Is a Non-Racial South Africa Possible?

Sociology defines racism as the belief that races have distinctive cultural characteristics determined by hereditary factors and that this endows some races with an intrinsic superiority over others, as well as abusive or aggressive behaviour towards members of another race on the basis of such a belief

South Africa has a history of racism, which led to the system known as apartheid which was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party government of South Africa between 1948 and 1993. In this system, the rights of the majority ‘non-white’ inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and minority rule by white people was maintained. This system came about as strategists in the National Party sought to cement their (white) control over the economic and social system. Initially, the aim of apartheid was to maintain white domination while extending racial separation. However in the 1960s, a plan of ‘Grand Apartheid” was executed, emphasising territorial separation and police repression.

We overcame apartheid in 1994, when Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected president of South Africa. It was not easy to reach this point and many lives were lost, in this battle for freedom, remember the Sharpeville massacre; the Soweto uprising; St James Church massacre and many other violent scenes which continuously played themselves out in our country. But all those lives were not lost in vain, as we have all gained freedom and stand protected against racial discrimination by the South African Constitution.

There is no doubt that during Apartheid deep hatred was sown amongst South Africa as a whole, both the oppressors and oppressed alike. It also created a sense of inferiority in some of the oppressed, a phenomenon still evident today, along with the superiority still felt by some whites. To suddenly shift from all that to “…a united Democratic and non-racial society” (Oliver Tambo) took its’ toll on everyone, black and white alike. It was not an easy shift, as many clung and still do, to that hatred that was sown amongst us in an effort to divide.

However, I believe that a non-racial society should be what we aspire towards, especially considering that it was only after apartheid was introduced as an official policy following the general election of 1948 that new legislation classified inhabitants into racial groups (“black”, “white”, “coloured”, and “Indian”). Hence, by clinging on to these racial classifications, we are merely clinging onto the divisions that where sown by those who wanted us to forget that we all belong to one race- the human race. Over and above that, by clinging on to these classifications, we continue to allow apartheid to have a grip on our present and future.

There is no doubt, however, that before this ideal can be reached, reparation should be made to those who were oppressed and the racism that is so deeply etched in some of our systems (justice, being one) has to be rooted out.

Some people though, seem to be under the impression that we have conquered racism. Blacks and whites work hand in hand in the same companies; blacks can be superiors to whites in the workplace; we can all study at the same institutions and so much more. As such, dialogue on race and racism is very often frowned upon. One is perceived to be racist and/or divisive, when sharing one’s views on the matter. However, recent events have shown that dialogue about the matter is necessary, as there are serious racial tensions lurking in South Africa. The Kuli Roberts and Jimmy Manyi – Trevor Manuel, as well as the “Blacks Can’t be Racist” sagas are evidence of this. However, out there are other, far worse racially motivated occurrences taking place out there, things we may not know of, but are hindering us as a nation. In areas where there are still ‘white supremacy’ thinkers, racism and it’s consequences are still being felt by those there, something we like to sweep under the rug.

A recent tweet from @AusiDineo (Dineo Rabaholo) “my mother had a “racist” encounter with her boss today,i think it hits the older generation harder than us,opens wounds we dont have:(” Another recent incident was when a farmer, to the amusement of his friends got his dogs to attack his black worker in the North-West Province. Many more tales like this go untold, which simply tells us that we still have a long way to go.
In his Statement⁠ in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court (20 April 1964), Nelson Mandela said, “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But, my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” The South Africa we currently have, with all these racial tensions is clearly not what he was jailed 27 years for. The ideal of a non-racial society is something that was sought not only by him and Oliver Tambo, but others involved and lost in the struggle too, as well as many born after the struggle. I am one of those who believe that it is an ideal to aspire towards.

Like Oliver Tambo said, “We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity.” I think the time has come to question what happened to that vision…? Where have things gone wrong…? What is holding us back from achieving that vision…?

When Nelson Mandela Announced the ANC election victory in Johannesburg on the 2nd May 1994, he said, “We might have our differences, but we are one people with a common destiny in our rich variety of culture, race and tradition.” When, if ever will we come to accept this truth- that we are but one.

Is it just a dream or is a non-racial South Africa a possibility that can be achieved…?

11 thoughts on “Is a Non-Racial South Africa Possible?

  1. Well said.

    But though there is still a lot of racism, there’s a lot less than there used to be. There was never going to be an instant solution. The really critical question is not whether we have achieved a democratic non-racial society, but whether progress towards that ideal has slowed or stalled. Are we getting better, or are we slipping back?


    1. True, however many people seem to be ignoring that there was/is no instant solution. Dialogue about race and racism is killed as if it doesn’t exist and doing this is bound to lead to festering tensions which will lead to boiling point at some time or another. The questions you have pointed out as needing to be raised are very true and important, however, after finding out the answers why we have progressed/stalled should also be explored.


      1. Wow, I’m very impressed. It’s very well written and extremely thought provoking. However, I do think that it also goes beyond only how far we’ve come and why, an element of what are we doing to get there should also be included.

        Anyway, I had a look at your blog, kudos to you. Love your articles and find them to be very relevant. I’m dying to comment, but can’t as I access the net from my phone which doesn’t allow me to. But I do enjoy your writing and look forward to reading more of your work 🙂


  2. I do not think we would achieve that until:

    • All white people who worked for the apartheid government come clean on the crimes against humanity committed during apartheid and what actually happened and why did they do what they did – something that was not made clear during the TRC Commission,
    • We try and see one another as equals irrespective of our blackness or whiteness,
    • We talk and reach a common ground on the black and white race, and
    • A “black man come to himself, pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth” (Biko).

    See full response here


    1. Well, interesting points raised, but I must point out that the title which includes the word never, isn’t done any justice by the content of the article.

      By virtue of your recommendations for a non-racial society, it shows it can be done- when the recommendations are fulfilled. Your recommendations, though are very thought provoking. However, as for those who worked for the apartheid government coming clean, do you really think that we should revisit that? Would it not only serve to reawaken needless pain and anger? We are the new generation and although it is a part of where we come from, I don’t see how revisiting it will benefit us in anyway…

      But I certainly did enjoy the article and find it to be very thought provoking.


  3. Reblogged this on Setting the Record STR8 and commented:
    GR8 post (as we’ve come to expect)! I do share your thoughts in that a society free of racism is indeed possible, because, as with poverty, discrimination/racism is ‘man-made’ and as such we (being ‘man) can ‘un-make’ same. How? With Focus. One thing we can learn from the old NP/Apartheid Govt. Focus. START seeing Racism in a serious light, see it for what it is and for the damage it does! A slap on the wrist, an apology may well be ‘acceptable’ or even appropriate were you to discover, upon leaving the supermarket, that your child had stuffed a pack of pokemon cards in your pocket for which you hadnt paid; now, should this happen on the regular … your kid has issues … ones which are going to require treatment, not an apology. Likewise, a simple apology does not, cannot, simply is not of the power to erase the ‘k’ word from your vocabulary… the fact that you used it, even think it, to me, says “you are a danger to society, a time bomb” and I for one, dont want my children anywhere near you when that bomb goes off, HELL NO. Anyone who calls a man a “k***r” needs treatment, whether its in the form of community work, an anti-supremacy im a jerk management course, or if need be, 4 walls and a straight-jacket, I don’t really care as long as the ‘punishment fits the crime’ for thats what it is “Racism IS a Crime” and perhaps when we begin to see it as such people will be forced to change their mindset


    1. It is a crime & does so much damage. As someone who has experienced myself, I can tell you that for every racist encounter I get- I become a little more wary of white people. I doubt that I’m the only one who feels this way, so racism is a crime not just against the one to whom it is directed- but also against the perpetrators own people who do not share the sentiment.

      But you are right, letting racists off easily with mere ‘slaps on the wrists’ does nothing to discourage it- instead it creates a bigger gap between us, because we see it. We saw them raising the old flag at the Ventersdorp hospital; just like we see the Right Wing groups training their boys hatred, but being left alone because they aren’t a “security threat”. But on the other hand, it is not just those who call us k****rs to our faces who should be called to order. Even those who do it insidiously and behind closed doors when we are not around. It is only those with them in such moments who can do that & unfortunately, many choose to keep quiet & let it slide- which only allows the hatred to grow.

      But nevertheless, we have a long road to go to undo what has been done- but it is not impossible. Anything man-made can be destroyed & reversed if we so choose it. But it’s up to us, all of us black & white alike to do this…


  4. i feel that we as “blacks ‘ are inferior even now,we are not democratised however it will take a long time for us to understnd that ‘black’ and ‘white’ are just colors hence they do not define us.yes we are about too be a non racial country only if we know who we are.


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About Koketso Moeti

Mother. Campaigner. Political orphan. Blogger. Activator. Part time professional black. Liker of things. Lover of people. No sense of humour.