What do white South Africans eat
Police and military take action against their own people. On some days, more people die from state violence than from the virus. Especially during the Corona period it becomes clear: South Africa has never really come to terms with its past.
SKY CLEAR: Under the heading “Black Lives Matter”, people all over the world demonstrate against racism and violence against black people. With apartheid, South Africa has its very own history of racism. What role does the topic still play for you today?
Stefan Hippler (Pastor of the German Congregation Cape Town): Racism has been a huge issue here since I've known South Africa and have lived in South Africa. Racism is now a topic that mainly young people discuss. There are a lot of strikes, demonstrations against racism. It's a very difficult subject here in South Africa. And unfortunately, it is the case that, let me say, the rather white population has to be very careful what they say.
SKY CLEAR: That means in concrete terms?
Hippler: So a tweet, unhappily worded, can really lead to popular anger here. That's where things really get down to business. Even with death threats and everything, as soon as the people's soul only has the feeling that a white man could not take the pain and the injuries of the apartheid period seriously and would not be willing to pay reparations for them. In whatever way. So an incredibly sensitive field here in South Africa. On the other hand, there is a lot of police violence here, that is, black against black.
SKY CLEAR: South Africa is actually more praised for its handling of the past. There are also government agencies that see to it that racial tensions are not forgotten. - But that doesn't sound like it was really successful.
Hippler: No. Unfortunately, the coverage of South Africa is sometimes a disaster when you look at Germany or Europe. After the end of apartheid, there was the so-called "Truth and Reconciliation Commission", Archbishop Tutu was the chairman at that time, where it was a matter of establishing the truth. And of course everyone in South Africa knows what happened during apartheid.
What did not happen in a second step is the healing. What do we do with it? That is, people heard the stories. Many things are still not cleared up, but most of them, we know, the population knows about them. But the process never took place: How do I heal these wounds that have been talked about?
SKY CLEAR: What role does politics play in this?
Hippler: After Nelson Mandela things went downhill relatively quickly with our government, Thabo Mbeki (1999 to 2008 President) was still halfway okay, except when it came to HIV / AIDS. Then Jacob Zuma (2009-2018), who had sold out the state, so to speak. And Cyril Ramaphosa (since 2018), who has always closed his eyes as Vice President, currently has not much to offer as President either. That is, healing never took place, and everyone in South Africa is still walking around with a package of guilt. Blacks are walking around with the package that they may not have participated enough in the riot.
The whole history of human rights violations in ANC (African National Congress) camps has not yet been dealt with either. Not everything was negotiated according to human rights, so to speak. There was a lot of brutality and so on. That said, there is still a lot of soreness. And there is nothing that is wholesome.
SKY CLEAR: What is the role of the protests and movements that we are currently witnessing around the world?
Hippler: It's relatively quiet here in South Africa, I have to say. That has to do with the fact that people have relatively little time. Anyone who tries to earn a little money for the first time after seven weeks of lockdown has other problems than taking to the streets about race issues. Especially since this is a constant topic here. So nothing new, I'll say now. It is interesting that the ANC has been crazy about race issues in America, while in South Africa the issue is actually only used politically, I say, but little is done to ensure that the race issue is really clarified here.
We still have some unexplained racism here in South Africa. This is simply because many black Africans have the feeling that everything has not yet been settled. The issue of land distribution in South Africa is still one that is not yet clear. Actually there should be land distribution without compensation, that is, it can be expropriated. But that's still not a law because Corona and Covid-19 have thwarted the bill, in terms of time. In other words, the most important questions about compensation have not yet been clarified in South Africa. We have a state that is built almost entirely on debt, so to speak. And we have a population that, in principle, does not currently know what will happen to South Africa. Difficult.
HEAVENLY: People really have to want to take to the streets when there is such tension
Hippler: People take to the streets, not because of racism, but because they have nothing to eat. People take to the streets because what we call service delivery isn't working. People don't have water.
We have schools where there are still outhouse toilets and no chairs or tables. There are villages and towns where the health system does not work. There are many cities that are totally in debt because the money has been stolen. And that means in principle: neither electricity nor water can be provided by the community. That said, these are the issues people take to the streets for.
SKY CLEAR: In other words: There are more pressing problems than the political debate about black and white.
Hippler: Correct. Black and white is only part of the problem, too. Don't forget that we have a lot of kings in South Africa. We have the "House of Traditional Leaders", so to speak, a second, small parliament with a few powers that deal with traditional leaders.
SKY CLEAR: Does that mean there are completely different tensions?
Hippler: We have the King of the Zulus, for example. In 1994, when the first free elections were held, the Zulus did not want to take part, and in principle the Zulus were persuaded by giving them something: They were given a foundation where the Zulu King ruled quite a lot of land in the province KwaZulu-Natal is. He's the only one who pulls the money out of there.
And now it's about dispossession. We have many Xhosa people in government. There is of course the question: Can a Xhosa, can someone who is not a Zulu suddenly decide that a Zulu king must also hand over things? That expropriations take place with other blacks, with brothers who are not from your own tribe?
There were situations where the president said something that was wrong. The next day he kneels before the king in Zulu land to make atonement. And the Zulu king says: If you dispossess my land, there will be war. What I want to say and point out: The problems are not just black and white. In my opinion, these are the fewest problems. We have massive black / black problems within South Africa. And one much bigger problem: black South Africans - and the rest of Africa. Every two or three years we have xenophobic riots where people are killed. There is a lot of racism that does not fall under the white / black scheme. What Europe always likes to take up. But we have completely different problems there.
SKY CLEAR: We notice that the situation is a bit more complicated than we sometimes want to tell ourselves in Germany.
Hippler: Yes, it is complicated, whether it is a question of race, or of tribes and traditions. It's complicated, also in terms of history. We always talk about the apartheid era, before we had the Voortrekker. White people, so to speak, the successors of the first emigrants from Holland and so on. And if we look a little further, we see that they were suppressed by the English at the time. The English invented the first concentration camps for white South Africans. Hundreds of thousands died, starved, in the truest sense of the word. That means, the history of South Africa is so diverse, and everyone can pull out a piece, so to speak, it's like in the Bible. I always find a piece that proves I'm right. This is a mixed bag here in South Africa, which is really insane when you come in from the outside.
I've been in the country for 22 years now. You have to feel your way very slowly to understand: All these emotional states that exist. South Africans have long memories. Many can say when the great-grandfather came from Holland or Germany in 1778. And people are proud of this ancestral chain. It's the same with the black South Africans, and that's exactly how they have the whole story with them. When we talk about race today, when we talk about history today, when we talk about justice and the just distribution of goods today. It's much more complicated than seen from the outside.
SKY CLEAR: And then there is the corona virus. What is the situation like in South Africa?
Hippler: We're still in lockdown. We had one of the earliest lockdowns here when the Corona crisis started here in South Africa, and thus one of the longest. We have been in lockdown for weeks and have now come down from level five to level three. Stage five was absolutely to stay at home, very few were allowed to go to work. That was really very strict. There was no way to buy cigarettes, no way to buy alcohol. So you were only allowed out to buy bread, butter and jam. The government even prescribed what you could buy. Then after a while we went down one step to level four, where we were allowed to do sports between six and nine in the morning, outside. In the end, that means: Anyone who stood was arrested for not doing any sport. And I mean that very seriously. We have people who were arrested for just standing outside. So also very strict. The government opened a little more shops, but still said what we could buy.
So we had very bizarre discussions. For example, what kind of T-shirts can be sold? Is a t-shirt a summer or winter garment? Which shoes are winter shoes and which are summer school? The police really went through shops and said: This can't be sold, it can be sold. It's crazy.
We are still at level three now. This means that we are now allowed to buy alcohol on certain days, but we are still not allowed to buy cigarettes. So all smokers have been without their substance for eight or nine weeks, and you can imagine how the black market is flourishing. You can find it everywhere but not in stores. That is forbidden.
In terms of numbers, it was easy at first. We had very few numbers. So we've had very few deaths. That is changing at the moment. We currently have 58,568 (as of June 12) confirmed cases, where we are currently adding around 3000 new infections per day. And we have 1284 dead so far. That is also increasing by 50 to 70 per day right now. That is relatively little when you think of other countries, but quite a lot because we are still on the rise and still trying to get the economy going again now. So it's a very strange situation that we have, especially since the rules have been enforced very strictly. I am sure you have heard that here in South Africa the military has been deployed entirely on-site. We have had days in South Africa where deaths from violence, police and military were greater than the coronavirus deaths. Let me say it lovingly: The spirit of apartheid: This corps spirit. This spirit, like state power, how the military treats people, especially in the townships, suddenly didn't seem to have changed since the beginning of the new South Africa.
SKY CLEAR: What brings you hope in the position?
Hippler: Hope brings me here that the people are for the most part just real. There is no such fine layer of culture here that I know from Europe. What you do and what you leave behind and how you do things, but here you live directly. And this immediacy also gives an honesty. An honesty to work with. An honesty that also gives the opportunity to change things. You don't knock around here, things are approached as they are and they are real.
The interview was conducted by Renardo Schlegelmilch.
The interview is part of thePodcasts sky clear - a cross-diocesan podcast project coordinated by MD GmbH in cooperation with kathisch.de and DOMRADIO.DE. Supported by the Catholic Media House in Bonn and APG mbH. Moderated by Renardo Schlegelmilch.
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