Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Our Canadian Refugee

A friend of mine, whom I visited yesterday in Johannesburg wondered why on earth there was so much publicity, here, around Brandon Huntley – the 31 year old “crime refugee”, who has somehow managed the Refugee board in Canada to believe his ludicrous stories about being repeatedly and violently attacked by black South Africans. I think the reason is simple.

No-one is going to claim that there is no violence in our society. No-one is going to claim that there is no racism in our society. And no-one is immune from either of those. And, I suppose, there is no comparison between Canada and South Africa in that regard. But the issue is this. We have come through an extremely violent history. An extreme, one-sidedly racist, violent history. And that violent racism was honed to perfection, not by black people, but by whites. It cannot be a surprise – not even to Canadians – that there are consequences to that history.

And the thing is, the transfer of power from a violent, racist minority, to the remarkably democratic majority has been unbelievably peaceful. That has been the reality for white South Africans. By and large, white people are still living in luxury; they still have access to the best education; they still have jobs, and salaries and cars and bank accounts. That is the reality.

So, to base one’s claim on a fiction, is not only outrageous, it is profoundly disingenuous and extremely disturbing. That is why his case has evoked such anger. (Of course, those people who have actually been criminalised or attacked have come out in support – but they would be extremely unwise to see this man as their mouthpiece.)

After first trying to get citizenship through marriage, his next alternative was to paint himself as a victim. But he does so with no regard for anything but his own wellbeing and his own extremely selfish needs and wants.

There is an interesting article in today’s “Star” newspaper, where social historian Patric Tariq Mellet, who apparently shares common ancestry with Huntley, says that both he and Huntley descend from a woman of colour – Francina van der Kaap. She was great-great grandmother to both of them.

And so it is for most of us so called “white” South Africans. It is certainly the case for me and my family, and I tried to capture some of that sort of story in my recent novel. We all share a common history. We all share a common heritage. It is not something from which any of us can easily escape. Rather than trying to escape it, surely the challenge is to make our future safe and secure for everyone? Democracy, and the long struggle which that entailed, has made that future a real possibility.

My novel:
Remittance Man by Michael Worsnip, UKZN press, Pietermaritzburg, 2007

1 comment:

  1. I guess you'd be interested in taking my bet?

    Is Black on White Crime in South Africa racially motivated?

    Know any journalist who is willing to put their money where their mouth is, on their opinion? A blogger journalist is willing to put a Krugerrand (R10,000) on her research that black on white murder, rape and assault is racially motivated….

    Any journalist willing to put thier money where their mouth is, and take the bet?