Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What Was So Great About Apartheid Anyway?

PW Botha, the man who upheld and defended state-sanctioned white supremacy (also known as apartheid) in South Africa at the height of the anti-apartheid rebellion, has passed away. While I never celebrate death, even of white supremacist clowns, I certainly have a difficult time finding anything positive to say to commemorate this man's passing. While in office, he allowed the slaughter of thousands of Black South Africans protesting apartheid; rigidly upheld the apartheid laws which separated South Africa's population into Afrikaaner, Black, and Colored; and, despite international pressure, refused to release Nelson Mandela from prison (Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his work with the ANC).
So you can imagine my surprise when newspapers from around the world are citing Mandela honoring Botha.
According to Al Jazeera, Mandela said in a statement on Wednesday:
"While to many Mr. Botha will remain a symbol of apartheid, we also remember him for the steps he took to pave the way towards the eventual peacefully negotiated settlement of our country."
Does it matter that he took those steps kicking and screaming? So much so that he was overthrown by his own party and it was his successor, FW de Klerk who transitioned the country into post-apartheid?
Mandela continued stating that Botha's death should be a reminder of "how South Africans from all persuasions ultimately came together to save our country from self-destruction."
I understand respecting the dead. But it seems to me that if the positions you took in life didn't make you a hero then dying shouldn't make you one by default.
It is unclear to me whether Mandela, the consummate diplomat, is simply trying to embody in his actions the principles of reconciliation that the post-apartheid government has attempted to use. Or does he simply not want to ruffle feathers by pointing out the obvious: Botha was at the bottom of it all a terrible human being who died believing in the fundamental superiority of the white race. Don't believe me? Following the end of apartheid, Botha refused to participate in the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions to address the crimes against humanity committed by the Afrikaaner-led South African state in its brutal repression of the anti-apartheid movement. He was quoted as stating:
"Take me to court if you want to charge me! I will not appear in circuses!"
And he never apologized or recanted his views on apartheid.
And the son-of-a-bitch lived to be 90 years old.
I guess what the old folks say is true.
Some folks really are just too evil to die.
Nelson Mandela, as much as I admire him, in this instance, does not speak for me. I can't say that I am grieved by Botha's passing. If hell exists, I am sure that there is a special spot reserved just for him. And if there is any justice in this universe he'll be forced to wait on non-white folks for the rest of eternity...alright, maybe I went a little too far.
But out of respect for the thousands of South African men and women who were unlawfully detained, tortured, incarcerated, maimed, violated, and murdered under his tenure as the head of state, I will not celebrate a man in death that I despised while he lived.

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