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Globalization and politics

Rosebell Kagumire
Blogger/Communication Specialist
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piqer: Rosebell Kagumire
Monday, 20 March 2017

From South Africa To The West: What Shapes Colonial Liberalism?

On March 16, Helen Zille, the former leader of South Africa’s second largest political party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), found herself in troubled waters over a series of tweets where she thought it wise to recognize the goodness of colonialism.

Zille who is now the Premier of the Western Cape (one of South Africa’s nine provinces) thought those of us who live in colonized nations should be grateful. Zille pointed to a functioning independent judiciary and transportation systems to uphold her support, saying they make colonialism look sexy and mutually beneficial.

She (rightly) attracted the wrath of mostly young black South Africans and was forced to apologize and take down the tweets. The apology itself was not accepted by some because it came after pressure from the DA party leadership.

As one South African put it on Facebook: “she did not apologise unreservedly because she doesn't, in fact, believe that the legacy of the subjugation and dehumanisation of an entire people was bad. No, she very much believes much of colonialism was positive."

The tweets and twitterstorm are a glimpse into post-apartheid South Africa and the writer takes us through the politics, history of the DA and discrimination, as well as how apartheid shaped a certain kind of colonial liberalist.

“White scholars rarely condemn colonial conquest in its totality. Their views of a non-racial society are shaped by a certain brand of colonial liberalism that was opposed to apartheid, but saw the idea of European civilization spreading to Africa as a fundamentally good thing, and certainly a better outcome than letting Africans rule their own countries according to their own traditions and aspirations.”

The writer goes further to show that such views aren’t just specific to South Africa but rather widely held in Western academic circles. The insistence that colonialism wasn’t that bad is the view of the person who lives with the least, if any, of the consequences, and is part of the wider rise of what the writer calls "liberal racism". 

From South Africa To The West: What Shapes Colonial Liberalism?

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