Apartheid Futures and the Limits of Racial Reconciliation

Type Book
Title Apartheid Futures and the Limits of Racial Reconciliation
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Publisher Johannesburg: Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research
URL http://wiser.wits.ac.za/sites/default/files/private/documents/Mbembe - 2015 - Public Positions -​Apartheid Futures.pdf
Race has been a powerful, if destructive, force in the making of the modern
world. It has separated masters from slaves, colonizers from colonized, settlers
from natives, citizens from subjects. In response, historical struggles against
racism and white supremacy have contributed to a deepening of the key
normative pillars of the modern international order.
Various rights, including the right to self-determination, have been universalized.
So have been core concepts of modern life such as freedom and justice, the
equality of all human beings, or the belief that political power is meant to protect
human life. The persistent conviction that democracy is the best form of
realization of human freedom is owed in no small way to the relentless critique of
racial rule by various abolitionist, anti-colonial and civil rights movements. The
historical commitments to bring about a non-racial world have not only been
underpinned by various philosophies of redress and reparation. At their core has
also been some idea of a shared humanity.
Perhaps no other country in the world has experienced a proliferation of
traditions of non-racialism as South Africa. After all, it is here that the utopia of a
non-racial political community was forcefully captured in the 1955 Freedom
Charter. The post-apartheid State has also fostered a normative project with the
aim of achieving justice through reconciliation, equality through economic
redress, democracy through the transformation of the law and the rehabilitation
of a variety of rights, including the right to dignity. This normative project has
been enshrined in a utopian Constitution that attempts to establish a new
relationship between law and society on the one hand and law and life on the
As a result, twenty years after the formal abolition of apartheid, South Africa is no
longer what it used to be. It is coming out of the dark age of white supremacy.
Whether by design or not, the country is undergoing multiple and systemic
transitions, at different paces and rhythms. In an age that has witnessed an
exacerbation of historically entrenched racial hierarchies, it is involved in one of
the few contemporary global experiments with a view of creating the first credible
non racial society on the planet. To a large extent, this involves deracialising the
ownership of assets and cultural capital while reconciling the principles of equal
protection, affirmative action and non-discrimination. The chances of this
experiment to succeed cannot be ruled out. But nor can they be taken for granted

Related studies