The diatribe launched against the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) by Edgar Brookes’ grandchildren (and 80 others) lacks any good sense. The IRR was formed in the apartheid era. As stated in their letter, its main objectives were to work for peace and encourage investigations that would promote understanding of the racial groups and the relationships between them.

But times have changed; we have a new constitution, new forms of racism apply in the political scene, and woolly socialist ideas discourage the investment and economic activity that we  need. If any government is to function reasonably there has to be general agreement on the values according to which it operates.

Cultural matters play a vital part in this. Acknowledgment, and even respect, can be given to other cultures, but where they clash in serious matters one only must survive. Multiculturalism can never work. And in SA there is, perhaps thinly veiled, a contest between at least three cultural ideas: a tribal system, which still survives quite vigorously under traditional kings; a type of socialism that finds expression, just under the surface of the ANC, in the Freedom Charter of 1955; and Western-styled democratic system, which finds expression in our constitution.

The tribal system has been accommodated for hundreds of years, since the first European settlers arrived in the Cape. The part it plays in society as a whole is diminishing; many tribal people find it oppressive. It could never be a basis upon which an industrial society could function, and it is well known that as SA became more industrialised people living in tribal areas were regarded simply as a labour resource.

The ANC today, which maintains government support for tribal dignitaries by paying them allowances, sees it as a source of cheap votes where the tribal authorities can be persuaded to support them. The Freedom Charter displays, in a broad sense and without going into details, the socialist thinking of 20th-century communists.

Perhaps the concerned citizens who wrote the open letter, and their supporters, had in mind a socialist Nirvana of some sort, which could be brought about. The present constitution was brought into existence as an amazing achievement of the DA and its “ancestors”.  Probably a great majority of the citizens of this country actually support its objectives, regardless of their racial or other qualities. 

And it is the DA that properly understands the constitution, how it should work, and is committed to making it do so. In pursuit of the general aims of the IRR, it is absolutely right, and a matter of good judgment, that the IRR should support the DA. 

John Price
Via email

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