Steve Biko

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Coloured identity: democracy’s Trojan Horse

Greek mythology gave us, in a classic sense with the tale of the Trojan War that ends in death of the people of Troy, our grasp on what we today call the Trojan Horse phenomenon. At Troy the masses died because death manifested in what we may call a familiar or easily associated structure, a gift to their gods, an innocent wooden horse.


In the 80’s we as Cape-based students were physically introduced to the more modern version and true reality of what the people of mythical Troy experienced. We quickly learned that apartheid’s deadliest machinery and henchmen armed with R1 rifles often used a Simba chips truck. Yet it held the imminent threat of death for those who attempted to come close.


Coloured – the apartheid social construct with its recorded origins directly traced to Act 30, 1950 Section C declared a people that always existed as Coloured – stubbornly protests its own demise in our democratic society.


Deborah Posel reminds us, “the architects of apartheid racial classification policies recognised explicitly that racial categories were constructs, rather than description of essences”. It would appear whilst apartheid’s architects knew what they were doing, the Democratic State and those who in political correctness identify with its appropriated prism on our common anthropology appear to be attaching a description of essence directly eked out of these apartheid constructs.




Recently, 702’s Eusebius McKaiser hosted a panel of people who along with him all identify as Coloured. Mckaiser’s own definition of his identity in a paraphrased sense attests him seeing himself as politically black and culturally Coloured.


I am all for self-definition and will therefore not attempt to deny anyone else that same inalienable right I claim for myself. However, it’s important to unpack a self-definition of Coloured identity in order to appreciate my contention that the Coloured identity veils a Trojan Horse reality.


The interesting known fact as captured by those McKaiser shared the panel with is the recognition of how many more people, with ease, self identify in a Khoisan identity. Perhaps this was a moment McKaiser missed, in not inquiring more on this.



Political black notion


One can appreciate the rationalisation of identity that confirms a philosophical leaning to a collective black identity – which functions as a political identity – as captured in among others the ANC’s National Question and, in a footnote sense, in the constitution of previously disadvantaged. The politically black identity, as McKaiser claims for himself, is therefore directly drawn from the contribution of black consciousness to the liberation cause.


When McKaiser claims a black political identity, it’s on the diaphragm of a more recent 1960-70’s black consciousness mind that in exchange with US Black Power movements, gave us for the first time a prism on black as a responsive means. May I hasten to add, black in that sense is therefore not the invention or creation in origin of those who were categorised black? Black power, the US sister to Black Consciousness, remains a response to give power new content until James Brown belted it out “say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud”. I have elsewhere contended when Stokeley Carmichael stood up at Berkeley California in 1969 with a clenched fist, he was not defining black; he was in the attempt of defining power.


Steven Bantu Biko, who gave us the psychology dosage of a black consciousness philosophy, laments the need to fill the black mind with new content to free himself. It is here we may comfortably deduce if no one ever claimed or made us feel what white power is we may never have had to define black power.


We may thus argue McKaiser’s prism of a black political identity within the scope of humanity’s sojourn is a reactionary and more recent concept rooted in a particular epoch evidenced in the latter part of the 20th Century, in manifestation of a pact of that was labelled the Biko Cohort.


Needless to say, that cohort struggles to find its rhythm and beat in a democratic context where the ANC’s policy prism imbibes its overarching aim as the emancipation of the African in particular, and a black identity extrapolated from BC as the vague general. It equally perpetuates the defense of an existence of a white identity, thus a political black identity cannot stand on its own devoid of a white identity.


Is it possible to accept that if we had not acknowledged and appropriated the false notion of a white identity, the claim of black identity may never have stood in and of itself?



Cultural identity notion


One may rightly appreciate the need to acknowledge the dynamic cultural expressions that informs what McKaiser and others uphold.


To therefore appreciate Mckaiser’s epistemology on a unique cultural Coloured identity, one is compelled to deduce a cultural identity, which exists since Act 30, of 1950 as that which consumes the totality of a people that have always existed.


Perhaps the more appropriate question is how the people that became Coloured by an Act identified before? How did they articulate their identity and what was their cultural handle on themselves. How was their cultural expression understood, articulated and defined outside the malignancy of an Act of an illegitimate Apartheid State?


Perhaps McKaiser is really seeking to argue the uniqueness of a people’s culture which may be acceptable, but the Trojan Horse of coloured identity is shown in this that the people in question have a uniqueness that had a life, size and essence before 1950. This pre-1950 identity is now overtaken and annihilated in embrace of what an apartheid state had given as a familiar identity marker, namely Coloured.


To then talk of Coloured as a cultural identity is to engage in an oxymoron because the identity Coloured cannot be disengaged from its creation in aim of denying a people that always existed to function in their own identity. The coloured identity, and by extension colouredism, therefore functions than as Trojan Horse when it’s only true essence is directly related to the obliteration of an identity that existed  (Khoi and San) for centuries before 1950.


More and more, people categorised by apartheid as Coloured on daily basis in democracy articulate their self-identifying in a Khoi and San aboriginal frame without having to explain to anyone why and what that means. Listening to South Africans on a daily basis across various platforms self-identifying in what Mbeki’s famed speech called – a people who perished- appears so normal that one may assume this identity is a living reality in the 1996 democratic constitution. I am afraid it is  not.


The conversation on self-defining leaves a sweet taste on one’s pallet, only to be overtaken by the proverbial aloe of those who today continue to give Coloured a relevance, permanency and an essence beyond what apartheid intended at the expense of a necessary identity that always existed.


It appears that McKaiser et al, as part of the ruling elite, are part of those who in a sense of their normality today in 2017 still seek to give Colouredism an anchored and undeniable reality when South Africans see the wooden horse for what it is.

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine

Political Analyst and Commentator 

Political commentator Clyde Ramalaine. PICTURE: Supplied
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4 thoughts on “Coloured identity: democracy’s Trojan Horse

  1. On a number of issues you persuasively suggest a perspective that unfortunately is not new. I think you should look more carefully at the introduction of slaves into the Cape economy and the ways people then began to construct identities. It was not a foregone conclusion but the notion of coloured gained currency long before 1950. And this discussion need an injection of analysis the period before 1950 etc.

    1. I agree that with Trevor insofar as your analysis longitudinality. And so – while you invoke acts from 1950, you are silent on the attitudes of the population during the same time. MacKaiser is hardly a go-to example to use, even anecdotally, given his own “mafikizolo” baggage. And you assertion that the “Coloured construct” was solely founded in the Apartheid Ideology is questionable, on multiple levels. So “Coloured” as a racial denomination did not always originate from the ruling class at the time when the term was first recorded.

      1. Thanks Gavin for taking the time to read and join the conversation to some great part of your support of Trevor my response covers you too.

        The primary reason for solidifying the indentity notwithstanding the historical reality of society involvement before 1950 is the fact that the fundamental distinction with communities and the State resonates in the State make laws the community however defined simply don’t. To pretend that the community was consulted through an acknowledged process of engagement that fed into the Act30,1950 is to engage in a sophism.

        Concerning McKaiser I wrote two pieces this one deals with the Trojan Horse phenomenon. The context for it was a conversation McKaiser with a panel who identify as Coloured had a few weeks ago. So he is not the centre of the argument of this article.

        I have shared my observations on his personal identity journey or crisis as I showed which plays out in public space.

        I hold no right on whether he is the correct person for the engagement, I can’t support your views on McKaiser and think it is a side track from a relevant dialogue we are having on a Coloured Identity.
        Thank you again for your input!

    2. Thanks Trevor for your promised input. It is firstly important to appreciate the fact that I never claimed the information was new. New is perhaps an irrelevant aspect to use as an entry point.

      Secondly the critical aspect of the Slave history and identity is not lost on the ears or conscience of those who seek to engage the topic.

      In fact we will dedicate an article as was the plan to engage the very Trojan Horse phenomenon from that corner of the Slave history which has a identity history framed in a religion dimension to it.

      I will attempt to show that for this slice of society they warrant staying Coloured because a dissecting of that identity goes to the nerve of their humanity.

      Two years ago I asked Faiez Jacobs what he meant when he in his first interview as Provivial Secretary of the WC ANC said I am Muslim and Coloured? You may google that too.

      He did that on the back of what Ebrahim Rassool said when he became premier paraphrased – the son of a slave is today becoming premier-

      We will show the Trojan horse phenomenon from that premise.

      I concur the debate and analysis must be engaged and again thank you for your input.

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