[This is a somewhat long post; I have stuck to essentials in writing it]
Occasionally, someone from within the African National Congress divulges sensitive information about it in the public domain. While I would never share what he says through my inbox, I have not betrayed his confidence. These statements are in the open for anyone who takes his position within the ANC seriously enough to scrutinize what he himself says about the Party.
During one of our online debates, I questioned why we have as many tribal chiefs as we have, earning as much as they earn. He responded in Zulu, “Limit your activism to just Jacob Zuma. Don’t draw your grave closer while it’s still far from you. There is still much that you could do for South Africa but drop the chiefs’ issue.” This is an ardent Zuma fan.
When we asked him what he meant and whether he was threatening me, he replied, “I am not. It’s a friendly warning. You yourself are Zulu. You know that if you touch royals, especially in KZN, how people react. It’s a friendly warning” and also “Please join the DA if you haven’t become a member. I believe you are an asset to this country”.
In other words, this ANC member would rather have had me in the DA, where I would be taught the political etiquette of not rocking the boat insofar as indigenous royalty is concerned. The alternative was me, dead.
It’s interesting that the ANC has no direct control over what Zulus and other tribes do and don’t do. If it did exert more influence, its culpable deniability would vanish. If the ANC can just play to that group’s tribal love of all things Zulu, and hire Zulu persons into positions of prominence, then the Party will always have an army of loyalist Zulu disciples ready to defend the Party that recognizes its cultural prominence. Copy and paste for every other group. Hence the chiefs and a Constitution that recognizes them.
The fact that the ANC buys this loyalty without being able to control how the loyalty is expressed means that the ANC cannot be held responsible for what the Zulus do, and if what the Zulus do just to happens to coincide with what the ANC wanted to happen anyway – well, who are we to question the mysterious hand of Providence?
The problem here is that this tribalism is the puzzle piece that holds xenophobia, homophobia, and sexism together. If the government actually took decisive, believable steps (not just token steps) towards eradicating these attitudes, it would also erode the unquestioning loyalty with which these tribalists worship the government that currently employs Zulus in ways that validates their claim to tribal superiority.
There is an army of NGOs dying to research and resolve xenophobia, homophobia and sexism because the Constitution calls for that paradigm shift. Our crime, rape, poverty and unemployment issues could be resolved. But we can’t afford to resolve them too effectively, lest the psychological stronghold of the ANC be threatened.
This is why there is a greater army of government/parastatal officials dragging their feet on allowing and enabling those NGOs to do their work. Have you ever found yourself trying to explain to the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities that feminist findings are crucial to understanding women’s issues? Or that remaining silent about anti-gay laws in other countries is wrong? or that bigoted slurs in City Hall are unacceptable? If these paradigm shifts towards tolerance began, the ruling party would start to lose the traditional leaders’ support. Also, the people exposed to such nuanced ideas about diversity would soon reject the discriminatory mindset beneath tribalism. Mbeki was right about the demon of tribalism. Like a double-edged sword or a tokoloshe, this demon can bind while empowering; it cures one wound while inflicting another. The ANC is politics’ most puzzling paradox: no Party has ever enjoyed such a fierce following with such little overt tyranny in the midst of this much voter dissatisfaction. It shouldn’t add up. It doesn’t.
Until you understand Tribalism.
This is where liberalism shoots itself in the foot: because we must protect people’s right to practice their culture, questioning these mindsets is tantamount to violating people’s right to their cultures. “We have one of the most liberal Constitutions in the world!” – and therein lies the rub.
To question the president’s commitment to the advancement of women’s rights becomes an infringement upon his right to live as his culture allows. His polygamous ways and their cost to the State must not enter the fray of questionable issues. To question a young black man’s undying loyalty to an older Zulu father figure in the ANC (it used to be IFP with Buthelezi until the mostly-Xhosa ANC did a bit of math and rolled out the Zuma 0.1) isn’t simple intellectual probing to find out why people continue voting for a party that’s raised corruption to a form of entertainment for the public: for a young black man searching for an identity, such probing is a cultural slap in the face to all things Zulu. Now that a Zulu man is President, to be Zulu is to be ANC and my friend from the ANC isn’t shy to remind me of this despite the Party’s supposed opposition to tribalism.
Political correctness says not to look for the line between simple intellectual probing and “intolerant” cultural criticism. Liberalism says it’s taboo to even approach the terrain, let alone look for a line. “If you don’t agree with the President having his many wives you are intolerant of our culture and you suffer from what we call ‘inferiority complex’,” my source pointed out. Oh look: the biological coincidence of being born Zulu means you may never engage in feminist critical thinking. You become a “kleva blaq” with an inferiority complex. For how else do we explain your choice to question the binding cultural package attached to that blackness? “We explain it by calling it critical thought” you may say. Well how dare you suggest that something in this culture of the Zulus – divines, heavenly people – may be critically thought about? More personally, is this how you repay your parents for pouring the only worldviews they knew into you while also taking the risk of sending you to get an education that could cause you to question as you’re doing now? This is intended to bring about a Niagara Falls of guilt. The brilliance of this tactic is that it isn’t taught: it doesn’t have to be. A piercing look of disapproval – one, “What kind of Zulu are you?” – is all it takes.
But the effectiveness of holding young black people ideological captive to whatever someone else conveniently defines their blackness to mean pales – pales – in comparison to the effectiveness of tacitly holding white people hostage to their guilt over colonialism and apartheid. Behind the smiling sheath of “working together we can do more” is concealed the sword of one question: how dare you, the one people-group that could fund this working-together, now even question black people’s right to exist the way that was handed down by their ancestors? You must fund the restoration of their heritage.
Heritage. Hey, let’s hold a huge ANC rally. Someone comes along and asks, “What is this?”
Please ignore the ANC vehicles and banners and tents and chants. Please don’t look for the line between traditional dancing and praising Zuma.
If you question whether the State can afford to spend this much on
campaigning for the ANC heritage, you get the glare.
The ANC knows that there is this undisclosed perception that the tribal people on the ground are more powerful than the government. Anyone can take the government to court and haggle with the State on western terms. But the Zulus are an untested and unknown “other”: by always having them nearby, the ANC effectively says, “If you could get rid of us, hypothetically, would you be prepared to deal with them, now that we’ve gotten them hooked on the endless procession of Zulu-validating actions, words and figureheads?” Of course, “we” couldn’t deal with “them” so we turn away from the problem and leave it on the back-burner for another blogger to think about. Because this problem, once faced, paralyzes us and unravels the rainbow nation in a single stroke. How do you critique the mindsets that are so closely linked to the culture without criticizing the culture and losing your liberalist card, or, for that matter, violating the Constitution that recognizes the validity of these cultures, which in turn enables the ANC to play this game?
There is just no neat answer to “the masses” and that’s why tax-paying South Africans don’t have the balls to crack the whip in terms of accountability and financial management. If we had to really question the ANC on Nkandla or dethrone Zuma through a campaign like #ZumasResigned, we’d also have to question the ANC on why, exactly, the government spends well over R600 million a year on the tribal kings. I mean why stop at “western” unjustified spending? If Zuma’s Nkandla can be questioned, then every Zulu man’s right to be king of his castle is called into question. To question Nkandla is to question Zulu-ness. And how dare you, white person/kleva blaq/ presume that your way of being in the world is better than theirs just because you’re supposedly more educated/have thrown your roots aside/ and according to whose definition of education are you educated? In the culture, as some define it, to be educated is to listen to your elders. Western education and critical thought make you an outcast. “Decolonize the mind” (read: stop critical thought) and you may have your blackness back.
If you complain that you have a right to say what self-sustaining (and not state-funded) initiatives you want your taxes tipped into, you’ll be gently reminded that,
1.) The injustices of the past must be addressed because 20 years was not enough time to fix them (unless you’re under 40 and need a house – then suddenly, history changes, and you should have sorted yourself out you lazy bum. You were never affected by apartheid because the government fixed its effects so long ago that no 39 year old was affected.)
2.) Parastatals don’t exist to make a profit or self-sustain. Sustainability? Don’t be ridiculous, this is Africa. These entities are there to help fulfill certain race and gender quotas, as well as redress the injustices of the past via the quotas in which personnel are procured. But such tokenism is exposed for the money-looting front it is when one person after another is found to have lied about his/her qualifications. While you were feeling terrible for demanding that these entities’ books get out of the red, they were stealing your money, delivering shoddy produce and, in the end, collapsing into strikes and bankruptcy. #ZumasResigned.
3.) if you complain, for example, that certain soccer heroes aren’t entitled to State-funded funerals, you’re racist. Or if you’re black, you have an inferiority complex. Because what self-respecting black man doesn’t worship soccer stars that somehow magically impart self-esteem and identity to young black men everywhere? And if you don’t “get” soccer, well are you really a black man? See? The government is doing you a favor by using tax money to pay for Meyiwa’s funeral, and if you question this particular Robin Hoodism as it dips into white taxes to pay for black sports’ heroes funerals, you’ve betrayed blackness as a whole.
If you’re white and you speak out, you’ll be reminded of how you benefited from apartheid. You should just feel guilty and continue paying taxes. Don’t question if the books are in the red, if companies are being bailed out or if “strategically placed” deployees are driving BMWs.
This confluence of factors makes public sector a cesspool of patriarchy, corruption and double-talk where the attitude is nothing like what’s on paper or in its quotas. Or as another poster put it, “Oh yes because gender quota means there’s been real change. Political structures have gender quotas that have these women voiceless and unable to have a real opinion unless it is aligned with their male counterparts. I know this from experience,” she said, before explaining how in some places it was standard procedure for women submit – even bodily – to the male hegemony in order to keep their semblance of empowerment in these spaces.
Now you’re thinking surely the Public Protector is able to weed some of the financial corruption out? Surely the Human Rights Commission is able to address some cases of human rights’ violations? Perhaps. My source from the ANC seemed to voice a complaint about this when he said, “Thuli Madonsela is the only ANC deployee who doesn’t take her mandate from Luthuli House” which is an explosive statement filled with gems of possible confessions. Now, maybe you’re thinking that I’m reading this statement incorrectly. Surely, my ANC-insider friend is merely affirming the independence of the Public Protector’s office? Surely, my friend isn’t saying that Luthuli House has a network of its own people placed strategically in all places to protect the interests of the Party, and that Madonsela alone rebels agaist this established order? You wish. “I can’t go against ANC resolution. No one is biggger than the ANC. Even Parliamment takes its mandate from Luthuli House and the NEC” he said. That’s not difficult if Parliament also has deployees even in the most powerful – and “impartial” – positions of Parliament. “She [not sure at this point whether we were speaking about the Public Protector, but it may have been Baleka Mbethe] was strategically deployed by the ANC in that office, and all deployees report to the Secretary or to the Secretary-General. I mean all deployees, thousands across the country, in strategic spheres of government,” my source said, before explaining his family’s roots in the Party and how the ANC was more than just a name. He often repeated that the ANC was “bigger than anything else”.
I was then reminded of how I should be grateful for my human right to express myself. “Siya for the fact that you wrote this about a sitting Head of State & [sic]; government of an African country and the government respects your opinion even thou we don’t like it, it means there is good in the ANC-led government… if you were in Zimbabwe and you wrote this ‘Jesus’.”
I am an African, and therefore should feel extraordinarily privileged if allowed any room to speak out. Speaking out is not something Zulus and Africans do: we fall in line, no?
At another point I touched on the question of nuclear power, and its price tag of R1 trillion.
“Dude Siya Khumalo so that we can have weapons of mass destruction… you think President Zuma is an idiot? who made South Africa become part of BRICS? also as RSA we have ambitions of getting a permanent seat in the UN for Africa, you can’t get a seat if you are not a ‘Power’ country… The USA has those weapons,UK has those weapons,France has those weapons,Russia has those weapons and also China and other big countries of the world you see why North Korea is not bombed by the Americans when its ideology is Socialism its because its security it very tight unlike Libya and Iraq which was weakened by the ‘Gulf war’ my friend we can’t have radical economic policies if our government is not military strong because the West will give money to groups that will want to remove our government (insurgents) if we would ever differ with them in terms of how things are run, you see EFF policies cannot be implemented in RSA for 2 reasons it will set a precedent for the rest of Africa and they won’t be able to milk us dry (West) and we will be bombed like Libya,Afghanistan and other Socialists countries lol will tell you one day about why we need that Nuclear plant its for security reasons. Actually I shouldn’t be saying this for security reasons.”
Not even I can analyze that.