The trouble with whites and transformation in South Africa

Frans Cronjé, CEO of the South African Institute of Race Relations, says that young white South Africans must use every resource they have to help build South Africa into a world-beating nation.

According to an opinion piece in the Daily Maverick, Cronjé said that in the media, the concept of transformation has been abused to limit freedom of speech and shield the government from scrutiny.

“The trouble with whites’ relationship with transformation in South Africa is that the term has been so abused and corrupted that it has become a repugnant concept to them. In many cases, it has become a proxy for anti-white nationalism.

“What the government calls transformation is a means to increase state control and erode civil rights,” Cronjé said.

The chief executive said he recently witnessed a group of black private school-educated businessmen complaining about their disadvantage.

“In the hands of certain black activists the term ‘transformation’ is abused to represent nothing more than ‘white-hate’. Yet it remains essential that young whites remain committed to advancing true transformation in pursuit of a just and prosperous society,” he said.

Stellenbosch University has been embroiled in a debate about race following the release of a documentary titled: Luister – showing the lives of students of colour who attend the institution.

The university has since been criticized for being institutionally racist, leading to Prof Wim de Villiers, the vice-chancellor, to come to its defence.

Cronjé said he believes where de Villiers erred in his defence of Stellenbosch is to quote examples or statistics of where the university was transformed.

“It is almost as if the university sees transformation as an event or a project with a budget that must meet a target. However, it is not that – it is an attitude that says: can I use the position I am in to try and make South Africa a little bit better of place for the people around me?”

Cronjé said that he once wrote in a national paper that young whites do have to pay for the evils of Apartheid.

“By this, I did not mean that they must buy into all the socialist claptrap about redistribution and equality. This is a negative and destructive approach to transformation. What I meant is that they must use every opportunity to make the country better for all its people. This does not mean hand-outs or anything as paternalistic as that blacks need whites’ help if they are to succeed.

“What I mean is that young whites must use every resource they have to help build South Africa into a world-beating nation. They must invest themselves in launching new businesses, building the economy, creating employment, contributing to innovation, paying tax, building new skills, and increasing exports. They must work hard to create an opportunity for someone else – especially if they come from a different background.”

“It means becoming teachers, and doctors, and university lecturers in order to help shape new generations of world-beating South Africans. It means as a third- or fourth-generation Stellenbosch student going out of your way to make the first-generation student feel welcome and included. It means intervening when you see a fellow student tapping a black restaurant worker on the head and calling the police to lay a charge of assault against that student.”

He said that he believes that there are many whites who do far more for real transformation than many black business leaders, academics, journalists, and activists – a truth that the white-hate brigade seek to deny.

“Many whites owe their fellow citizens a hell of a lot for the ravages of Apartheid. They can best repay that debt by doing everything possible in support of the true transformation that builds the country and economy to ensure that, for all its people, today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today.”

Frans Cronjé is CEO of the South African Institute of Race Relation (IRR).

This article first appeared on The Daily Maverick

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The trouble with whites and transformation in South Africa