Double Standards in South Africa

Double Standards in South Africa

Every three months or so a white South African lands in trouble because of the word “kaffir”, usually, as in the most recent case, because of a few drinks too many at a rugby venue or braai. Incidents like these are usually splashed on front pages with outcries of “racism” by almost every black trade union and political party. In a country where the majority have a chip on their shoulder regarding anything that smacks of “racism” this is not surprising.

What is surprising, though, is the double standards.

Hardly a day goes by without a white person being called “mhlungu” or “lekgoa”. These words are used in shops, in government offices, in homes, in shebeens, at taxi ranks – everywhere. Yet there is no public outcry. It is accepted practice in South Africa for a black majority to call minorities names.

Black languages like Setswana and Sepedi do not even have another name for Indians than “makula” – taken from the racist word “coolie”.

So, what does the word “lekgoa” mean? The word whites are described with?

Originally the word was used to describe white missionaries in the 1700’s and 1800’s and it actually referred to the British, meaning “vomit from the sea”. It soon caught on to describe all white people. Vomit from the sea.

Linguistic studies show interesting origins for the word. First off all, almost all African languages consist of word classes for people (mo/ba) and things, objects (le/ma). The word “lekgoa” thus refers not to a person but to a thing. Literary it means (goa)“The thing that makes a noise”.

In Setswana and Sepedi it literary means (kgoa) “The thing that is rude”. That alone makes it racist.
But there is also another meaning for “kgoa”, namely a tick, a parasite.

The smiling cashier at your friendly supermarket on the corner calling you a “lekgoa” is thus actually calling you “a parasitic vomit and thing from the sea making noise”. Nice, isn’t it?

Does it bother me personally to be called “lekgoa”?

No, it doesn’t.

In our western culture we know to take insults from whom they are coming. In our western culture we had a writer named Shakespeare who said: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. We are a cursing people.

You can call me a doos by all means.

What bothers me, though, is the double standards and the feigned political correctness when the majority are called “kaffirs” by some drunken guy on Newlands. Get over it.

By Hannes Engelbrecht


South Africa Today – South Africa News