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Date: Sun, 9 Jul 1995 21:01:54 -0200
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From: ancdip@wn.apc.org (tim jenkin)
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Subject: Mayibuye July 1995

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The Coloureds

By David Adams, Opinion piece in Mayibuye, Vol. 6, no. 3
July 1995

New Day Dawns For Coloureds

The unique and difficult history of coloured people in South Africa means that special efforts are needed to cement their commitment to the non-racial vision of the ANC, argues David Adams.

The dawn of the new South Africa on 27 April 1994 meant that South Africans were able to grapple with the traumatic realities of the apartheid order. The institutionalised policy of divide and rule, backed by a discriminatory judicial system, which caused people to be separated, displaced, disenfranchised, disrespected and dispossessed of their land, was no more. A disunited people had to rise to the occasion and face the bold challenge of what it meant to be a single nation.

One of the deepest scars left by apartheid was manifested in the apparent lack of identity South Africa's 'coloured' people.

Who are the 'coloureds'?

The term 'coloured' was not used until the mid-thirties of the last century. The ancestry of the people to whom this term was given goes back two centuries, where inter-racial contact and inter-racial marriages took place between the European settlers and the local Khoi people.

Coloured people in South Africa have always occupied an ambiguous position in the politics of racism and oppression. They were seen as 'less than' european but 'more than' african in the racist hierarchy. Like the african majority, coloureds were subjected to all the racist policies of the National Party.

A phenomenon developed, however, whereby the National Party regime, despite having discriminated against coloureds, found a certain level of support for it within the coloured community. At the same time coloured people struggled for a political identity of their own through various - and varied - bodies, like the Afrikaanse Nasionale Bond, Cape Malay Association, United Party, Coloured Advisory Council, Labour Party, among others.

The April elections

Coloureds, historically, have never really identified in large numbers with their fellow oppressed, nor has this identification been consistent or uniform. Support for the ANC within coloured communities has varied from province to province. Between 22 and 27 percent of coloureds in the Western Cape voted for the ANC in last year's elections. Many people argued that the victory of the NP in the Western Cape was the product of a few months electioneering work. However, the basis of their victory was laid even before the unbanning of the ANC and the start of the negotiations. Since the late 1980s the NP prepared itself to win the election in the Western Cape.

The campaign that was mounted by the ANC in the province mobilised significant forces, however.The ANC visited many rural areas and drew in many new members through People's Forums. Without the tireless efforts of many thousands, the ANC would have fared far worse in the province. However, the coloureds voted largely for the NP in the belief that they could maintain what little privilege coloureds had.

Latest developments

Since the election last year, things have changed in the Western Cape. There have been changes in the perceptions of coloured people. The impact of the Government of National Unity and specifically the president has had a phenomenal impact on coloured perceptions of the ANC. Recent survey reports on Western Cape voters show a swing to the ANC among coloureds in rural areas. Such a shift is less marked in the Western Cape's metropolitan areas.

The formation of coloured parties like the Kleurling Weerstands Beweging have had little impact on politics within coloured communities. Still, the ANC should be critical of, and mobilise against, such attempts to further racial polarisation and chauvinism.

The support among coloureds for the National Party is as misguided as it is fragile. The challenge for the ANC in the forthcoming local government elections is to combat confusion, insecurity, uncertainty and ignorance and ensure that coloured people across the class divide are persuaded to vote for a party which will safeguard their interests along with those of all South Africans, the ANC.

The author Du Prez summarises the position of coloureds in South Africa best, when he says: "Thus on the basis of common purpose, 'coloureds' ought logically to abandon any desire to join forces with their former oppressor and thrown in their lot with the rest of the former oppressed - not out to sheer opportunism and fickleness... but out of a genuine desire to eradicate racism and promote the cause of non-racism and democracy."

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