Statement

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On 23 February 2020, a group of ten white Afrikaners, who had benefitted from apartheid, issued a statement in which they recognised their complicity in the system of apartheid and offered an unqualified apology to their fellow South Africans.

The legacy of apartheid has scarred this country, and it is still seen in its breath-taking wealth disparities, gated communities, and polarised public debates.

Yet, we also have reason for hope. In their everyday interactions, South Africans continue to cross bridges where once there had been none. We recognise that for these bridges to expand and strengthen, we need to face up to our past and to acknowledge the lingering pain experienced by most South Africans.

Our statement drew eager responses from hundreds of people, from all population groups, in various media, saying they agreed, and asking to join us.

This website creates an opportunity for like-minded people to support the statement, to share and enrich our perspectives, and to suggest ways in which we could build healthy relationships.

We therefore invite you to join us, and to make it your own.

DECLARATION ON APARTHEID BY CONCERNED CITIZENS

Deeply aware of the scars caused by the inhumane system of apartheid to our fellow citizens,

Appalled by continued insensitive and transparent efforts to avoid admitting outright that apartheid was indeed a crime against humanity,

Observing how old wounds have been reopened, and distrust and division are surfacing as a result,

Taking cognisance of the spontaneous outburst of outrage in the public debate, not only from those who had suffered under apartheid, but also from those who had benefitted from it,

We as concerned citizens who have benefited from apartheid, declare herewith that:

1) We acknowledge that apartheid was a crime against humanity and morally indefensible,

2) We deeply regret the suffering of our fellow citizens under that inhumane and humiliating system and express our sincere apology towards all fellow South Africans,

3) We recognize the importance of all efforts to work towards economic restitution through diverse measures. We commit ourselves to overcoming disparities resulting from the legacy of apartheid and note with appreciation the various public-private partnerships and private sector and community initiatives to address backlogs, poverty and inequality,

4) We also regret the fact that all South Africans were prevented from mixing freely socially and economically, thus being denied the enjoyment of the rich diversity of the Rainbow Nation and subjected to indoctrination based on fear and prejudice. It has left our society all the poorer for it.

Although we speak in our personal capacities we represent likeminded colleagues, friends and family members – we owe it to them to take a stand; we are also inspired by the voices of likeminded citizens expressed in the media and social networks.

Individually and collectively, we pledge our commitment towards a united, non-racial, just and equal society.


16 June 2020 Update

In this time of crisis, one inevitably reflects on the complexity of South Africa’s racial and social landscape, and on how the past affects the present, as well as the future. Our statement of 23 February 2020 is now even more relevant than when we made it. It sheds some light on the events we are now observing. It also provides a platform to people who wish to actively identify themselves with an unconditional apology for the injustices of our past, and an opportunity for us and others to help build a more equal society, with more mutual understanding, trust and respect.

We are not a new movement or a political grouping – we are merely a group of white South Africans who felt in February that we could not agree with the continued denial of the damage caused by apartheid. We offered an apology for apartheid as a crime against the humanity of fellow South Africans, as a gesture of reconciliation. 

We began to give some thought to how we could give a practical expression to our commitment to help address the legacy of socio-economic inequality and continued social separation between various segments in our population – the bitter fruits of our colonial and apartheid history, which was characterised by violence and dispossesion. And then COVID-19 descended on all of us.

There is an ongoing country-wide process of deep introspection, as the spotlight around COVID-19 falls on vulnerable communities, often bordering on wealthy suburbs. The corona virus holds up a mirror to all of us. Our country is currently, rightly, focussed on measures to limit the spread of n COVID-19.

The Group of 10 will soon consider various possibilities to further the objectives of our statement in practical ways. We have received a number of interesting suggestions. As individuals with other responsibilites, we don’t intend to start a new orgnisation. However, we would like to work with and support other groups that are already doing good work in various areas to build mutual understanding and collaboration, and to achieve social cohesion and socio-economic restitution. Most of us, and many of the people who have signed the statement, are already active in related community projects.

The response to the recent publication of Dr Leon Wessels’s book Encountering Apartheid’s Ghosts (Naledi, 2020) has again emphasised the importance and impact of an unconditional apology, particularly to people who suffered under apartheid, while COVID-19 has focussed our attention on the social chasms and socio-economic inequality between the various communities that make up our society. 

We wish to express our appreciation to the almost 1 000 people who have signed the statement. Every signature sends a positive message to fellow South Africans that we really care. We invite fellow South Africans, from all communities, who feel and think as we do, and who wish to help to build a better future together, to also add their names.

– Group of 10