosecution of persons who commit those crimes; * provide for appropriate sentences that may be imposed on persons who commit hate crime and hate speech offences; * provide for the prevention of hate crimes and hate speech; * provide for the reporting on the implementation, application and administration of this Act”
I hope that with the bill already drafted, South Africans will be more sensitive to each other and recognise that the scars of apartheid still exist, that no race is truly better than another. And that we as a country need to work towards a more cohesive rainbow nation as envisaged by late president Nelson Mandela.
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