Last Week I Agreed with the DA On One and a Half Issues.  But Will I Vote for Them?

Most opposition parties’ arguments against the DA’s motion to dissolve parliament were political.  But the motion was a philosophical extension of what those parties had been doing alongside the DA anyway.  By claiming a political reason not to join in this time, they were imitating the ANC’s defence of its leader in the previous motions they’d supported.

The DA’s argument was: government is broken; therefore, let parliament no longer prop it up at taxpayers’ expense by continuing with the charade that it works when that pretence adds a veneer of legitimacy to the sham it exacerbates.  Shockingly, the other parties were so fixated on protecting their political brands, they handed the title deed for the moral high ground over to the DA on a silver platter, scorning and then defeating the motion.

This could have been the DA’s plan, knowing that politically we can’t have fresh elections but morally, we can’t not have them.  That kind of opportunism is political stock-in-trade.  Francois de La Rochefoucauld described hypocrisy as the tribute vice pays to virtue.  Describing the DA’s motion as grandstanding without refuting it on its philosophical terms (playing the ball) instead of political terms (playing the man) is refusing pay the tribute because you’re tired of the face collecting it.

It would have been enough for the other opposition parties to abstain, or emphasise the debate’s moral necessity more than its source’s political opportunism, and then vote against it for obviously political reasons.  I think I would have understood.  That they voted for their political interests while underplaying the philosophical obligation the DA had introduced speaks to the rising cynicism of South African politics.  There was a time when ANC politicians had the decency to lie about respecting Public Protector remedial action and Constitutional Court findings thereon.  Today, they openly contradict the Constitutional Court.  It appears some of the opposition parties are taking the ANC’s lead.

A distinction will appear, however faint it is now, between parties that lower politics to what’s pragmatic, what’s possible — Machiavellianism — and those that make it about what’s principled.  In the face of our political fatalism, the DA has a track record of saying crazy and truthful things like, “Jacob Zuma must be stopped!”; MP Zakhele Mbhele’s speech reminded me how the DA often plays the prophetic role of Noah warning people about the coming Flood (the EFF does this, too, sometimes).

The mystery of iniquity at work here is that (black) South Africans refuse the truth, intending to assert their autonomy, only to later recognise they’re trapped in that autonomy and need the “oppressor” to liberate them.  Or as a friend said, “White people have been going to courts and fighting our battles, and now we’re in an embarrassing situation where if we agree with them on anything, everything is undone.”

This has a self-fulfilling power to it.  If “the whites” really do want to bring back white rule, they simply have propose obvious solutions to situations faced by “the blacks”, which they’ll refuse because ego, until one day we are truly trapped and have no choice but to be rescued by “the whites”.  My English teacher used to tell the girls in our class, “Run from a man until you catch him”.  Perhaps South Africans are running from the DA because…well…

You may say it was never the DA that defined “right versus wrong” as “white versus black” but if we shift our gaze to the Bell Pottinger saga, we see the effects of apartheid glossed over and minimised.  The simplest explanation (which is then read back on everything else the DA does, including its parliamentary motions) is that while the DA cares to have black voters, it doesn’t care about black people.  This description fits the ANC too, of course.  I’ll be forgiven if I’m wrong, but for every hundred things on why BP’s PR was “unethical”, from various sources echoing or describing the DA’s role, there’s been barely a whisper in the direction of, “BP’s PR strategy was dangerous not only because it broke the rules, but because it had a grain of truth to it”.

Imagine if we destroyed the inequality Bell Pottinger’s campaign exploited as fast as we destroyed Bell Pottinger; if we reached across to townships as easily as we did across oceans to the UK.  And just as describing the DA’s motion to dissolve parliament as grandstanding doesn’t take a stitch out of their argument, taking Bell Pottinger’s tactics and business down as unethical doesn’t render nonexistent the conditions they exploited.  So, the reasoning that helps the DA on one front, overthrows them on the other.

Their fixation on BP’s technique needs to be halved to make room for the concession that transformation is overdue, followed by a reminder of how the DA would resolve inequality if it were in power.  They missed a golden opportunity to woo the black voter, and it would have cost them nothing they have not lost or paid.

If you think women who have to give their fiancés lobola money have it tough, try writing columns telling the party you want to vote for what it has to do to earn it.  But I am winking in the dark, knowing only a few of this blog’s readers and next to none from any political parties.

Thank you

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints. 

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Here Is What We Can Do About #CyrilRamaphosaLeaks

Let’s assume that Ramaphosa’s emails were uncovered by an ANC faction to smear his name before the December elective conference.  Should we be passive spectators?  I’d say please let’s not.

But here’s the deal: it doesn’t matter whether popular opinion exonerates Cyril.  By December, he’d have had a “scandal” to his name.  “The public” would have been “upset” by it.  That will ostensibly be reason enough for the conference delegates to prefer Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma over him.

This smear campaign’s purpose isn’t necessarily that the public turns on Ramaphosa.  If people support him through this, the Dlamini-Zuma faction can still say (as the ANC) that his public life has created unfair bias and sympathy towards him, pitting ANC against ANC.  And since theirs is a listening party that learns from past mistakes and is acting to purge out factionalism, they’re taking people’s complaints about scandal-ridden ANC leaders into consideration going forward.  They’ll then argue that scandal that incurs public sympathy foreshadows scandal that incurs public outrage, tacitly admitting they gave Jacob Zuma a chance when people rallied around him during his scandals only to find he was good for nothing but scandal.  The point is they can reduce any conversation about those emails to “scandal”, Ramaphosa to a “moral liability” and our reactions to “upset” regardless of our conversations’ tones, contents, natures, directions or general conclusions about the Ramaphosa emails.

I suggest we instead channel our conversations about those emails against the whole ANC’s chances of winning 2019 general elections.  This way, even if the Dlamini-Zuma faction wins in the December elective conference, its choice to use Ramaphosa as a sacrificial lamb would have cost it more than it was willing to sacrifice.

Turning the tables like this would serve even people who want Ramaphosa to become the national president in 2019 by warning the Zuma faction to put aside dirty tactics now, ahead of the December conference.  This would force the ANC to contest elections with a candidate who won the 2017 elective conference fairly, cleanly, or not bother contesting the 2019 elections at all.  This matters because what a political faction is prepared to do to win within their party today tells us what they’ll do to the country tomorrow, and there’s a good chance we’ll get an ANC president replete with the karma of however (s)he got there.  And when karma collects in the form of favours owed, it’s the country that pays.

Ensuring the ANC doesn’t get a leader who’s prepared to play dirty may sound too much like helping it clean its act up for your liking.  In that event, look at it this way: if the ANC is beyond salvation, then leveraging its factions’ dirty tactics to work against the whole party is the fastest way to deepen the ANC’s losses because if it’s beyond salvation, it won’t stop playing dirty.  What does this leveraging look like?  Like taking every accusation against any of its members and make it about the whole party — like the motion of no confidence taught us to do.

If we apply that principle to Ramaphosa, it means exchanging the discussion on whether he used his status and wealth to prey on economically vulnerable young women, for a discussion that encompasses the role played by the ANC-led government in letting inequality, and the connected economic displacement of women, grow to the extent that a culture of preying on them could be fostered among male members of its party.  That would incorporate and centre the example set by its current leader, Jacob, and the rest of the party’s choice to protect him from the motion of no confidence.

Indeed, if that motion taught us anything, it was to always impute any of the ANC member’s failings to the whole group.  The question, “Did Ramaphosa do what he has been accused of?” makes us pawns in their game of scapegoating their own; on the other hand, the narrative, “They’ve all been doing it anyway” makes them one another’s albatrosses.  We must threaten them with the latter so they clean up their act or destroy themselves; we cannot afford to get swept away by the former.

It’s tempting to discuss whether the women Ramaphosa was associated with were financially independent mistresses with true agency or mere acquaintances whose studies he was paying for.  As I’ve said already, whatever those conversations conclude on Ramaphosa, they can be weaponised against him to Dlamini-Zuma’s favour in December.  And if that faction can do that now, why would it not steal the ballot in 2019?

The pro-active conversation is on whether this confusion of who these women really were in Ramaphosa’s life would be necessary if the ANC-led government had done a better job upholding women’s rights and the economy, even if these particular women were exceptions to the norm created by the ANC’s failure.  Questions on if he took advantage of the circumstances must be secondary to what is definitely known about their structural origins in the ANC’s nature.  We have videos of Mduduzi Manana; we don’t have videos of Ramaphosa.

Between now and 2019, we all have a moral duty to also ensure the proper contestation of ideas and elevation of discourse go as far and wide as they can.  If you agree with any of this, tweet me.  Let’s talk about translating it.  Offer that translation to a newspaper in that town you know has stagnated discourse, all controlled by one sector of the political establishment.  Let’s talk about hosting seminars where we thrash thoughts about for clarity.  We were passive spectators to the campaigns in 2009 and ’14; as a result, the state was captured under our noses from 1994 and even before that.

Ask yourself whether can we afford to do less than everything in our power to influence the political discussion.

Thank you

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints. 

#MotionOfNoConfidence: Why Did It Fail? (Part II)

Until enough black people have direct line of sight on the economy, being on the president’s side and letting the Guptas’ looting continue is the shrewdest thing an ANC MP could do; it is smarter than voting against President Zuma even in a secret ballot.

As said before, when President Jacob Zuma does something that upsets the economy, white people take to the streets and march.  There, they’re surrounded by crowds that looks representative of Mandela’s Rainbow Nation.  But South Africa is overwhelmingly black, not racially “balanced” let alone a rainbow with neat, equal colour bands.  The missing black crowds will only know what is at stake and fight for it to the extent that the economy is transformed and they have more skin in the game.

This means there are not enough black South Africans backing an accountable government today any more than there were before the Zuma faction arose, and it rose up, in part, because there weren’t enough black South Africans to hold the government accountable then.  If Zuma had lost the motion yesterday, there still wouldn’t be enough black South Africans to keep the next lot accountable because the next cabinet is under insufficient pressure by white people to ensure transformation.

Part III will explain why it needs to be white people fighting for economic transformation so that clean governance can stick (due to enough black people then having direct line-of-sight on the economy, and knowing what is at stake).

All of this means voting for a less corrupt president was much ado about nothing.  And in case you were wondering why black people who despise Zuma were changing their profile pictures into pictures of Zuma laughing yesterday, this is probably why.  Zuma is a symptom.  White people are dying to paint him out as the cause, eliminating him and declaring their work done.  That will change nothing in the long run; without a thick black middle class, South Africa will fall back into the same corruption.

“Siya, there is no way the ANC MPs thought that through in that much detail!” you may be saying.  Okay.  How much conscious thought do you put into a fist-fight?  Eating?  Dancing?  Do you keep your K53 handbook next to you when you drive just in case you forget how?

No.  You just know.  Likewise, politicians just know how politics works whether they can articulate it out loud or not.  That is why very little worries them: nothing fundamentally changes in South Africa, though a lot seems to be happening on the surface.  Lots of talking, marching and court cases.  No transformation.  Our politicians would not have to use active thought to figure out what is happening in South Africa until 100 000 white people suddenly marched for economic transformation.  Ask me about numbers, and I will tell you of an untransformed economy.

Until something fundamental changes in South Africa, ANC MPs see themselves as playing a game based on white rules.  They can never lose that game even if they are caught cheating because there are not enough white people (or the black middle class) to enforce its rules.  You can remove the Zumas, the Guptas and Bell Pottingers but until a large black middle class with skin in the game comes into existence, these crooking elements will simply be replaced with another lot like them.  Voting them out won’t be the end of the game, just a brief and unprofitable change its players, which, in the medium-term, won’t guarantee a permanent banishment of corruption.

Why, then, should these current MPs not be those players, given that before long, a group no better than themselves will fill the benches?  And the only way to ensure a stay in the game is to keep Zuma and his cabinet in the game and not replace them with another lot that will eventually turn out like Zuma but will not hire the MPs who have potentially disrupted their lives to give said new lot the opportunity to hire and fire newbies no better than they are.  The sacrifice of shaking the ANC profits absolutely no one but creates a lot of risk.  Why fire the only boss you know will hire you?  MPs jobs were not at immediate risk yesterday, but with someone other than Zuma as president, you just never know.

Make no mistake about it: those MPs know that a vote against Zuma is not a vote against the ANC.  Do not underestimate their political acumen.  They did not get to Parliament by being complete idiots.  We can throw all the civil societies, media, court cases and scandals we want at government and it won’t change a thing.  Navigating those is as simple for them as not being caught off guard when someone comes swerving from around a corner is to you.

It then doesn’t make a difference to power whether there’s a secret ballot or not because the vote may as well be secret to those who could have held the government to account but do not have direct line-of-sight on the economy to know what government is doing.

Thank you for reading, and please catch Part III.

Please share, comment and retweet: SKhumalo1987.

Book should land in mid-April next year.

#MotionOfNoConfidence: Why Did It Fail? What’s the ANC’s Next Move? Part I

How is it possible that given an opportunity to act in secret, ANC MPs would still reveal themselves as Zuma loyalists?

Answer: the audience they’re playing to doesn’t care much about protecting Constitutional democracy, and won’t until it experientially knows and feels the connection between its interests and the rule of law.

Before explaining that further in Part II, I think it’s crucial to understand why we must anticipate the ANC’s next move.

Many are speculating that the ANC intends to recall President Zuma.  If that’s true, then the ANC’s “self-correction” will happen at a huge cost to Parliament.  When the ANC was cornered about Zuma before the vote, its defenders’ responses to media and other parties implicitly agreed that there were only two choices before the party’s MPs:

On the one hand conscience, duty towards the country and the Constitutional fulfilment of the parliamentary oath, all of which weighed strongly towards supporting the motion of no confidence.

On the other hand was (at best) the choice to keep the party united long enough to discipline its bad seeds as it saw fit later on, without letting opposition parties score points in Parliament.  This second choice would swing ANC MP votes strongly towards not supporting the motion of no confidence.

But this undermines Parliament’s reason for existing (even if those parties were just scoring points!) because it captures the power to hold the Executive accountable from Parliament to Luthuli House.  But because democracy is abstract while the ANC isn’t, stealing from democracy to shore the party up (with the whole country watching) is easier than taking candy from a baby.

This is all assuming no one from any opposition party voted against the motion of no confidence without first telling the National Assembly.  If the ANC alone rejected the motion only to support it later in another forum, it’s saying other party MPs aren’t to be trusted to propose motions in good faith for the Republic; therefore, the ANC has to protect its existence over-and-against Parliament’s mandate.  Even when the other parties are right, they mustn’t get a chance to act on it before the ANC does.

When, then, will the ANC ever let Parliament do its job on ANC office-bearers?

The ANC MPs defended this choice by pointing out “the hypocrisy” of parties that don’t deal with their wayward members and former leaders.  Whatever its merits, the weakness in that argument is that the country has already rejected those parties (and whatever hypocrisy they may or may not be guilty of) by not voting those parties in as national government.  If the ANC will not protect Parliament because doing so would be going over and above the standard supposedly observed by other parties, then the party is calling on South Africans to grade its success not against the Constitution, but on the curve in relation to how well or badly other parties deal with their leaders.   Then there is no distinction between itself and those other parties insofar as protecting democracy ahead of party interests is concerned, and who wins 2019 becomes not a question of who deserves to win, but who has the most campaign resources and funding.  From there, it is only a matter of time before who wins court cases becomes a question of who has the most money for the most expensive lawyers.  Our judiciary has been exemplary, but it cannot hold out against capture forever; South Africa needs to also do its part.

If we rejoice at a pre-2019 Zuma recall, then in the build-up to the 2019 elections the ANC will tell South Africans that it is a listening party that’s serious about dealing with corruption — but it won’t say, “we deal with corruption by undermining the democratic institutions, like Parliament, that were created to deal with it.”  Our complacence at this is a kiss goodbye to all that has not been undermined, all that has not been captured.

Although waiting on internal ANC disciplinary accomplishes the same end as a successful motion of no confidence in Parliament, it does so by choosing what can be done over what ought to be done.  It’s the politics of the pragmatically possible over principle.  It’s Machiavellianism.  In that case, all our thinking on law, principle and virtue must conform to and justify whatever the ANC say as events unfold.  Their preying on our fear of speaking up is consistent with Machiavelli’s understanding of Fortune as a woman that must be beaten and mauled into submission:

“it is better to be impetuous than cautious, because Fortuna is a woman” who “more often lets herself be overcome by men using such methods than by those who proceed coldly”.

As such, voters — I mean the good Fortune of being elected to administer public funds — is a “friend” of men who are “less cautious, more spirited, and with more boldness master her”.  If she is not subdued, she will use her courts and other pillars of democracy to walk all over rulers who are too diplomatic or “effeminate” to overpower her.

Obviously, Mduduzi Mañana has been taking notes.  So has the rest of the ANC.

How does one resist?

One does not until one has the numbers to do so.

How does one mobilise them?

The answer is in Part II.

Please share, comment and retweet: SKhumalo1987

Book should land in mid-April next year.

 

#MduduziManana: Shocking, Yes; Surprising?  Not So Much

It’s barely Tuesday, and South Africa’s high-drama news diet has already served up Higher Education Deputy Minister, Mduduzi Manana, assaulting Mandisa Duma for calling him gay.  Yet, subsequent discussions and apologies have unpacked neither the homophobia in her using the word as a slur, nor his frame of reference for clearly agreeing it was an insult.

I’ve shared before that in high school, I, too, stumbled upon that girl who used the taunt, “But you are gay” as a weapon.  Such is intended to emasculate you amongst male bystanders.  If you don’t aggressively (read: violently) disprove it, her gender be damned, you’re seen as allowing the taunter to get away with it.  This is as good as saying it’s true that you’re gay.

Gayness is seen as letting others wield power over you (by calling you gay, for example); the idea of being dominated this way has sexual connotations I won’t go into.  Femininity is framed as weakness before others’ insults, which carries the same connotations as gayness is thought to.  The only way a man can shift being feminised (or made gay) off of himself at that point is by feminising others back.  Ergo, violence.

Verbal bullying is more complex than that, of course: the accused is belittled simply in being put on the defensive because he’s likely to become defensive.  The defensiveness is self-evident weakness, making this an instantaneous vicious cycle — a perfect political trap.  The insulted is caught off-guard and already on the back-foot.  Without violence, denialism arouses suspicion amongst bystanders until it’s vindicated through violence.

Is there a choice, besides violence?  Yes, there are two.  One can enter a spiral of helplessness and shame leading to suicide.  Bottled frustration corrodes and putrefies from within.  The other choice takes, not so much inner strength as it does patience; so much so I’m convinced it comes from a higher power.

For after the antidepressants, psychotherapists and good friends have held you back from the pit, and pulled you back again when the depersonalisation, the dissociation and the disjointedness become part of your being, or non-being, this self-exile coming from being convinced your body’s impulses are so much more evil than “normal” teenagers’ that though they still get to date, have first kisses and Matric Dances, you don’t, can’t and shouldn’t.  It all starts blending into the same muffled, colourless procession of events happening on the other side of a kilometre-thick glass separating you from anything and anyone else.

And all you can really do from there is map out the socio-political terrain that produced the teenage quadrilemma of bully/be bullied/kill/be killed.  You calmly, clinically do a post-mortem of who you used to be, the imaginary being who was willed out of existence by years of self-hate, and share the reports as opinion articles for others to read and scrutinise.  You bisect yourself, and invite others to take a look, all the while wondering whether they can really hear you since you’re having some sort of permanent out-of-body experience.

You tell them that the Donald Trump who asserts his masculinity by threatening to bomb everyone is no different from the Donald Trump who brags about molesting women, is no different from the Trump who disparages gay and transgender rights after flip-flopping on them.  The Jacob Zuma who asserts his masculinity through tribalistic othering is not an innocent bystander from the Jacob Zuma who showers after possibly non-consensual sex (otherwise known as rape) with his friend’s daughter, and that this Zuma is not surprised at another Zuma, alien to himself, who goes off-script with gay rights.

Still, the society that made “gay” a slur trusts individuals whose modus operandi is domination to willingly hand over their tax returns and account for their homestead upgrades; it trusts them to do the “honourable thing”.  And you know, you wonder if you’re changing anything or if your sense of disconnectedness derives from society’s paralysis; if your trauma is an expression of theirs.  Except you know about it, and they don’t.

The ANC makes room for Manana’s and Zuma’s behaviour.  If its MPs vote against Zuma in today’s motion of no confidence, it won’t be because of the party’s commitment to respecting the Constitutional Court’s say-so on their parliamentary oath.  Likewise, if the ANC finally caught up on Nkandla, it wasn’t because it respected the Public Protector’s constitutional mandate.  If it’s horrified by State Capture it isn’t because it respects the Constitution’s view of South Africa as a sovereign state whose integrity must be upheld by its office bearers.  If the ANC seemingly champions gay or women’s rights, it isn’t because its president or its deputy ministers fundamentally believe in these causes.  Come to think of it, the ANC doesn’t seem to believe much in the supremacy of the Constitution or the inviolability of human rights.

“When someone shows you who they are,” Dr. Maya Angelou said, “believe them the first time.”  When we hear of people in the ANC behaving as Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana did, we should certainly be shocked and outraged; we should do everything we can to shield their victims from further harm.

But be surprised?  If we’re still surprised, then the emotional putridness has corroded and decayed the last bit of sense from within us.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Book loading, catch it mid-April 2018

#NoConfidenceVote: Some Schadenfreude to Get You Through

This article first appeared on Daily Maverick.

How did we end up with MPs who’d “suicide bomb” the Constitution on President Zuma’s behalf?  If Simon Sinek (author of bestseller Start with Why) followed South African politics, he’d probably say the explanation is biological.

We each have a rational brain (hopefully) that functions as our “press secretary”: think Sean Spicer, Zizi Kodwa, Anthony Scaramucci or Gwede Mantashe explaining the irrational decisions we’ve made at the more animal level of our limbic brain that houses and responds to our Donald Trump shadow.  Each lie Zuma tells is limbic-brain talk intended to resonate with his own.  It’s “true”, or rather, compelling and effective at the felt level.

Likewise, pro-Zuma MPs did not ooze into the National Assembly by osmosis.  They were directly and indirectly voted in by South Africans whose basic Maslow Hierarchy concerns don’t and can’t involve upper Maslow issues like the currency exchange rate, the Constitutional Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, JSE-listed company share prices and credit rating statuses.  Those things can’t take top-of-mind priority until you’ve visibly got skin in the game.  Do you know by how much the walkable square footage at the poles of this planet has changed in the past decade?  You’re probably too busy dealing with what’s in front of you right now to develop a direct line of sight on climate change; it’s “the scientists’ problem”.

In 1994, the system designed to exclude black people from economic participation was altered to include them in voting.  Nothing was designed to give those voters direct line of sight right now on financial indicators, or put their skin in the macroeconomic discourse.  They live in a commercial wilderness colder than the melting poles, but not as cold as outside the ANC and its campaign-season blankets, rhetoric and free food.

Sustainable economic growth will require that those at the periphery of this economic wasteland be pulled in a bit at a time until a critical mass has been included and a tipping point has been reached.  Even if we exorcised the Guptas and the Bell Pottingers tomorrow morning, their replacements would slide right in and carry right on.  We need for enough South Africans to know what’s at stake.

Until then, at a limbic level, the people will only vote only for the kinds of people they can trust.  That’s not a race thing; it’s a human thing — as human as not knowing how much ice melted at the poles of the only planet most of us have ever live on.  At a limbic level those trusted and voted in will, like them, see the Constitution as a fence, a high suburban wall that keeps the status quo’s beneficiaries’ in and poor people out.  These are people who’ll agree it’s “full of demons” for making it easier to access gay rights (on paper, at least) than basic amenities.  My point is that the Rainbow Nation, gay people included, was not a stillborn; it was and is a breech birth.  Or as DA MP, Zakhele Mbele, says,

“When people lack jobs, opportunity and ownership of property, they have little or no stake in their communities”

and

“Economic inclusion is the foundation for social inclusion.”

We tried to make social inclusion the foundation for economic inclusion, and it hasn’t entirely worked.  As an indirect result, our options for president may whittle down to prejudiced rape apologist, Julius Malema, whose

“analysis of the [South African] situation is accurate, but whose calls for ‘radical economic transformation’ ignore that Broad-Based Black Economic Transformation already makes the provisions he invokes as political rhetoric to whip up populism,”

as says BEE Novation MD, Lee du Preez.  “The economic message of BEE was never politicised because to politicise economic policy while it’s barely christened by the business world is to break the gentleman’s agreement, an unspoken code of etiquette,” he further points out.  “Not troubled by those niceties, Julius punted nationalisation and expropriation as though BEE had never existed, let alone been christened, let alone achieved equality and equity when it was used properly.”

Malema’s faction previously occupied the niche the Zuma faction does now.  The only difference is the Zuma faction privatized nationalisation (read: captured) for the benefit of an elite and politically-connected few; Malema took that Molotov cocktail of limbic entitlement and hurled it from the rooftops to the masses who caught it.

But Karma, bless her soul, may have delivered a coup the grace.  The Gospel According to Juju is that Baleka Mbete was promised Deputy Presidency, but Zuma used her and dumped the baby (Parliament) on her lap.  If she poisons that child against its daddy by making the vote of no confidence a secret ballot and it passes against Zuma, he and his cabinet (possibly including the Deputy President he appointed, Cyril Ramaphosa), must resign.  Chapter 5, 90(1)d of the Constitution indicates she could then run the country for Woman’s Month as Acting President.

Who knows whether she’d use that time to pull some levers, like bribes (she learned from the best!), to manoeuvre conditions in the country in her favour for the ANC presidential race?

If I could just endure her yelling, “Order!  Order!” for what would feel like eternity, I’d consider giving my immortal soul to be the demon at her shoulder telling her to stick it back at Zuma.  Hell hath no fury and all that.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Siya Khumalo speaks and writes about religion, politics and sex. Next year April, he will release a book.

#NoConfidenceVote: Why ANC MPs Should Vote Zuma Out on August the 8th Whatever the Cost

In light of Fikile Mbalula’s description of ANC MPs as “suicide bombers” whose allegiance to the party are absolute, we should ask whether the parliamentary oath is conditional.

We already know there’ll never be a secret ballot: that could have been predicted from after the 2014 elections.  Who are our parliamentarians when there isn’t one, and what did their oath mean back then?  When their lives or jobs are at stake, what legroom do they have to act contrary to the good of the Republic?  Now, were office-bearers like Thuli Mandosela and MPs like Vytjie Mentor and Dr. Makhosi Khoza aware of this latitude?

When I was in the military, I realized that if those who’d served under compulsion had nonetheless served well, then those of us who had joined voluntarily had to exceed them.  If we said before danger, “This is not what I signed up for!” we were wasting opportunities to serve the country that others may have used more courageously.

The price of sovereignty is the same as ending oppression or taking away sins: blood.  MPs elect the president who decides when soldiers go off to risk their lives for the country.  How are the ANC’s MPs not open to facing the same risk to bring that leader to book or atone for his sins, which they covered?  Do they think whoever conceived of the no confidence provision failed to envision the scenarios under which it could be invoked?  Did they take their oath to the country that lightly?  What did they think the “so help me God” part was for?  Dramatic effect?

There is no shame in ceding one’s seat or position to someone more patriotic and less conflicted about what needs to be done.  Not doing so shifts the price to South Africans.  As the Guptas stole state resources, so, too, are pro-Zuma ANC MPs stealing a chance to serve from those who’d act on conscience.

We rightly say, “Nonconformist ANC deployees are being murdered”.  It would be more accurate to say, “A free South Africa is being murdered, and dissenting ANC members are on the front line because they took their vows seriously”.  When power has been corrupted, it is unpatriotic to limit dissent to systems that have been captured and corrupted.

South Africa is in reverse-struggle.  If you could quantify the collective suffering facilitated by the ANC-led government (from AIDS denialism to State Capture denialism) it could surpass the suffering endured by members of the liberation movement under apartheid.  This trend will be perpetuated by ANC’s necromancy this coming 8th: by its MPs’ witchcraft, the high price paid by their martyrs and prisoners will be exacted from the future generations those stalwarts were dying to serve.  I don’t know whether hell is real, but I know there’s a special place in it for people who do that — people who intercept someone’s dying gift to an unborn child, and use it to kill that child as they enrich themselves.  Worse, the ANC will blame that child: when Fezeka Kuzwayo reported that Jacob Zuma had raped her, it was spun into the Mbeki faction planting discord for the Zuma faction.  When Makhosi Khoza speaks up, it’s spun as her getting attention at a cost to the party.  Some reportedly suggested an amnesty deal be given to Zuma to keep the ANC intact.  Message?  ANC elites are the only people intended in the Constitution’s, “We, the people” and the rest of us are their shadows — hollow, empty and destined for the underworld.

Some ANC office-bearers and MPs justify their loyalty by saying they’re “fighting from within”.  Others say they’re using “prescribed channels”, “following protocols” (I wondered whether Zuma “followed protocol” when he forwarded ministerial candidates’ CVs to the Guptas) and “ensuring some service delivery happens”.  But postponing criticism for a more opportune moment is as exhausted as all the excuses for it.  “Doing good from within” simply lends evil a veneer of benevolence that will benefit no one when the bill arrives.

It’s common knowledge the Speaker will have an open ballot, so MPs should state what their consciences say publicly because the Constitutional Court understands their vows to take precedence over their party allegiance and even normal process.  This moral burden is underscored by the ANC’s Policy Conference Discussion Document labelled Strategy and Tactics:

“South Africa’s efforts at fundamental change represent a social experiment which resonates with humanity’s progressive endeavours.  As in the past when it touched the conscience of humanity, South Africa is a giant social laboratory, the success or failure of whose undertakings has global implications.”

ANC MPs vowed to do something much bigger than themselves — and if they don’t live up to their implications no matter the cost, their oaths will haunt them to their deathbeds anyway.  Remember these words by C. S Lewis:

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.  A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions.  Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”

The ANC has already said its MPs are suicide bombers.  Doesn’t their oath to the constitution and parliament have a stronger claim to unconditionality?

Siya Khumalo writes on religion, politics and sex. 

Comment, follow and retweet on @SKhumalo1987

Book loading (yes it is so real) for next year April.

MyWay of Making Sense of the #MiWay Email Debacle: the B-BBEE Scorecard

Yesterday afternoon, a photo-image of an email circulated on Twitter suggesting that MiWay Insurance’s managers and claims’ assessor would “reject 90% of claims made by black people” in order to save money and “punish these black baboons”.

MiWay hit back calling that “fake news”.  Incidentally, their social media accounts are usually populated by smiling black models who look far too happy to be thinking about insurance or racism. Nevertheless, customers were tweeting things like, “Cancel my policy!”

A few months ago, homophobic pastor Steve Anderson came to South Africa and was to host something at ; Spur barred him from using their premises to spread hate.  Later, Spur had an incident involving a black mother and a white father (of different children) on which the restaurant took the black mother’s side; AfriForum called for boycott on Spur.  A lot of my gay friends immediately supported the Spur brand because of what it had done for them; even I encouraged people I knew to eat at Spur.  I was just about to post that thought when Spur capitulated to AfriForum.

Likewise, OUTsurance had the Father’s Day ad that had no representation of black fathers in a country where the majority of fathers are black.  The point is more brands, restaurants and businesses are being caught in the cross-fire of race-related battles.

One way to know for sure whether a business is racist is through these incidences and the social media furore that follows, but that is like listening to a whisper through a whirlwind.  Circumstances turn around in less than the blink of an eye, as they kept doing with Spur.

The other way is pulling Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment scorecards from those companies’ websites.  JSE-listed businesses are now required to display theirs on their websites.  I recently resolved to go down that list in alphabetical order, reading through those sites for context, and to also look up state-owned enterprises.  Who knows what blog posts will come from that when I understand what I have been reading?  And ever since a friend started posting the BEE scorecards of varying brands that are used religiously by black households, I started looking up certificates for the companies I buy wine, toiletries and snacks from, just to start.

This is a more fact-based approach to working out whether an entity is racist or not.  Many of us want the South African economy to be transformed.  How are we measuring how transformed an economic player is?  Do some social media scandals harm brands that are contributing positively to the kind of future we want?  Is reading press statements and social media comments really going to tell us what we need to know?  (

Unlike circumstances, BEE certificates are valid for fixed periods of time.  It’s also important to look at which verification agency measured the company’s compliance level: they interpret different aspects of BEE a little differently.  Sometimes, one has to dig up older scorecards for comparison.  When I have no idea what I’m looking at, I sometimes phone law firms that write articles on BEE or I try to contact the company itself.

Here is MiWay’s BEE scorecard.  It was issued on March 1 this year and will expire on the 28th of February next year.

I’m no BEE expert, but I do believe that to be interested in transformation is to be interested in BEE.  For this reason, I’m slowly learning what transformation looks like in its most empirical, most measured manifestation.  I’m happy to get feedback or criticism on my interpretations, and also to read people’s thoughts, opinions and feelings on it.  BEE isn’t perfect, but it’s there.

Of course, MiWay’s scorecard is Santam’s, which (I stand to be corrected) wholly owns MiWay Insurance in part directly and in part through Sanlam.  Put differently, Sanlam has an effective 60% interest in Santam, which in turn operates (among other entities) through MiWay.  So to know Santam is to know MiWay.  I can’t pinpoint when Santam acquired the balance of MiWay, though multiple sites report that as a current reality.

On paper, Santam is deeply transformed.  It’s got a level 2 B-BBEE rating.  For reference, level 8 is the lowest compliance level there is, but it’s still better than non-compliant; level 1 is the highest compliance level there is.  So level 2 for a JSE-listed corporate (a company whose turnover exceeds R50 million) means someone sat down, planned the business’s transformation strategy — and executed it pretty damn well.

For further reference, when you buy a good or service from a non-BEE compliant business, your money contributes not to transformation, nor the eradication of inequality nor the end of systemic racism.  On the contrary, you may be paying to maintain what apartheid put in place.  This is why BEE has a “preferential procurement” aspect to it — a measure of how much of the money spent on a BEE-compliant company is considered a contribution to transformation.  This strengthens the purchasing entity’s scorecard.

When you buy from an entity with a level 8 rating, 10% of that money goes towards transformation; the other 90% may very well be to maintain the status quo but we don’t know for sure; at worst, the net effect may be that 80% of the money goes to racism.

When you buy from an entity with a level 1 rating, 135% of your money is reckoned as contributed to transformation.  Yes, the different levels lie on a sliding scale; level 3 says 110% of your money contributes towards transformation, and with Santam’s level 2 rating, 125% of the money you spend with them can be considered a contribution towards transformation.  I think the reason we measure beyond a 100% (which is a level 4’s contribution percentage) is that money is pretty elastic.  Compound interest and other profit-making magic enchantments can stretch it further than it would normally go.  So it is theoretically possible for 135% of your money to fund transformation.

But there’s a fly in the ointment: in 2013/2014, Sanlam extended and expanded an equity relationship with Patrice Motsepe’s Ubuntu-Botho. To spare you even more details, this means a significant percentage of the wealth redistribution on MiWay’s scorecard is funnelled through a narrow base of super-wealthy black gatekeepers: to know more about the true black empowerment that happens through many “BEE deals”, one has to read further than the scorecard to companies’ corporate social investment initiative webpages.  A “gatekeeper” can, in many instances, keep black people on the ground a step removed from the economic artery of the companies those gatekeepers make BEE deals with.

This is not to say Patrice Motsepe, the current Deputy Chairman of the Sanlam Board, (speaking of Sanlam, can somebody tell me whether the Public Protector has gone after them for the Bankorp bailout yet…?) is a greedy oligarch.  Nor is it to say that Mr. Motsepe should not make more money if he wishes.  It is to say that as long as BEE is amenable to the further enrichment of the already-rich, it should not be called Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment because there is often nothing Broad-Based about many BEE transactions.  When your money goes to MiWay or any other major corporate, ask yourself whether 125% of it is truly going towards Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment, or just Black Economic Empowerment.  I cannot answer that for you; I can only hope you research if you have not been doing so.  Transformation and poverty alleviation will not happen by osmosis.

I’m not alone in these misgivings.  At the time, money boffin Riaz Gardee commented that,

“One of the measures of a successful BEE transaction, particularly for a public listed company, should be the public participation component.  Whilst there may be many beneficiaries in Ubuntu-Botho for whom significant value was created it is unfortunate that Sanlam did not include a public participation component.”

and

“Critics of Government’s BEE policies have always stated that transferring billions to politically connected existing billionaires should not qualify as BEE and will certainly use Sanlam’s BEE transaction as a case in point.”

Also,

“In hindsight it would have probably been better to include employees and raise the initial equity contribution via a public offering.  The result would have been a much wider spread of the massive R13.3 billion value uplift.  This could have been achieved whilst still including all Ubuntu-Botho’s current participants in Sanlam’s BEE deal as there was more than enough to go around.”

 

At any rate, what’s really happening with MiWay?  That the email disclaimer at the bottom of the photograph is barely typed up tells me that someone there decided to play Bell Pottinger on the insurer.  We really give that UK-based firm too much credit for “creating” racist division on the basis of economic inequality in South Africa.  We have been creating our own divisions all along.

An incident like this can completely reshape how people understand a brand.  Someone tweeted,

#MiWay remember when you sent me to take pics of the car my hubby had died in.  Even before I could burry him. Its all making sense now.

This is why both companies and consumers should ideally use Broad-Based (an emphasis on broad) Black Economic Empowerment as the common measure of economic transformation; it protects both the brand and its consumers.

Failing this, we never needed Bell Pottinger to set us at war.  If you were starving in the Africa of your ancestors, would you really need someone from the former (?) colonial power to explain to you why you’re hungry?

Please follow, comment and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Book under construction

A Question About the ANC Policy Conference

Conversations with politically clued-up persons reveal Dr. Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma will win the ANC’s succession race this December, beating Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa.  This seems to be an open secret in politics — written, scripted, foreordained.

Let’s look at the math necessitating this.  Cyril’s faction would fill positions from which they’d initiate processes to offer Zuma and his cronies up as sacrificial lambs to wash the ANC’s many sins away.  But just how sure are our handlers (the Guptas) that Dlamini Zuma can win now and carry the ANC through 2019?  Sipho Pityana does not mince his words about the plan as he imagines it:

“We shouldn’t rule out the possibility that Jacob Zuma’s project to sell South Africa’s sovereignty could involve rigging the ANC elections in 2017, and even the national elections in 2019.”

In an article titled, ANC conference: It’s not about policy, stupid — it’s about who wins, Stephen Grootes says the meeting starting this afternoon is important only because it

“gives us the best possible test of the relative strength of the different factions.”

It’s not about which ideas win; it’s about whose faction does.  It’s about who’s willing to play dirtiest.  Now, the tribalism the ANC used to shore up support cannot take the party forward through an educated woman.  On Voting Day, all manner of sins shall be forgiven the ANC, but for the sin of presenting a woman as the country’s presidential candidate while the country wages a war against women’s bodies, there will be forgiveness in neither this term nor in the term to come.  “But the ANC is about gender equality!” some will say.  Not quite.  While it’s one thing to get ANC members at an elective conference to vote for a female leader, it would take a miracle to repeat that at a national scale.

Could Dubai commission a PR strategy that to overcome this that wouldn’t simultaneously dismantle the thought patterns that have made the ANC’s looting more tolerable than the idea of a woman president?  Impossible: once patriarchy is challenged, so, too, is tribalism and nationalism.  But for fun, let’s imagine the ways a would-be Bell Pottinger could get around this patriarchy without exposing the ANC’s low-key abuse of nationalism, race politics and tribalism:

They could position Dlamini-Zuma as a natural continuation of Zuma’s legacy.  The challenge there is Zuma’s greatest achievement as president was becoming president.  There’s little else for a protégé to repeat.

Another way out of the conundrum would be to have Dlamini-Zuma’s persona so completely eclipse her husband’s, it would be tantamount to emasculating him.  Her message would be, “What was impossible with this man will be possible with me”, namely land expropriation and the “radical” transformation (read: deformation) of the economy.

Or a hybrid approach: he loosened the lid from the jar she’s now unscrewing open.  But how would they formulate that message and roll it out in two years, given people’s growing disenchantment with the ANC and, consequently, a higher threshold of scepticism to overcome?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the patronage network’s only way through the much-needed 2019 with any of its favoured candidates would be what Pityana said — election rigging.  The question we should be asking ourselves isn’t whether elections are free and fair; it’s to what extent they haven’t been, and to what further extent they won’t be going forward.

Accordingly, this is the question we should be asking ANC attendees delegated to this conference: what is the going rate for a parliamentary seat’s worth of votes?  Does anything else matter?  Soon after the Constitutional Court said,

“Central to the freedom ‘to follow the dictates of personal conscience’ is the oath of office.  Members [of Parliament] are required to swear or affirm faithfulness to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution and laws.  Nowhere does the supreme law provide for them to swear allegiance to their political parties, important players though they are in our constitutional scheme.”

the ANC replied that its MPs are

“representatives of the ANC in Parliament and derive their mandate from the political party which deployed them.”

Just so we’re clear, never has an organization sung so consistently from the same hymnbook on any other issue.  This means no organization’s members have ever been as unanimously in on a gig.  History experts, tell me: treason been committed at this scale?  ANC experts, tell me: does the party’s idea of “the revolution” entail violating the country’s constitution?  These are not philosophical questions; they have enormous economic implications.  Do you know much more money we could save for even more looting if we replaced the ANC’s MPs with one Luthuli house correspondent, and elections with auctions?

Many questions, issues and answers will take up airspace at this time.  The discourse will move along much faster, and everything peripheral will instantly fall into place, if we approach the next two years asking everyone in the ANC just one question: what is the going rate for a parliamentary seat’s worth of votes?

Wouldn’t you want to know how much your body and soul were worth, if you’d been put on the slave market?  If you’d been trafficked or had your organs auctioned off?  I’d want to know.

I have friends in the ANC.  All I’d want to know from them is how much were they paid for my freedom.

Please follow, comment and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Book under construction

#ZilleTradeOff: Why Helen Zille Could Be Found Guilty

To grow substantively in 2019, the DA has to adopt a jurisprudential philosophy that could, unfortunately, be used to hold WC Premier, Helen Zille, responsible for bringing the party into disrepute through her colonialism tweets and defences thereof.

I have glimpsed Helen Zille’s humanity through her political nimbus.  I’m not sure which shines brighter.  So I regret our collective obligation to examine her actions, which needlessly stand in the way of the political realignment our country needs.

Zille apologised unreservedly and then defended her tweets.  Will she also apologise for the confusion this created as to what was unreserved about her first apology, never mind whether her DA can be trusted to say what it means?

She’s made claims on the relationships among causes and effects (colonialism and progress — the benefits of the latter being unevenly distributed and subjective) but those claims are speculative at best and dangerously mistaken at worst.  So people understandably interpret her argument through the cynical lens of the political moment, as well as varying complex motivations imputed to her.  That comes with the territory!

Apart from these considerations, her tweets are nothing that’s never been said before.  It’s when you start asking, “Why her?  Why this medium?  Why now?  What’s her intention?  What taste does she want to leave in people’s mouths?” — questions she would have asked as a journalist — that you start wondering whether a mind as analytical as hers spent so many years studying how news works “from the inside” that her subconscious could seize this opportunity for a perfect storm.  So what scores is she settling?

Why shouldn’t people find that line of questioning more relevant than her claim that “the legacy of colonialism wasn’t all evil”?

Just as her post-apology behaviour is not consistent with apologising, her tweets aren’t coherent among themselves as to her beliefs on the immorality of colonialism.  And how many of the countries she compares ours to had the former beneficiaries of oppression stay without having to make reparations?

When there is an injured party and a party implicated with injuring (or indirectly benefiting from the injury), it is the injured’s prerogative to rank the pros and cons of the situation — not the injurer’s or beneficiary’s.  I use this analogy because sexual violence was a sub-legacy of colonialism: what if a rapist’s family said to one of his victims, “But what our son did to you gave you this beautiful child, so the rape’s legacy wasn’t only evil”?

Wouldn’t it be more respectful (dignity is constitutional!) for the rapist’s family to wait for the survivor to frame the story?  Everyone frames stories because just as there is no objective fact-book against which to test Zille’s posited relationships among causes and effects (apart from the more immediate contextual considerations of who she is and what her intentions could have been when she pursued this path), no story dropped down from heaven fully-formed.  No court would say her tweets were “correct”, for then it would have to exonerate tweets on how today’s Jews benefitted from scientific advances made during the Holocaust.  It could be easier for a court to condemn Zille’s tweets than rule them “factually correct.”

Even if Zille’s voicing her opinion is constitutionally sustainable on the basis of her right to freedom of expression, the tastelessness with which she exercises it right conflicts with others’ right to dignity (which includes the aggrieved’s right to frame the story) and will be the reason neither the DA’s nor South Africa’s constitution will be supported by voters come 2019: those legal frameworks fail to endow black persons with equality.  The failure happens when those interpreting them don’t impress contextual equity into disputes.  No constitution or constitutional right was ever formed or ever operated in a vacuum.

The justice framework we inherited came about because former President Nelson Mandela, among others, backed down from implementing what would have been seen as perfectly justifiable measures in 1994.  His reticence about justifying that version of justice was prior to and made possible Zille’s rush to justify her interpretation of the rules.  If we’d applied her approach to law during Mandela’s moment, there would have been no Zille moment.

Prior to her self-justification should be mindfulness that a negotiated settlement is negotiated, as opposed to meeting all the needs of every party, let alone the aggrieved who could make the greatest claims.  It’s a settlement as opposed to being an ideal and perfect ending.  From its beginning, “We, the people of South Africa, Recognize the injustices of our past”, the letter of our law decidedly points beyond a threadbare reading of itself towards restoring dignity; towards spirit, not letter.  The constitutions ultimately answerable to the Constitutional Court are signposts guiding us to interpretations that allow aggrieved parties to frame for themselves, to their own equity and dignity, their stories of how they came to be aggrieved.

We’re stuck in 1994 until we outgrow the ANC.  The DA must grow, come Helen or high water.  That the announcement on her possible suspension was mishandled may discredit the DA, but it doesn’t re-credit her.

The DA could be the ANC of the 21st century if it does what the ANC never did — liberate, not tax money, but black people and all South Africans.  But that would depend on the jurisprudential philosophy it segues into.

Thank you.  Please follow, retweet, share and comment: @SKhumalo1987

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