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How Mr Volschenk bravely tried for black

My sympathy to Louis Volschenk, who is trying for black, or at very least coloured, so that his company benefits from Black Economic Empowerment.

os kom laterFoto:

Almost as much sympathy as I had in the bad old days for South Africans of various hues who tried for white.

Volschenk, aged 47, feels very aggrieved because the city of Cape Town refuses to accept he is anything other than white, on the apparently unreasonable grounds that both his parents are that colour.

So he took a DNA test, which also showed he was overwhelmingly white, to the tune of 88%.

But Volschenk is clinging to the other 12%, which show him to be seven percent Indian, three percent Chinese, one percent south-central African, and one percent east-central African. In his book that mixture adds up to coloured, or brown.

It would certainly have nonplussed apartheid administrators of the Race Classification Act, who would have told him “forget the 12% sir, you look like a real white man to us – have you got a coloured girlfriend or something?”

For that might have been the only reason for someone to forgo his or her white privilege. Sleep with someone of another race, and they zap you under the Immorality Act.

Yet in terms of the then law, Indian and Chinese were indeed among the listed seven coloured sub-groups, the others being Cape Coloured, Griqua, Malay, Other Asiatic, and Other Coloured. Volschenk’s problem is that he hasn’t got enough of any of them in his DNA, not even Other Coloured.

Most of those who tried to have themselves reclassified then actually succeeded, by the hundreds each year.

One of the clauses that might have helped Volschenk said if a person was not black (which Volschenk has never claimed to be) and was not generally accepted as a white person, “it shall be assumed that he was generally accepted as a coloured person”.

John Scott.

Unfortunately Volschenk seems to have been generally accepted as a white person for most of his life until eight years ago when he started his own business and reclassified himself coloured to take advantage of BEE. “Until then I had no reason to do so,” he explained. Quite!

Self-classification used to occur long before the National Party came to power in 1948.

Ten years earlier my father was manager of the Criterion Cinema in Simon’s Town, where the whites sat downstairs and those of other colours occupied the gallery upstairs.

Members of the same family would voluntarily separate at the entrance, even brothers and sisters, with some staying below and others going up.

And a few of the most racist white politicians clearly had what my dear mother would call “a touch of the tar brush”, and should definitely have had themselves reclassified.

More often than not they bore the telling nickname “Witbooi”. Fortunately for them DNA testing hadn’t yet been invented, but these days they would have been far more eligible for BEE than Louis Volschenk.

Still, I give him 88% for trying.

  • johnvscott@mweb.co.za
Meer oor:  John Scott
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