Dear Mmusi Maimane

Dear Mmusi Maimane,

Your recent comments about race in particular your statement about ‘multiracialism’ refers.

It was PW Botha, the arch proponent of multiracialism, who advocated three separate houses of parliament for ‘whites’, ‘Indians’ and ‘coloureds’ at the same time as endorsing bantustans that disenfranchised the black majority.

It was multiracialism, which later became known as the multiregionalist theory of human evolution — a diabolical theory positing the unproven view that distinct races spontaneously emerged from different parts of the globe — which informed ideas of race superiority alongside the subjugation of those deemed to be of an inferior race.

The moribund idea stands in stark opposition to the progressive values of non-racialism which frame and underpin our own constitution in particular its preamble, and which compel all South Africans to recognise the injustices of the past, whilst avoiding the repetition of race-based thinking which was the root cause of the tragedy known as apartheid.

Whilst I share many of your concerns about the Democratic Alliance, and I am certainly not writing this letter to endorse a party platform, suffice to suggest that you are doing yourself and those surrounding you a grave disservice by engaging in a reactionary political discourse. A discourse that is not only embarrassing but also tantamount to treason, since it clearly runs contrary to the democratic and human rights foundations upon which this country is based.

To argue “any view that seeks to deny that race exists will ultimately deny the lived experience of many because of their race,” is a regressive step into a category error that merely reasserts scientific racism at the same time that it deflects attention away from the reality that those classified by the apartheid state, are still battling to escape its terrible legacy.

Terms such as ‘historically disadvantaged’ and ‘affirmative action’ have often been used to redress the reality, that to use author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ phrase, ‘race is the child of racism, not the father’. In contrast, it was Robert Sobukwe, founder of the PAC who once averred, ‘multiracialism is racism multiplied”.

It is clear that there are both economic and cultural components which we ignore at our peril, and just about nobody is suggesting that foregoing race-based typology is somehow a motion to abolish blackness in a cultural sense, nor a call to deny ongoing discrimination.

I agree “we don’t need to de-construct race. We need to de-construct the stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination that have been attached to race by our painful past. We also need to undo patterns of exclusion that are still based on race.”

The question really is how one goes about achieving a non-racial goal, without repeating the mistakes of the past? And to do so without turning the world into a checker-board predicated upon a notional idea of race, in which each other square is occupied by a person so defined, merely in order to create an illusion of equality?

Surely the issue is not race per se, but race-based discrimination? If one can imagine a country that is able to move beyond race, then so be it. Betraying Mandela’s dream by cancelling non-racialism is not the solution.

Attempting to stigmatise those who have succeeded in deconstructing and dismantling race-think and race-speak (as I have on many occasion), is not the path forward. Nor should we endorse similar racist views held by corrupt members of the Bar and even our judiciary, that turn persons such as myself into non-people.

I therefore challenge you to debate the many questions raised above.

Sincerely yours,

David Robert Lewis

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