And you thought racism was dead?

HARARE - Among the South African journalists of the pioneering Drum magazine I admired the most was Lewis Nkosi, one of whose most popular books was Home And Exile.

But he also wrote a novel, Mating Birds, which featured a love affair between a white woman and a black man in apartheid South Africa.

It was a best-seller and contributed enormously to an understanding of racism in its rawest form. I was reminded of it after listening to an amazing account of a racist incident in Bulawayo recently.

An elderly white person was reported to have chided a group of Africans at a social function with the remark that “I didn’t know monkeys could use the cellphone”.

The incident caused such a ruckus it culminated in the police being called in.

In this real-life drama — I was reliably told — the utterer of the remark was hauled into a police station and forced to apologise profusely for his insult in a country now independent for 34 years and, practically, run by the “monkeys”.

So, a lot of people, including some of the “monkeys”, are not entirely satisfied the people doing this job know their right from their left hand.

But it still enrages them to hear such a remark from a person of the race whose people killed 40 000 people in resisting change.

We should not forget that racism still roams the world like a deadly pestilence, witness the recent incident in the United States, where a citizen belonging to the same race as the president was a victim of racism by a section of the people enforcing law and order.

I met Nkosi in the flesh in the 1970s, after I had written my first novel in Zambia, The Hanging, which featured a brief love affair between an African journalist and an Afrikaner woman in Lusaka.

Nkosi told me that his novel, Mating Birds, had been inspired by that particular part of my novel.

This tribute almost blew my mind. Nkosi had already made a name for himself as a writer and here he was, praising me, after publication of my first novel anywhere in the world.

There is hardly any Zimbabwean who needs to be reminded that we fought a bloody war.

Many of us still wonder if, in the 1958 elections, the party led by RS Garfield Todd, had won an overwhelming majority against the racist policies of Edgar Whitehead’s  party.

Would there have been the bloodshed that followed the 1959 banning of the nationalist movement?

That there were whites willing to accommodate the black people in a form of partnership in the government seemed quite likely to become a reality.

This is idle speculation and must be regarded as fanciful by many students of the realpolitik school which deals only with the hard facts of the world of the possible.

Yet, when you look at the world today, you are bound to wonder: what happened to the communism propounded  so zealously by Karl Marx in Das Kapital, the many writings of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and all “the thoughts” of Mao Zedong?

You must also wonder how the world has defied what some people called “the political logic” of, for instance, American politics: who would have conceived of an African-American president after the end of the Second World War?

What we are seeing in the Middle East is just as vexious:

Israel’s attacks on Gaza could herald a fresh international look at the logic of destroying Palestine.

Whoever thought of the end of apartheid?

    Post a comment

    Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
    Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
    - Editor

    Your email address will not be shared.