[intro]Nelson Mandela’s former personal assistant Zelda Le Grange was subjected to a barrage of public criticism after she sent out a series of tweets about Jacob Zuma’s assertion that the problems in South Africa started with the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck. She subsequently apologised. Today, in a response to an article carried in The Journalist recently, she clarifies her position.[/intro]

I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments expressed in your article. You know I cannot remember being taught about Autshumayo in school history. I was taught about his real history by Madiba. He was ‘fantasised’ as Harry die Strandloper.

By ‘fantasised’ I mean in my history books he was made someone different. He was not portrayed as the freedom fighter I later got to know. So by fantasised I mean his history was adapted to suit the narrative at the time it was taught to me.

Madiba is the one that taught me Autshumayo was one of the first political prisoners on Robben Island. I also wasn’t taught at school about Makhado or Queen Nandi for that matter. And it’s only after I learnt this that I discovered the true history of my own country. I am by default a descendent of the colonialists. It’s clear from history there is no other way I could have ended up being here. I am not proud of that history or the history of apartheid but I have had to reconcile with my people’s history because as much as I want to change it to apologise or try and contribute to repairing the injustices of the past, I can’t change where I come from. If I deny being a descendent I will be called a liar, right? Or denying the past because it suits me?

I wrote in my book that Madiba told me to go find my roots. So I did. A small town in the south of France called Cabrieres. The La Grange’s were persecuted for being Protestants so they fled through the Netherlands to end up here in SA.

So as much as I despise what the colonialists did when they arrived here, I have to own up to the fact that that’s how I got to be a South African.

Zelda’s Tweets

In her tweets, Le Grange asserted that President Zuma made whites feel unwelcome in South Africa and that she would ask French president Francois Hollande if he wanted her because “the organisation that praises [Zimbabwean president Robert] Mugabe but condemns [former president FW] De Klerk doesn’t want us in SA”.

She continued: “If I was a white investor I would more or less leave now. It’s very clear from Jacob Zuma whites are not wanted or needed in South Africa.”

She used the name Zelda van Riebeeck to issue her series of contentious twitter statements.

Following a huge public backlash, she tweeted an apology on the same day, saying; “I apologise unconditionally and without reservation to all South Africans who were offended by my tweets this morning”.