Robust public debate is a good thing: It helps all of us to form our thoughts and eventually reach the best answers to the challenges that are currently facing everyone in the country.
One prerequisite for this debate, however, is that it should not become superficial to such an extent that debaters set up and then shoot down their “opponent’s” arguments as straw puppets in an unnuanced manner by distorting the truth. Unfortunately, the public debate is indeed hampered by a small group of Afrikaans commentators and journalists – whose untested opinions are dished up to the rest of us week after week on various media platforms – who create misrepresentations of AfriForum and Solidarity’s opinions in an unashamedly and continuously intolerant fashion.
Max du Preez’s article "Boer bullies will cost white people dearly" on 26 September on News24 is the epitome of this intolerance and these misrepresentations. It is rather ironic that Du Preez attempts to insult AfriForum and Solidarity in his article by dismissing these organisations as "Boer bullies" not even a week after acting just like a bully during a debate with me on the Afrikaans radio station RSG. Du Preez continuously attempted to hush me up and was unwilling to listen to any opinion that differed from his own. Let’s leave it at that.
The question begs why this small group of Afrikaans commentators and journalists like Max currently counts among the most intolerant participants in the public debate. The fact that Max and co. insult anyone who dare differ from them has obviously resulted in them making enemies among a wide spectrum of South Africans.
Needless to say, this smart-aleckyness and superiority that Max and his allies exhibit in their articles are viewed by some black South Africans as racist superiority. It is out of desperation that Max and other are now trying to show that they aren’t racist by sticking this false label to AfriForum and attacking AfriForum in a bid to position themselves to the left.
I obviously do not agree with the racist label that Max is subject to. Accusations of racism are unfortunately used in the public debate in attempts to discredit “opponents” without focusing on their arguments. It is unacceptable that this strategy is used against Max, just as it is unacceptable for Max to use it against AfriForum.
Max and co. will not succeed in proving that they aren’t racist by simply attaching a false label to AfriForum. A better strategy would have been to rather try and be less pedantic and superior in their articles. It would also help them to dispose of their intolerance towards anyone who dares to differ from them.
An even greater problem with most of the arguments that Max and a few others raise against AfriForum and Solidarity is that these are built on misrepresentations and leave no room for nuance. They attempt in this way to present objections against Jacaranda FM presenter Tumi Morake’s statements that “white people are bullies who should be punished” as objections because Morake “is raking up uncomfortable reminders from the past”. This is untrue.
AfriForum and Solidarity believe in the principle of mutual recognition and respect between communities. As such, Morake’s feelings and her right to raise these are respected, but it is unacceptable and unnecessary for her to have portrayed white people as bullies. A further irony is that those who now advocate the loudest for Morake’s right to vent her feelings are also trying to silence listeners who feel insulted and are venting their own feelings by dismissing these valid objections as bullying.
According to AfriForum’s viewpoint, mutual recognition and respect require Afrikaners, Afrikaans-speaking people in general and white people to respect black people, but also that minority communities have the fullest right to act if they are disrespected and insulted. After all, healthy debate requires everyone to have the right to state their opinions without being insulted by other communities.
AfriForum and Solidarity are obviously not above criticism; as a matter of fact, we gladly listen to it. When this criticism is based on misrepresentations and prejudice, however, or there are unfair attempts to attribute stupid statements on social media to AfriForum, it does not contribute to sensible debate.
South Africans deserve better, namely a debate without misrepresentations and where everyone’s voice is heard – and without a fistful of intolerant Afrikaans commentators with access to media trying to prescribe to us what to think and do. Each one of us should rather have our respective opinions be heard with confidence and obviously without subjecting any other community or organisation to insults.
Kallie Kriel is CEO of AfriForum
This article first appeared on News24.com