Hellen Zille: Artificial borders and racism are inseparable, your refugee label is equal to racism

3 April 2011
Statement by the Mandela Park Backyarders

The recent statement made by Helen Zille which refers to Eastern Cape migrants as refugees and her subsequent justification of the term, illustrate her failure to understand how apartheid has misguided not only those blacks who were and continue to be oppressed, but also privileged white people.

On Sunday, Zille appeared on Radio Zibonele in Khayelitsha saying that she was not aware that her statement would create anger and frustration amongst black people.

This explanation by Madam Helen is quite similar to the common excuse of a school child who is warned by his/her parents not to wear school shoes after school hours. Yet, despite the warning, the child continues to wear his/her shoes and later, when confronted by the parents, claim that they just did not know what would happen to the shoes.

A similar situation occurred with Martinicans who, as a colony of France before the World War 2, considered themselves French and attempted to deny themselves their own ethnicity and race. But French sailors and officials saw them through the lens of racial prejudice thereby making it impossible for Martinicans to truly ever be equal in the eyes of the French.

Madam Helen no different from French sailors. We need to remind Madam Helen that before European outcasts and refugees colonised Africa and other parts of the world, there were no such name calling that sought to humiliate one because of his/her place of origin. It was the Europeans created artificial borders in Africa, dividing up the continent and confining blacks in Bantustans in South Africa and elsewhere thereby turning them into refugees in their own country. Artificial borders and the bifurcated state were accompanied by racism.

So it is in this context that we should look at the term ‘refugee’ which informed Madam Helen’s comments and by which she has insulted black people. She continues to look at black people through the lens of artificial borders that perpetuates racism and division in our country.

Zille’s was a reckless and a racist comment. It can easily lead to black on black violence such as what we have seen recently in Grabow.

To us, Zille’s comments brought back memories of the Afro-phobic attacks of 2008 but this time invoking such phobia between people already living in South Africa.

Rumours even abound in our township that Madam Helen was also alleged to have said that Eastern Cape migrants who left Cape Town during their festive holiday should be forced to remain in Eastern Cape in order to minimise influx. We wish to remind our fellow poor citizens that this alleged statement targets black migrants in ways reminiscent of 2008.

To us Madam Helen did not have to declare herself a racist in order for her to be one. By tracing back our history and where we come from we can safely arrive at the conclusion that artificial borders and racism are inseparable. By invoking artificial borders and divisions amongst blacks, no matter their ethnic background, Zille is invoking racist prejudice amongst South Africans

Therefore, we call on the people of South Africa to demand an apology from Helen Zille.

For more information contact Loyiso @ 0737662078 or Slulami @ 0736200781

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