Okay, so I have actually speculated that Malema might have a list of different groups to annoy, equal opportunity offender that he appears to be. And I have wondered if he maybe ticks each one off as he goes along – Women? Check. Boere? Check. …Indians? Che- wait, hold on…
When I first read it, my reaction was to lay my head on my desk and ask myself if I had the energy to start foaming at the mouth about this. I mean, let’s face it; it seems the only time the Youth League president ever takes his foot out of his mouth is to put the other one in. It all seemed pretty clear-cut to me – Malema referred to Indian people as “makula”, Makula equals “C%^&*#s”, therefore, Malema done did it again. Same script, different cast.
Or is it?
I’m from Durban, see. And Durban, as you may know, is home to a substantial section of the South African Indian population. It is also part of the so-called “Kingdom of the Zulu”, although I have long suspected that it is the Kingdom of the Real Estate Agents, more like. But I digress.
I myself happen to be Zulu. (Do not judge. Do not offer 11 cows. Do not ask me why Zulu men are so angry all the time.)
I’ve lived in KwaZulu-Natal my whole life and, being of that generation that grew up in urban Durban post-1994, I have quite a highly developed sensitivity to the things you do and do not say to Indian people. Or Coloured people. Or even, when you spot the rare ones at the really popular shopping malls, White people.
One thing I have learnt in KZN is that you do not, not, not call Indian people “makula”.
Which is why, after a bit of Twitter-browsing and a bit of a think, I realized what an ethnocentric stance that is. As I said, I’m from KZN. Even some of the (non-Comrade) older people here, who grew up during apartheid when calling each other things like that was normal, sometimes look guilty and apologize if it slips out. Even when there are no Indian people present to hear them.
You may have noticed I said “some” and “sometimes”. That’s because some of the really old people here honestly believe that “ikula” is a proper, inoffensive term for “Indian”.
Like my paternal grandmother, for instance. She grew up in the rural areas, turns 100 next year, and has never been to school, ever. The only South African history she knows is the history she survived, and that history is not the same stuff our generation reads about from the books. I visited her recently and during our somewhat surreal conversation, she mentioned the word “amakula” quite unself-consciously as a matter of course through-out.
The first time she said, I went quiet with embarrassment. I was the only one. But as we groped our tortured, stilted way towards something vaguely resembling a coherent conversation, on a topic that remained the same for all of seven minutes, I realized that for her it had no derogatory or political connotations whatsoever.
For her it was just a word, like “Umlungu” for a white person, or “UmXhosa” for a Xhosa person. So I would have actually had to sit there loudly reciting the history of South Africa as I have been taught it, and explaining about the suspected origins of the word “makula”, and about why it is widely considered derogatory.
All this to a 99-year-old who has been using it for years without venom.
A question occurred to me, and not for the first time – does what we say matter more than what is in our hearts when we say it?
It’s a hard one to answer, especially since there is no real way of proving what is in your heart to others. Except perhaps via the chest with a sharp knife. But even then I have doubts that you would find anything to hold up and say “this is my humanness, I didn’t mean to hurt you, see?” Okay, even if you could, you probably wouldn’t say it so much as gurgle liquidly with your last weak gasp.
One morning this week, as I listened to the radio while brushing my teeth, the presenter was speaking to a representative from some legal department about whether or not certain words are derogatory. The discussion was in Zulu, and what the man basically said was that it was a challenge for the legal system to actually figure out whether the general public use words such as these with the full understanding that they may upset others.
Here’s the thing – a lot of these words only become debated when someone says them on a public platform and somebody else takes offence. It’s untidy. Everybody in this country goes around with their own ideas of what is and is not offensive. For years in High school, I never quite knew whether the word “bruin ou” was an offensive term or not. I asked my Coloured peers what it meant. They said “brown person”. I saw nothing offensive about that. Years later, I gathered that for some reason, it is. At least, if I say it.
The only reason I even got a chance to learn that was because I lived with Coloured people, and after a while you start to notice those awkward silences and chilly looks.
What interests me, in this Malema instance, is that the five people who have filed a case against him did so in KZN. In KZN, perhaps because Zulu people and Indian people live in closer proximity than elsewhere in the country, there is a largely unspoken understanding, never officially discussed, that “indiya” is a more socially acceptable term than “ikula”. Mind you, not everyone agrees on this even here – but most of the younger, urban Black Zulus accept this. Looking at some of the Twitter and article comments from people who speak SePedi and SeSotho, I really did start to wonder if there really is no other word for “Indian” in their languages. I speak neither so I really can’t say.
But look at it this way, at least incidents like this force us to put into words the rules of the game without assuming that “everybody knows”.
As for whether Malema really said that with poison in his heart, well, only he knows for sure.
Guest Post by Hlengiwe Mahlaba
Although journalism is widely considered as a pathway to gaining information for the public, various criticisms have at times been leveled against journalists. One is the role of “public journalism” – the notion that journalists not only report the facts, but also help the public in finding possible solutions.
The other is the manner in which journalists have often come under fire conducting themselves by doing anything to get the “scoop”. However, the public seldom stops to think how they benefit from this information.
With all the running around tracking sources and gathering information that journalists do, is there still room for them to get personally involved in driving social change? Or does this place them in a compromising position, as they are “supposed” to stay objective when dealing with information?
Is reporting not a big enough job, coming as it does with the responsibilities of informing the public of matters in their interest and shaping opinion?
How hard is it separate your professionalism from your personal opinion? One can’t be objective at all times, yet it is expected of journalists to do so.
One may argue that journalists should get involved in the process for change, as they are also part of a community, living in a country. But a professional journalist should stay objective at all times, and getting involved in political matters may be seen as subjective.
Presenting the facts to the public is as good as the first step to change. Giving the public information that benefits them and making them aware of situations should be like pushing them into the direction for them to do something about it, for themselves. This allows the public to be motivated to do something for themselves and be active participants in the road to change.
Basically, everyone has a role to play, and journalists can’t play two roles at the same time. Journalism as a profession should be looked at in the same way as any other profession. It is not a light that can be automatically switched on and off. Journalists should always be aware of what is happening around them at all times of the day, even when their 9-5 responsibilities have been completed.
The question has been asked many times – how should journalists handle a situation, for example, if they happen to witness an accident nearby. Should they stop and help, or simply stop to take a picture? The sensible thing in a situation like that is to call the ambulance. However, taking a simple picture of the tragedy (to explain the situation) while waiting for help shouldn’t be a bad thing. The journalist can’t get involved – simply and obviously – because they are neither trained nor equipped to do so.
For journalists to be personally involved in social change is a contradiction in itself, because they will be gaining information objectively but finding solutions which they can only do subjectively. Where is the line then drawn? Is this what journalists studied to do? Help in finding possible solutions to our everyday problems is a job for government, and the role of the journalist should simply be to report the facts.
Journalists don’t choose what they witness on a daily basis, nor do they choose the information that they find. However, the drive and passion for what they do may not amount to how much they get paid, or the amount of effort they go through to keep the public in the know.
Making the public aware of what is happening is more than enough, simply because there are other things to be revealed each day. And being a hero in solving the problems is simply not part of the job description.
Guest blog by Frederick Douglass
Crimes are being committed in your names!
Human beings – innocent women and children – are being killed by bombs and drones and guns purchased by your taxes. Is this the way to live?
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine it was you. How would you feel? Your governments visit excruciating pain on other human beings across the world.
From Iraq to Afghanistan, from Pakistan to Libya, from the Middle East to Latin America, from Africa to the Far East, they have perished and are perishing as I write this note and as you read it.
Their only crime is that they are weak, most of them are people of colour, and their countries have resources which your politicians and business people do not want to pay a fair price for. Is this the way to live?
Foul has become fair and vice versa.
The world will not be made a better place by guns and bombs that maim and kill from above the skies and far away military facilities. This will only breed hatred and suspicion and more hatred. Like a poisoned chalice, this will destroy the world – you and us together.
The world will be made a better place by humane policies and acts of solidarity that recognise the humanity of others. What is good for you is good for us too.
The children of Africa deserve three meals a day like your children. They deserve a just world in which they can exercise their own destiny without interference from your governments.
The children of Africa are human beings. They too possess the intelligence to know what is good for them and what is not.
They do not need condescending lectures from the West, lectures that remind them of wounds of yesteryear and which provoke new wounds.
Africa needs development, not bombs, not one more bomb.
Africa needs solidarity in its struggles for democracy, good governance and economic development efforts. No one is born imbued with the special gift to know what is best for another. None but Africans can resolve their problems.
It is time for you to demand a stop to all this rampant theft of other people’s resources by your governments who act in your names. It is time to demand an end to this inhumanity.
Demand a new and transformed United Nations!
Demand an end to militarism!
Demand an end to an unfair and unequal global economic order!
Perturbed, helpless and annoyed; a random sample of the sentiments of those with the faintest energy to respond to the banning of a liberation song reveals.
But I will not desecrate Steve Biko’s name by appending Judge Colin Lamont’s perplexing judgment to his legacy. I will neither whip out the heritage month card nor argue the meaning of “Ayesaba Amagwala”, lest one renders himself a perpetual defender of his self-determination rights.
So ridiculous is the verdict that even friends of the system have seized the moment to decorate their profiles by defending the struggle. Amazing.
Mathatha Tsedu asks why Judge President Phineas Mojapelo of the South Gauteng High Court elected Lamont J to preside over the case while there were other jurists with a capacity to comprehend the deeper meaning of struggle songs.
I would submit that Mojapelo JP expected this verdict, and therefore he had a point to prove. It’s more like when former president Thabo Mbeki appointed then deputy president Jacob Zuma to head moral regeneration in a society where the dominant cultural expression deems polygamy an immoral act.
My theory is that Lamont J is no different from the colonisers who landed on our shores three centuries ago. The judge must have been inspired by the spirit of his ancestors when he said: “Such people must pursue new ideals and find a new morality. They must develop new customs and rejoice in a developing society by giving up old practices which are hurtful to members who live in that society with them.”
Verwoerd must be smiling in his grave that the project to civilize the uneducated and immoral Africans is on full speed in democratic SA.
That the learned judge had to whip out newspaper clips to fabricate a “public uproar” exposes the ugly face of SA public discourse. The opinions of a relatively small clique with the means and resources to produce meaning in line with their narrow interests suddenly become empirical evidence for public sentiment.
This unmasks the institutional collaboration between those who, according to neo-Marxist Erik Olin Wright, wish to “insert their desires onto the public agenda and shape the rules in order to block the airing of other interests.” Someone better whisper into Lamont J’s ear and tell him that the revolution would not be led by newspapers.
The judge’s ruling also exposes the perversion of the SA constitution. In the words of one market fundamentalist whose name I don’t mind forgetting, “give me the country’s wealth, and I don’t care who makes the laws.”
It would be interesting to delve deeper into what makes the white minority a vulnerable group in SA. Are they vulnerable to the expensive organic food from Woolworths or are they vulnerable to storms that might swallow their cardboard shacks erected on sinking land in informal settlements?
The ANC has rejected Lamont J’s ruling but if the party seeks to understand why the liberation song has been banned, it needs to first disabuse itself from the pyrrhic victory of 1994.
Gugu Ndima says we are a society where “one extreme utilises state and academic institutions to protect and preserve their existence and supremacy,” while Nco Dube says “black people will not remain docile forever.” But Wright sees a window of opportunity and in paraphrase: “it is possible that right wing struggles cumulatively could have revolutionary consequences.”
We remember Steve Biko, leader of the Black Consciousness Movement and author of the book, I write what I like. He was brutally killed while in police custody on the 12 September 1977 .
Here is a rare television interview he did sharing his vision of South Africa.
Minister Trevor Manuel has been tasked to dissect these contradictions in a country that is complexly divided a various lines, including ideology, race and class. The question is: is he willing to be frank about the South African reality?
“The problem is we do not know what the dominant views are in SA today because we have a situation where some are voiced while others are voiceless,” he said in an interview.
“Issues become so because they dominate the pages of newspapers but are they really the dominant views,” asked Mr Manuel.
Khaya FM radio personality and graduate of the Gordon Institute of Business Science Bob Mabena adds that the problem with dominant ideas was that they often come with narrow agendas.
“What we need is political literacy so that when we talk of ‘economic freedom in our lifetime,’ all of us understand what it means,” he said.
Outside of political literacy, “someone with a louder voice would say something and everybody would follow suit. That popular view will then dilute whatever it is that we aim to do,” said Mr Mabena.
The diagnostic overview report of the National Planning Commission released in June this year, almost a year since the commission was inaugurated, has been attacked for preaching the obvious.
The upcoming NPC Jam from noon on Wednesday 28 September until noon on Saturday 1 October 2011 (72 hours) provides the commission with an opportunity to redeem itself and to do away with rhetoric, clichés and simplistic arguments that traditionally dilute genuine debate.
It is a plus that this event seeks to reach out beyond the usual commentators in order to access a cross section of views.
If we are to be frank about the South African reality we need to first ask what is wrong with capitalism and what is wrong with the overwhelming liberal perspective which dominates public discourse.
Therein lay the founding framework and guide for a vision 2030, and crucial answers that were likely to respond to needs of a South Africa we wish to construct.
The document on organisational renewal prepared for the 2010 National General Council reads: “since its founding in 1912, the ANC has place a strong premium on the pivotal role of unity within its ranks. This unity was built on a culture of debate and discussion, and the commitment of everyone to implement decisions once they are taken. The unity of the ANC was also seen as important to the broader task of unity in action amongst the motive forces, in addition to pursuing the widest possible unity amongst those struggling for a better life.”
When President Jacob Zuma led delegates on a rendition of “Oliver Tambo lala ngoxolo” (Oliver Tambo rest in peace) in Polokwane 2007, pundits commented that the new leader was confirming that democracy and debate had prevailed and unity in the movement was cemented.
Many are not sure anymore because it would seem like both leadership of the ANC and the youth league, at some point, miscalculated the political fallout that could result from their latest public spat that involves disciplinary charges against Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu.
The incumbent leadership of both structures has failed to learn that the historically radical character of the youth league could be a double-edged sword if not handled correctly and with caution.
The manner in which both the party and the youth league reacted to their differences of opinion in the public arena has landed itself to a theater of speculations, bringing the party deeper into disrepute, while weakening the principle of unity.
Speculation is abound that at the end of the drama, Jacob Zuma would either be recalled or re-elected as party leader for the second term, while Julius Malema would either be gunning for presidency of the mother body or going straight to jail. So says the commentators and analysts across the mediascape, and it is undeniable that the rumour mill would be fed for a long time to come.
What is even more frightening is that Malema and Shivambu are dealt with as if they are factional leaders within the movement who were speaking on behalf of a faction, and not as elected leaders of an official structure which articulates the positions of a collective.
The secondary allegation that both Malema and Shivambu “sow divisions” within the party further attests to this observation. And even if such suspicions might appear to be valid, it would be shaky to take an official decision on those grounds.
A party document in 1997 reads: “The ANC has leadership collectives, instead of a single leader, at all levels of organization…The constitution sets out the powers of each of these structures and they are expected to operate as a collective…In addition, it means that all members must take responsibility to explain and ensure the implementation of decisions taken by these collectives.
I could be wrong but there seems to be no precedent of such an occurrence – where individual leaders are isolated from the collective – in the party’s 99 year old history, and the move projects the mother body leadership itself as acting in the interest of a faction that seeks to deal with another using organisational authority. At best it raises unavoidable questions about the motives behind the charges.
In Zuma and Malema the public sees two comrades who not long ago were willing to pay the highest price in the struggle for each other, but now find themselves in a difficult position as their opponents and detractors have succeeded to pit them against each other.
Introducing his presentation on financial reporting, mining journalist David McKay said: “the egos have landed.” Image after image, he showed face shots of mining magnates including Cynthia Carol, Brian Gilbertson and Roger Kebble.
I noted the following day that the seminar was partly an exercise by the mining giants to woo the media in preparation for a fierce nationalisation debate in the public domain as sparked by the ANC Youth League.
Why? Speaker after speaker, including Chief Economist of the Chamber of Mines Roger Baxter indirectly replied to arguments that had been made in favour of nationalisation with cautious effort not to even mention the word. But that is a debate for another day.
I think one need to look no further than the media sector and print media in particular, to see how big egos muddy the debate while substantial matters play second fiddle to their imaginary shadows.
For example, when one closely examines the Eric Miyeni-Ferial Haffajee saga, it becomes evident that to speak or write in defense of one or another is old news.
The biggest loser might seem to be Mr. Miyeni but whether or not he loses or keeps his job will not alter the fact that 1) there are sections of black people who are deeply suspicious about the media role in dealing with black leaders perceived to be speaking in the interest of black people, and 2) that media is overly intolerant to any voice of dissent among its ranks.
Both these material conditions have adverse implications for the general media fraternity. Surely the captains of the industry and general practitioners must be concerned about perceptions that the body is anti-transformation and intolerant.
It is also worth pointing out that these views are not only held by outsiders, but also people who slave for the media industry week in week out. You only have to listen to the talks in the corridors to believe what I tell you.
It is even more a cause for concern that these views are expressed in private conversations away from the powers that be, primarily due to the fear of structural isolation. This is further evidence that the media must create space to robustly engage with these ideas instead of dismissing them as red herrings propagated by delinquent militants.
At some point, I believe, sober people reach a juncture where they agree to disagree and begin to appreciate the valid and legitimate arguments put forward by their opponents, irrespective of entrenched positions.
That is a debate we need to be having!
Look at how the whole media tribunal exchange has turned out. One may ask: is the fact that one is a veteran journalist or a struggle veteran of impeccable credentials material to whether the arguments they put forth closely resembles the material conditions on the ground or not?
One such veteran journalist said in his column last week that commentators need to “set the agenda” in a particular way. But our national agenda is the daily reality faced by millions of our people so how could anyone “set” another agenda outside of these that? Little wonder people like Malema strike the chord because they do not respond to these real issues merely as inconvenient side talk.
There is, after all, a section of our society which does not entertain personalities and increasingly feel isolated when debates on matters of public interest begin to be shaped predominantly by the narrow interests of those who purport to be the voices of reason.