The Afrikaans writer Annelie Botes found out recently that you have to at least act like a politically correct human being to be respected in the public sphere. The acclaimed writer won a K Sello Duiker Memorial Award from SALA (South African Literary Awards) for her novel Thula, Thula, which focused on incest. A day before the award’s banquet, SALA informed Botes that her award was withdrawn on the basis of the very candid remarks she made and which were published in The Rapport Newspaper.
The 53-year-old writer told the paper: “I am now going to be terribly honest. And let it shock this country. I do not like black people. I don’t understand them… I know they are people like me, I know they have the same rights as me. But I do not understand them. And then… I don’t like them. I avoid them, because I am afraid of them.”
For a white woman living in an African country, her sentiments are not only shocking but outrageous. Sure, Botes is Afrikaans and as a presumed descendant of early Dutch settlers, who date back to 17h century, doesn’t have to justify her inhabitance on the African continent but to an international audience, her comments are made worse by the fact that she’s part of the white minority that once oppressed Africans in their own homeland.
In the interview, she also discussed the changing political climate in South Africa. “I suspect black people are no longer furious with white people, but instead they are furious with their own government, and now they are taking it out on white people.”
She also lamented the death of her neighbor at the hands of disgruntled Black citizens. “My neighbor was brutally murdered. Why? If black people are hungry, why don’t they just break in like in the old days, empty out the fridge and then leave?” Botes has stuck to her guns and refused to retract her comments, even repeating those same sentiments to the Mail & Guardian. In that sense, Botes is commendable. Oftentimes, public figures will draft quick press releases apologizing for their remarks and framing it as a random, mistaken occurrence. Botes is prejudiced and she stands up for herself in that way. And she seems to be ready to handle the backlash that comes with racism: public disapproval. She has since lost her post as a columnist for an Afrikaans newspaper and along with her withdrawn award, she will most likely not be traveling the world making appearances on behalf of her art.