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An Unresolved Struggle for Reparations, Redress & Restitution in South Africa

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Insights from Khulumani Support Group in South Africa, November 2016

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An Unresolved Struggle for Reparations, Redress & Restitution in South Africa

  1. 1. An Unresolved Struggle for Reparations, Redress & Restitution INSIGHTS FROM KHULUMANI SUPPORT GROUP SOUTH AFRICA
  2. 2. Understanding Resistance to this Struggle in Africa • Thoughts from Bryan Stevenson: Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Legal Representative for Children in Conflict with the Law in the US and for Persons on Death Row • Critical thinking from Ta-Nehisi Coates • Critical thinking and advocacy from Sir Hillary Beckles • Critical thinking from Antjie Krog • Critical thinking from Khulumani Support Group
  3. 3. Bryan Stevenson, the Equal Justice Initiative • The stunning silence continues. • We have not understood what our historical actions have meant to affected people. • Black people have lives in a era of terror for centuries; the threat of terror has defined their lives. • British colonialism in South Africa was shaped by the philosophy of “instilling a proper degree of terror.”
  4. 4. Ta-Nehisi Coates • The Case for Reparations • Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole. • Until South Africans reckon with their compounding moral debts, peace will elude us.
  5. 5. Living against the odds: 1755 to the present • African Americans have lived under the blind decree of justice, but (in reality) under the heel of a regime that elevated armed robbery to a governing principle. • A Great Migration, a mass exodus of 6 million African Americans that spanned most of the 20th century, took place with African Americans journeying north to seek the protection of the law. • From the 1930s through the 1960s, black people across the country were largely cut out of the legitimate home-mortgage market through means both legal and extra-legal. Chicago whites employed every measure, from “restrictive covenants” to bombings, to keep their neighbourhoods segregated.
  6. 6. Red-Lining in Chicago & in Khayelitsha There is no access to mortgage bonds for home-owners in Khayelitsha on grounds that the houses have asbestos roofs. This racial policy “could well have been culled from the Nuremberg laws.” Chicago
  7. 7. Black Wealth / White Wealth: A Shared Experience in Settler Colonies • Whites looking to achieve the American dream could rely on a legitimate credit system backed by the government. Blacks were herded into the sights of unscrupulous lenders who took them for money and for sport. • “I’d come out of Mississippi where there was one mess, and come up here and got in another mess. So how dumb am I? I didn’t want anyone to know how dumb I was. I just left this mess. I just left no laws. And no regard. And then I come here and get cheated wide open. I would probably want to do some harm to some people, you know, if I had been violent like some of us.” • In return for the “deprivations of their rights and privileges under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments,” the Contract Buyers League demanded “prayers for relief”.
  8. 8. “Prayers for Relief” • No longer appealing to the government simply for equality; no longer fleeing in hopes of a better deal elsewhere. • Charging society with a crime against their community & demanding the crime publicly be ruled as such. • Asserting a claim for restitution for the great injury brought upon them by offenders. A CRITICAL SHIFT • No longer simply seeking the protection of the law. • Seeking reparations. • Black neighbourhoods are characterized by high unemployment and households headed by single parents. They are not simply poor; they are “ecologically distinct.” • Fault lines remain everywhere.
  9. 9. Long-term impacts • With segregation, with the isolation of the injured and the robbed, comes the concentration of disadvantage. • The labelling of this reality as the result of cultural pathologies that can be altered through individual grit and exceptionally good behaviour, is a convenient lie. • The kind of trenchant racism to which black people have persistently been subjected can never be defeated by making its victims more respectable • The essence of racism is disrespect. In the wake of grim numbers, we see the grim inheritance.
  10. 10. Reparations Movement in the 20th Century • The movement coalesced in 1987 under an umbrella organization called the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA). The NAACP endorsed reparations in 1993. • Broach the topic of reparations today and a barrage of questions inevitably follows: Who will be paid? How much will they be paid? Who will pay? • If the practicalities, not the justice, of reparations are the true sticking point, there has for some time been the beginnings of a solution. • Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. • HR 40, the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, the Conyer’s Bill, has never—under either Democrats or Republicans—made it to the House floor. • We inherit our ample patrimony with all its incumbrances; and are bound to pay the debts of our ancestors. (Yale President Timothy Dwight said in 1810)
  11. 11. Sir Hillary Beckles, Vice Chancellor, University of the West Indies, a Barbadian Historian Reparatory justice is not a backward call for handouts as many believe. On the contrary, it is a call for development cooperation. The 10-point action plan: An apology, repatriation, an indigenous people’s programme, cultural institutions, programmes designed to improve public health, promotion of literacy and African knowledge; psychological rehabilitation and technology upgrading programmes and debt cancellation.
  12. 12. Today in a South Africa Resisting Reparations, there is agony Agon – a contest (usually sport) but then also in literature (thus giving us the protagonist and antagonist as characters). Agonism – a contestatory way of presenting ideas in the public sphere or in intellectual sparring. Agonist – a person engaged in a contest, conflict, struggle, etc (or agonists are drugs that mimic neurotransmitters and make the neuron fire!). Agony – a display or outburst of intense mental or emotional excitement. A struggle within the soul, a contest leading to death.
  13. 13. Lessons from the Life of Antjie Krog: Journalist & Author Anthea Garman Speaking (and being listened to) demands capital and authority – and these are invisible, intangible things. A public sphere is not an empty open space into which anyone can step and then speak (this is one of democracy’s illusions). We have a very necessary loud and busy public sphere full of agonising!
  14. 14. Black Plunder, White Democracy: Settler Colonialism • In the US, black people are rendered a class of untouchables, while white men are raised to the level of citizens. • The parting of black families is a kind of murder. • So too in South Africa
  15. 15. So too in SOUTH AFRICA A STORY OF THE PLATINUM BELT • The miners who extract these minerals live in very poor conditions, often in informal settlements near the mine, without running water or electricity. In 2012, around 3,000 miners struck for higher wages and better living conditions. 34 miners were shot dead by the South African police. The Government Commission of Inquiry reported that the mine owner, the British company Lonmin, was responsible for the massacre, along with the South African government.
  16. 16. Breaking the Silence
  17. 17. Unresolved Missing Persons, Victims of Enforced Disappearances
  18. 18. Implications of Impunity for the Crimes of the Past
  19. 19. From ASIKAQEDI to THELA MANJE President Mandela said on 29 October 1998, “The challenge is for all of us to protect our democratic gains like the apple of our eye. It is for those who have the means, to contribute to the efforts to repair the damage wrought by the past. It is for those who have suffered losses of different kinds and magnitudes to be afforded reparation, proceeding from the premise that freedom and dignity are the real prize that our sacrifices were meant to attain. Free at last, we are all masters of our destiny. A better future depends on all of us lending a hand - your hand, my hand.”
  20. 20. A DREAM DEFERRED BUT A DREAM INSISTENT ON REALISATION • WE CANNOT AFFORD TO FAIL OUR PEOPLE IN THIS • Archbishop Tutu said earlier this year: • “Healing is a process. How we deal with the truth after its telling defines the success of the process. And this is where we have fallen tragically short. By choosing not to follow through on the commission’s recommendations, government not only compromised the commission’s contribution to the process, but the very process itself.” “To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing.”(Raymond Williams)
  21. 21. AN AGENDA FOR REPARATIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA: THE DREAM FULFILLED • Communication as the process of creating shared meaning and understanding • Conversation as the process of developing interventions together • Conservation as the preservation and use of the best from our legacy • Community as the importance of facilitating coherence around a shared vision; and • Connection as the pursuit together of transformative goals. • Concluding the Unfinished Business THANK YOU

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