The rejection of demands for social justice such as the proposed “wealth tax” was proof that many white South Africans were in denial and trapped in pseudo innocence and a “new identity of victimhood”, theologian and antiapartheid activist Allan Boesak said.
He described the new identity of victimhood as a condition experienced from a loss of political power, guaranteed socio-economic advantage and privileged insulation.
“It seeks to close down the past without dealing with it or recognising its unfinished business. It acts as if the past has no bearing whatsoever on the present, and thus the continuing suffering of the real victims of the past’s unfinished business is first blurred, then trivialised and then rendered invalid.”
Boesak was speaking on Monday at the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal in Durban where he delivered the Stev Biko memorial lecture.
It was this kind of pseudo innocence, he said, that was being used to avoid social justice measures like the wealth tax as proposed by Archbishop Emiritus Desmond Tutu.
Boesak said people like Tutu, who are revered by the white community for preaching reconciliation had become villians overnight for proposing this measure.
“It is very interesting how white people love Desmond Tutu when he talks about forgiveness, but the moment he raises issues of justice they don’t like him anymore.”
He continued: “They love Mandela more than Jesus … (because) Jesus is far too radical (on demanding social justice) and Mandela doesn’t want to go that far because he understands people in this country.
“But if he would say tomorrow what Jesus says they wouldn’t like him anymore. So pretty soon they will just have Malema.”
Boesak said most whites felt they had already asked for forgiveness many times and could not do it all over again.
But equally guilty were the new black elite who were also trapped in a sense of false innocence through having made alliances with the elite.
“They (the black elite) have made alliances with the old wealthy elite, alliances against the masses of the people, and are part of the small 20 percent of the country’s top elite who now gobble some 75 percent of our GDP, while 53 percent of our masses live in dire poverty and get 6 to 8 percent of what is left.”
He said this class of new black elite was acting as if their wealth was the definition of South African democracy and freedom. Boesak said this was a disdain for the poor.
He said he would rather be labelled as heretical as he would continue to challenge some issues, adding that there was no substitute for justice.