A most strange attitude exists among ANC leaders towards white engineers and white teachers, and skilled white people in general.
The ANC wants to get rid of them when they serve ordinary people but keep them when they serve its own elite; it resents them when they are here, and it resents them when they emigrate; it wants ‘transformation’ (which means kicking the whites out) but insists on white teachers for its own children; it cries out for more black ownership of South African companies and then it complains that whites are not investing here.
These contradictions have been in the news recently with the call by Pravin Gordhan, the Minister of Public Enterprises, to bring back the skilled workers that Eskom drove out. They have also been seen in the increasing accusations of racism against white teachers at the elite schools to which the ANC leaders send their children.
I have worked as a teacher and as an engineer, although my teaching days were long ago (last post 1977). I went back late in life to take a degree in engineering to add to my degree in physics. In 1987, I worked at an Eskom coal station and in its nuclear division, and then moved to a paper mill in KZN in 1990. From about 1990 on, it became clear that white engineers were not wanted. Employment agents told us that engineering posts were for blacks only. Almost all my white friends who graduated with me in engineering have left the country. They did not bother to look for a job here; they doubted they’d find one.
At Eskom, experienced, qualified, highly skilled engineers, technicians and artisans who had been working there long before 1994 were hunted down and persuaded to leave – and compensated for doing so. This was known as ‘space creation’. At a meeting at a power station, a friend heard some black human resources woman saying,’ Don’t these white engineers know they are not wanted?’ In its annual reports, Eskom boasts about its ‘racial equity’. While Eskom was delivering blackouts and power station accidents, its senior managers were receiving bonuses for meeting their equity targets. Eskom was not alone in wanting to get rid of white engineers. The municipalities were even more enthusiastic about driving them out, and the big private corporations did the same, although to a lesser extent.
If South Africa despises her white engineers, other countries hold them in high regard. There is a worldwide demand for South African nuclear engineers. A considerable number of them left Koeberg to help establish the new 5,600 MW, four-unit, South Korean nuclear plant in the United Arab Emirates. (It is over twice as big as Koeberg, and was built on schedule and on budget.)
A friend, who graduated with me in mechanical engineering at UCT, made a fortune in the City of London with financial IT and employed over 300 people. At Lanseria airport, I spoke to an engineer specialising in water supply and sanitation, who had recently done a tour of Australian municipalities. He said South African engineers were doing a wonderful job in providing plentiful, clean, safe water and hygienic sanitation – for Australians. They would not be allowed to do the same here in municipalities that have been transformed, such as, for example, Nelson Mandela Bay.
Skills and experience
Gordhan is right to think that Eskom is in desperate need of skills and experience. The lack of them has been a major cause of Eskom’s ruin since 1994 – although by no means the only one. Expensive, stupid, dangerous accidents at its power stations in recent years seem to have been caused mainly by sheer incompetence. (There probably has been a bit of sabotage too, but I guess not on a concerted scale.)
The recent explosion of the generator at Unit 3 on the brand-new Medupi station was caused by pure incompetence during a perfectly simple, routine procedure. I’ve heard reports that the operators responsible hadn’t a clue what they were doing.
But there will be instant hostility to the idea of bringing back skilled whites. It would be racist! It would be suggesting that blacks are inherently inferior, that blacks are unable to do the job. The whole argument over racial affirmative action turns in on itself in a vicious circle. You appoint a black man by affirmative action, meaning that his race was part of the reason for his appointment. He turns out to be incompetent but you can’t say that for fear of being called a racist, yet everybody sees he is incompetent. Blacks who are competent know that he is incompetent and got the job because of affirmative action, and they know that many whites think the same about them. They know these whites think they are incompetent too, and also got their jobs because of affirmative action, but are too scared to say so. This makes the competent blacks angry. And so resentment, racial hostility and inefficiency mount up.
You must appoint blacks on affirmative action and then you must lie that you didn’t appoint them on affirmative action; you will be called a racist if you tell the truth and say they are affirmative action appointees. (For the thousandth time, I believe that blacks and whites are inherently equally competent, and appointments should be on merit alone.) Bringing back white skills to Eskom would be an admission that affirmative action is a failure, and so is unlikely to happen on any meaningful scale.
The problem is even more complicated and contradictory in teaching. The ANC’s fundamental policy on race and teaching is this: ordinary, low-class people must have black teachers; the upper-class ANC elite must have white teachers. For the working-class masses: a township school with black affirmative action teachers and pit latrines. For the ANC bourgeois elite: Bishops, Roedean, St Stithians, St John’s and posh Model-C schools with white teachers and magnificent sports fields.
ANC leaders such as Cyril Ramaphosa and Naledi Pandor would be horrified at the thought of their children being taught by black affirmative action teachers at state schools. From the word go, the ANC set about getting rid of white teachers for the masses. Its first education minister, Sibusiso Bengu, was highly successful in driving out thousands of white teachers of maths, science and other subjects with his redeployment strategy.
In about 1996, I was wondering vaguely about my own chances of getting a job as a teacher in South Africa. I spoke to an ex-teacher, a coloured man, who had been driven out. I told him I had Honours degrees in maths, physics and engineering, and five years teaching experience at high schools, including three years teaching O-Level maths and science in England. I asked him what my chances were. He was too polite to laugh at me, and just replied, ‘None’. I think he meant no chance at an ordinary state school. I think I had a slim chance at a private school, but maybe I was fooling myself. (I wasn’t too serious. Teaching was the hardest job in my life, and I shouldn’t want to go back to it.)
The ANC revolutionary elite, who ceaselessly preach affirmative action, employment equity (if 92% of the people are black, 92% of teachers should be black), BEE, transformation and cadre deployment, make sure that their own children go to posh private or Model-C schools where most of the teachers are white, appointed on merit. The SACP, EFF and trade union leaders do the same. But in recent years there is a new requirement for the schools they choose, a strange psychological need: the teachers must not only be white, they must also be white racists.
There are more and more reports of racism at white private schools, especially, and significantly I believe, at girls’ schools. The ANC parents choose the schools because the teachers are white and have a traditional Western culture, and then complain because there are too many white teachers and they don’t respect their black culture.
Dare we ask why they didn’t send them to a township school where all the teachers are black, and where the culture is African? It seems today that no school experience of a rich ANC pupil is complete and satisfying unless he – or more likely she – can accuse a white teacher of racism and disrespect. Her school career is a failure unless she is a victim of white racism. She is desperate to find white racism and, if she can’t, she will invent it.
I hear horror story after horror story from teachers at posh schools in Johannesburg and Cape Town. I have already mentioned the instance where three black girls accused a white teacher of racism because she asked them to keep social distances in the playground during Covid lockdown; she was hauled before the headmistress but fortunately not asked to resign or to take the knee and make a public confession.
Recently in Gauteng, a white Afrikaans teacher, asking for help in an unruly class, said she needed a ‘polisiemannetjie’. Quick as a flash, a black pupil accused her of calling him a ‘police monkey’. She was accused of racism and dismissed. The Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi, rejected her application to appeal against her dismissal. Eventually, 10 months later, a court found her not guilty of racism, overturned her dismissal and ordered her to be re-employed as a teacher. She was very lucky. I’m told some teachers have resigned, voluntarily or involuntarily, in similar circumstances.
Near me, in Fish Hoek, a teacher was dismissed for racism because he tried to give a historical explanation for certain racial terms. None of the reports said what he actually said but I guess he said kaffir was a Moslem word meaning non-believer, therefore applying to all Christians of all races. In another case a school prefect was expelled for using the term people of colour (which I find excruciatingly PC; it seems it is sometimes compulsory and sometimes forbidden, and you never know when).
Caiden Lang, a fellow Daily Friend writer, knows a lot more about this sort of thing than I do, and writes good and disturbing articles on it.
A new racism industry has sprung up to profit from the deep need of the ANC elite and the woke whites to find and exploit white racism – an increasingly rare, and therefore ‘precious’, commodity.
Previously the activities of the racism industry were in company boardrooms and HR departments, but now they have been extended to rich schools – please note, only rich, elitist schools, never the schools where poor black children suffer appallingly bad education in terrible conditions, including pit latrines, and where black children from the rest of Africa suffer actual racism from their black peers far worse than the largely imaginary racism in the elite private schools.
A friend teaching at a Model-C school in Cape Town told me that after some trivial incidents, the school hired an expensive professional racism hunter to give them a lecture on Critical Race Theory (CRT). Other schools for the elite pay a lot of money for instruction on ‘Diversity’.
The general idea of both CRT and Diversity training at schools is to persuade the white children that they are evil, the black children that they are helpless, and the white teachers that they are inveterate racists. (The specific idea of Diversity training is to stamp out all diversity and make all schools the same. They must all teach in English, and not Afrikaans. They must have complete uniformity of belief in every woke fashion from the USA, including CRT, transgenderism, climate hysteria and so on.) The racist teachers can only be cured by confessing their sins and handing over an awful lot of money to the race witch-finders, whose fundamental aim is to promote racial hatred. The more racial hatred, the more money they make. The idea of black pupils, white pupils, black teachers and white teachers all mingling easily, happily and fruitfully together, which would happen automatically if they were left alone, horrifies them. I think racial harmony actually disgusts the practitioners of CRT.
I am delighted to see that on the internet there is an ‘Open letter to St Stithians and Sally James’, challenging these schools on race and sex indoctrination. I should like to see a register of all schools that teach CRT and Diversity, stating in each case how much the schools (meaning the parents) had to pay for it. I should like such a register to be made public so that new parents could have good information when choosing a school.
As for the engineering, well, I just hope that Pravin Gordhan has success in bringing back the engineering, technical and artisanal skills we need so urgently. Without them, our chances of becoming a successful industrial country are nil.
The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR
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