21 June 2020
Threats by racists in the UK, embodied by Britain’s First Leader Paul Golding, to remove or wreck the statue of Nelson Mandela should neither shock nor surprise us.
The London-based rightwingers said the demolition of Mandela’s statue would be a fitting retaliation for the toppling of slave trader Paul Colston’s statue, which was thrown in a harbour by Black Lives Matter protesters last week. Christopher Columbus statue was beheaded in Boston while Winston Churchill’s statue was sprayed with graffiti.
The protests were part of a global uprising against racism following the senseless killing of George Floyd by white police officers in Minneapolis, United States, late last month.
The protests have, in the UK, forced authorities to undertake a review of offensive statues and street names – something worthy of celebration.
Naturally, those who are racist were bound to resist what all progressive people will see as human progress. For them, equality is a terrible idea.
They, in their conceited hearts, believe that the very cruel idea of slavery and its impact on black people is something to be celebrated and its legacy should be protected.
Of course such bigots will lose any rational debate because of the backwardness and depravity of their ideas. In the face of such inevitable loss, they have, unsurprisingly, appealed to base emotions and rallied fellow racists to attack Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi statues.
It is pointless to merely tell these racists to stop. Their wanton acts of criminality must be met with the full might of the law. The difficulty in some countries, especially the US, is when such racists are supported by their cousins in the police force.
The lessons, however, for South Africa are many and varied. The uprising teaches us that oppressed people will not remain governable as infinitum.
The patience of South Africans subjected to offensive street names and statues has a limit. In any event, our beliefs and values are based on democracy and understanding that our diversity is our strength.
That said, street names and statues that offend our sensibilities as democrats, or those that do not accord with democracy, must be consigned to museums. A failure to remove offensive names and statues does not foster unity. If anything, it generates resentment not only of the racists, but those who protect racist legacies. Our government will do well to learn from the British by swiftly undertaking an overdue review of offensive names and statues and following this with decisive action to have these replaced. This is self-love.
Further, this entire saga shows us that even such a unifying figure like Mandela can, elsewhere, remain a terrorist and communist simply for insisting on
freedom and justice for all.
Last, it teaches us that we must use the resources of our country to invest in our people without any apology. A reconciliation between Africa’s riches and her children’s future is overdue.