16 February 2009

What did he mean? Sally Bassett & South Africa

I wrote a letter to the Royal Gazette about Rolfe Commissiong's latest tempest in a teacup (original link to my letter here, Rolfe Commissong's response here):

February 11, 2009

Dear Sir,

In today's article on the unveiling of the Sally Bassett statue, you quote Rolfe Commissiong as saying that the Governor's remarks were "insensitive and racially invidious", because the Governor drew a parallel between our statue and South Africa's Blood River Monument. It is unfortunate that Mr. Commissiong cannot see that there is more than one way to make a point.

As Government's race relations consultant, he has the unenviable job of helping our island understand the past and present of race relations. But, he only knows how to do this one way: by verbally whipping whites. Predictably, this is not getting the desired response from everyone; we all know that honey draws more flies than vinegar.

To me, the Governor was making the point that despite the atrocious events of apartheid, and the importance of the Blood River monument to apartheid's creators, even South Africa's post-apartheid government could see fit to leave the Blood Rver statue standing. And, if this is the case, whites in Bermuda can try to understand the importance of the Sally Bassett statue, even though they find it an unpleasant reminder of history.

Douglas S. J. De Couto Ph.D., J.P.



Sal said...

Rolfe, know your Zulu

February 12, 2009

Dear Sir,

I read with amusement today the comments of government appointed race agitator Rolfe Commissiong regarding his thoughts on the Governor's remarks and the specific reference to the Blood River Monument.

Rolfe's view was that such a reference was insensitive on the basis the monument commemorates a battle in which 10,000 Zulus were defeated by Dutch settlers and, in Rolfe's view, "effectively ended that (the Zulu) Nation".

Time for a fact check, Rolfe. At the Battle of Blood River, 10,000 Zulus attacked Dutch settlors numbering 470. This attack was repulsed and the Zulu army suffered 3,000 casualties. They were not, however "effectively ended as a nation".

If a result of the Battle of Blood River in 1838 was an end of the Zulu Nation, then perhaps Rolfe could explain how it is the case that, on January 22, 1879, Zulu impi numbering 20,000 fighting for King Cetshwayo, annihilated a British force under Lord Chelmsford at the foot of Isandlwana in Zululand. British casualties on the day were in excess of 1,300. For the modern British army to be defeated by an army armed only with assegais and cowhide shields at the height of the power and might of Victorian Britain was, and remains, an astonishing accomplishment. This victory is still celebrated today.

However, even after the battle for the royal kraal at Ulundi, the capital of Zululand in July the same year, when King Cetshwayo was captured by Chelmsford and the military might of the Zulu army was broken, the power and influence of the Zulu continued. They remain the single most dominant tribe in the region and, today, the president of the ANC is Jacob Zuma, a Zulu.

For someone who holds his African descent in such high regard I would have expected Rolfe to know more about it.


Isle of Man

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