As the #ZumaMustFall movement gains momentum, there has been much criticism levelled at the campaign with some observing that the protests are predominantly supported by white South Africans. The movement was formed a few months ago in response to President Jacob Zuma’s decision to axe Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister, a decision that sent the markets into overdrive and caused the rand to plummet. The movement is determined that Zuma step down as president, accusing him of blatant corruption and mismanaging the affairs of the country.
Observers feel the movement is a racist one and that those who support the campaign are not confronting the issue of white privilege in South Africa. ‘White privilege’ is generally understood as ‘the accusation that if you are privileged, you have not experienced difficulties’.
However, one activist is encouraging white people to use their privilege and voice to make a difference. Craig Stewart, CEO of the Warehouse Trust, asserts that although the concept is not widely understood, white privilege is an issue within South Africa that requires attention.
“For most of us who are white, the hard moments are not related to oppression or injustice. Our primary and general experience of life is where the system has worked for us,” Stewart explained.
This does not discount individual moments, instead, it simply emphasizes the need to examine the system and the patterns of injustice, he said. As a result, the system favours some, whilst working against others.
The problem with particularly white individuals’ criticism of President Zuma’s accountability for Nkandla, is that white individuals have used their; positions, privileges, and power, to gain access to amenities at the disadvantage of others.
“If we are going to have conversations about President Zuma paying back, then we [as whites] need to think of ways of paying back the money.”
As tax payers, Stewart notes, we need to vigorously require that our money is used effectively by the Government. This does not, however, address the issue of restitution nor does it improve upon past actions that have resulted in ‘white privilege’.
“If we [as white South Africans] are willing to honestly reflect on the corruption of our story, then that gives our charges of corruption, in the present time, more credibility,” states Stewart.
Stewart further encourages people of privilege to find ways to contribute toward an improved society and system by recognizing their status as ‘privileged’. Secondly, individuals need to look for means of restitution, whether it is land restitution or bridging the gap in education.
“I think that we still live with the spirit of apartheid, which still exists,” asserts Stewart.
Stewart encourages honest engagement and the willingness to address the current trend of ‘white privilege’ uprisings.
The Warehouse Trust is a community-based organization that works primarily in churches, and with the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum. The focus of the organization is to assist communities to respond to poverty, injustices, and division, in ways that can bring about transformation in Cape Town.
For information about the Warehouse Trust, visit: http://www.warehouse.org.za/
VOC (Thakira Desai)