Monday, November 29, 2010
White Afrikaner novelist's comments about black people spark furious debate in South Africa
An award-winning writer has provoked fierce debate in South Africa after candidly saying that she does not like black people. Annelie Botes, a leading Afrikaner novelist, said she would invite a white, colored (mixed race) or an Indian man in for a drink, but would "feel threatened by a black man". The comments, quoted in South African newspapers, have caused a storm in a country still sensitive about race relations 16 years after the end of apartheid. Botes claims she has received 1,000 supportive emails but there was also widespread condemnation of her views. The row began when Rapport, an Afrikaans paper, asked her to name people she does not like. Her reply: "Black people." Soon after, she was sacked as a columnist for another newspaper. Then South Africa's Mail & Guardian contacted the author, whom it says is probably the most popular contemporary female writer in Afrikaans, the language of the descendants of Dutch and other European settler farmers. Botes recently won the Afrikaans category of the K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary award for her novel, Thula-thula, which tackles child abuse and incest. The 53-year-old stood by her original comments. "I'm scared," she told the paper. "In my daily life there's no one else that I feel threatened by except black people. If a courier comes to my door and he's white, colored or Indian, I'd have no problem inviting him in for a glass of water. But I would feel threatened by a black man." She added that two years ago her laptop, containing a manuscript, was stolen while she was asleep and a neighbor was murdered. "You tell me what the face of crime is in South Africa. If you hear the window shatter and confront the perpetrator, who do you expect that crook to be?" Asked about challenging racial stereotypes, she replied: "I don't have the means to get my head around that of a black man. I can't understand that. As a writer, I write what I see, what I experience and put it into context. It isn't my job to be politically correct."