Most South Africans are raised to refer to someone older than them with some sort of a prefix. In Xhosa you would usually refer to an older woman as uMama and an older man as uTata. USisi and uBhuti would be used to address a younger woman and a younger man. These words respectively would mean mother, father, sister and brother. With my English friends, I always referred to their moms and dads as Aunty So and So and Uncle So and So if we had a close relationship. In the event that I wasn’t as informal with their parents I would call them Mrs and Mr So and So.
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When I started learning Afrikaans, I was taught that someone older than you, or not related to you was then referred to as Meneer (in the case of a man) and Oom could be used in the event that you had a less formal relationship with the person in question. Mevrou and Mejuffrou correspond to the English terms Mrs and Miss that we use for women; and again, for less formal relationships one could refer to an older woman as Tannie. What you never did in Afrikaans, however, was to use “jy” (the informal term that corresponds to “you” in English) for an elder, a stranger or your parents. Using “jy” in Afrikaans for an elderly person, or someone whom you didn’t know quite well was considered disrespectful. “Jy” was used only among equals, among friends, family and colleagues that had a special understanding with each other.
“U” was the adequate term – to indicate respect mostly used in formal settings and when referring to God; otherwise Mamma, Pappa, Mevrou en Meneer would suffice. And so, you can imagine the predicament that I found myself in when I started to visit the homes of some of my friends during school and even at university. The set-up was as follows: the domestic worker in the house was old enough to be my mother, or even my grandmother, and I would walk into the house and greet her with a “Molo Mama” (because that was how I was raised) and my friend would greet her with a “Hello Florence/Priscilla/Cynthia” - on first-name basis, it seemed they were. In requests for said domestic worker to bring something or make lunch it was always the pronoun “jy”.
It became awkward at a stage for me to see someone who looked like me and was three or four times my senior not being referred to with the same respect that my friends and their families would otherwise have afforded another individual of that age group if she were not a maid and not a person of colour. It began to dawn on me that I was taught to speak a language foreign to me with respect for its speakers, but that respect was not to be extended to people that looked like me. We could only ever be “jy”.
And so you see, members of this Convocation, that although this is a small example, it is in such ways that we are able to subtly use language to exercise power over other people. Dat ons nie vir ander mense die respek gee wat ons eie taal vir ons leer om te doen nie, wys vir my dat waar ons die geleentheid het, sal ons taal gebruik om mag oor ander mense uit te oefen.
Dames en Here, Lede van die US-konvokasie, goeienaand.
Toe ek verlede jaar die uitnodiging ontvang het om ‘n toespraak te lewer, was ek redelik onseker oor wat ek moet sê. Die waarheid is die Stellenbosch van 2010–2012; my eerste tydperk hier is baie anders as vandag se Stellenbosch. Dit voel vir my dat so baie het verander, maar ook dat so baie het dieselfde gebly. And so for this reason, I have decided to keep this address within the bounds of honest reflection, painful truths and hopeful outlook.
I do not take for granted the fact that I am the first woman, the first black person, the youngest person to address some of the most powerful white people in South Africa at this Convocation today.
When I look back on 2015 and the last 26 days of 2016, I am reminded again that it has been an incredible time in South Africa in which our social consciousness has been stretched, awakened, challenged, and perhaps even tampered with. Who of us would have thought, while we were making our resolutions in January 2015, that, somehow, Rhodes would have been given the time-out signal at the University of Cape Town? Who among us saw it coming that Stellenbosch would be subpoenaed by its very own students, demanding that the ancient doors of education here truly be made open to all South African citizens? Which of us can say that we foresaw the eruptions of unapologetic black consciousness at what is currently known as Rhodes University and Wits University while we were planning to start Banting and lose 20 kg last year? Did any of us think that we would all serve as witnesses to the brutal murder of Emmanuel Sithole, the Mozambican man whose only crime was perhaps to have lost in the lottery of citizenship and made his way over the border into an unwelcoming Johannesburg? How could we have known that in supposed attempts to manage the situation some members of our police force would laugh and giggle while foreigners sizzled in rubber rings on the streets of Durban? I’m quite sure that none of us saw #FeesMustFall coming, or the macabre images of students being shot at and teargassed at Parliament, the supposed home of our democracy.
Indeed, almost 22 years into democracy, in the 60th year since the Freedom Charter’s adoption and just six months before the 40th year anniversary of the June 16, 1976 Soweto uprisings, South Africans are now faced with the task of looking into the mirror and asking themselves, “What is this that is happening all around us?” and “Why does it feel as it does?” The problem however, is that there are perhaps 60 million different versions of this question being asked, in more than 11 languages. It may seem as though only some of these voices are being heard, but it is becoming clear that the rainbow nation ideal promised in 1994 is becoming an ever-distant one. Perhaps we are starting to realise that there was no rainbow to begin with.
Ladies and gentlemen, something is brewing in South Africa. I do not know the name of that something, but I know that it is irreversible and will continue to brew and boil over, whether we give it permission to do so or not. Without sounding like a prophet of doom, I bring your attention to the title of my speech, as it stands in the programme: “Courage, Compassion and Complexity: Reflections on the new Matieland and South Africa”.
Tonight, however, it is difficult for me to talk courage or compassion. I am painfully reflecting on the new Stellenbosch and the new South Africa; I am cautiously and ashamedly questioning what is significantly new about both establishments. I have struggled through a number of personal conflicts over the last year and I can only speak from the point of the thought processes I am undergoing as a South African youth.
I will say, firstly, that we owe it to ourselves as South Africans to be honest and vulnerable with one another. In her October 2015 article titled “Conservative Backlash comes from Unexpected Quarters” Sisonke Msimang wrote:
There should be nothing we cannot discuss in a democracy that so many people died to produce. Indeed, the primary contribution of this new generation of activists to the future must involve raucous debates about the Constitution and the utility of some of its clauses in a still-unequal society. Instead of adopting a sneering tone, those who fought for freedom ought to be grateful that “post-apartheid” citizens are insisting on honest racial dialogue. Those who claim to be committed to democracy must be pleased that new voices are questioning the faulty economic approaches the country has taken thus far.
In the wake of the ugly racial, political and economic debates happening in South Africa, I can tell you as a young person that there is a new generation of South Africans, especially those of colour, who are proud and have no interest in or tolerance for the things their parents let slide as we entered the democratic dispensation. In essence this means that as we define and redefine our identities, and as we define the new South Africa that we want our identities to manifest in, we have created no room for capitalists without conscience, no room for racists, patriarchs, misogynists, homophobes, ageists or ableists. The inappropriately labelled “born-frees” are saying that we will employ an intersectional feminism that squarely confronts the systems of oppression that neither the TRC nor the current South African Constitution has been able to sufficiently address. The kinds of young South Africans I have encountered in the last while are unapologetic and no longer interested in molly-coddling fragile egos or “catching feelings”.
What our schools and universities refused to teach us and include in our curriculums we have gone out and taught ourselves. This means that in our conceptualisations of new and old; in our understanding that our ancestors were in fact not savages, that they did in fact write their own philosophies about life and society; and that our fathers and forefathers did in fact have a religion of love and justice and mercy captured in the holiest and purest form of Ubuntu before Europeans arrived Bibles in one hand and guns in the other hand; in our understanding that our ancestors were not only good enough for slavery, we are becoming clearer and clearer in our intent that that which came with the old system must be dismantled in order to truly say we are living in, or at least building towards, a more equitable and humane society.
The real issue is that in this democratic moment in South Africa, each of us with our diverse interests, agendas and privileges has a very clear decision to make. Do we want to be part of a new South Africa? Do we even think that Stellenbosch is part of South Africa? Because in as much as we want to insulate ourselves in this little Europe, we must be very clear that Stellenbosch is not exempt from the winds of change that are blowing through the country. Stellenbosch is in fact part of the Republic of South Africa and is largely responsible for many of the inequalities in that same republic today. Sometimes I think that when we talk about our institution, we forget that the actual academic thesis for apartheid was casually written in black and white just down the road in the Sociology Department of this university.
Today I am standing in the DF Malan Sentrum where I graduated with beautiful results in 2012, and when I walked across this stage, I had never been so happy to have a white man tap me on the head. But the reality is that DF Malan, the man after whom this building was named, would have never wanted me here. To DF Malan, I would have been only good enough to be a slave, yet here I stand with a master’s in peace and conflict studies cum laude. When the Verwoerd plaque in Dagbreek came down last year, I couldn’t believe the outrage some people expressed at its removal, as though there was any good to his thoughts about humanity?
The truth is that white South Africans will never understand what the experience of racism really means. It’s not just about being called a monkey by a Sparrow. It’s not just about being told you are a “messed-up race that opens its legs just to get a child grant” as Marie van Rensburg brazenly claimed a few days ago; it is a daily psychological violence that manifests in every single area of one’s life. It infiltrates religion and one’s perception of self; it infiltrates the economy; it infiltrates politics; and it infiltrates education. White people will never understand what it is like to be taught a false history of your own people, but not in your language, and yet in a building named after a man who thought you were intellectually and scientifically inferior to him.
To be studying at a school or have a degree from an institution literally built on the labour, the suffering and the land of your own people and then be confronted with that every single day is a distasteful experience. This is not something that we were simply supposed to get over after 1994.
The reality is that a system that was racist, patriarchal and unconscionable in its capitalism on Tuesday, 26 April 1994 did not magically change on Thursday, 28 April 1994. And this is why we are still having the same conversations. A recent tweet from Khaya Dlanga captured this perfectly.
While I deeply respect and honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest mistakes I believe he and his comrades made was to tell their people to “forgive before an apology was offered”. In South Africa, contrary to other normal peace processes, “forgiveness was given before the crime was acknowledged by the perpetrators.” The TRC was supposed to deal with our issues of forgiveness and reconciliation, but the evidence of the last few months is to the contrary and people are not interested in having their anger policed or curated.
The problem, I think, in South Africa is that we are not all 100% convinced that our past was unjust. Unlike the Germans, who are genuinely sorry (barring the right-wing neo-Nazis); as a country, Germany is so embarrassed by its history that Nazism and public glorifications of Adolf Hitler are criminalised. There is no in-between that some aspects of Nazi Germany were good or some parts of it were bad. Germans have outright written that part of their history off as unequivocally bad. In South Africa, there is no consensus that approximately 400 years of colonialism and 52 years of apartheid amounted to an affirmative action for white people at its best. Today we still debate the legacy of Rhodes and not all of us agree that our history was in no way pretty by any measure, because you still hear people talk about “die goeie ou dae”.
Ons land is in groot moeilikheid en Stellenbosch is in groot moeilikheid, maar nie as gevolg van die tradisionele “swart gevaar” of as gevolg van “die kanker van Engels” nie. Ons is in die moeilikheid want ons het komplekse probleme wat ons moet oplos en dit benodig ‘n heel ander vlak van moedigheid en dapperheid om die spoke van ons lelike geskiedenis aan te spreek.
I realise that at the moment many of my white friends are struggling to find, and even articulate, what their place and role in the new South Africa is or should be. And I realise for sure that our government has not been faithful to its commitments after 1994. We definitely have a crisis of leadership and good governance in South Africa, and it will take a concerted effort by individual South Africans to hold our politicians accountable.
However, nothing that we are experiencing and feeling is happening in isolation from what we see manifesting on a national level.
We as a nation are the sum total of our experiences.
We are a mess and we must acknowledge that mess. We cannot attempt to erase that from our social consciousness. When we choose not to listen and extend practical compassion to the most marginalised among us, we do our own narrative as a nation a great disservice.
Without compassion in this country we will not survive the current tumultuous times we are in.
Practically this means that 2016 is the year in which white South Africans must listen and take the back seat in conversations about race, power and privilege. Black South Africans had to give forgiveness in 1994 simply to get a vote. In 2016, if black South Africans are to continue giving with that mantra, it must be reciprocated with compassion and active forms of retribution. No matter what our individual sentiments, South African women of colour got the shortest end of the stick in the negotiated settlement and it is evident that their children are coming back for a refund.
Soos ek voor hierdie konvokasie staan, besef ek daar is mense wat sal voel ek is antiwit, ek is rassisties en dat ek myself aanmeld asof ek al die antwoorde het vir Suid-Afrika se probleme. Maar ek wil graag hê dat u mooi sal luister na dit wat ek sê. Vir dié van ons wat vas glo dat my gedagtes en perspektiewe ‘n aanval teen Afrikaans en teen wit Suid-Afrikaners is, wil ek dit baie duidelik maak dat ek geen belangstelling het om teen enige rasgroep of taalgroep te staan nie.
Wat ek wel glo, is dat ons altyd eerlik met mekaar moet wees in sulke gesprekke oor ons land, ons universiteite en die toekoms waarheen ons gaan. Die “koei in die bos”, wat ek sien prof Breytenbach nog gaan aansny, is hierdie kwessie van taal. Die ding met taal en hoe ons dit gebruik is dat dit nooit neutraal is nie. Veral in die konteks van Suid-Afrika en Stellenbosch – taal is net so persoonlik soos wat dit polities is.
Vir my is dit baie belangrik om te erken dat die US ‘n Suid-Afrikaanse universiteit is. Dit behoort aan alle Suid-Afrikaners en nie aan een groep nie. To be part of this country, the underlying thesis that we have all implicitly accepted, is that South Africa belongs to all who live in it. And unless we want to have another CODESA we cannot now start to delineate and decide who gets to study where on the basis of language.
Tweedens wil ek gou praat oor hierdie kwessie van die beskerming van ‘n taal. Soos u kan hoor, praat ek baie mooi Afrikaans. Ek is nie ‘n Afrikaner nie en ek het nie Afrikaans op Stellenbosch geleer nie, maar ek is baie lief vir die taal. Vir my is daar woorde en gevoelens wat ek nie beter kan beskryf in ‘n ander taal nie. Maar, ek dink die primêre funksie van ‘n universiteit is nie noodwendig om ‘n taal of ‘n kultuur te beskerm nie, maar om hoër onderwys te voorsien vir die dogters en seuns van ons land. Waar hierdie toegang tot opvoeding vir alle Suid-Afrikaanse studente beperk word deur middel van taal moet ons dan herevalueer of die universiteit eintlik sy werk doen of nie.
Afrikaans gaan nie sommer sterf as dit nie meer die hooftaal van onderrig is nie. Vra net vir ander mense wat nog steeds hulle taal praat sonder ‘n universiteit.
Laastens wil ek praat oor die taal self. Die groot vraag hier is “Aan wie behoort Afrikaans?” Die eenvoudige antwoord is dat dit behoort aan Afrikaners.
But who owns Afrikaans? The Kaapse Klopse with their Ghoema-musiek should rightfully own Afrikaans. The people of District Six and the Bo-Kaap should rightfully own Afrikaans. The face of Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University should not only be the face of a white man, but also the face of coloured Afrikaans women and black Afrikaans women. Because they do exist, no matter how much we deny them access to our university. We must stop this thing of using coloured and black Afrikaans people who are currently dispossessed as our farmworkers and cleaners as an excuse for exclusionary policies and practices. The very act is exploitative in nature because we know that their children will never make it to Stellenbosch University as it is. But even if their children do make it to Stellenbosch, they will arrive here and see an Afrikaans language and culture defended in their name that is foreign to them and in which they have no part.
Die groter waarheid is: Afrikaans is baie tale, dit is baie verskillende kulture. Ons moet erken dat Afrikaans in ons eie geskiedenis (en selfs vandag) baie keer gebruik is teen mense wat nie wit is nie. As ons vir ‘n Afrikaanse universiteit wil verdedig, dan moet ons aanvaar dit behels onder andere ‘n verdediging van: Afrikaaps, Swartlandse Afrikaans, Bolandse Afrikaans, Overbergse Afrikaans, Weskus-Sandveldse Afrikaans, Karoo-Afrikaans, Oos-Kaapse Afrikaans, Oranjerivier- en Gariep-Afrikaans, Boesmanslands, Griekwa-Afrikaans, Namakwalands en Richtersveld-Afrikaans. En dan moet ons erken dat die gesig daarvan meestal nie die gesig van ‘n wit Afrikanerman is nie. Ons moet erken dat baie min mense verbind is tot die beskerming van alle vorme en alle gesigte van Afrikaans in die nuwe Suid-Afrika.
Ons moet erken dat die ontwikkeling en onderhoud van Afrikaans as ‘n akademiese taal, as ‘n kultuur en as ‘n magtige ekonomiese en sosiale instrument nooit bedoel of bestem was om ‘n niewit bevolking te beskerm nie. Dus kan die teenwoordigheid van ‘n Afrikaanssprekende kleurlingpopulasie nie gebruik word as ‘n rede om US te behou soos wat dit nou is net omdat dit gemaklik is in hierdie gesprek nie. Dit wys dat ons net belangstelling in kleurlingstudente en -mense het wanneer dit die doeleindes van ‘n wit Afrikaanse agenda pas, en dit is baie oneerlik.
On this note I want to end my speech by saying that we have a choice as South Africans to reclaim our humanity. Both apartheid and colonisation dehumanised us all by giving white people a superiority complex and giving black people an inferiority complex (albeit with different consequences). We must dismantle this inhumanity that we are all products of by reclaiming our collective humanity. We must reclaim our histories so that our children grow up knowing the truth about themselves. We must reclaim our languages so that those who choose to learn and speak them do so out of pure love for our languages and not out of obligation.
I look forward to the day when I do not have to talk to my children about racism or sexism. That is really my dream for South Africa and Africa as a whole. But to get to this point we have to have some difficult conversations. When these conversations happen, we must know the roles we are to play. Those who must listen must listen; those who need the chance to cry must cry. Those who need to be angry must be angry. Those who need to talk must talk. But none of us gets to claim an easy victory. Because there is no victory in our collective pain, there is only closure. And South Africa desperately needs closure.
US-konvokasietoespraak: Die koei in die bos
"Indien Afrikaans as omgangstaal, administratiewe taal, onderrigtaal hier sou verketter word en krimp, gaan dit uiteindelik tot ’n onvermydelike tot niet maak van ’n kosbare en geskakeerde instrument van bewuswording lei."
US-konvokasie 2016: Courage, Compassion and Complexity - Reflections on the new Matieland and South Africa
Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi
"Ladies and gentlemen, something is brewing in South Africa. I do not know the name of that something, but I know that it is irreversible and will continue to brew and boil over, whether we give it permission to do so or not."
US-konvokasie 2016: Afskeidstoespraak deur Christo Viljoen, uittredende president
"Stellenbosch dien Suid-Afrika al vir 150 jaar. Hy wil voortgaan om dit deur sy gehalte en deur ’n inklusiewe kultuur en taalgebruik te doen. Daarvoor het hy selfstandigheid en ruimte en ons almal se samewerking nodig. Dan kan Stellenbosch wéér sê hy staan vir ’n idee."
US-konvokasie 2016: Universiteit Stellenbosch: Vorentoe!
Wim de Villiers
"Deur Engels as onderrigtaal te gebruik, sorg ons dat ons toeganklik is vir meer mense. Maar daar is steeds ’n groot behoefte aan en vraag na Afrikaans, daarom duur ons aanbod daarin voort." Rektor en visekanselier Wim de Villiers se mededelings aan die US-konvokasie.
Haal af die Bosch se maskers, vra Maties
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