On #MenAreTrash (Multiple Trigger Warnings)

In response to Karabo Mokoena’s shocking murder, the online community has taken to social media to say #MenAreTrash.  People are rightly calling out men’s inertia towards gender-based violence.

But…

***

One afternoon in school, I noticed a group of older boys whisper conspiratorially behind me.  I started walking away discreetly.  One of them followed.  Dilemma: was I to draw more attention to myself by breaking into a run, or bite the bullet and face whatever humiliation was coming?

Before I decided, one of them groped me indecently with the school watching.  They laughed as he walked back to his friends, an exaggerated “swish” in his movements.  I picked up what everyone around me was saying through the blood rushing to my ears:

“But he isn’t gay…is he?”

“I’m sure he is.  Why else would that guy have done that to him…?”

A girl turned to look at me and asked, “But you are gay, aren’t you…?” as though that justified it.

Often incorporating sexual harassment, bullying was rarely one-dimensional.  Is this as bad as what women go through?  Nope.  Still, my observation was that while female students were neither the primary sources of homophobic bullying, nor derived any direct benefit from the maintenance of that status quo, they enforced it then as women play a significant role in enforcing it now.

***

 

I will say upfront there will be some mansplaining so you may want to turn back now.

The expression men are trash has a distinctly heterosexual dog-whistle pitch.  What made men “trash” or “dogs” in the distant past wasn’t rape or violence.  It was infidelity / inattentiveness / inconsiderateness / inability or refusal to provide within the contexts of the relationships they had with women.

Not being raped by her intimate partner wasn’t one of women’s ironclad expectation.  Women’s rights were not universal; they were dependent on the men (brothers, fathers, husband) in their lives.

So a woman’s lot was to be infantilised in exchange for accepting romanticised portraits of patriarchy; it was also to accept gender-based violence as the man’s exercise of his rights, or displays of his jealousy.  Mind you, if we rewind further back and visit the places we sourced Abrahamic religious scriptures, we see men could technically neither cheat nor rape except other men’s wives and daughters.

What men could do wrong entered public discourse rather incrementally and contextually.  So the expression “men are trash” has not meant the same thing throughout time; it has had slippery meanings that have stuck to it through time, meaning whatever women wanted the words to mean, given whatever they could speak out about at that time.  It is only recently that femicide became something polite society speaks about.

We could have had something that more acutely reflected today’s concerns, like, oh I don’t know: #AllMenAreRapists.  #YesAllMen.  #AllMenAreMurderers.  But unlike rapist and murderer, the word trash embraces all the resonances the word has carried through the ages.

So women are rightly telling us we’re trash for not doing more to stop gender-based violence, but somewhere in that crowd is a jilted lover, a woman scorned, who is also calling all men trash for all the other ways we have betrayed the promises heterosexism and hetero-patriarchy made to women and to her.  All men’s crimes, responsibilities and failures from throughout history are lumped together into one slam of the gavel.  The problem with a consolidated criminal charge is femicide presupposes one context, one worldview and one set of promises; rape, and all men’s other crimes and failings, presuppose others.  The word trash potentially hijacks anger from one context and uses it to relieve frustrations from another without explaining either very deeply (go 140 characters!); it therefore potentially Trojan-Horses very non-feminist, male-dependent energies into the public psyche while dishing them up as feminism and independence.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s agree on heterosexism as the assumption straight is default and normal.  Heterosexism’s implicit promise to women is that if they give little bits of themselves to patriarchy, they’ll get all patriarchy’s benefits without its pains.  Its implicit promise to men is that since their identity is (falsely) tied up into dominance, women will be where they demonstrate said dominance and preserve said identities through the subjugation of women.  While not every couple within the heterosexist framework realises every pleasure and every pain made possible by the heterosexist framework, heterosexism has funny ways of intersecting with other structural lies to produce hell on earth.  Bear in mind, again, when they say, “men are trash”, many women are venting at the inevitable frustration at men that comes with buying into this lie, and they are venting at rape and domestic violence at the same time.

My point is we can’t complain about breakdowns in heterosexism as it once was (wishing to rescue and enjoy it) while complaining about rape culture as we now face it.  The heterosexism that powers rape culture cannot be the paradigm from which we fight rape culture because it places more of a premium on sexual conquest than it does on consent.

The demand that there always be a male and a female in relationships is the demand that there always be a conqueror and a conquered as a reflection of broader social norms and structures replicated in our workplaces, governments, academia and other spaces in which men live out their trashiness.  “That’s not true!  We believe in equality!” many heterosexists will say.  But if they did, they’d validate LGBTI persons, experiences and relationships as representative of authentic human experience as much as they do CIS-heterosexual lives and stories.  If they don’t, then consent isn’t the backbone of a “normal” relationship, in their world: conquest is.

There is no middle ground between these two extremes.  If we pretend there is, let us not act all shocked when the statistics for violence against women, especially black lesbians in townships who defy heterosexism’s demands, indicate we cannot centre heterosexuality without spiralling gender-based violence out of control, without finding horrendous intersections between heterosexism and other structural oppressions (classism, racism, etc.).

If we centre consent to displace conquest (or power, or dominance) and, consequently, heterosexism, in our experience of sexuality, we would have gone a long way towards erasing eradicating rape culture.  #MenAreTrash the heterosexual culture that produces rape culture and domestic abuse, and passes its frustrations off a battle against rape culture and domestic abuse.  It’s time to pick between heterosexism and women’s lives.  You cannot rescue women’s bodies and heterosexism at the same time, yet few, if any, who tweet #MenAreTrash feel any need to interrogate the relationship amongst these violences and norms, despite the relationship being resonant in the historical and contextual stickiness of that word, trash.

#MenAreTrash was borrowed indiscriminately from experiences found largely in respectably heterosexist Hotepist stories in which men overstepped the boundaries of soft-core patriarchy.  This went unquestioned because deep down inside, those who used the hashtag also desired patriarchy’s benefits without its baggage — so much so, they neither saw through it nor really heard where it was coming from.

Many jumping on this bandwagon aren’t fundamentally against patriarchy; they’re against patriarchy’s excesses and those excesses’ incompatibility with, and betrayal of, fantasies of “happily-ever-after” they could have gotten out of patriarchy and heterosexism.  They are performing patriarchy even as they claim to fight it.  If they spoke against homophobia and heterosexism as consistently as they do about everything men do wrong in more domestic and more familiarly heterosexist environments — from cheating to inflicting violence — then my feminist chord would be resonating with the men are trash note.  It isn’t.

At the end of the day, many of the women tweeting “men are trash” are still going to turn around, selectively benefit from the very patriarchy they sometimes take a stand against, and still remain oblivious to the struggles of the LGBTI community being killed, raped and murdered on their doorsteps.  Their primary allegiance is to the “normality” of heterosexuality and rescuing that from its own violence so they can return to it without critiquing it or their place in it more deeply than that.  They are feminist to the extent that they can get soft-core patriarchy to deliver on its promises and hold back on its excesses and its violence — but not its violence against queer bodies.  Why are homophobes not trash when hate crimes against LGBTI persons are reported?

I’ve paid my dues to the straight community.  Everyone — yes, everyone — from that world has already trashed me.  I get bonus points for double-trashiness, having been gay in a straight world and a man in a world where all men are rightly regarded as suspects.  The heterosexism that suffocated me then is no different from the heterosexism that suffocates you, but hey, why question the air you breathe?  So it’s okay if I don’t get brownie feminist points for not tweeting #MenAreTrash.  Look closely.  Those brownies aren’t brownies; they’re something really nasty that looks like brownies; that feminism is negotiated patriarchy dressed up to look like women’s empowerment.  It calls patriarchy’s bluff, but has no plans to fundamentally destroy it.

A similar argument gets made about white people, apartheid and ongoing structural racism.  It goes: the white people who passively benefitted from apartheid should be lumped together with those who actively drove apartheid.  If white people were serious about non-racism, they would take responsibility for the whole mess.

My issue here isn’t heterosexuality (just as the issue isn’t “whiteness” but Whiteness): it’s heterosexism and its beneficiaries refusal to take responsibility for perpetuating the gender inequality that’s inherent to their way of being when that way of being is centred as THE way of being

So as long as the voices of heterosexists who are simply trying to tame patriarchy instead of dismantling it are mistaken for feminist voices just because they can imitate them, you will worsen the problem even as you go about fighting it, and, I’m sorry to say it, women will be complicit.

 

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#FICABill: The Myth of Economic Policy Stability

President Jacob Zuma has finally signed the Financial Intelligence Centre Act Bill.  This could mean one of three things.  If the first, we owe him an apology; if the second, we can relax a little; if the third, we must brace ourselves because winter is coming and it’s cold outside the ANC.

I once read a book.  It was a difficult experience for me — not because it was the only time I’d read a book, but because of a story it told.

A father was out with his young son.  The kid wanted to run around and play.  “Sure,” his father said, “but don’t run on the bank.”  The kid nodded, excited, before he took off to frolic on the forbidden bank.  His dad yelled, “No running on the bank!”  The kid nodded, but kept at it.  Eventually, his father dragged him off the grass and spanked him.  “What part of, ‘No running on the bank!’ didn’t you understand?”

His teary baby eyes blinking up, he asked, “Daddy, what’s a bank?”

That’s how tragically wrong the conspiracy theories around President Jacob Zuma could turn out to be.  He’s signed FICA, after all.

The second possibility is that the conspiracy theories are true but he’s changing his ways or losing ground.  This would make sense, when you look, also, at the Western Cape High Court ruling on behalf of NGOs Earthlife Africa and the Southern Africa Faith-Communities’ Environmental Institute: the run-up to nuclear energy deal was unconstitutional, the court said.

The third possibility is that as in rhetoric where a debater would concede a point in order to strengthen his initial position, Jacob Gedliyehlekisa Zuma is living up to his names — supplanter, mocker and ambusher: conceding only to lure into a trap.

He’s neither innocent kid being punished for a crime he doesn’t understand, nor short-sighted ruler who, “going out to encounter another king in war” embarrasses himself by not first deliberating “whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand”.  If he’d realized the error of his ways he’d be asking for amnesty.  His plan is not to shield the shady transactions that will be exposed to further-reaching investigations of FICA, but to threaten retaliation through said FICA.

When the State of Capture report emerged last year, the ANC Women’s League responded, “Any investigation which excludes white monopoly capital is an advancement of white supremacy and serves a racial political agenda that hinders the building of a non-racial society.”  Once you deepen investigations into relationships between high-profile political persons and big money, who decides that banking transactions flagged only yesteryear should be looked into?  Did something happen in, say, 1994, that expunged the sinfulness of all state-capital relationships until then?  Gotcha!  Unless the Bill explicitly carries a statue of limitations around how far back anyone can investigate (something Zuma could have highlighted) he will use it now that he has been forced to adopt it.

The moment the ANC stole bragging rights for our liberation, it became our Saviour and then our Lord.  Jesus can’t come back to save us from the ANC because we’ve made the ANC into our Jesus, our golden calf.  “These [be] thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”  President Zuma is banking on the idea that once you turn on the lights on illicit state-capital relations, you stumble upon an explanation for the economic inequality the ANC promised to rescue the black electorate from in 1994.  It would suddenly appear the apartheid State subsidized whiteness in a way that can only be rectified by the “radical economic transformation” the President will whet his MPs to vote for in June if not sooner.  ZumaTradeOff: A bigger reshuffle is on the cards sought to explain why President Zuma wants to keep his finger close to that trigger.  Therefore, he is not afraid of the FICA Bill and if he were, Minister Gigaba could delay its gazetting.

While we’re on Minister Gigaba, someone should warn him that he’s starting to look and sound like Pontius Pilate.  Until eternity’s last day, Pilate will boast an ecclesiastical honour known to no human save for Mother Mary: he’s one of the only two individuals named as having interacted with Jesus in the Christian Nicene Creed chanted by millions of believers weekly around the world.  Unlike the Virgin, however, Gigaba and Pilate will be caught in history’s spotlight denuded of core, conviction and character.  Both suffer from what Turkish historian Kenneth Weisbrode calls the “problems and pleasures of having it both ways.”  Is Gigaba about “radical economic transformation” (which is dog-whistle politics for another thing altogether) or “inclusive economic growth” (that whistle is deafening)?  Or will he not really know until he’s caught between a spear and a machine gun?

For he evades — look at the spin around the credit ratings downgrade.  He equivocates — “The views expressed in [Professor Chris Malikane’s] opinion piece [on land expropriation without compensation] are not necessarily government policy.”  He enables — guilty by association with the Gupta family.  Already he buckles under the weight of making the call to choose between crucifying South Africa’s economic Barabbases and Jesuses.

Not knowing who or what he is, media and markets will squeeze him to see what comes out of his slim frame until, finally, he will be squeezed by the 32, 000-pound bus Zuma will throw him under.

President Jacob Zuma, The Unburnt Chief of Nkandla’s Fire Pools, Maker of Chains, Father of Draconian state brutalities and Not-First of Unspeakable Names, signed FICA into law.

Those winds we’re hearing could be the winds of change but if we change nothing, they signal that winter is coming.

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#ZumaTradeOff: A Bigger Reshuffle on the Cards

 

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s economic adviser, Professor Chris Malikane, says government should scrap Black Economic Empowerment. He feels it’s worsened inequality among black people. I think his words herald another financial reshuffle — but not the kind we’d expect.

The first article on the #ZumaTradeOff said the louder people call for Jacob Zuma to fall without offering the trade-off of economic transformation, the more Zuma will paint those calling for his fall as racists who are unconcerned with the financial challenges facing black South Africans.

I am certain the ANC’s 62% is very close to voting with the EFF’s 6% on Section 25 of the Constitution. The EFF made the ANC a standing offer on agreeing around land expropriation without compensation. That is what Zuma said the ANC MPs should have voted for earlier this year in Parliament. Now, if ANC MPs can’t agree on voting by conscience on whether Zuma should remain President, in which world will they resist Zuma’s stance on land forever?

Whether you and I believe “white monopoly capital” exists or not is irrelevant. The debate on land ownership is a red herring. At its lowest, politics is never distracted by stats and facts; it focuses on what the greatest number of people will support whether it’s sensible or necessary.

In the eyes of supporters who have defended him thus far, there isn’t a sin Jacob Zuma can commit that won’t be covered by land reform in his term, nor will they fail to reward him with eternal presidency should he bring about “radical economic transformation”. Human nature hasn’t changed since Zimbabwe or many of the other African countries. And history’s shortest summary is that people don’t learn from history.

The issue of economic inequality is the deadliest weapon in Zuma’s considerable arsenal. On the one hand, if he isn’t backed into a corner where he has to force his MPs to vote on land in order to strengthen himself, it means he’s feeling strong enough to overcome resistance to the nuclear energy deal without effecting this financial “reshuffle”.

On the other hand, if he is feeling threatened by calls to step down, he will pull the land and God knows what else out from under white people to re-entrench his power.

Either way, the price for underestimating him is much too high.

Zuma does not hate his life, freedom, family and power so much that he would watch ANC MPs consider voting for him to leave office, but not use all manners of threats to effect a financial “reshuffle” that the finance portfolio reshuffles were mere dress rehearsals for.  Indeed, the cabinet reshuffle has shown he and the ANC will juggle office-bearers who can’t be bought to keep Zuma in power.

We are hanging by a thread no thicker than a spider’s web over a bed of really sharp, really long nails. Those nails are nuclear debt, junk status, a battle over land and being shunned by the global financial community for not signing the new FICA Bill.  This isn’t touching on how we may have unconditionally accepted responsibility for nuclear accidents connected with our power stations even if they happen outside our borders at someone else’s hand.

Professor Malikane is correct that the current Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment exacerbates inequality amongst black people. This is why Lee du Preez at BEE Novation argued that the “New Entrant” threshold — the amount of wealth a black person has to be under to be considered a new participant in the economy worth more BEE points for ownership — is too high at R50 million. It’s basically saying, “I won’t see to the needs of other black people until I’ve made my closest friends multi-millionaires.”

It’s why I said that Zuma’s fall can only happen if enough black and white people agree on a “trade-off” in which white people fight to have the threshold decreased to, say, R10 million (a number the DA has suggested) and fight so that black people whose net asset worth is over R10 million not count as black for ownership purposes under BEE. The opportunities must move on to those who need them — and those who have the most economic power have to make the opportunities available.

Given that white people seldom march for economic issues that affect black people, it will sound disingenuous if they now say they’re marching for Zuma to fall so he’ll stop abusing BEE.  They should instead lobby to have BEE less amenable to abuse, ensure transformation and equity happen, and play a supportive role towards political reformation.  That is black people’s fight, and they’ll show up if they have a meaningful stake in the economy to defend.

Professor Malikane overplays his hand is where he says BEE should be scrapped.  Socially and economically, it makes more sense to fix it so it stops enriching super-rich black elites, and starts aiding broad-based black economic transformation like it says on the label.

Unless you strongly disagree with this analysis, I urge you to please look up the #ZumaTradeOff hashtag and get everyone you know engaging it.

We’re going about the Zuma thing all wrong, and the price to pay for that will be greater than we can afford.

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#ZumaTradeOff: One Sitting Away From Constitutional Change

Today I had a conversation that picked up from where we’d left off on the #ZumaTradeOff series. It was about why white people have a vested interest in ensuring Black Economic Empowerment works.

BEE was created to protect white people from more radical means of accomplishing redress for historical injustices like apartheid and colonialism. But for BEE to continue doing that, it has to bring about restitution, not postpone it.

[And yes, on this blog we refer to people by the racial classification apartheid would have assigned to them because that’s how political parties and advertisers gain power over us. To take that power back, we need to anticipate their thoughts, not avoid them.]

The conversation reached a point where I started explaining that even white people who do not or cannot have BEE in their businesses need to ensure that where there is a BEE scorecard, whosever’s it is, it must be real and really help with transformation. One way to ensure this would be to lobby for the lowering of the “new entrant” threshold as I’ve advocated in previous posts in the #ZumaTradeOff series. But it’s not the only way to skin this cat.

What happens if white people don’t ensure the integrity and power of existing legislation?

The EFF and the ANC will egg each other towards changing the Constitution, that’s what.

And that change can look or sound like anything. We saw this in late Feb/early March this year — that because existing legislation has not delivered transformation but has enriched an elite few, we are potentially one Parliamentary sitting away from the most radical alteration of the Constitution in recent history. Once someone touches Section 25 of the Constitution, everything comes into question.

It’s that easy to reverse the effects of apartheid and level racial inequality — the EFF’s 6% and the ANC 62% would just have to agree on it.

And nothing could stop it. God wouldn’t stop it. Other countries wouldn’t intervene beyond speaking against it. This is a democratically elected government. Nothing, do you understand me, nothing would stop it. The whole thing dangles by a thread no stronger than a cobweb.

The louder white people call for Jacob Zuma to fall without offering the trade-off of economic transformation, the more desperate Jacob Zuma becomes to sacrifice something to appease the agitated crowds. White people it is; their votes don’t amount to much. Because, as explained in previous posts, unaccompanied by a white-backed call for economic transformation, those calls for his resignation can easily be construed as being horrendously self-occupied with whiteness’s interests at best, and racist at worst.

Again, only way to contest this is if white people lobby and march more for transformation than they do for political reformation, leaving the political reformation to black people who would then have a vested interest in protecting the economy they’d be let in on.

After the ANC refused to vote with the EFF on land expropriation without compensation, Zuma openly said the ANC MPs should have voted with the EFF. The only thing that stopped ANC MPs from voting with the EFF was political ego; at least, that’s what Zuma said when he lambasted [his! I emphasise: his, not their on consciences’; his] MPs.

But now that he’s effected the cabinet reshuffle, everyone in there fears him more than before. If they didn’t, they’d vote for him to go. So if he said yes to land reform, then, why shouldn’t they listen now?

Also, the ANC’s need for a scapegoat is greater now than it was in early March. Whether you and I believe “white monopoly capital” exists or not is completely irrelevant; all that matters is that all protocol considered, we are potentially. One. House. Sitting. Away. From. The. Most. Radical. Change. To. The. Constitution. One. Uno. Like, one take. The real thing. No dry run, no dress rehearsal.

Let this sink in because I don’t think people understand. Everything can change in one blink of an eye. In one sitting.

Think you that State and ANC President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma hates his life, hates his freedom, hates his family so much; think you that he so despises power that he’ll watch his MPs vote for him to leave office to appease white calls for him to step down, but won’t throw dust in everyone’s eyes by pulling the rug out from under white people’s feet?

Do you think he is that much of a saint? That much of a push-over?

The same Jacob who collected Cyril Ramaphosa’s and Gwede Mantashe’s spines after they openly criticised him? A whole Jacob Zuma?

Why do you think he’s been screaming, “These marchers are racist!” if not to prepare the country for his response to their calls for him to step down?

Did we learn nothing from the cabinet reshuffle?

The less power the current Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment codes have to transform the economy, the less resistance the EFF and ANC would encounter from their respective constituencies if they changed the Constitution in this way.

The more power existing codes have, the more resistance these parties would encounter from their respective constituencies.

That’s why, quite simply, white people have a vested interest in what I’ve been discussing in the #ZumaTradeOff.

This is all assuming that they want to keep their assets. I don’t know. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with altering the Constitution if the people affected don’t mind, I guess.
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#ZumaTradeOff: What are White People Planning?

On Easter Sunday, President Zuma’s risen glory was manifested to (and beheld by) hundreds of the faithful at the Twelve Apostles of Christ Church in Umgababa, where he passed himself off as the lamb that had been slain for championing “radical economic transformation”.

His genius lies in that up until the cabinet reshuffle, other political players had merely spoken of transformation. But there was no action prior to Zuma’s to measure it against. So transformation can be whatever Zuma says it is — including reckless cabinet reshuffles and credit ratings downgrades — because nobody has seen anything else.

A large part of how he has retained power was his abusing the most potent tool we had for transformation, Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE), to fund his crony capitalist network — while passing that off as his navigating the economic exclusions experienced by the black majority. And, given that nobody else had really done anything to relieve this exclusion, Zuma’s friends could call whatever he did “radical economic transformation”. Again, there was nothing else to measure it against.

If Mandela and Mbeki were sheltered by the cosy, respectable arms of white veneration, Zuma passes himself of as in the trenches with the ordinary black South African. When he is scapegoated by what he covertly describes as racist media for his sins, black people vicariously participate in his reproach and his navigation thereof. Sure, those black folk who saw Nkandla with their own eyes, put their finger in the wound in its side and saw it wasn’t photoshopped by said racist media, they voted IFP. But for many black people, marching against Zuma would mean marching with racism against one’s alternate universe self lifted up and crucified at the pinnacle of political power. For championing radical economic transformation.

If people’s perception is their reality, Zuma knows how to keep hope going.

There is a black marcher who can be mobilised against Zuma, though. He wears a red beret and is drawn by the EFF’s call for land, asset and business expropriation without compensation.

Do you see how the black majority, as a whole, faces no shortage of ideological suitors beating down its doors, offering it schemes for radical economic transformation? None of those ideas has to be particularly sophisticated or helpful because there’s nothing to compare them to. They also lack holistic stakeholder participation because most white people barely grasp their role in systemic racism, let alone contribute meaningfully to the discussion on transformation.

The suitors have multiplied. The other afternoon, the Department of Trade and Industry tweeted that we “need to broaden the base of participation in our economy, so for us black economic empowerment is imperative.” I’m not sure what the Department is thinking now or to what extent it will just continue serving the needs of the politically-connected few, but this isn’t the first time Minister Rob Haydn Davies has made noises on stricter BEE in the last few days.

Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said at his Easter sermon that rich and poor need to negotiate trade-offs at an economic and land Codesa. UDM’s Bantu Holomisa also tweeted about the need for an economic Codesa.

But if the Department of Trade and Industry willingly offers improved BEE, the resultant narrative will be that the Zuma administration is sincerely pro-transformation. This will defuse much frustration against corrupt government officials. We’ll then have a transformed economy with deformed guardians, and therefore no economy at all.

And though we must speak of economic Codesas, we cannot do so in broad terms anymore. We just don’t have the time. We need a framework to work off of, and we need it yesterday.

When one of these suitors, be it Zuma, Malema or Davis, offers a way towards radical economic transformation, we must look for strings attached or the unintended consequences of starting too broad. We must be very careful.

If my analysis that Zuma has abused BEE to gain and keep power is correct, loosening his grip on the economy may be achieved if we, the people, push for both radical economic transformation and political reformation as I’ve been describing under the #ZumaTradeOff series. Let me unpack why I insist white people have to fight for economic transformation, and black people for political reformation.

In line with his narrative that he’s the scapegoat who bears South Africa’s racism, Zuma has been mocking [white] marchers who had never been seen marching until now. He says they’re racist and greedy. How white people could answer that is through lobbying, not so much for a change in politicians, but for a BEE that will stop enriching a select politically-connected few and will spread the wealth more equitably amongst black people instead. I’ll explain shortly why pictures of rich white people climbing into convertibles to protest Zuma just look bad.

So those white people could march for businesses to be incentivised to make ownership deals with black people whose net worths are beneath R10 million. Currently, the BEE incentive is to have any black person as an owner, but there are bonus points that disappear once that black owner has a personal net worth of R50 million or more. Real BEE would cut the line off at a much lower net asset worth. Hence the R10 million mark. It would also make a starter difference between the number of points earned for ownership by someone with a net worth below R10m as opposed to someone with a net worth above R10m. Real BEE would possibly not count any black person with a net asset value of over R10 million as black for BEE ownership purposes. Once you’re a millionaire, you do not need to be prioritised for economic empowerment.

That one change, alone, would shrug a lot of crony capitalists off of government’s procurement chain while freeing BEE to economically empower those who genuinely need economic empowerment.

In exchange for lobbying for this kind of BEE, more black people who’ve previously been sceptical of white motives could then work for political reformation. Where there is the sure promise of economic transformation, black self-interest says to cast out those elements that would abuse the means of transformation for corruption. With a stronger BEE, the corruption no longer takes money out of just white pockets but out of black ones as well. The BEE we have doesn’t put money into black people’s pockets so government corruption remains an abstract idea.

The #ZumaTradeOff, then, says black people will fight for an economy that works by getting rid of incompetent or unethical office-bearers, in exchange for white people fighting to ensure the resulting economy works for everyone.

Our mistake has been that we kept swapping these roles. The optics of having white people fight for the economy to work by protesting black politicians when there had been a reshuffle, or of black people ensuring it works in a transformed manner by protesting white captains of industry when there were calls for minimum wages, have never worked. They have traditionally underscored our differences.

Black politicians would be more likely to listen to black lobbyists (who would be greater in numbers) and white industrialists would be more likely to listen to white lobbyists (who are the majority of consumers and hold more senior positions in business). But you would need both, at the same time, to turn South Africa around.

What this means is that instead of taking a day off work to protest a corrupt government run mostly by black office-bearers, white people really need to go into work to ask why senior management is untransformed.

We need to literally walk a mile in each other’s shoes.

Why am I picking so hard on white people? As said already, they need a distinctly pro-black reason for marching if they are to not play into Zuma’s game. Until then, everything they do or say can and will be used against them in a court of law.

Also, BEE was brought in by white capitalists as an alternative to nationalisation and expropriation. BEE’s primary beneficiary is the white populace. Isn’t it in their interests, then, to ensure that BEE works?  “How can it work if the blacks keep electing corrupt government officials?” many of these white people will ask.

To which I would reply, “Stop that.” Get out of that narrative. It is not in your self-interest to stay in it. Being right about this will not help in any case. You will only get corrupt government officials out of power if you ensure tomorrow’s economy is set to benefit everyone equitably. That’s on you.

How will we get black people to protect something they don’t have if we can’t get white people to use BEE to protect the interests they do have?

Not to put too fine a point of it, but if I were white in South Africa I would be discussing what this blog has been calling the #ZumaTradeOff like nothing else matters. If you’re not sure what it is, look up the hashtag and read other articles on it. Or contact me. A few people have, and I’ve only been to happy to respond to their case scenarios or clear up misunderstandings where the posts weren’t clear.

I respond faster on Twitter and Facebook than I do to blog comments. It’s just easier.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Don’t ask me about the book (I’m joking; I want you to ask)

 

#ZumaTradeOff: Meet Yesterday’s Black Anti-Zuma Marcher

It’s crucial to understand why yesterday’s black anti-Zuma marcher is fundamentally different from last week’s black non-marcher.

Let us first work out why last week’s anti-Zuma marches were so white-dense and black-light.

For the last few days, this blog has been saying that with Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) abused by President Zuma to fund his crony capitalist network, two things happen:

The first is black people think white people are the decisive reason the economy remains untransformed. In reality, President Zuma more decisively slows transformation than the average white South African could.

The other is white people think black people are the central reason Zuma is President. In reality, his patronage network keeps him in power despite his unpopularity amongst even black people.

Zuma plays these two sides off against each other, then.

When it’s time to vote or march against him, this dilemma in conscience affects many black people: they feel Zuma has done more to empathise with, and navigate, the economic exclusions experienced by the black majority than the previous presidents did. And indeed, under Zuma, we have seemingly shifted lefter.

In Zuma’s being scapegoated by what is believed to be white-owned media for his many sins, those black people vicariously participate in Zuma’s reproach and his navigation thereof. So though he steals and lies, he is the imperfect but necessary hero; though he is violent, he is the only husband who will protect from economic racism; though blemished, he is the only sacrificial lamb that bears the sin of structural racism in ways his predecessors never did; though selfish, he is the only martyr who shows black people how to cope before systemic racism.

This is many black people’s perceived and experienced reality, so there’s no arguing with it. For them, marching against President Zuma would be denying the need and the rightness of the little good they pick out of what is otherwise a messy and complicated leader. After all, white people don’t usually march alongside black people on their issues. The suspicion, then, must be that they care exclusively about their economic interests.

It is in this space that Zuma gets to say the marches against him were motivated by racism.

Though Zuma only feigns being a champion of black economic empowerment, each time we call for his removal without offering the trade-off that his ostensive role as economic emancipator will be taken over and consummated by others more capable and sympathetic than he is, we hang the spectre of economic nonexistence over black people’s heads.

So until a trade-off is suggested, the black majority only sees two possible futures: in the one, Zuma remains president but they have access to a junk-rated economy. In the other, if they march alongside white people for it, Zuma is no longer president but they have junk access to the economy.

Now that we understand last week’s non-marcher somewhat, we can discuss yesterday’s black marcher. This is the kind the EFF mobilises successfully. Until that EFF collapses or is absorbed into the ANC, those black people will be drawn by its call for land and asset expropriation without compensation. The majority of yesterday’s black marchers see right through Zuma’s act and want him out of the way so they can also get white people out of the way to their economic liberation. How white people are gotten out of the way for the purpose of black economic liberation isn’t necessarily violent, but neither is it necessarily nice. In the law of eye-for-an-eye, one may not exceed the violence shown under apartheid and colonialism to rectify their effects. You do the math.

Is this to say yesterday’s black marcher is violent and blood-thirsty? No, but it’s no use saying apartheid was a crime against humanity without acting like it was. Black EFF supporters probably hate unprovoked violence more than anyone else. That’s why many of them would respond to the unprovoked violence that apartheid was, with provoked violence — sort of how Old Testament God demonstrates his hatred for violence by inflicting it upon those who benefitted off of prior violence.

My point is calling for Zuma’s fall without articulating what that means economically corroborates accusations that white people will act more decisively to defend their economic interests than to rectify the effects of the apartheid they benefitted from. The untenability of such a status quo, of that post-Zuma South Africa, is why we have not moved past Zuma. If we cannot remove Zuma now, that nuclear energy deal is as good as done, as are whatsoever other rare delights he has in store for us.

Industrial designer and agricultural innovator William Blake suggested anti-Zuma marches be geo-spatially close to townships and rural areas instead of just at city centres and in suburbs. Risk is constant wherever people march; the ANC Youth League will always gate-crash. The greater risk is sitting at home or at work doing nothing about this political battle. The point is, where the marches happen says much about what Zuma’s fall is meant to accomplish and protect.

There are many economic trade-offs I’d suggest but one tweak in BEE would be the simplest. An understanding of BEE can buttress us from being politically manipulated into the false need to change the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land, assets or business without compensation. The onus is on white people to lobby for real transformation and monitor the flow of wealth to ensure everyone has a fair chance to contribute to the economy and be rewarded fairly. One could argue it is on black people to vote differently or hold politicians accountable. But that simply demonstrates a lack of appreciation for the kind of perceived (and somewhat real) political reality many black people live within. In that political reality, everything white people would have black people do benefits white people first and black people last, if ever.

President Zuma’s removal is essential for our economic survival, lest he continue doing naughty things in the name of “radical economic transformation.” But an economic trade-off of some manner, shape or form is essential for his removal, without which most black people have no reason to march against him unless mobilised by the EFF to do so.

And for those who think black people are ignorant/uneducated/don’t understand what’s going on and therefore can’t be mobilised: lo and behold, they freaking marched yesterday. Why? Because the EFF proposes the most “radical” trade-off ever conceived of in our democracy: vote us in to replace the ANC, and we’ll let you take the land back.

One way or another, a trade-off of some nature is the only thing that will bring about political change in this country.

If I understand “the markets” correctly, the #ZumaTradeOff (centred on tweaking the new entry provision in BEE and therefore costing investors much less than the outright confiscation of assets) is our economy’s only hope for not only working better for Zuma’s absence, but working for everyone, lest inequalities persist.

What is this new entry provision? For those who haven’t read previous posts, I gleaned some technical insights from transformation consultancy BEE Novation. In the name of transformation, the current Black Economic Empowerment codes recognise as a “new entrant” to the economy, any black person with a net worth of less than R50 million for the purpose of part-ownership in an empowering company. With a threshold this high, transformation begins to look a lot like the enrichment of a politically-connected few to the exclusion of a politically unconnected many.

If we could drop the threshold to R10 million, and increase the number of points an empowering company could earn for introducing black people whose net worth is less than R10 million each, we could accelerate real economic transformation. If we were feeling drastic, we could consider not counting anyone over the threshold as black for BEE purposes. There is no way an individual with a R10 million net asset value could need support from legislation that was passed to help poor black people. There are real, and really poor, black people waiting in the wings.

At some point in the country’s future, white people will negotiate with black people. They could negotiate today with the black people who didn’t march last week, mobilising them to march in exchange for BEE being changed to really work for them.

Or they will negotiate tomorrow with the black people who marched with the EFF yesterday.

Follow and Retweet: @SKhumalo1987

That book is dancing on me.

Thank you everyone who’s been sharing the posts and the hashtag #ZumaTradeOff. Feedback is most welcome

As We Protest (God Help Us All)

Today, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Party, among other organizations, is leading an  ambitiously-named “national day of action” protest to persuade President Zuma to step down.

For reasons discussed in podcasts, blog posts and videos, the below are the reasons and necessary conditions for removing President Jacob Zuma.

I’ll be very surprised if any group can depose of him without reaching consensus on these.

Reasons:

Being credit-rated as junk will take South Africa’s price of borrowing up, which will affect the price of…everything.

The nuclear energy deal will knock the price of power up, which will affect the price of…everything.

Zuma will also lead the campaign to destroy the ANC’s reputation within the next two years. Following his lead, rude and thuggish ANCYL members will pick the party’s brand equity down to its bones. The more vocally they defend the Zuma who has captured the party, the less ANC top brass will be able to do to curb or discipline this. They have let the fish rot from the head, leaving them with zero credibility when they reprimand their political children for taking after their political father. The ANC is not dead, not by a long shot. But its doom has become certain.

Your most uninformed voter in the country’s most rural outpost will see the flashy cars and rowdy behaviour (or even an attempt at masking it) at campaigns, and know instinctively that something is not right. They already know because they normally only ever see the ANC at election season.

The ANC presidential race is for nought because at this rate, the next president of the ANC will not be the next president of the country. All the contracts, the political and public positions ANC supporters hope to gain by toing the party line will not be the ANC’s to give. Stephen Grootes painted the dilemma in excruciating terms:

“For many ANC MPs now, things may well be coming to the point where they are wondering if they will return as an MP after the 2019 elections. The lower on the parliamentary list they are now, the less chance they have of coming back.”

and

“Which means that for their own self-interest, some of these MPs must surely be thinking that the party needs to change direction.”

“But their problem still remains: do they allow Zuma to stay, or do they try to act against him? Both are perilous. If they do nothing, they could be queuing up outside any McDonald’s with a ‘help wanted’ sign in late 2019. If they act, they could be doing that by December this year.”

Either way, President Zuma is bad news for ANC MPs and other office-bearers. If the party keeps him, it may have no choice but to steal elections in 2019.

The Conditions for Zuma’s Removal:

The first is organized civil disobedience. Recognized organizations like political parties, unions, civil society NPOs and businesses are bound in word and deed by the law. They cannot explicitly lead people into illegal activities, for if they did they would lose the platforms they speak and act from. This loss would implicate other stakeholders these organisations have legitimate commitments towards. Also, no organisation wants to take responsibility for death, injury or loss of whatsoever nature, howsoever arising, that would happen in the course of civil disobedience.

That does not mean they cannot implicitly point the way forward for those without such a platform to lose. In other words, we cannot rely on them to do all the thinking and organising for us.

When Pravin Gordhan said to mobilize, he may have implicitly meant to do whatever it takes to unseat Zuma. But notice he could neither mention a.) Zuma, whom we assumed he meant, nor b.) the need to do a pro-cons analysis as to whether we would act by the letter of the law or its spirit. Again, we assumed he meant we had to act within the law and not just within conscience.

We have to connect the dots. Politics is too important to be left to politicians.

Organised civil disobedience may be something as simple as mobilising people for an immediate march without applying for permits and permission, knowing the risks.

The moment an organisation applies for permission to work within rules, we must heed the expression that “Rules are for the Guidance of the Wise and the Obeisance of Fools.” Zuma probably won’t be deposed by petition, vote of no confidence or a march that has a start date and an end date. He can ignore the petition, win the parliamentary vote (quite easily, too) and cover his hears until after any planned demonstration.  The courts can do little or nothing.

The end of a demonstration should not be when demonstrators want to get back to work; it should be when the goal of the demonstration is accomplished. With days between our marches, there soon will be no work to get back to as Zuma works overtime to sell the economy off.

Any action we take would have to outlast and isolate him (or those who have the resources to oust him) from something they need, be it room to move, food or water. If we worked via a tax revolt, it would have to be broad, deep and last long enough to make his tenure untenable to those who have the legal power (but not yet the moral power) to remove him from presidency.

The Most Important Condition:

The most important condition to mobilizing the greatest number of people has to do with the “what’s in it for me” factor.

I’ve been to enough Zuma marches and read enough social media complaints about them to tell you the reason they don’t have enough support is racial. White people have a clear understanding of what Zuma represents — simply, a big problem — but in many black people’s lives, he’s the cause and the symptom (and therefore, the cause and the cure) of a more dynamic dilemma. The unintended but foreseeable effect of removing him is an exacerbation in systemic racism. Zuma may be lying when he says (anything at all) that he’s fighting for the economic upliftment of black people. But by virtue of how he’s positioned himself and how he operates, he does negotiate the factors that exclude black people from the economy much better than his predecessors did, even if he also steals from those black people to unfairly enrich while bribing and blackmailing those who keep him in power.

This is how he holds scores of black ANC voters consciences’ ransom. Worse still, he keeps black people convinced that it is white people slowing down transformation, and white people convinced that black people actively support him out of ignorance. The reality is, Zuma does not need that much support from the black person on the ground to stay in power. His patronage network is more important for that purpose. The ANC, in turn, is protected by the liberation legacy but also its position. Pure populism sans capitalism does not hold as much appeal to black people as we’d expect it to, but neither does sheer neoliberalism. The ANC can get away with murder because it ideologically negotiates around Zuma’s negotiating within politics.

The moment someone explains hair-raising moves through “radical economic transformation,” we should get those who work in the transformation space weighing in, just as we would expect doctors or some medical practitioners’ society to weigh in on the words of a politician who gives an unsound medical rationale for his decisions. Professionals defend their fields. In this regard, a Black Economic Empowerment consultancy called BEE Novation has shared the view that if, for example, “the new entrant” threshold on BEE were dropped from R50 million to say, R10 million, it would be a step towards empowering black South Africans on the ground while curbing crony capitalism. The alternative to BEE, now or later, is “expropriation without compensation” or ongoing inequality. So Zuma’s rhetoric is in direct contradiction to his actions’ trajectory.

As I have pointed out on this blog, Daily Maverick, Biznews and PowerFM, the solution to the Zuma stand-off is a Zuma trade-off. If white people want him gone, they need to lobby and march for economic transformation. It is then that black people would be “unshackled” to march for politicians who would ensure we have an economy in the first place.

Apart from socially and economically empowered white people lobbying for better transformation in exchange for more black people supporting Zuma protests, the bulk of black people have very little reason to get rid of Zuma or the ANC. This is crunch time, the greatest test the New South Africa has faced. If we get rid of Zuma or the ANC, the economy will remain inaccessible to black people. Zuma knows this. If we don’t get rid of him, black people will have access to a junk-rated economy. It’s lose-lose.

I’m happy to draw up and plan as much as I can around the #ZumaTradeOff, but honestly speaking this ball is in white people’s court. Nobody is better positioned to make it happen.

The #ZumaTradeOff would have to be explicit and deliberate. It is not enough for the races to march and sing together here and there, now and then; they have to cultivate the discipline of working for one another’s and, by extension, everyone’s best interests.

A lot of white people think if we solve the political problem, black people’s economic problems will be solved as well. But the deal we signed up for in 1994 left economic power in white hands — setting us up for the very moment we facing now. White people have yet to show serious interest in solving black people’s economic problems beyond where their political interests coincide with those economic problems.

The alternative to the #ZumaTradeOff is more of Zuma, and with him, untold misery. I cannot see this play out any other way.

If you agree, publicize the #ZumaTradeOff hashtag to help push the conversation to a fruitful end. If we fail to, what happens next is on us.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

The book is almost done, and I am well-done.

 

 

 

 

#ZumaTradeOff: Why Both Sides Must Win

A version of this Article has appeared on Daily Maverick, BizNews and a growing list of media platforms.

Please read and share it as a matter of urgency. Thank you.

President Jacob Zuma is selling the country off in bits and pieces. We could return the favour by making him part of a trade-off between black people who want white people to share economic power, and white people who want black people to share political power.

Unless both sides can agree on a trade-off, fast, President Jacob Zuma will use his power to destroy both.

I wish this weren’t about race. But black social media users have accused white people of protesting only when Zuma jeopardises the economy, but never over high tuition fees, minimum wages, or other matters that impact on black people whose economic worlds are permanently in junk status.

Likewise, a lot of white people say if black people don’t join the call for new leadership, those issues won’t be solved even if white people tried to help solve them.

Each of these “sides” has to give something to get something back. Let’s call this the #ZumaTradeOff.

Underlying Zuma’s grip on our economy is the lie that he is working to bring about radical economic transformation. But a transformation consultant with years in the game believes Zuma is working for the opposite of what he has promised.

The alternative to BEE is “expropriation without compensation” after Zuma solidifies his grip on power and further wrecks the economy. If South Africans do not fight to take Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) back from croney capitalism, we will have nothing left to fight for. This legislation hasn’t failed; it hasn’t been tried. Instead, it’s been abused by the politically connected.

At a layman’s primer on BEE by BEE Novation, consultant Lee du Preez spoke of what he felt was a kink in the Act — its New Entrant provision. A company that takes on a black owner with a net worth of less than R50-million may get bonus BEE points for enabling a “new entrant” to the economy a greater level of participation. Once that person’s net worth exceeds R50-million, the company continues getting up to full points for transformed ownership; they just don’t get bonus points.

For obvious reasons, du Preez felt using BEE to make people millionaires 50 times over was a bit like using a charity organisation created to uplift the poor to enrich a chosen few. Once a person’s net worth exceeds R50-million — heck, R10-million! — he should no longer be considered black for BEE purposes because he’d be wealthier than the average white South African. The abuse of this high “new entrant” threshold, among other provisions, had led to people distrusting BEE; specifically, it had led to black people believing the slowness of economic transformation was white people’s fault, and white people believing Zuma’s political stronghold was black people’s fault. Divided, we are conquered and we cannot mobilise like Pravin Gordhan said to.

The fault line in both instances is that Zuma uses tools like BEE to fund a patronage network beholden to himself instead of accelerating real economic transformation. The reasons for racial mistrust were two sides of exactly the same coin. You can’t get rid of the one without getting rid of the other. Hence, #ZumaTradeOff.

Others have spoken of this. While Wilmot James was the Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry, he observed that the DTI would “increase the threshold of the value of equity previously held to qualify as a ‘new entrant’ from R20-million to R50-million”:

“The DA believes that steps must be taken to ensure that B-BBEE does not become a tool for elite enrichment — we therefore argued for lowering the threshold in the definition of ‘new entrants’ to R10-million and increasing the points that can be earned by involving new entrants and workers in empowerment transactions.”

Put differently, imagine disaster survivors being triaged for emergency medical assistance. How would we feel if the medical service personnel knew some of the victims personally, and decided to first give those spa treatments and pedicures before moving on to patients who urgently needed life-saving help?

The purpose of medical emergency intervention is to get people fixed enough so they can get their own spa treatments in the future. BEE’s purpose is to give black people a leg-up so they can someday go on to making their millions. Without a cap on the wealth an individual can make through BEE deals, we’ll never get around to benefiting those who aren’t politically connected. Someone with a net asset value of R49-million isn’t a new entrant; he’s an Ancient of Days.

What we have under Zuma’s watch is Bribe-Based Black Elite Enrichment. Zuma is not the way, the truth and the life without which none may come to radical economic transformation. He’s the broad and crowded gate to economic hell for black, Indian, coloured and white people.

Very simply put, if more black people step up to work for Zuma’s removal from the presidency, we’ll have an economy that works. If white people step up to drive lobbying for revisions to BEE, we’ll have an economy that works for black people as well.

One practical way this can play out is in the lead-up to Parliament’s no-confidence vote on Tuesday the 18th of April. We must publicise and discuss the #ZumaTradeOff to one another – and then fight for it like our country’s future depends on it. Because it does. We can’t win unless we’re clear on what we all stand to win.

By the 18th, our Members of Parliament must have heard of the scandal: in return for selling the country, our whole president would have been sold off to political slaughter for a pro-forma 30 pieces of silver he isn’t worth. We must not retreat until those members of parliament vote accordingly.

Please follow and retweet @SKhumalo1987

The hashtag is #ZumaTradeOff

That book is almost done working on me

The ANC Did Not Liberate South Africa

To understand why ANC members make utterances that contradict the spirit of the Constitution whenever their party and its president are threatened, we need to understand why the party is so distant from the Constitution.

Its NEC’s biggest smallanyana skeleton is that those who defend and call the ANC their father are pimped out and thrown under the bus by it because it isn’t their father. Who is, then?

Our country’s regression into Old Testament territory calls for Ezekiel’s unveiling of a similarly deluded nation’s origins:

“On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.”

South Africa is our mother, but the ANC is not our father.

“Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.”

Translation: you’re a bastard.

The romanticized story of how the New South Africa was conceived says the ANC liberated black people and is their political father. The truth is the ANC happened to have been positioned to take credit for the end of apartheid; it did not end apartheid.

This isn’t to say many of its members didn’t make epic sacrifices; it’s to say those sacrifices, in and of themselves, didn’t bring about liberation. Credit was imputed to these sacrificers for ending apartheid because the story of changed hearts would do more to unify us than the uninspiring non-story of that time’s financial realities.

The ANC provided a leader who unified and prevented horrendous bloodshed. But sparing South Africa from conflict is not the same thing as liberating South Africa from oppression. There is a price to pay for confusing the two.

The ANC accelerated a shift in the way black and brown people understood their relationship to the government. It did this at first by talking, then by inflicting violence. The State shook it off. After it was banned, ordinary South Africans used it as a focal point and rallying cry as they liberated themselves.

Post-Cold War trade rerouting made the bans many in the world had been crying out for easier, which brought about apartheid’s economic death. The romanticized version says the bans were initiated because the black lives of liberation stalwarts mattered that much to global economies’ consciences. If that’s so, why isn’t the West not that much ahead of us in eradicating racism today?

Second to its formation, no hour in a political party’s life is more formative than its graduation to being a governing party. The lies a party tells at the assumption of power insidiously latch to its people’s egos, sucking them into the gravity of their own spin machines. That is how the ANC fell under the deception that its members were directly responsible for dismantling apartheid and were to be singularly credited with accomplishments that required global events (and a lot of help!) from beyond their sphere of influence.

An awareness of one’s limits develops humility; self-deception develops entitlement. Without a correspondence between reality and narrative to stabilise the relationship between effort in and results out at that time, the party could never develop a grasp for the mathematical relationship between their ideologies and desired results for today. The ANC can’t govern because at a formative moment, it believed a lie about the relationship between its efforts and the liberation of the country it was to govern. We know it believed a lie because if humility is the mark of knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, the ANC is drowning in hubris and parched for results.

When we believe the ANC liberated South Africa, we follow its lead and fall into confusion about what unseats unjust office-bearers. It is not embarrassment, but if you think it is, you will sign petitions and have 3-day demonstrations. What unseats them is cut-off to resources they need or the unworkability of systems they put in place for their benefit. Previous posts list examples of what that looks like when the laws are unjust; when the laws are fine but their enforcers are not, the target shifts only slightly. You barricade and hold those people hostage until they quit. This is civil disobedience, and I explain its ramifications better in Facebook threads where people ask questions about it.

The skeleton key that unlocks the closet to all the ANC’s skeletons is that its children are political and ideological bastards. They were despised from birth by those who truly fathered that freedom. That’s why the ANC sees them not as trusting, precious supporters to be nurtured, but as objects to be exploited. #RememberKhwezi.

The ANC could not have fathered the New South Africa because it was not there; it was being exiled, arrested and killed in sacrifices that could not liberate South Africa except in the narratives we told to put flesh on and prettify the unfeeling financial skeleton of the world that was emerging. When someone invites you to take over a country the way the National Party did the ANC, it isn’t your victory to claim; it’s that person’s to give. Given that the ANC had been impotent all along, no amount of propping it up at the essential moment could help it father what it, in the end, never fathered. The patriarchal hang-ups that come with knowing this are not mine and are probably not yours, but they’re theirs and they explain why our ruling-party office-bearers are so insecure, paranoid and cynical. It’s because they know that the New South Africa is either the Old in disguise, or the hate child of those who ran and exploited the Old. Either way, it is not their child.

This is why the ANC, in filling Nelson Mandela’s shoes, gave us Jacob Zuma. He is their revenge for having to sustain this lie, their confession on the role that has been falsely imputed to them for years. The memory of real leaders — everyone until and including Mandela — are taunting and tormentous reminders of their inability and the whitewash they had to participate in to cover it. Zuma is how they try to claw out that part of our brains that remembers. But the crude lobotomy only reminds us that a father would never hurt his children.

The ANC did not give us the Constitution; the mostly-white and well-meaning prettifiers of the narrative around the 1994 transfer of power did, and the ANC signed it off but never owned it.

Black ANC supporters know that every victory they score for the ANC is yet more trust handed over to be betrayed in the worst ways possible.

Upon consummation, this misguided self-assertion turns out to be many lifetimes’ worth of self-negation.

Please follow and retweet @SKhumalo1987

The book is almost done, and so am I.

 

Junk Status: The Gift We Never Wanted

On Sunday,  our shell-shocked country yet survived two pressers. The first was by the Parliamentary Speaker. Its late start bit into the official opposition’s airtime. The second was by the DA on the disciplinary actions against Helen Zille, and the march to the vicinity of Luthuli House.

The strange thing about these pressers was they had the same purpose — to press the anger right out of us. Afterwards, I asked myself, “What will it take to shake us out of our complacency?”

Yesterday, we were shaken by two earthquakes and a rating agency’s credit rating downgrade to Junk Status.

Why would the Democratic Alliance want to anger-manage us into complacency?

At its core, it isn’t a political party: it’s a well-run corporate whose mandate is to protect the interests of established business in post-apartheid South Africa. To do so, it needs to infiltrate the political world just enough to keep that boat from tipping too far left.

Insofar as it passes for a political party, it needs to grow, but never win. Winning would place it into administrative crosshairs to buffer the conflict between post-apartheid restitutions and the private sector that would subsidise said restitutions. There would be no more ANC to point fingers at for failures to manage the difficulties inherent in this task. It would all be on the DA.

At the same time, the DA must grow so as to not have its share of the vote absorbed by other parties. It scavenges the ANC’s victims. If said ANC got rid of Jacob Zuma tomorrow morning, the DA would lose all the voters who joined the DA to get away from Zuma’s ANC. This is why, in my cynical view, the party would want to anger-manage us and make the ANC retain Zuma.

When the DA announced it plans to march to the vicinity of Luthuli House (for the umpteenth time) on the 7th, they gave Zuma’s scenario-planning 5 additional days to develop. Incidentally,  “Zuma” can be interpreted to mean,  “To catch off-guard [in the night, his favourite time] and ambush, often sexually.” One of the things Jacob means is to supplant, replace, undermine or override. Gedleyihlekisa is the one who laughs while hurting you.

The DA also sent out their nth petition. In South Africa, marches and petitions achieve much that is important, but they hardly ever get officials fired. They make us believe that spectacle, by itself, can retrieve souls and consciences from the hellacious clutches of corruption.

It is civil disobedience, not marches, that breaks rotten systems. It’s always been people who sat, ate or drank where the rules said they weren’t allowed to, or presented themselves where they shouldn’t have without passes they should have had so they could be jailed en masse and logjam the criminal justice systems that enforced those unjust laws. They rendered processes unworkable, or cut off opponents’ access to roads and other resources. We may be the first “oppressed” people in all history to think merely shaming the shameless will get them to see the light.

The DA’s proposed responses will help it take ownership of and deactivate anger that could have been channelled into civil disobedience. Granted, the DA can’t advocate civil disobedience, but it could step aside, let history run its course and help those who occupied or barricaded strategic points after the fact.

The other topic the DA had to address was Helen Zille and her tweets on colonialism, which will be investigated while Zille retains Premiership. I suspect the party is unsure what to do. This is a whole Helen Zille. What’s being investigated isn’t her tweets, which need little investigation as they aren’t encrypted secrets and the DA already said it doesn’t stand for colonialism. What they’re actually “investigating” are the political pros and cons of expelling her. Sure, the DA will pick up more of the ANC’s leftovers but it will alienate staunch Zille (and colonialism) supporters. The DA may be better off dethroning Zille as Premier than Zuma as President.

To retain the ideal number of National Assembly seats, the DA would need to speak as though it were possible to run this country without running into the tricky moral trilemmas the ANC fell to after 1994. This would help it attract the kind of voter it banks on: over racial politics (and therefore, fully immersed in racial politics) and lacking the stomach for hard conversations. That’s why the crowd it speaks to is so amenable to having its outrage defused. The problem isn’t that middle-class and white South Africans feel too intensely; it’s that they feel too little. It is emotional anaemia. Where is the response to ongoing systemic racism? What is Black Monday? Its critics are saying the initiative is utterly void of initiative.

The other presser was just as measured.

Baleka Mbete was late, as mentioned. What most twitter users thought of her responses to journalists’ questions was they were full of nothingness. She condescended without being overtly condescending. She painstakingly said, without quite saying, that there’s neither legal nor procedural basis for the outrage that’s followed the reshuffles. She was questioned about her feelings at seeing her minister colleagues being dismissed. Her responses, even then, can best be described by Eusebius Mckaiser’s tweet as “evasive, non-committal, uncertain of how to position herself, tactically incoherent. Put differently: She is being consistent.”

Her presser mirrored what she wanted to frame as the total insubstantiality of the current political outrage — our hypochondria. If President Zuma’s reshuffle devastated us, Mbete’s contempt numbed us down to a point where we can feel nothing and that nothing is our impotence to determine the conditions of a conflict we are avoiding. It smothered our outrage to a helpless smoulder. Her message was the Political Establishment is the Political Establishment and there isn’t a thing anyone can do about it because nobody has done anything about it.

Why, then, did she invite the media? She did it because she’s the sweet family doctor who comes to tell you the country isn’t sick. We can’t be sick because there’s no legally known basis for declaring us sick, and our symptoms must be imaginary or else we’d have taken to the streets long before she called her briefing. There wouldn’t have been a briefing. She and the rest of the NEC would be calling to the mountains and hills to  fall on them to hide them as Jesus returns in the form of public wrath.

By merely watching the presser when we should have been driving the fear of the living God into our public servants, we legitimised everything she was saying in her hypnotic drone. By merely summoning us instead of being summoned by us, the public servant reversed roles. And we let her because we always let them.

And this is why Junk Status is, hopefully, the Gift We Never Wanted — a wake-up call.

There’s a controversial technique for saving cardiac arrest victims. The precordial thump looks like a karate-chop to the sternum, a whack near the heart. Delivered correctly, it can bring the victim of cardiac arrest back from the brink.

It’s scary.  It’s dangerous. Like earthquakes. Like credit ratings downgrades. But in the long run, it may inoculate us from being taken off-guard by the one whose name spells out his modus operandi.

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That book is working on me, and I’m nearly done. With any luck, it, too, is nearly done.