The scene in Reiger Park on 9 March 2017. PICTURE: Brancombe Fillies

In The News Opinion

Reiger Park: ‘black in general and African in particular’

South Africa awoke yesterday to the news that Reiger Park a former apartheid defined “Coloured” community ensconced between mine dumps where ERPM made their billions on the Eastrand is in unrest.

I share a natural affinity with this community for it became my home as a halfway stop for approximately two years in the mid-eighties when I fled as a Cape Town student activist.

Reiger Park is a dynamic and vibrant community with its interesting names, starting with the Singles, Doubles, Compounds, Little Germiston, The Flats, Fast Move (where I lived), Galeview, MM (Ma se Moer), Maseru, Reiger Park (where the bigger houses are found) and later a Pop Corn valley.

My mind involuntarily went back to a time in the early 80’s when the same community rose as one to execute an eviction notice on Indian shop owners. For those who lived through that epoch it is commonly referred to as a time when a community stood united in reclaiming their local economy from Indian shop owners.

We learn the community is aggrieved as confirmed by their claim that the new Leeuwpoort housing development is denied to Coloureds when foreigners have access to the same housing development. The full details for this claim warrants scrutiny since at this stage it’s the claim. However this claim is blanketed in what has come to be known as service delivery protests in South Africa.

We however must ask what is the unrest in Reiger Park confirming?

I will postulate, is it possible that Reiger Park is the evidence of the laboratory of the policy consequences adopted by the a Democratic State in narrowness of pursuing an uncritically adopted ‘African’ identity plausibly at the expense of people (Khoisan) who as people remain excluded in the Constitution of SA. Reiger Park may therefore in this season attest a microcosm of what is flaring up across South Africa.

The Democratic State continues in uphold of its uncritically appropriated colonial and apartheid markers for a common South African citizenry. The Democratic State appears adamant in refuse to engage the conflictual challenges and dualisms of its confirmed choice to continue the race trajectory for a South African anthropology.

What is indisputable is the centrality of race, a discredited enterprise more so the race captured diaphragm that continues to inform identity articulation in SA.

Despite the fact that we today no more have stratified communities in apartheid classification and categorization, the people who predominantly dwell in these communities are still defined and addressed by Act 30, 1950 Section C that made a people who always existed Coloured.

It is here that the challenge finds deeper meaning, if the state has declared all communities open for all therefore effectively integrated SA which is a rightful and justified act of developing and deepening our democracy, it equally in contradiction has failed to break with the identity construction of apartheid making.

We must ask in whose interest is this upholding of the unscientific race description for a common humanity. We must also ask how sustainable is the State’s confirmed claim in pretense of knowing what an ‘African’, ‘Black’, ‘Coloured’, ‘White’ or ‘Indian’ identity constitute in distinction and relationship of each other.

Identity in a democratic SA vacillates on a multiplicity of platforms but nowhere is more pronounced and felt then in opportunity and access. It is here the tension of perhaps an androgynous policy is ultimately being tested.

‘Coloureds’ who increasingly self-define in Khoisan identity find themselves excluded because until now the Khoisan identity is considered a historic perished society. The State therefore is yet to lead in providing an opportunity to hear how South Africans self-define.

These racial classifications and categorizations regardless to how in attempt of seeking redress perpetuates our proverbial long night of slavery of an otherness measurable and defined in a social constructionism of race. This when we all know race remains the produce of a racist mind.

Fundamental to the identity subject with race as the axis is the claim of preference and denial. Preference for ‘Africans’ informed by degrees of exacted apartheid pain and in direct exclusion of local others.

This narrow definition of what makes for an ‘African’ is further compounded when Africans from beyond the sovereign SA borders are brought into the equation.

It appears the Democratic State with its stubborn commitment to a borderless Africa regards those from outside South Africa as Africans equal to the narrow ‘African’. Therefore if the logical conclusion is drawn the African from beyond the SA borders stands to qualify for the opportunities, benefits and access no different to those apartheid defined in narrowness of exacted pain as African.

My now growing claim that the ‘African’ identity extrapolated from this narrow apartheid prism, which the ANC and the Democratic State against advise persists with can but only mean and translate to what I have termed a celebration of ‘ African” in “apartheid-accrued-identity-benefit’.

Could it be that today in Reiger Park the community is saying we are from this soil, we always have been, we existed long before apartheid redefined us as Coloureds it appears are conveniently made to hold on to the 1970’s Biko cohort of a black identity. Can we also make the case that Biko’s black cohort was not a timeless pact?

What do we hear when the people of Reiger Park say we are denied housing, which we are willing to pay for, because of our identity of being ‘Coloured’ this when foreigners receive housing?

Do we hear their cry that whilst they are denied to claim an African identity others from beyond the sovereign borders of SA are privileged to share that African identity thus the alleged access to Leeuwpoort’s Housing.

Is Reiger Park therefore not the laboratory evidence of policy consequences because we collectively hitherto have failed to critically engage the African identity so easily espoused.

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine

Political Commentator and Analyst


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