Leon Lemmer: ‘n Swart Amerikaner oor swart Afrika

Deel op

Keith B Richburg (gebore in 1958) het ‘n boek oor swart Afrika geskryf: Out of America: A black man confronts Africa (New York: Basic Books, 1997, 272p; Amazon Kindle $9.44). In een van die kommentare staan: “What sets the book apart is Richburg’s bitter repudiation of Afrocentrism” (Kindle 23). Wat hy teen mekaar opweeg, is enersyds sy slawe- en ras-oorsprong as swart Afrikaan en andersyds sy kulturele identiteit as swart Amerikaner. Hy was ‘n bietjie langer as drie jaar, vanaf die einde van 1991 tot die einde van 1994, as joernalis in Nairobi, Kenia, gestasioneer as die Afrika-korrespondent van The Washington Post. Hierdie koerant en The New York Times is berug vir hulle uiters linkse verslagdoening, bv deesdae oor Donald Trump. Plaaslik doen die Daily Maverick dieselfde. Voordat Richburg na Afrika is, was hy van 1986 tot 1990 die Post se korrespondent in Suidoos-Asië. Hy was veel meer beïndruk met Asië as met swart Afrika. “Like Africa, most Asian countries only achieved true independence in the postwar years; unlike the Africans, the Asians knew what to do with it” (3163). “Almost all of the Southeastern Asian countries had risen from poverty to relative prosperity” (3129). Sy boek handel by uitstek oor swart Afrika; nie Moslem Noord-Afrika nie. In 2013 het Richburg uit die diens van die Post getree en hom in 2016 as dosent in Hong Kong gevestig.

Richburg het in Detroit in ‘n rasgemengde woonbuurt grootgeword (369) maar met die voordeel dat hy skole bygewoon het wat oorwegend blank was (375). Hy was van vroeg in sy lewe af bewus van die verskil in lewenswyse van blankes en swartes.

“One-third of all young black men in their twenties are in prison, on probation, or on parole. Drugs are ravaging the black community” (219).

In 1967 was daar swart gewelddadigheid in Detroit “with more than forty people killed and much of the inner city, the shops and stores I knew, burned to the ground” (399). Pleks van skaam te wees oor hulle skandalige en misdadige gedrag, “Negroes began referring to themselves as black, not as a term of derision but with pride” (423). Hulle het hardegat en uittartend demonstratief geword. “There was the Black Power clenched-fist salute” (430), wat plaaslik deur die groot versoener en vredesikoon, Nelson Mandela, aan almal opgedring is, terwyl PW Botha nie eens sy wysvinger mag gebruik nie. “The new hair trend was called the ‘Natural’ or the ‘Afro'” (430). “All of this was part of Detroit changing rapidly from a white city to a black one” (436). Richburg se woonbuurt het ‘n “rundown neighborhood” geword (454). Hierop volg “the declining state of the city schools” (442), insluitende die Katolieke laerskool wat Richburg bygewoon het. Richburg se ouers “knew what was best” (442), gevolglik het hulle hom by ‘n oorwegend blanke hoërskool in een van die voorstede ingeskryf (448). Nie dat hy swart gewelddadigheid daarmee heeltemal ontwyk het nie, bv “Here’s a bunch of black kids smashing the windows of their school bus. This is how black folks in the ghetto behaved” (473).

Hierna was Richburg ‘n student aan die University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (473) waar hy met swart mag kennis gemaak het, bv “divestiture of school [university] stocks and holdings from companies that continued to do business with the racist regime in South Africa” (478). Pleks van rasse-integrasie, wat destyds deur die Amerikaanse owerheid opgedring is, het die polities aktivistiese swartes “voluntary resegregation” verkies. “We want to be equal, but separate” (483). “My view is that separation is the wrong approach, that we need instead to go back to the original idea of America as a melting pot and create a society that’s truly color-blind, not carved up into racial and ethnic duchies” (4265). Richburg was aktief by die kampuskoerant, die Michigan Daily, betrokke (489). Blanke politici soos John Vorster en Ian Smith is veroordeel (494). “I remember writing editorials … denouncing the racist regime in Pretoria and demanding the university divest itself of stocks in companies that failed to adopt the Sullivan Principles. From the time I had first developed a political consciousness, South Africa had loomed as the world’s last great morality play, a noble struggle between good and evil, black and white” (3718).

In 2009 het Richburg ‘n nuwe voorwoord by sy boek gevoeg. Hy het Afrika in 2006 vir ‘n kort tydjie herbesoek. Die vernaamste verandering sedert 1994 wat opgemerk het, is van tegnolgiese aard, naamlik die rol wat selfone en die internet deesdae in Afrika speel (76). Ook “China’s growing footprint” (81). Maar “there is still too much that is sadly similar” (81), bv “the grinding poverty” (87). Daar is steeds die hemelhoë geboortesyfers, droogte, hongersnood (93) en epidemies (133), asook MIV-vigs en buitensporig baie kindersterftes (98). “Democracy seems to have to take two steps backward for every step forward … Of the forty-eight countries south of the Sahara, only a dozen ranked as free” (98). Hy verwys bv na die tienduisende wat in Darfur, in die Soedan, gedood is en “Somalia remains a lawless place” (115). “Of course Zimbabwe today has fallen down the abyss” (126). Dit is nie dat daar niks goeds in swart Afrika is nie, “but even with all the good I’ve found here, my perceptions have been hopelessly shewed by the bad” (230).

Rwanda

Richburg begin sy vertelling oor Afrika met hoe hy gesien het hoe lyke in die Kagera-rivier uit Rwanda na Tanzanië en die Victoria-meer spoel. Dit was Tutsi’s wat deur Hutu’s vermoor is. Die Tutsi’s het hulle oorsprong in die Nyl-gebied en het smal neuse. Die Hutu’s is Bantoes met breë, plat neuse (159). Die derde en kleinste etniese groep, die Twa, is pigmeë, wat die oorspronklike inwoners is. Die Tutsi’s is ‘n minderheidsgroep wat hulle in die 15de eeu, ná die Hutu’s, in Rwanda gevestig het (1940). Hulle het die Hutu’s, met die ondersteuning van België as die koloniale moondheid, baie lank gedomineer. Die Hutu’s “were reduced to little more than feudal servants” (1946), totdat politieke onafhanklikheid in 1962 verkry is.

België het ná die Eerste Wêreldoorlog die koloniale beheer van Rwanda en Burundi by Duitsland oorgeneem. “The Belgian colonizers were never very interested in the area now comprising Rwanda and Burundi; their main interest was the mineral-rich Belgian Congo to the West. So they decided to rule indirectly, using the Tutsi as their local administrators to collect taxes, settle disputes, and otherwise act as enforcers of the Belgian king’s sovereignty. And the missionaries came, too, similarly relying on the Tutsi as the area’s natural rulers, providing them with education and training that was denied the Hutu” (1946).

In Burundi het die Tutsi’s (14% van die bevolking) die Hutu’s langer bly oorheers (1962). Ná die volksmoord in Rwanda het daar minder as 10% Tutsi’s in die bevolking oorgebly. ‘n Sendeling het gesê: “There are no devils left in Hell. They are all in Rwanda” (1721). “The country has reverted to prehistoric times … Could these be fully evolved humans carrying clubs and machetes and panga knives and smashing in their neighbors’ skulls and chopping off their limbs, and piling up the legs in one pile, and the arms in another, and lumping the bodies all together and sometimes forcing new victims to sit atop the heap while they clubbed them to death too?” (1743). “They would carve off your arm first and watch you bleed and scream in pain. Then, if you didn’t pass out, they would chop off one of your legs, or maybe just a foot. If you were lucky, they might finish you off with a machete blow to the back of the head. Otherwise, they might carve off your ears, your nose, and toss your limbless torso atop the pile of dead bodies, where you could slowly bleed to death” (1827). “I realized, fully evolved human beings in the twentieth century don’t do things like that. Not for any reason, not tribe, not religion, not territory. These must be cavemen” (1743). “I … found it hard at first to believe the scope of the horror” (1832).

“The violence, the death, was up close and personal, and unprecedented on the scale of savagery” (1827). “Estimates range as high as a million people killed; at the very least … there were hundreds of thousands, Tutsi mainly, but also an untold number of Hutu ‘sympathizers’. The Khmer Rouge [Pol Pot, Cambodia, 1975-1979] killed more perhaps, but it took them three and a half years, and most of their victims died from starvation, disease, and forced labor. The Hutu militia accomplished as much in three months, using decidedly more low-tech methods of extermination” (1872). Toe die Tutsi’s terugslaan, het 250 000 Hutu’s binne 24 uur oor ‘n smal brug na Tanzanië gevlug. “One of the largest mass movements on a single day in recorded history” (1918). “This truly is, at this moment, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” (1923). “These are the Hutu, forced to flee Rwanda as the Tutsi rebels advanced and as the evidence of the Hutu’s atrocities was revealed” (1929).

Swart Afrika

Oor sy verblyf in Afrika skryf Richburg: “Three years of watching pretty much the worst that human beings can do to one another. And three years of watching bodies, if not floating down the river in Tanzania, then stacked up like firewood in the refugee camps of Zaire, waiting to be dumped into a mass pit” (165). Wat Richburg onder meer hinder, is die naamloosheid van hierdie proses. Anders as in Westerse lande word daar geen poging aangewend om vas te stel wie dood is nie. “This is what I find the most difficult to accept and comprehend. It’s not the death itself, although that is bad enough. It’s the anonymity of death in Africa, the anonymity of mass death” (1900). Daar is selfs nie eens belangstelling in hoeveel mense dood is nie. “When the bodies were black and African, no one would bother trying to count” (1552).

“Is life so tenuous here that death scarcely matters?” (1900). “This is Africa. These are just bodies dumped into a river. Hundreds. Thousands. No one will ever count. No one will ever try to check an identity, contact a family, find out which limb was severed. Because this is Africa, and they don’t count the bodies in Africa” (1895). Hulle “died senselessly on this senseless continent” (2824). Dit geld ook “the bodies lying unburied along the roadsides in Somalia, people dropping dead of starvation as they tried to make it just a few more miles into town where the foreign-aid agencies were handling out free food” (170). Dit is seker ook waarom die plaaslike amptelike statistiek oor plaasmoorde so onbetroubaar is. Dit is glo maar net nog gewone misdaad waarvoor die ANC-regime nie die vermoë (en wil) het om doeltreffend teen op te tree nie.

Ten spyte van al die bravade by polities onafhanklike Afrika-lande is baie van hulle diep afhanklik van die humanitêre hulp wat Westerse lande in die vorm van bv kos, gesondheidsdienste en geld verleen, al word daar amptelik weinig erkenning hieraan gegee, om van dankbaarheid nie te praat nie. By Richburg is daar “pity at the monumental waste of human life” (176), maar hy besef mettertyd in sy gemoed, namate “the insanity of Africa deepened” (176), dat hy met ‘n bodemlose put* van ellende te make het, onder meer weens “the countless ongoing civil wars or tribal clashes on this brutal continent” (194). Dit is nie dat ‘n mens Afrikane onmenslik benader nie. Dit is dat die tydsduur, diepte en omvang van die ellende jou op moedverloor se vlakte laat. Politieke onafhanklikheid het glad nie ekonomiese onafhanklikheid vir die lande in swart Afrika meegebring nie; eerder ekonomiese agteruitgang en groter afhanklikheid van blanke lande se barmhartigheid/goedertierenheid.

[* Genoem “hellhole” (1116, 2184, 3873) of “shithole” (853) – dit is nie net Donald Trump se woord nie.]

Kenia

Oor Kenia skryf Richburg van die “new Mercedes and BMW’s, the symbol of Kenya’s corrupt class” (325), “their turn at the trough” (645) – dus soortgelyk aan die nuwe Suid-Afrika. “Corruption is the cancer eating at the heart of the African state” (3174). Soos sommige swart Afrikane is hy agterdogtig ingestel teenoor die “shady-looking Indian shopkeepers” (331). Hy skryf van “the handful of sleazy bars where reporters rubbed elbows with aid workers and UN bureaucrats and crazy white expat pilots and assorted adventurers out here for the cold Tusker beers and the easy African women … For reporters, Nairobi was the perfect ringside seat to Africa’s chaos” (347).

“Race was never far from the surface of any discussion in Kenya” (671), bv “tribal massacres” (695). “If there was one thing I learned traveling around Africa, it was that the tribe remains the defining feature of almost every African society … Even in the supposedly more sophisticated or developed countries like Kenya, thirty years of independence and ‘nation building’ had still failed to create any real sense of national identity that could transcend the tribe” (1978). “In Africa, you belong to a tribe; without a tribe, you don’t belong” (2089). Maar dan is daar ‘n oorverligte studeerkamer-ideoloog soos Herman Wasserman wat beweer dat ‘n mens nie meer van stam mag praat nie. Dit is glo verouderd en onvanpas (Praag 5.10.2019). Na diesulkes verwys Richburg as “the Africanists and Western academics for whom the very term ‘tribe’ is anathema. The preferred term is ‘ethnic group'” (1990). “Pluralism encourages people to seek protective refuge in their familiar tribal units” (1996). Hoekom nie? Wanneer Afrikaners ter wille van hulle selfbehoud hulle etnisiteit as iets waardevols/heilig probeer verskans, word hulle uitgekryt omdat hulle glo laer trek. Is dit nie juis laer trek wat histories die behoud van baie Afrikanerlewens verseker het nie?

“Another thing I learned from traveling around Africa is that the notion of skin colour, facial features, and the sense of attractiveness and identity are also very real, and in many ways closely related to tribe” (2002). Dit is bv nie moontlik om die volksmoord in Rwanda te verstaan sonder verwysing na die verskil in voorkoms van die Tutsi’s and Hutu’s nie. “With their narrow noses and sharp features, the Tutsi were considered the more physically attractive tribe, even long after they had lost political power in Hutu-controlled Rwanda. Even with growing wealth and power, what the Hutu really aspired to was to look like a Tutsi, to actually become a Tutsi. There were even earlier provisions for it in law; a Hutu with enough wealth could literally go to the local government office and apply to be reclassified as a Tutsi. The modern version of the same was for a Hutu who had obtained a measure of wealth and status to immediately marry a Tutsi woman” (2026).

Maar ook hier speel skynheiligheid ‘n groot rol. Donald Trump se hare word by menige bespreking van hom aan die hare bygesleep. Maar Barack Obama se hare mog nooit ‘n onderwerp van bespreking wees nie; om van spot nie te praat nie. “I know men who will go out with a woman just because she’s light-skinned” (2020). Vóór 1994 wou Suid-Afrikaanse bruin mense graag blank wees. Ter eie bevoordeling noem baie van hulle hulleself deesdae (generies) swart. Maar diegene met ‘n ligte vel was (en is waarskynlik steeds) meer gewild as huweliksmaats as diegene met ‘n donker vel. Jonathan Jansen het met ‘n vrou met ‘n ligte vel, wat as bruin geklassifiseer is, getrou. Vir sy skoonpa was die donker Jansen egter glad nie as skoonseun aanvaarbaar nie (Praag 31.03.2018). Gaan gerus na hoeveel van die plaaslike nie-blanke politici met blankes getroud is. Blankes word deesdae, bv in ANC-geledere, as absoluut sleg verguis, maar hulle voortreflikheid word in die praktyk, ten minste in die huwelikskonteks, sonder meer aanvaar. Wat by implikasie erken word, is dat blankes die norm is waarna swart en bruin mense streef, al hoor ‘n mens dikwels ‘n slagspreuk soos “Black is beautiful” maar nooit “Blank is bakgat” nie.

In Kenia het Richburg by sy werk ‘n swart assistent, George, gehad. “I realized that George and I were talking across a great cultural divide. I could never understand his world. I was thirty-four years old, never married, and had no children. George, a couple years younger than I, had three wives and at least eight kids … He … felt that since I was the boss, I had an obligation to help him” (778). “When a family member got sick, the patron, the boss, was expected to pay the medical bill. At school time, the boss helped out for the school fees, the books, the new clothes for the kids. When a parent died, the boss pitched in to help pay for the funeral. That’s just the way it was in Africa” (785). “This gap was too wide between the Africans and myself, and I found that no matter how hard I tried, I could never cross it” (1427).

Richburg het vir sy huurhuis ‘n swart huishouer en kok, Hezekiah, in diens gehad. “Hezekiah lived in a little one-room shack behind the kitchen … I never set foot inside Hesekiah’s little cabin” (790). As blankes dieselfde as Richburg doen, word hulle gekritiseer. Hy het ook ‘n swart tuinhulp, Reuben, “who walked to work each morning” (795), gehad. “He also substituted as my messenger and all-round helper” (795). Misdaad is endemies in Nairobi/Kenia, bv inbrake en motorskakings. “I … was living sheltered and shielded from Africa and from Africans because I couldn’t see them across the great cultural divide. I was also afraid of them. My house was protected by an alarm system connected to a security company, two large dogs … and a rotating group of security guards who stood by the gate, sleeping mostly it seemed, every evening and all day on weekends” (829).

Oor ‘n (blanke) amptenaar in die Amerikaanse ambassade in Nairobi skryf Richburg: “Her house in Nairobi had been burglarized five times, so she had an electric fence installed. ‘When they put up the electric fence, I told them to put in enough volts to barbecue anybody who came over,’ she said. But the fence didn’t help – the break-ins continued. So she went to the local police station, and the police agreed to post two guards on her property. And then the police guards posted there began demanding she pay them extra money for their services. ‘I’ve gotten to the point where I’m more afraid not to give them money,’ she said. ‘They’re sitting outside with automatic weapons.’ Finally, she had a higher fence, ten feet high, built around her grounds. And when I met her, she had become so exasperated that she told me, ‘I’m ready to sit outside myself with an AK-47′” (2840).

Somalië

Mogadishu was eens Somalië se pragtige hoofstad aan die see, “the White Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, maar groot dele daarvan is tydens die burgeroorlog (1991-2012) in puin gelê. Hierdie oorlog is aanvanklik deur Ethiopië opgestook. Toe Richburg daar was, was Somalië “a nation in melt-down” (1053). Vroeg in 1992 is daar reeds 5000 in Mogadishu gedood. “Hospitals … were reporting hundreds of casualities each day” (1059). Dit was moeilik om noodvoorraad in te bring “because the airport and port were under regular bombardment” (1065). “Food was becoming scarce. The rival armies had crisscrossed Somalia’s heartland and pretty much destroyed everything in their wake. Livestock was either looted or killed. Crops were burned” (1092) – soos die Britte se beleid van verskroeide aarde tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog. Hongersnood het uitgebreek en Somalië het een van die “hellholes of human suffering” geword (1116). Dit is waarom so baie Somaliese inkommers hulle in die naburige Kenia maar ook in Suid-Afrika, met sy vrot grensbeheer, gevestig het. “Dumping food into a country without a government or police force was only heightening the lawlessness” (1167). “That was Somalia – no demand too outrageous, no situation too absurd. Famine and starvation had become a growth industry, and relief agencies, including the UN, were the money tree” (1178). Mogadishu had degenerated to an urban jungle” (1183). “No one ever calculated what you do next if the people you come to help have no interest in being saved” (1512).

“Not a section of the city was untouched by the devastation of the civil war” (892); eintlik ‘n “un-civil war”. “The old downtown section of the city was largely reduced to rubble … What was left untouched by the shells and the bullets usually got ripped apart by the successive waves of looters and scavengers, for whom anything – a piece of scrap metal, a pipe, electrical cable – might eventually be bartered for a piece of meat or a handful of rice” (896). “When you stepped off a plane in Mogadishu, a horde of young kids … instantly surrounded you and the plane, leveling their AK-47 assault weapons and grenade launchers at your chest … They demanded what often amounted to hundreds of dollars in bribes – landing fee, airport tax, baggage handling fee, security for the plane, even ‘entry’ fee into the country. And you paid, willingly” (915). “A hundred-dollar bill pulled out at the right time could keep you from getting killed when a dispute over costs turned heated. But display too much cash all at once, and you could get killed anyway” (920). “With little in the city left to loot, the militia gunmen discovered a new occupation, which might best be called ‘escort duty’, or security service for visiting foreigners like me. To leave the gates of the airport, you needed armed protection or you probably wouldn’t make it more than a block – particularly if you were carrying a backpack laden with water and food in a city with basically nothing. So I hired my own armed guards, and I learned how to negotiate the daily fee with gunmen holding assault weapons at my head. Typically, the fee was a hundred-dollar bill for a car and a couple of gunmen for the day” (920). “Stealing cameras and then ransoming them back to TV camera crews became something of a cottage industry in Mogadishu” (953).

Black Americans

“Weird things seem to happen to a lot of American black leaders when they venture into Africa. They go through a bizarre kind of metamorphosis when they set foot on the continent of their ancestors. Some of the most prominent veterans of America’s civil rights wars – articulate advocates for human rights and basic freedoms for black people in America – seem to enter a kind of moral and intellectual black box when they get to Africa. Dictators are hailed as statesmen, unrepresentative governments are deemed democratic, corrupt regimes are praised for having fought off colonialism and brought about ‘development’. Black Americans were most vocally at the forefront of calls for immediate democratic reform in South Africa, but when the subject turns to the lack of democracy and human rights elsewhere in Africa, those same black Americans become defensive, nervous, and inarticulate. They offer tortured explanation as to why America shouldn’t criticize Africa, why America shouldn’t impose its standards [and boycotts], and why reform must not be immediate but gradual, step by step. It’s as if repression comes only in white” (2590). Die kern van die saak is dat ons hier met dubbele standaarde gegrond op swart rassisme te make het; dat ‘n swart regering nie aan dieselfde hoë standaarde as ‘n blanke regering hoef te voldoen nie.

Ook: “There is a sensitivity about publicly criticizing the black leadership of independent black countries. There is a sense, rightly or wrongly, that a measure of our self-esteem as a black race in America is somehow tied to the success or failure of independent black governments running their own shows in Africa” (2636). “There was an element of not attacking your own brothers” (2641). Die ANC sou byvoeg: “and sisters”. Maar wat ook afkeurenswaardig is, is met hoeveel oorgawe linkse blankes mede-blankes oor allerhande dinge kritiseer, veral die “(ver) regses”, maar in gebreke bly om swartes te kritiseer. Van swartes mag daar sekerlik verwag word dat ook hulle op standaard moet wees. “Blacks who assume prominent leadership positions in America [and elsewhere] should expect a closer kind of scrutiny; they should pay their taxes on time, they should keep their pants zipped, they should keep their hands out of the public treasury, and they shouldn’t smoke crack, precisely because they are role models for the black community. White politicians are held to these standards” (2675). Van swartes kan en moet dieselfde verwag word. As dit nie gedoen word nie, is dit op die gevaar af dat ‘n geweldenaar/terroris tot ‘n rolmodel verhef word, bv asof hy ‘n vredesikoon en versoener is. “Africa has consistently been held to a double standard, an ‘African standard'” (3270).

“It’s what really hit me about Africa, not the Somalias or the Rwandas or the Liberias, because in many ways, those are the exceptions, the basket cases, the places where somebody flipped the switch. No, the real story occurs in the places you never really read much about, but where I spent a lot of time – Zaire and Kenya, Cameroon and Gabon, and the gaint of them all, Nigeria. These are the places where every day, with each new interview, I found a new and disheartening tale of some brave and anonymous African … who was trying his best and paying the price. I saw their courage and their self-sacrifice and it ripped my heart out, I mean it really touched my soul. But in the end it was just plain depressing, because deep down I knew that in Africa it’s all too rare for such struggles to end in victory. In Africa, the good guys don’t win” (3039), bv die Afrikaners. Of: “But this is Africa, and the good guys rarely win in Africa” (3480). Maar dan beweer Richburg waaragtig oor die nuwe Suid-Afrika: “For once, the good guys finally did win” (3497). Maar selfs Richburg behoort twyfel te hê oor hoe lank die goeie ANC goed gaan bly. “I knew already that Africa has a way of brutally burying almost all optimistic predictions and scenarios” (4020). Ek het swak moed vir Richburg se kennis en insig gekry, toe hy oor Nelson Mandela skryf: “unjustly tried and convicted” (3468). Daarmee spreek hy nie sy ontevredenheid uit omdat Mandela nie ter dood veroordeel is nie. Hy wou eerder hê dat Mandela toegelaat moes word om skotvry met sy terrorisme voort te gaan.

Suid-Afrika

Dit lyk asof Richburg in baie opsigte ‘n gesonde insig het in hoedanig swart Afrika is. Die lakmoestoets is egter sy siening van Suid-Afrika, omdat ons daarvan beter eerstehandse kennis as hy as besoekende joernalis dra. In die voorlaaste hoofstuk kom Suid-Afrika aan die beurt. “I traveled to South Africa four times – twice before the 1994 elections … and twice afterward” (3575). “On one level, South Africa was the one place on the continent that looked and smelled most like home, like America” (3575). Dít is natuurlik aan die blankes te danke, maar met sodanige erkenning kom Richburg nooit vorendag nie.

In Suid-Afrika sal toestande vorentoe ook nie so gunstig bly nie: “As much as white South Africa has tried to insulate itself, it doesn’t take long for Africa to intrude” (3585). Die land was toe reeds besig om van ‘n welvarende, Westers-georiënteerde land tot ‘n tipiese vervalle Afrikaland te transformeer. Vir die blankes se verset hierteen en vir hulle regverdigbare vrese toon Richburg geen begrip nie. Maar hy het groot begrip vir sy mede-swartes se woede: “Black rage was understandable enough – it was the rage of being subjected to humiliating repression in their own country, a rage built up after decades of enduring a codified, legalized system of racial segregation” (4729). En die blankes se griewe en woede oor blatante rassediskriminasie in die nuwe Suid-Afrika? Dit word nie eens êrens deur Richburg genoem nie.

Die buitensporige misdadigheid van swartes word goedgepraat. “Crime against whites was just retribution” (3792). Pleks van die misdadigers te veroordeel, kry apartheid, “one of history’s greatest evils” (3844), die skuld vir misdaad. “There were, of course, lots of reasons for this sudden surge of crime into white neighborhoods, most of them rooted in the legacy of apartheid and the aftermath of the evil system’s collapse” (3786). “I also came to see the rising tide of black crime as a kind of expression of rage, a righting of the past wrong of apartheid. In fact, what I found difficult to understand was how such justifiable rage had been contained as well as it had, why hordes of blacks were not swarming over the northern suburbs [of Johannesburg] meting out bloody vengeance against every white family with a swimming pool and an electric fence” (3735). Richburg is glad nie verontrus oor plaasmoorde nie. Die naaste wat hy aan ‘n verwysing hierna kom, is hierdie eienaardige sin: “There were a spate of home killings, white farmers going home at the end of the day, killing their entire families, then turning their guns on themselves” (3825).

“The ‘real’ Africa, the Africa I had seen further north, was closing in fast on their [whites’] insulated little world” (3631). Richburg openbaar ‘n mislike houding teenoor die plaaslike blankes, wat met groot opoffering en toewyding voorspoed vir baie inwoners (insluitende nieblankes) gebring het. Almal kon bv baat by die uitstekende en dikwels gratis gesondheidsdienste. Maar Richburg borduur bevooroordeeld voort: “In South Africa, they still tried to retain some pretense of Western sensibilities and values; in South Africa, they were still counting the bodies” (3631). By die plaaslike blankes is Europese/Westerse beskawing in werklikheid nie pretensie nie. Dit is ingebed in die weefsel van die blankes se gees. Dit is waarom hulle gepoog het om hulle van die afgryslikhede van Afrika te isoleer.

Hy vertel dat hy eerder ‘n “good reporter” as ‘n “black reporter” wil wees (3563). “As a reporter, of course, we’re supposed to be neutral” (3569). “Was there any doubt, really, which side I would be on [in South Africa]?” (3575). Nee. Richburg se solidariteit met die plaaslike swartes is deurlopend duidelik. Hy is deurweek met die swart mag propaganda wat hy van vroeg af in Amerika ingekry het en met die ANC-propaganda wat die Amerikaanse inligtingsmedia, soos sy koerant, The Washington Post, deurlopend uitdra. Die swartes se (relatief) prestasielose verlede (en hede) word aan apartheid toegeskryf: Vóór 1994 aan die toepassing van apartheid en ná 1994 aan die nalatenskap van apartheid; presies soos die ANC ook doen. Die vraag kan egter gestel word: Waarom het veral die Asiate, bv Indiërs, wat in dieselfde mate as die swartes aan apartheid onderhewig was, soveel beter as hulle presteer, bv finansieel/ekonomies? Die Asiate doen dit steeds; dermate dat daar al hoe meer oproepe opklink dat daar teen Asiate in dieselfde mate as teen blankes gediskrimineer moet word. Dui dit op die eendersheid of die verskillendheid/andersheid van mense, individueel en groepsgewys?

Richburg aanvaar bv sonder meer dat daar ‘n derde mag was (die NP-regering se veiligheidsmagte, dus die polisie en weermag), wat saam met Inkatha geweld teen ANC-ondersteuners gepleeg het (3596). Die blankes “covertly ochestrating a decade-long dirty war between Inkatha and the ANC” (3697, ook 3792). “There was already ample evidence that the police involvement was more direct than simple funding, like actually planning attacks, providing the weapons, even using official vehicles to shuttle IFP attackers to the site of their attacks. Thousands were being killed in the campaign of violence, and the country appeared for a while to be sliding into a civil war – and all [!] because of the crazy white extremists who’d just as soon see the place collapse as turn over power to Nelson Mandela” (3702).

Die gedagte kom skynbaar nooit by Richburg op nie dat die ANC geweier het om geweld af te sweer en dat die ANC onder die leiding van Mandela deurlopend en op groot skaal intimidasie en geweld pleeg ten einde die meerderheid swart kiesers te dwing om in die 1994-verkiesing vir hom te stem. Mandela en sy kornuite wou ten alle koste die 1994-verkiesing wen. Dit het vir hulle nie saak gemaak as die land met die oog hierop tot in die grond afgebreek word of hoeveel mense gedood word nie. Maar Richburg beweer: “The ANC with Mandela at the helm was [morally] head and shoulders above the rest” (4004).

Wat Richburg begeer, is solidariteit/eensgesindheid by sy swart broers en susters. “Hating the Inkatha party and its leader, Buthelezi, for allowing himself to become a willing stooge of the evil regime” (3856). “Could they [the blacks] not unite behind a common enemy [the whites], at least bury their differences for the short term, until the ultimate goal – the end of white minority rule – was fully realized?” (3713). “In South Africa, blacks killing blacks became the sideshow to the main event: the epic struggle of good [blacks] against evil [whites]” (3850). “A black country falling apart under a black government is still better than blacks in Africa living under white repression” (3901). Is dit nie rassisme in sy suiwerste vorm nie?

Richburg se uiters bevooroordeelde siening van die polisiediens, wat toe onder blanke leiding was, is: “The South African Police … had to be one of the world’s most incompetent when it came to detective work or rudimentry crime-solving. For years, the SAP was mainly a tool of antiblack repression, and as a result, the officers and recruits had little training in even the basics of police work” (3613). “Under the white minority regime, crime, as long as it was confined to black townships, was rarely, if ever[!], investigated” (3770).

My maak asof die polisie hulle voorheen met bv die bekamping van pasboekoortredings besig gehou het en noudat hierdie stelsel afgeskaf is, is die polisie nie toegerus om misdaad te bestry nie (3613). In werklikheid het die ou Suid-Afrika ‘n doeltreffende polisiediens en uitstekend opgeleide polisiemanne gehad. Daarom was misdaad goed onder beheer. Richman kan gerus nagaan in hoe ‘n mate polisiepersoneel deesdae behoorlik opgelei word, in hoeverre hulle doeltreffend funksioneer, hoe hoog die misdaadvlakke is en hoe ANC-kamerade, selfs sonder basiese formele polisiëringsopleiding, in topposte aangestel word.

Richburg vestig die aandag op ‘n belangrike verskil tussen Amerika en Suid-Afrika: Die meerderheid kiesers in Amerika is blank, gevolglik kan regte, soos stemreg, aan die swartes toegestaan word sonder dat die blankes politieke beheer oor die land verloor. In die geval van Suid-Afrika is die blankes ‘n minderheid en beteken een mens, een stem, dat politieke beheer aan die swartes afgestaan word (3636). Dit is uiteraard iets waartoe die meeste blankes nooit sou instem nie, maar hulle is deur FW de Klerk, Roelf Meyer en diesulkes uit hulle toekoms verneuk. Maar dit word uiteraard deur Richburg verswyg.

Sy tipiese swart perspektief is: “The two countries shared a similar history of white racial oppression and legal discrimination against blacks” (3636) en “Trying to understand white attitudes, to really discern the roots of the racism – maybe to find some parallels to the United States – became a matter of intense interest to me … How could a white person living in Africa hate black people? And if he did hate black people, why the hell would he live on a black continent?” (3642). Van die feit dat stemreg aanvanklik nie aan swartes toegeken is nie, maak Richburg die sprong na haat. Dit is soortgelyk aan die dwase veronderstelling dat almal wat teen onwettige inkommers gekant is, hulle noodwendig haat. Albei gevalle kan as bloot ongewens deur blankes beskou word, sonder dat daar noodwendig enige haat by betrokke is.

Myns insiens was die meeste plaaslike blankes in 1990/94 teen swart meerderheidsregering gekant. Ná verloop van ‘n kwarteeu van ondoeltreffende, korrupte swart regering is die blankes meer as ooit oortuig dat in belang van die land en al sy inwoners hulle eerder die politieke beheer moes behou het. Dan sou daar geen sprake van bv rommelstatus en Suid-Afrika as die onveiligste en misdadigste land op die aardbol gewees het nie. Pleks van hieroor te besin, verwys Richburg na die blanke bewind as “a system as brutal as apartheid” (3647) en wei hy uit oor blanke rassisme. Hy gee nooit enige aanduiding dat daar iets soos swart rassisme is nie; iets waarvan hy baie gou bewus sou word as hy die wetgewing nagaan wat die ANC-regime sedert 1994 deurgevoer het.

Richburg hou van die swart bewind in die nuwe Suid-Afrika. Hy lewer hoegenaamd geen kritiek daarop nie. Hy verwys ook met genoegdoening na die blanke Rhodesiërs wat die Mugabe-bewind in Zimbabwe ontvlug het: “The white killers were Rhodesian transplants who had moved to this frontier holdout of white racism [the old South Africa] as their own country joined the ranks of black-run states. South Africa had become the final bastion for all the white racists of the world, the supremacist scum who had descended here from points farther north on the map as country after country underwent the change from white colonial domination to black rule” (3658). Die ironie is dat Richburg op grond van eerstehandse waarneming weet dat ‘n swart politieke bewind in baie (moontlik die meeste) gevalle nie ‘n goeie ding is nie.

Richburg se strategie is duidelik. Hy het die tekortkominge van en ellende in swart Afrika uitgewys. Hy weet dat sy gevolgtrekkings hom veral onder die swartes in Amerika ongewild sal maak. Om te toon dat hy homself nie aan bewondering vir blanke prestasies uitverkoop het nie, sorg hy dat die blanke Suid-Afrikaners dit moet ontgeld deur hulle vir ongebreidelde slegsê uit te sonder. Hy vertel met smaak hoe die wit rassiste uit Rhodesië gevlug het, bv na Australië en Nieu-Seeland; maar ook na Suid-Afrika, “where their backs were now to the ocean and where they decided to stake out what must truly be the final stand of the white man in Africa” (3664). Dan oortref hy homself met hierdie verbeeldingsvlug: “And there they were joined by an unsavory collection of Eastern European fascists, racists, Nazis and skinheads all huddled there together on the southernmost tip of the world’s black continent, with Africa encroaching on their protected white universe more and more each day” (3664). Richburg is voorouers was slawe, maar hy was nog nie in staat om homself te bevry van die kettings van vooroordeel nie.

Die skrywer van so iets kan nie ‘n goeie joernalis wees nie. Hy is onmiskenbaar ‘n swart joernalis. Hy is, in sy woorde: “A black American in the last bastion of white supremacy [in Africa]. These are the world’s craziest white people” (3669). “I really did think South Africans were all [?] crazy. Here they had built the most modern, best developed country on the continent, and now the white extremists seemed pretty hell-bent on destroying the whole thing, simply because in their blind racism they couldn’t stomach the inevitability of black majority rule” (3697). “And now those same simpleminded racists were smugly pointing to the black-on-black violence as proof-positive of their self-fullfilling prophecy that black rule would mean a slide to violence and anarchy” (3702). Die vraag wat eerlikheidshalwe gestel moet word, is: Het daardie voorspelling die kol (heeltemal) gemis? Richburg besef darem dat sy emosies sy rasionaliteit verdring. “Perhaps much of my anger grew from my own perspective, and my view of the anti-apartheid struggle as not just for South Africa’s black population but a struggle for the dignity of black people everywhere” (3713). Dit is die geykte retoriek van ‘n swart politieke aktivis. Die veronderstelling dat alle mense ‘n geldige aanspraak op waardigheid het, is misplaas (Praag 2.11.2019).

Slot

In die laaste hoofstuk neem Richburg afskeid van Afrika. “More than three years here have left me bitter and largely devoid of hope, and largely drained of compassion” (4094). “While I know that ‘Afrocentrism’ has become fashionable for many black Americans seaching for identity, I know it cannot work for me. I have been here, I have lived here and seen Africa in all its horror. I know now that I am a stranger here. I am an American, a black American, and I feel no connection to this strange and violent place. You see? I just wrote ‘black American’. I couldn’t even bring myself to write ‘African American'” (4106). “Why would we, as Americans, want to embrace a continent so riven by tribal, ethnic, and religious hatreds?” (4276).

“I have come to the only continent where I blend in with the crowds around me. If I belong anywhere – if there is one place on earth where I am not alien – it ought to be here, in Africa. And I am hating it” (4180).”I feel more lonely here in Africa than I have ever felt in America. In America, I may feel like an alien, but in Africa, I am an alien … I am ashamed to admit: I am terrified of Africa. I don’t want to be form this place … I am quietly celebrating the passage of my ancestor who made it out” (4209). “[America] is the only place I truly belong. It’s home” (4248). Richburg sluit die inleiding tot sy boek soos volg af: “Most of all I think: Thank God my ancestor got out [of (black) Africa], because, now, I am not one of them. In short, thank God that I am an American” (236).

Aan die einde van sy boek vra hy: “So what future do I see for Africa, this strange and forbidding place?” (4282). “What future is there in a place where the poets are hanged by the soldiers? … All I can see is more darkness” (4287). “I know better than to hope” (4378). “There are more coups, more elections, more riots, and more refugees. That’s how it was when I arrived, and that’s how it’s likely to be years from now. In Africa [“that dark spot on the globe” – 4450] things stay the same until they fall apart” (4394).

Richburg het nie altyd verkeerd as ‘n mens aan Afrikaner-selfbeskikking dink nie. Hy skryf bv: “Countries can indeed split up and nationalist claims to self-determination can be recognized without the sky falling in” (4322). “Africa could do with a healthy dose of federalism to defuse tribalism; a tribe that can vote for its own kind, to control a regional or local government, is less likely to feel oppressed by a central government controlled by another tribe” (4361).

Hy voel meer tuis in Amerika as in Afrika. As Richburg, wat geneties in Afrika hoort, op hierdie kontinent nie gelukkig is nie, hoe kan daar van blankes verwag word om in die omstandighede van swart Afrika te berus? Oorsprongsgewys is die plaaslike blankes Europeërs, gevolglik behoort hulle hulle in Amerika en natuurlik ook in Europa kultureel meer tuis as Richburg te voel.

 

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