JONATHAN JANSEN: Why comparing Zuma to Verwoerd achieves nothing
'Not only does comparing draw moral equivalence where there is none, it shuts down a more complex and necessary debate'
What the NWU professor revealed, in the course of the debate, is the troubling ways in which many white South Africans continue to think of apartheid.There is still no sense among our white brothers and sisters of the dispossession, degradation and humiliation imposed on black South Africans over centuries and how that systemic oppression explains the poverty and inequality of the present.That is why it is so difficult to have a sensible debate on the land question. White South Africans really believe that the land they occupy is their own, that it was obtained fairly, and that they worked really hard for everything they possess. Black people, in other words, are being irrational; if only they had worked as hard, everyone would have had ample land and adequate education and healthy bodies.
For those who do not follow the Afrikaans press, you would have missed an interesting debate between North West University’s (NWU) political science professor, Theo Venter, and the Umkhonto we Sizwe Veterans Association’s (MKMVA) spokesperson, Carl Niehaus. It goes something like this: Venter makes the claim that the Jacob Zuma period in the presidency was worse than that of apartheid-era presidents and prime ministers going back to 1910. Niehaus loses his cool, insisting Zuma was a freedom fighter chosen democratically by the people of South Africa and that by making such a nonsense comparison, Venter demonstrates that he is an unrehabilitated racist.The MKMVA and its allies will demand an inquiry into the conduct of Professor Venter. The management of NWU seems to oblige; there will be an investigation. For days afterwards the debate continues on social media, in print and on the airwaves. For many white Afrikaans-speaking South Africans, including some with very liberal credentia...