Why Apartheid Must Never Be Forgiven


Many of us have not healed from the wounds the legacy of colonialism and apartheid left us, and we’re not going to forgive anyone for it anytime soon. For this, we are unapologetic – #SorryNotSorry.

There are a couple of factors that make both colonialism and apartheid unforgivable. The ineffectiveness and Christian-ethical imposition of forgiveness under the farce called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The lack of justice for the mothers, widows and children who are left with questions about where the bones of their loved ones were carelessly tossed by freelance assassins hired by FW de Klerk and others. The unaccountability, lack of shame and the silent endorsement of apartheid – past and present – by the white community make the “forgiveness” of such gross inhumane deeds by a settler minority a self-mutilation.

Luckily, for some black elite, the political power and neo-colonial capitalist million dollar contracts have resulted in a perverted social amnesia. The African National Congress, under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, and endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, enforced social cohesion in a nation where past and present oppressive God-complexed settlers live lavishly while the previously and currently socially, geographically, economically and psychologically oppressed watch oppressors live lavishly on stolen land in a constructed “Kumbaya” fairyland.

Every now and then, one white person slips up and says what most white people think and discuss over their cocktails by the poolside, and the underlying beast rears its white supremacist head. White liberals come out, guns blazing, claiming that Penny Sparrow is an anomaly. Black people are momentarily outraged and then we go back to playing “happy home†with a community that vehemently hates us. Like people under a strong Madiba spell, we go back to Rainbow-Nationing.

Whether it is Penny Sparrow, the existence of Orania, or the summer military camps preparing white boys for a race war, there is enough micro-aggression from the white community to suggest that they are not ashamed about apartheid. Without looking at the macro colonial structural racism, the micro-aggressions inform us that the reason apartheid ended was because they couldn’t play rugby outside the country. So how does one forgive people who are not sorry, or show no inclination of changing their ways?

Collectively, black South Africans are suffering through what social psychologist Leon Festinger calls ‘cognitive dissonance’. One of the most common characteristics of cognitive dissonance is “denial or rejecting something too discomforting to accept, asserting contradictory or false things as true, using words that are true to convey false assertions and spin”. Sound familiar?

Imagine if, psychologically, black South Africans did not have a moral higher ground to hold on to like “forgiveness”, how devastating it would be? Imagine poor black South Africans having to wash the sheets of past oppressors and watch them live lavish lives without their moral step-ladder of forgiveness? It would be devastating.

Denial about the perpetual trauma of micro aggressions and macro structural racism has been the only tool of Black people to survive post-apartheid apartheid. This why Black people can live in the aspirational realm of reality as opposed to the actual reality. This just means that, Black people experience a violent and oppressive lived reality but have psychologically deluded themselves that everything is alright.

But everything isn’t alright. Nothing about the human rights violations, the colonial symbolism all over our towns and the current psychological violence of being told you are healthy when you are bleeding to death is okay. Black people are collectively suffering from post-and-current traumatic stress disorder as a result of colonialism and apartheid. I would like to argue that the first step to Black (psychological) liberation is recognising this cognitive dissonance.

We have to take off our Madiba Magic goggles and deal with our reality. That, in our own land, we exist as slaves in the baas’s plantation. We need to decolonise. Each black person has to ask themselves: how has forgiveness changed our lived realities? How does forgiveness hold white people accountable for their implication in colonialism and apartheid? And most importantly, how will forgiveness get us our land back?

The answers are uncomfortable – and that’s where we need to get to in order to effect change.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Oh. I was hoping for something insightful from the Daily Vox’s new columnist… but instead I just got another nativist who wants to hysterically dictate a violent identitarian agenda. I suppose I should have known better.

  2. This “columnist” is a prominent woke fallist who openly fantasises about race war, and about seeing white people (those who survive) put on boats to Europe. So I’m not sure why you expected anything more than racial vitriol.

  3. Right. I get why black people are angry. But what is your solution? I’m tired of these kind of generalities to tell you the truth. (White people drinking cocktails at their pools for example. Slaves working on the baas’ plantation, fer gods sake) . All this raging does is to salve your own anger at why some people seem to have everything and you seem to have nothing. What’s your plan of action? Once you dealt with your cognitive dissonance, I suggest you start protesting at Parliament or vote for a party that will actually provide education, employment opportunities and some form of therapy for your psychological condition.

    PS. We are all angry

  4. Well said author. We are always told get over it. Why I ask so that our children will fall in the same trap, this time only it will be willingly due to ignorance. After 20 odd years whites still enjoy the spoils of their ill gotten gains and yes oh yes have no intensions to part with it. So it is up to us who suffered the indignities of apartheid to never ever let this evil perpetrated by whites fade into oblivion. Apartheid which was a by-product of capitalism is today coming full circle. Apartheid was used to entrench capitalism, today capitalism is used to entrench apartheid.
    Keep on with your message.

  5. No to what, to the fact that whites stole the land and unfairly enriched themselves on the misery of us blacks. Or no to the fact that the truth hurts, that hurt does not even compare to our suffering and to still see white arrogance filling our Africa skies. You have been given enough time to give back, now maybe it is time to take back.

  6. It’s your sky, is it? Fine. Have your sky (the ones with surface-to-air missiles pointed at it might disagree with you, but hey, what do they know). As for all the other stuff… I guess there’s a white waitress around somewhere you can badger into giving you back “your land”. And don’t let the fact that she probably doesn’t own any stop you – how dare she be so “arrogant” as to not own any land to give back to you, right?!

  7. Right you are, if you have enriched yourselves then give back, but then again that is not part of your nature. The crumbs that fall from your tables should probably suffice. The wheels will turn with your help or not. We are not angry we are disgusted in the apathy displayed by the apartheid beneficiaries.

  8. The victim mentally I see from fellow blacks makes me feel so ashamed sometimes. upholding the belief that we are victims is pathetic. apartheid happened, colonisation happened and it was brutal, but how exactly is holding on to all that helping us today?


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