South Africa: Approaching Civil War?

Wikipedia says Federal headship “refers to the representation of a group united under a federation or covenant. For example, a country’s president may be seen as the federal head of their nation, representing and speaking on its behalf before the rest of the world.”

If the leader of country A goes to war with the leader of country B, the countries’ respective citizens are technically at war against one another. Not everyone in those countries will agree, but their individual actions, treasons, sacrifices and sentiments do not quash the framework in which they’re acting.

For centuries, various black tribes had been merging and warring on this southern tip of Africa. Their descendants are still vaguely implicated in those scuffles today. Why do I say, “vaguely”? Because in the 1600s, something came along next to which all those tribal battles paled into insignificance.

The groups of white people coming to this piece of land had wildly different reasons for doing so, many of them quite harmless. Later, Indian, Malay and other people would also appear. But one narrative gradually and overwhelmingly dominated this coming-and-going: it was decided by European colonialists that white people were better than everyone else; that God had created this part of the continent for them.

Some white people agreed, some didn’t, but the “government” had the resources to enforce this paradigm on behalf of all white people, including those who bucked the trend or eschewed the benefits. Enough white people agreed that this idea was enforceable to override those who didn’t.

Their primary explanation for white success (as and when it appeared) wouldn’t be “systemic oppression and exploitation of others” but “we work hard, we’re Christian and we give back,” which is only half the story. The colonialists and the architects of apartheid took this second motif and used it to justify the brutal war they had declared on black people.

When white people increasingly became aware of what was wrong with the system, the tide turned against the government. With that, the explanations for white success shattered into a thousand different stories because nobody wanted to be complicit in what the government had been doing. These new stories were, “My dad worked hard and nobody gave him anything” but nobody understood that Dad was able to get the job he did because of the colour of his skin. In fact, Dad was able to build his own business from scratch because the government would not confiscate the land or other resources from him. Because skin colour.

“I stayed up nights and worked for my degree, took out a loan and started a business that didn’t show profits until 10 years later; I hung on in there.” “We planned well. We made smart decisions, a few dumb ones. We delayed gratification.” These are the stories we hear. But to the extent that they minimise the role of the old government or its effect on black people, they’re partial stories.

Now we have a problem: the apartheid state did not support anyone. Many white people deny that it put them at a grossly unfair advantage that would take years to address. Many black people say it did nothing for them unless it anticipated a return on its investment in the form of exploitable subservient labour for white voters, who’d then perpetuate of the status quo. It also did just enough to keep black people alive to scare white people (“swart gevaar”) so that enough of those white people would vote for the same party. A lot like what today’s government does. So talk of, “But such-and-such services worked in townships under apartheid” ignore the purpose for which the State kept those things working in black townships. And, the State literally worked around the clock to undermine black people’s efforts to empower themselves and systemically taught black people – especially fathers and men – to destroy themselves and those who depended on them by psychologically breaking them. So the number of people who admit benefiting from this government remains so small it is as though apartheid never was.

The ANC discovered that as long as the explanation for inequality and white wealth had more elements of “we worked for it and are entitled to it” than elements of “we’re benefitting from a system our ancestors implicated us in,” they’d never have serious political competition. The people on the ground could never unite to form one big enough.

If nobody ever benefitted that much under apartheid, then the explanations for inequality cannot be consolidated. This is because most white people are so busy going on with their lives they cannot stop to make the connection between everything they have and their implication in a racial war that was declared centuries before they were born. They did not figure that Eurocentric colonialism could not be compared to, and wholly eclipsed, any other minor tribal scuffle that had been happening in those colonies or among white people-groups.

They do not see how that life just goes on for many white people is a stunning blow to many black people.

As a black man, I have gained nothing from black-on-black pre-colonial battles except the genes in my blood. Everything my family has, it earned under colonial governments and apartheid by being useful to the systems set up by those regimes. The alternative was dying. And that’s how millions of black people have stayed alive to this day. Most white people acknowledge stories about their individual ancestors’ honest work without acknowledging that it was off the back of their governments’ systemic undermining of black people.

Conrad Koch writes, “Racial categories may be false, but their impact on people’s lives is not – kind of like the Kardashians: fake, but powerful.” Any plan for helping society advance has to pass through the filter of the past and take into account the impact of old, fake-but-powerful categorisations nobody asked to be lumped into but nonetheless was affected by. “This is not to say white South Africans are evil or to blame, merely that the Rainbow Nation narrative often helped cover up inequality, in some ways pro-longing socio-political breakdown rather then fixing it. To put it simply, just because you didn’t order the apartheid pizza, doesn’t mean you didn’t eat. Our legacy didn’t vanish.”

That’s why most black people merely hate the ANC but truly abhor the DA. The ANC implemented BEE to help put black people on a sound platform much like the previous government had been doing for white people, but it didn’t ensure that this actually benefitted people on the ground. It didn’t have to.

For as long as some white people kept rubbing the, “we worked but you ask for handouts and free things and special treatment just after abolishing the fake-but-powerful racial categories” rhetoric in black people’s faces, calling affirmative action “reverse apartheid” as though real apartheid had been that mild, all black people could hear was mostly, well, racism.

This, because few white people openly identified with the previous regime and admitted they’d benefitted from its wrongs. If the admission of the wrongs is minimised and life just goes on, and the charge that black people are asking for handouts is not balanced by the admission that the previous government took from them before to give to black people, then it is just…racism.

What happened within Europe among European nations, or here among white peoples, has not impacted the structures we all live in at the scale, depth and for the duration that systemic white-on-others oppression has. Their Federal Heads – history’s Rhodes, Verwoerds and European empires – made it so. Everything else almost pales into insignificance. Today, some appeal to their individual non-racism in the same breath they urge black people to rise above their victim mentality, or try to put other examples of oppression and expansion at the same level. They cannot grasp how the scale and pervasiveness of this oppression surpasses every other expression of oppression it could have been compared to because to grasp it, they’d have to see how its implications reach to and benefit them now, right now, as life goes on, in ways that the other historic battles don’t.

With the citizens this divided, members of the ruling party can enrich themselves by using white people’s inability to come to terms with how they benefitted from the previous party as impetus for black people to seek ideological solutions instead of practical ones. To whatever extent the explanation for inequality is distanced from the violence of the previous government and colonialism, and more closely aligned to “fair” factors like “hard work,” the explanation for inequality can only sound like white supremacy and not history. That’s an ideological explanation and will keep us all trapped in at ideological catch-22s.

As long as white people couple the self-sufficient “logic” of working for everything they have with their distancing themselves from the violence perpetrated by the colonialism and apartheid on their behalf, for black people, agreeing with their logic would be denying that former oppression played the role it played in enriching them and impoverishing black people. The two feed off of each other.

The only remaining explanation is that white people are inherently better. For black people to accept that “simple hard work will get you there, no excuses” is for them to deny that the playing field has been skewed for those who are now giving them pep talks.

This is why ANC apologists can boldly say that the punishment we’re getting from the “neoliberal markets” for our terrible economic decisions is simply another expression of Afro-pessimism, racism and the denial of former exploitation.

When s**t hits the fan, the ANC will crescendo its ideological explanation for its terrible decision-making into a flat-out accusation that white people never came to the table with reconciliation in good faith in the first place. Black people will take one look at the online comments’ section and believe the government.

Supremacy. Denial. Entitlement. White people cannot passively hate these expressions of racism but must fight them like their lives depend on it. Because one of these days they may find that the “right to have an opinion” comes at a cost because it is the right to rewrite and recast history while getting away with the spoils of another version of it, the very version that is being minimised or denied.

The sudden appearance of “non-racialism” feeds many white people the lie that because they hate injustice, they’re not implicated in what happened before 1994. “Do not assume you know what’s happening inside me,” many have told me. Others ask, “How do we move forward?” Some say, “Let’s leave the past in the past.” But what’s happening inside people is not as relevant as we would like it to be, we can’t move forward because black people were left behind while white people were being put forward for 350 years, and white people can’t and won’t leave the gains of the past, both tangible and intangible, in the past.

It wouldn’t take rocket science to save our country. But no conceivable solution will take root and work until white supremacy is acknowledged and dealt with. I have defined white supremacy as the remaining explanation for white success once past violence and black oppression are minimised and life just goes on today.

This is something I believe only white people can lead one another on.

If they don’t, and no solution saves South Africa, I imagine that many black people will clear white supremacy away for them.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex; he has also written a book (#TheUnveiledFacesProject coming soon).

Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987



#DeKlerk Nobel Prize Recall: Rational, Justified, Necessary and Timely.

At first I thought the F. W de Klerk letter was a hoax written to bait angered, self-righteous responses. It seems I was mistaken.

In this most unfortunate document, F. W de Klerk criticises the #RhodesMustFall (RMF) movement as “folly” but there’s little to indicate he’s engaged its proponents. He says students are “often full of sound and fury.” With that, he dismisses their historic contribution to the dismantling of unjust laws and regimes – their blood, sweat and tears – as “signifying nothing.”

#RhodesMustFall is happening because the white supremacy Rhodes stood for is still killing and othering people. We can only deny its impact in western and African societies over its victims’ dead bodies. Preserving the tactile historicity of history by sanitising and valorising its “heroes,” or whitewashing their eulogies, implies it is not so bad. I guess when you have seen enough of them, dead black people no longer have shock value.

Would we not understand if a Jewish community wanted a statue of Adolf Hitler removed from its midst? If so, de Klerk defending Rhodes’ statues because he “had an impact on history” tells me that while all races are equal, white ones are more equal than black ones with Indian and Coloured people fitting neatly along the spectral hierarchy – exactly as apartheid intended.

De Klerk further writes that no one should have a greater grudge against Rhodes than South African Dutchmen. He thusly ignores ongoing poverty and inequality still experienced by black people to a much greater extent than by white Afrikaans folks. That legacy is the centrepiece of Rhodes’ “impact on history”: he accomplished much of what he did “out of the kaffir’s stomach” and history is fair in remembering him the way he chose to be known.

Sanity would have such statues in history museums instead of standing triumphant in spaces. For those spaces are then characterised and contaminated by the tradition of power-over-others instead of power-with-others.

Statues stand in and for a particular version of “normal life,” and when we keep them, we give a nod to that and render normal the steps taken to reach it. The actions and statues of otherwise terrifying people become “normal” symbols in everyday scenery. The deed, the doer and the effect are all normalised; they go out of sight and out of mind, ironically, because they are ever hidden and decorated in plain sight. The severity of their evils is blunted by the dignity of the statues depicting the evildoers. It causes cognitive dissonance: how must I truly believe what so-and-so did was wrong if he is standing there like a right king?

We as society are actually saying you can get away with open, daylight genocide as long as you look normal and use state-sponsored violence to serve those within the status quo. You are then considered a hero. This shrugs the bloodiness of history off our shoulders and explains the glaring inequality it’s left us as something oppressed people have chosen or deserve. Because we know there is no way oppression could have been “normal,” we must blame the victims and fit everything they do into a  framework we choose for them, one that explains or depends on their victimhood. Once we have decided what normal is and have silently normalised great evil, the oppressed “other” becomes guilty for their own suffering because they fail to fit the normality we have imposed. They become the ultimate explanation for the evil they have endured. It becomes our word against theirs (of course they are voiceless) and it all allows us to wash our hands clean of their suffering.

As long as the statues stand, victims are nameless, vanquished ghosts in history textbooks; we can bring them to mind and dismiss them at will; we can control how human they are to us because the past remains in the past. They’re not disturbing. The moment statues move as an act of real justice, the victims become real people who suffered and deserve to be vindicated even if it is posthumously. The rightness of the world that now is is called into question and its architects are held morally accountable along with its current beneficiaries.

De Klerk’s letter was an affront to the black liberation movement he seemingly sympathised with when he released Nelson Mandela from prison. With this one document, the cat of his apathy towards the struggle escaped the rainbow-coloured bag of processed and pre-packed platitudes and government spin.

It’s a testimony to struggle heroes’ nobility that they “allowed” the apartheid government to hold a referendum to ascertain whether the white people would generously bestow the privilege of voting onto black people. The liberation leaders could have mobilised scores of those frustrated black people to bring the system and everyone benefitting off of it to its knees instead. It could have been a bloodbath.

They chose peace and paid for it by letting the oppressive government dismantle the oppression seemingly on its own terms so it could save face. That referendum kept white people’s anxiety from spiralling out of control. For de Klerk to now call the #RhodesMustFall movement “misguided” is his taking the patience of frustrated black people for granted. It mistakes benevolence for weakness. It’s a slap in the faces of those people who made real sacrifices, conceded real rights and surrendered real freedoms, in the process he eventually received so much credit and prestige for.

If RMF is an empty and unfortunate act now, it is no more an act than what happened in the early 1990s, and he is being rather inconsistent if he criticises this movement without speaking out against the spin machinery that had him come out of the transition into democracy smelling like roses. We have read transcripts of meetings and talks: it appears de Klerk was sainted pretty much kicking and screaming, resisting at almost every turn to negotiate in good faith. He had the Nobel Prize and the halos and wings thrust upon him because the new government needed a big enough white co-player to help pull off a demonstration of cross-race cooperation: they needed to make the rainbow nation look believable at the highest levels of power. Does de Klerk really want to lecture the rest of us about the misguidedness of symbolic gestures? Then out of his own mouth the Nobel Prize is taken from him. Consistency demands as much. If he cannot stomach what he sees as the lie of the RMF movement, then no one with a shred of historic honesty will countenance his keeping the Prize a moment longer.

RMF replied to de Klerk, intimating that his shallow understanding of what he’s speaking about is emblematic of many white people’s refusal to come to grips with the system that was and in many ways is. The Nobel Peace Prize was a token of dignity placed on him as easily as the status of “non-racialist” was imputed onto everyone with little pressure to truly do the work it would take to fix the country. History tried to make de Klerk a hero and through him, write more white people onto the right side of a story they largely had not been paying attention to. But he was never interested in knowing what was at stake. So when the EFF demands that de Klerk be stripped of his Nobel Prize, I believe they’re demanding the fall of unearned privilege in all its manifestations, on any skin colour (that some of their leaders walk something other than their talk is another matter altogether): more sensitively, I sense they want white people strip themselves of the rainbow-nation status of “non-racialist” and “colourblind” until they come to grips with what happened before, during and after 1994.

“Apartheid,” observed Conrad Koch, “was in essence 50 years of affirmative action for white people, which came off the back of 300 years of affirmative action for white people, slavery and colonial conquest.” By squashing it into an atrocity smaller than the also atrocious captivity of Afrikaans people in concentration camps, de Klerk effectively says “What affirmative action for white people?” in unison with scores of white people who reply, “What white privilege?”

Some have said that de Klerk is old and shouldn’t be criticised. Perhaps. But the closing paragraph of his letter to The Times (intended as flippant, tongue-in-cheek lip service to Oriel College’s entertaining the that RMF may have a point) proves that he had a sufficiently clear understanding of the petition to render his dismissive attitude ever the more exceedingly callous. He effectively says, “Why not throw money at the problem instead of listening?” Why doesn’t he suggest they throw money at the problem as the College listens?

Because he refuses to give RMF credit for taking the reconciliation project deeper and further than he did. Compared to him, they are worthier of a Nobel Prize, and letting them win this battle will show how little he did for it compared to even these “misguided” students.

The request that he be stripped of the Prize is unfortunate, but it isn’t in itself vindictive. Someone may reply, “Change your vote, not who got Nobel Prizes in the 1990s!” Such have no idea what they’re truly asking for; how can they see enough of black people’s perspective(s) to be in a position to suggest an alternative to their existing voting pattern(s)? No doubt some black people want to take shelter under Rhodes’ statue and feel part of the world he created: others would prefer we all start over. Of course, as with statements about white people, there are generalisations and exceptions.

The point is, statues being pushed and de Klerk being stripped of his Prize should be comparatively small concessions. Thousands of service delivery protests in one year should serve as a warning of what can happen when people  level their anger where it hurts the most and makes a real dent against those they see as the enemy. Am I making a threat? No; I am concluding my argument:

I believe we are left with three possible outcomes to this fiasco: de Klerk apologises, or de Klerk is stripped of his Prize, or we continue to see, in subsequent events, the gap between merely symbolic and purely destructive expressions of outrage narrow to collide into the bloodbath that could have been two decades ago.

The first two options (along with the fall of Rhodes in Oxford) would indicate that we are starting to humanise one another more than we normalise oppressive pasts.

That third possibility, however avoidable and unnecessary, would precipitate a version of South Africa I would not wish on my worst enemy.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex; he has also written a book (#TheUnveiledFacesProject coming soon).

Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987


A Herdboy #Zuma Joke, #Somizi’s Rant And SA’s Paralyzing Malaise

The trouble began when I found this joke on Facebook:

A singer, a dancer, a herd boy, a philanderer, a pathological liar, the village idiot, a polygamist, a chauvinist, a communist, a rapist, a racist, a tribalist, a semi-literate and a black guy walk into a pub in Durban.

Bartender: “What’ll it be Mr. President?”

I asked my Facebook echo chamber whether this joke would have included newspaper delivery boy if Jacob Zuma had been that in his childhood instead of a livestock herd-boy.

Someone replied, “No. Newspaper boy doesn’t capture the racist’s imagination nearly as much herd boy.”

Another commenter said, “The level of racism in these jokes… White privilege is annoying af… The subtle racism in jokes pisses me off. (the irony of me saying this is not lost on me). I am just finding my own race to be far too oblivious to their failings right now. The holiday season really brings out the asshole in people.”

These two commenters were white.

At first, the person who’d shared the joke refused to see my point. My issue with the joke wasn’t whether any of it is factually true or not, or even whether it was intended to offend racially.

He was oblivious to any perspective other than the one he shared with the person who created the joke. Other commenters refused to see the racial offence at all, playing coy about the context of our country as it is. They offered alternative word-value assessments of herdboy, extolling the nobility and industriousness of being a herd boy. They did not realise that they were turning a blind eye to an inconvenient expression of racism because they had not been constantly subjected to its debilitating effects themselves.

One gentleman tried to pass it off as just another instance of irreverence; of citizens poking fun at the sitting statesman as has been done to many white statesmen before. This is the “freedom of speech” trope that was dragged out when The Spear was the hot-button topic.

But when Jacob Zuma is made a joke of on social or mainstream media for not only his moral failings but things he has no control over, the insult is against not only him as an individual but potentially 39 million people who share one or more of the social, physical, cultural and class attributes that’s being used as joke fodder.

I’ve argued in previous posts that when he’s treated as an intruder and thief in power by those inside the status quo, the gatekeepers of mainstream and social media, it becomes irrelevant for “the blacks” whether “the whites” are calling him “thief” because he has legitimately stolen from the country or because that’s just what “they” call black people. The distinction between the President’s alleged sins and his skin colour becomes arbitrary and convenient; his reputation as a philanderer becomes inseparable from disparaging attitudes about indigenous cultures and their encouragement of polygamy. Denying this is not just disingenuousness par excellence: it is enablement because it is into this scenario that Zuma plays his tribalistic divide-and-conquer moves. Racism serves him, the denial of racism serves him even more and being a master politician, he uses it all with impeccable timing. He never had to crack open a book because he has studied people precisely where they have refused to study themselves.

Jacob Zuma, who did not get a standard five, has a Ph.D in us. That is more than sufficient an education for him to run this country as a personal bank account.

So Zuma is the ANC’s martyr, the Lamb who is slain on the altar of white racism in the drama of black people’s redemption and liberation history. He presents himself as all that stands between black people and the return of apartheid. That apartheid makes its return felt in the systemic inequality black people see as perpetuated by “white monopoly capitalism.”

The ANC had one job: get rid of apartheid and keep it away. Jacob Zuma insulted and attacked is proof that they’re putting sincere effort and as much sacrifice into this task as they did during the struggle – even if you and I know that some of the biggest deals and contracts are enriching black comrades. Indeed, if Zuma is at the front-line of the battle, then his many, many sins are quite forgivable, and his thefts are merely him stealing from those who still control the dominant voices in social and mainstream media. It is seen as justifiable theft, a forgivable flaw.

This is classic divide, deny and conquer and when white people defend the indefensible, they’re doing the denying for the ruling party.

“As white people, my friends and I gave Jacob Zuma the benefit of the doubt when he became president in 2009,” I keep hearing. But 2009 was the tail-end of a game that’s been going on since before Zuma was born; our collective relationship with Jacob Zuma did not begin on a blank slate or in a vacuum. Pretending we started fresh with him six years ago is national suicide.

Idols’ Judge Somizi Mhlongo allegedly did some posting of his own. The rant attributed to him read as follows:

“Racist white South Africans hoping that zuma’s fall will give them a white president or bring back apartheid is Tru denial of the reality. It’s like Oscar believing that he’ll oneday take part in the Olympics. Never. It’s like Donald trump thinking he’ll be the next American president. Never. It’s like mercy pakela believing she’ll oneday have a duet with Adele. So Pls stop taking expired drugs and accept or leave our country. Just coz u got away with apartheid doesn’t mean we can’t see u using this Zuma campaign as a shield to hide yo racist bullshit. Nxa.”


Not that I have, but it’s around this point that one should get white people yelling, “What about this expression of black-on-white racism? Why isn’t anyone talking about this and calling it out?”

I’d like us to take a step back and see the bigger picture.

As a human being, each of us has an ethical responsibility to remain cognisant of the broader power dynamic in the world around us. Words cannot be judged apart from the broader power dynamic as it stands. When we pretend they can be, we do not judge those words “objectively.” Instead, we actively enable whoever has more power to retain and abuse it in a series of micro-aggressions; we become accomplices in systemic macro-aggressions against the oppressed.

In the case of racist anti-black jokes, one who lets them slide becomes guilty not of racism in the first degree, but of culpable racism. One doesn’t see this because when one walks away from the situation, one goes back into a relatively sheltered world while the other person goes back into an existence of continued attacks on his or her person, some small and those small ones foreshadowing some big ones. The “joke” is not a joke to the other guy: it is the pre-shocks of some impending earthquake.

[Trigger alert: sexual violence analogy]:

A man is about to rape a woman (or the woman has reason to believe that the man could rape her): at that moment, whatever gender-based slurs he yells at her will be expressed from a place of power and can be judged as misogynist. Whatever gender-based slurs she yells (“Get off me, you swine!”) cannot be neatly classified as misandry on her part. Her anger at men in general exists because though not all men are rapists and some in fact fight rape culture, all men (myself included) are beneficiaries of an unseen social system that privileges men at women’s expense.

His slurs are his voluntary words in a situation he instigated: hers are a response to a situation she never asked to be dragged into.

That is how power relations work, and to save men we see as innocent, we must first fully admit the structural inequality exists; we must know how it works.

The ongoing effects of apartheid is why white-on-black racism receives more attention by black people than black-on-white racism. I don’t like it either, but intellectual honesty about the way things are leaves no other choice.

Faced with this, a lot of white people will point out that black people are the majority and should stop seeing themselves as victims.

But based on that logic, the two ways this victimisation could have been stopped was with major bloodshed on black people’s part (this happened) or with annihilation on white people’s part. What have white people lost as a group in all this?

The only possible third path would have started at white people, not as individuals but as groups, owning up to benefitting from systemic structural inequalities up until today.

A lot of us think of 1994 as this dividing line separating South Africa’s Old Testament from its New. The more accurate picture is of history as a slow progression towards egalitarianism. I’m not offering concrete suggestions but as I have asked before, why has #BlackLivesMatter not trended among white South Africans, or #TheDAMustFallWithTheANC?

#ZumaMustFall’s dash to the Twitter finish line made it a victim of its own success.

I think his words are extremely misinformed and incoherent but Somizi Mhlongo has one thing to his credit: he knows that what he’s saying is racist or at least racially venomous. But that’s an indictment on white audiences in that they don’t know that much of what’s constituted their “normal” has been a racist exertion of a power they didn’t know they had, or that this cornered the Mhlongos of this world into yelling back.

Many white people have spelled out the horrific details of what will happen if Jacob Zuma does not fall from power, but they will not hear black people spell out the horrific details – some imagined, some ludicrous, others extrapolated from apartheid memory and ongoing racist attitudes – of what will happen if Zuma does fall from power. To the extent that hostility against Zuma is racial, to that extent the oppressor would have won in his fall.

Racists do not wear a fat red R on their foreheads. They are popular, funny, wonderful people and everyone wants to share their jokes. If you asked every human being that has ever lived whether he or she is a racist, the number of people who would answer “Yes” would be less than the number of people who have actually acted in racist ways. To err is human, but so is denying it. No one wants to be implicated as the oppressor in an unjust power dynamic that was precipitated by hundreds before. Those hundreds of other racists also denied that they were racist. But apartheid happened. So did colonialism. How do we account for history?

Let us also not compare apartheid to how the Zulus conquered everyone around them, though that study has its own value: white-on-black racism was so spectacularly colourful because it played on the most extreme skin-tone differences. Can you tell a Zulu and a Xhosa apart fast enough to make structural discrimination practical? Would you take a sign seriously if it said, Tsongas Only? Apartheid was tribalism on a scale so epic it stuns historians precisely because it is not like every other scuffle among people-groups.

White-on-black racism’s systemic manifestation lasted until the apartheid government was out of white boys to conscript into its service. I have often wondered this but was too shy to ask it out loud: how hateful could this hatred have been, that people fed their faith, their humanity and their children to it? Nelson Mandela said that a country’s soul is revealed in the way it treats its children. I do not care how tall or white a 19-year-old male is, or whether he plays rugby (in a seemingly innocuous expression of dominating masculinity he has been steeped in his whole life): he is a child. Indoctrinate and exploit enough of those children, and you will soon set up a world of inequalities and injustices. That is one explanation of how we got here.

And now, people within that status quo will label as killjoys those who call out their tasteless jokes as wrong. They will say that they can’t make fun of anything anymore.

That’s because they live in a bubble of privilege and do not see that outside that bubble, there’s a world in need but there’s also plenty of room to move and safely joke around. When “funny” is only limited to the context people know, it’s because they have become comfortable in that bubble, in that comfort zone.

If they don’t step outside their comfort zones, it will not be long before someone bursts that bubble.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex; he has also written a book (#TheUnveiledFacesProject coming soon).

Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987


#SONA2016 Hasn’t Happened But It’s Already Revealed Where The Power Lies

To explain what won’t happen at SONA2016, today’s post will unpack how the #MustFall movement is intersectionality’s judgment on the status quo.

Intersectionality (or intersectional theory) has been defined as “the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination.” I have male privilege because I am a man but I lack white privilege because I am black – an imperfect and simplistic example, but it gets the idea across.

#RhodesMustFall was intersectionality’s verdict on neocolonialism just as #FeesMustFall was intersectionality’s judgment on unbridled capitalism. A #MustFall hashtag is what happens when the youth weigh any facet of the status quo and find it wanting.

With this backdrop, the #ZumaMustFallMarch was seen as an ill-thought hijacking.

Yesterday I mused that Jacob Zuma has been consistently depicted as an intruder by those in the status quo. This in turn is subliminally used by the ANC to hold him up as a black martyr to keep the loyalty of voters. Those voters then refuse to trust the political alternatives.

If that’s so, then #ZumaMustFallMarch’s mistake was that it went after a person when all along the #MustFall epi-campaign had been a judgment on systems, specifically the system in which Zuma had consistently been depicted as an intruder. The true custodians of #MustFall seem less interested in Zuma gone than in condemning the system from which he parasitically feeds in the first place.

ENCA reports that opposition parties have announced that they have no intention of letting Jacob Zuma deliver the State of the Nation address next year. EFF will disrupt Parliament. The DA seeks to discuss a motion of no confidence in the President knowing well it may be voted down. You can watch SONA 2016 (before it happens) on YouTube if you look up SONA 2015: our entertainers have run out of content and are replaying old episodes, recycling old strategies, because they have none left. The EFF’s announced strategy is particularly disappointing because as discussed in a previous analysis, the EFF seemed to have evolved the most in the trending of #ZumaMustFall and could have made itself more relevant. Disrupting parliament from within will not serve their reputation.

The DA and the ANC have become more alike as you’d find with any other married couple that’s been bickering for decades. In terms of policy, they’re nearly mirror images. The sides they’re arguing from have merged at every point but at their respective party flag colours, semantics, and Jacob Zuma – the itch the DA keeps scratching. This is why their strategies are also similar.

The DA’s plan is to keep the game going. As previously described, they will keep all the action in court and in voting booths so it may be quantified as their successes before funders and voters. Because they are controlled by known mechanisms, those platforms are their home turfs. Everything else is unfamiliar and unpredictable.

They have to sustain the myth that the salvation of South Africa by the “good guys” depends on their keeping short accounts with the system. This keeps the system itself beyond question and critique. By conflating establishments with the values represented by those establishments, they cause us to mistake all force for violence and all disruption for anarchy. They will coyly ask, where is all this talk of occupations and peaceful civil disobedience coming from? One of the effects of this is it leaves the status quo unchallenged.

But as long as Baleka Mbethe is the ANC’s goalkeeper and not our neutral Speaker and ANC MP voting numbers are used to keep the ANC powerful in National Assembly, parliament is not democracy’s home address but all party politics’ window dressing. That is why the DA sometimes piggybacks off of EFF’s disruptions and then turns around to release missives on why those sorts of disruptions are a threat to democracy – the beam in their eye blinding them to the fact that those disruptions, however exploited for their own ends, are discreditations of the sacred space where DA MPs earn their salaries along with every other party’s MP. Again, the DA’s current strategy is to keep the game going but a lot of us are just losers in that game.

The ANC’s strategy is only different from the DA’s because the ANC is actually in power, but it is also just to keep the game going. I am not even going to discuss Jessie Duarte’s latest spin-fest. Everyone saw through that pantomime. Let us talk about Duarte’s opposite: Thuli Madonsela. If Duarte’s spin-doctoring serves an obvious role, why does the ANC allow some of its members to play clean and whistle-blow? How does it serve the ANC that some of its own are morally outraged?

It serves to give the impression that justice still prevails in some corner of government. If news headlines are anything to go by, the scorecard is flipping so rapidly on ANC members breaking ranks with Zuma that we’d think the party is devouring itself from within. We would believe we just need to wait it out. It gives us the hope that salvation can still descend from within the establishment,Jesus is almost back and the ANC’s rule is almost over when it is not. This mirage of the end being in sight helps the ANC also keep the game going. It does us no good to know about the looting if we do not do something drastic and painful to nip it in the bud. Because once I know that you know that I am stealing from you, but you do nothing to stop me, I become relieved that I no longer have to hide my thievery. Our relationship becomes an abusive one where you almost expect me to steal from you; you take comfort in that the thefts are (or were) small, manageable chunks. You in fact become worried when I don’t steal from you. Everyone’s hoping the ANC will fall apart before it’s done robbing the country but the reality may prove to be the other way around.

So party politics is no longer where South African concerns are defended. What won’t happen at SONA2016 is anything of value to anyone except political parties.

This is why intersectionality has become relevant and will continue judging the system until it transforms or falls. Intersectional politics has not formed a strategy I know of but it may just fill the gap for now.

I personify “intersectionality” because it is the third force. The system’s enemy isn’t anyone in particular because as a way of seeing things, the epiphany of intersectionality can dawn on anyone in an eye-opening flash of Damascusian insight. For this reason, the government’s enemy is everyone and no one at the same time; that’s why it’s paranoid. It fears two things: people becoming informed and people becoming informed about one another.

The solution, therefore, lies in the direction of becoming more informed and more informed on one another. One protest placard read, “A revolution without intersectionality is b******t” and another at #RhodesMustFall said, “Dear History, this revolution has queer women and trans.” Are we listening?

We ignore the political relevance of social discrimination – our –isms and –phobias – to our own peril. Bad governments stay in power by dividing and conquering. Though I would have preferred for him to fall hard, Zuma will fall in slow-motion.

The next person’s lived experience influences the way they vote and the way your shares perform at the JSE – and vice-versa. I was recently challenged by two people to write out the implications of the political trajectory we’re on for a Zulu audience. Rushing in where angels fear to tread, I accepted the challenge.

I read what our political parties have planned for SONA2016 and it’s absolutely nothing because the power is in our hands.

But to inflict this power, we have to think of ourselves less as generic individuals but more as points in an intersectional grid of varying priorities and oppressions.

By all means, let us have tax revolts and marches. But if you plan an action and mostly your demographic agrees with it, ask the question, Will This Be Intersectional Enough? I assure you, you shall be answered. Engage the people who answer. Do not try to sway them to your side more than you try to hear them out. Most people become defensive when you argue against them point-for-point (and you may end up insulting them without meaning to), and in that defensiveness will cause them to say things they do not even believe themselves.

A lot of people, most of them white, have asked me what they can do to help build trust, make reparations and help fix the country for everyone.

A lot of suggestions have been made, many of them very pragmatic and hands-on. I won’t repeat them here.

But I dare white people to perform a thought experiment that will throw them a bit outside their comfort zone.

I’m not recommending that anyone actually do this; it’s just a matter of, “What would black people’s perception of white people be if they did this…?” It’s not a revelation of my sentiments concerning any particular party. It’s just a thought experiment. There are too many other practical considerations at stake for me to suggest this as a literal action.

Wouldn’t white people’s critique of the ANC sound fair if they started trending hashtags like, #TheDAMustFallWithTheANC or #WhiteSupremacyMustFallWithJacobZuma…?

If white people did this it would send the message that black people’s critique of the party (it supposedly preserves white interests) has been heard. For if the DA is perceived by black people as the anesthesiologist that’s kept white people’s transition into democracy as pain-free as possible, then isn’t the DA a liability for white people who want a better future for everyone?

If you understand nothing else about white privilege, ask yourself why a lot of white people would cringe at the thought of openly criticizing the DA.

And isn’t party politics itself the problem? It works by subconsciously playing off the fear of “the other” and in so doing, keeps us divided.

As long as we look to them to score points in parliament the game just keeps going and none of us wins.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex

Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987



How Mainstream Media Unknowingly Helps The #ANC Use #Zuma As Its Racial Jesus

Almost everyone on my Facebook has been asking the same question: how did the #ZumaMustFallMarch become about race? Isn’t it clear that the current president is bad news for the country?

Jacob Zuma – the person and the president, the body that is depicted visually and the figure that is related to politically – is the terrain on which South Africa’s race issues have played themselves out in weird and telling ways. Without realising it, mainstream media has done the ANC a huge favour in playing up the DA’s “Zuma is corrupt” trope because as well-intentioned and truthful as it may be, what it’s done is exacerbate the friction among the races – especially between black and white people – because white people do not know how to level an insult so it lands where it’s intended. This is because colonialism and apartheid skewed racial relations.

Let’s say Jacob Zuma messes up the reading of a number in a speech or says something that supposedly incites violence. The next morning, Zapiro releases a cartoon of him holding a book (“War and Peace”) up-side-down. To white viewers it’s a beautifully mixed metaphor: the President supposedly doesn’t or can’t read, and some of the things he says turn things up-side-down putting war for peace and peace for war. But to black viewers, the white populace is gloating over one of the most humiliating effects of apartheid: denial of access to education.

Another example: a white person calls a group of largely black greedy politicians “animals.” To him, it’s a fair reference to Animal Farm. Or it’s just something you call anyone who behaves like an animal. I’ve noticed that non-racist white people are equal-opportunity insulters.

Now while the Orwellian reference isn’t lost on the black hearer, he can’t help wondering how this instance of someone white calling someone who’s black an “animal” is different from white “masters” calling black natives “animals” as they sent them through cattle dips.

This is compounded by the issue that (as far as I know) in indigenous languages, there is no way to call someone an animal – any kind of animal – and make it sound normal or harmless. It doesn’t fit. Not every black person thinks in English or Afrikaans. But most white people think and speak nothing else and aren’t sensitive to the effect their words may have.

There is a domino effect of misunderstandings for every other word – “circus,” “hooligans,” “incompetent” – but the point remains that even an “objective” or “factual” description of black people’s actions by white people isn’t going to be received the way it’s intended. Every presidential scandal is followed by a flurry of artistic depictions, written and visual comments on Jacob Zuma the person and the president. It’s always a Godsend for the ANC which then doesn’t have to come up with a coherent defence of Zuma’s actions. By that point, most black people are content with seeing Zuma as the naughty but tragic scapegoat of white racism. His factual guilt can neither be proven nor disproven, and where proven, often is just a faux pas or a sign of his humanity magnified by the media.

He is the lightning rod that coalesces and attracts everything black people understand white racism to be. He is therefore the Lamb of God that bears the racism of South Africa, the ANC’s Chosen One. And considering how controversial his penis is, I probably shouldn’t have picked the term “lightning rod.”

Jacob Zuma embodies and often is the voice of many black people’s aspiration for a decent life. When he asks, “Why can’t a Zuma have this?” what black people hear is, “Why can’t a Zulu man have this?” To this, many white people will reply, “He’s stealing from black people to have that!” Indeed. But how would that be different from a few million white people living off a historical structure that stole from black people? Generally speaking, black people are used to surviving in systems that put them second or exploit them anyway, and there’s no way the instructions for emancipation are going to come from white people who still live off of wealth built on the head start they were given by apartheid.

When Zuma uses any means necessary to get what he wants, he’s exposing the system’s talk of values, equality and principle as hollow on behalf of black people who never got a taste of or cannot palate the rainbow nation discourse. Zuma has a powerful argument on his side, here: the source of black poverty is not the ANC but apartheid, and when black people hear white people arguing against that point, they hear them denying apartheid altogether. So when Zuma uses any means necessary to get what he wants, he’s operating not as a custodian of the system but as an outsider who managed to break in and has captured the levers of an inherently untrustworthy system. Many black people still feel like outsiders though theoretically, everyone’s now an insider. This is why the outcry that he’s stealing not only from white taxpayers but also from black people makes absolutely no difference to the people who vote for him.

Though he steals from black people or gives them less than they deserve, Jacob Zuma has made a spectacle of what black people perceive as a whitist system. He is a performer, an inspiration, a (questionable but effective) role model. He is the first black man to have painstakingly crawled out of the depths of poverty to the pinnacle of power. Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki did not have it as bad in their childhoods as Jacob Zuma did. No, for he is the one who made a mockery of an interlocking system of oppressions using only a few of its own tools; he is the Houdini who, blindfolded with his hands tied to his back, still pulled off the escape stunt of the last century and made two careers doing it. Who becomes a head spy and a presidential criminal with just a standard four? The ultimate example of black resilience, that’s who.

A black chief this wondrously talented, then, can never have too many titles and honorary degrees and praises ascribed to his name. No house is too big; no crime too unforgivable. To question Zuma is to attack the liberation incarnate. It would be Pilate (the oppressor) interrogating a native-born king whose otherworldly power, methods and kingdom he does not understand.

For far from being a common criminal, Jacob Zuma is the Crucified Christ of the glorious movement, Luthuli House is Vatican City and the Secretary General is the Pope. None of these people have any intention of recalling their Saviour.

As long as Jacob Zuma is “wrong,” wrongly or not, guilty or not, black people can stare at white people as they show their true colours on the canvas that is the person, the presence and the presidency of Jacob Zuma – even if those white people aren’t seeing it that way. Whether those white people are right or within their rights to discuss Zuma the way they do is strictly academic: what will shape South Africa’s political destiny is not “the truth” but the careful navigation and understanding of how words are digested by those watching and listening. As Pilate infamously asked, “What is truth?” Indeed.

That Zuma continues to bear white people’s (and traitors/“clever blacks’”) criticism is what vindicates the ends, the means, and the character of the one who uses the means to reach his own ends. He is the longsuffering Messiah, the silent lamb sent off to slaughter bearing the injustice of this country. He is a martyr.

Many black people have no interests in defending what they see as an oppressive whitist system. When the Madams and the Misters lost their billions on stock exchanges and turned to black people, their actions yelling, “Help clean it up! Help get Zuma out of there now!” many of those black people retorted through their actions, “I am not your garden boy or your maid.” The races largely spoke past one another.

To many black people, “This march has nothing to do with race” sounded a lot like, “Our race (white) is in trouble and we’re roping you in to save it and we’ll do this by spouting rainbow nation rhetoric about how non-racist we are because we’re in this together.”

While I agree with ENCA’s Angelo Fick when he says we’re all implicated in the neoliberal global market (and therefore have a vested interest in the performance of our economic indicators), I also see why black people would be disturbed by what they perceive to be white people’s priorities. Black protesters getting shot down by the State during apartheid? Sad. The national rugby team being barred from competing on the world stage? End of the world! Apartheid must fall.

Millions of black people starving? Shame. One lion is shot dead by a dentist? What kind of world do we live in where anyone would do something so evil?

The height of spiritual evolution is the ability to put aside ego for progress. The ANC has learned that the worse it looks, the more triumphant it is. They’ve learned to surrender to a mysterious, quiet and reliable providence that works in their favour.

As they have said, theirs is the only party that was blessed heaven and shall rule until Jesus returns, Amen.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex

Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987


Today the #EFF Won A Tactical Victory At The #ZumaMustFallMarch – And They Didn’t Even Have To Show Up To Do It

You’re probably sick of discussing the racial aspect of the #ZumaMustMarch marches. Please read on anyway.

When #ZumaMustFall started trending, our top three political parties responded as follows:

The ANC spouted rhetoric about how it’s a listening, engaged party without listening to what people had called for. People hadn’t asked for a change in finance ministers but for a change in president. But this has happened before.

The DA proposed an early sitting for National Assembly to discuss a motion of no confidence in the president. It will be crushed by the ANC’s majority. It will probably be an open ballot. This has happened before.

Many of its members posted social media statuses to the effect that all the issues highlighted in the last few days could best be resolved in court and at the ballot. I’ve speculated that this is because what happens in courtrooms and voting booths is easier to legitimately quantify as clean victories for their party than the alternatives are. They are eliminating their competition. Now, these solutions they proposed haven’t actually worked but that didn’t stop the DA’s members from proposing them. Again.

The DA’s thinking confuses me at this one point. They laud Nelson Mandela and the ANC of the past for disrupting the system during the struggle – presumably because the system was evil – but they can’t stand to see anyone doing that now; at the least, they prefer ineffective approaches that respect the system to effective processes that threaten it. But what’s the difference between purging a system of evil, and dismantling the system away from its evil core? Once you’ve called Nelson Mandela a hero, you’ve tacitly agreed it’s okay to break the law in order to ensure a future where the law actually serves justice. The fragility and meaningfulness of establishments and systems is a terrible excuse for fiddling while Rome burns. Far from protecting it, their hesitancy on civil disobedience is going to prove as damaging to their brand as their ambivalence on BEE was. And what do the DA’s members’ professed struggle credentials mean, if anything, if they cannot recognise a moment that calls for a bald-faced encore of the same?

Only Lindiwe Mazibuko pointed out the obvious: #OccupyParliament. I didn’t like that she proposed that it be the “the youth” that does it, otherwise her solution is a perfectly illegal, peaceful and relatively risky way of pushing the desired result through. And, it’s the one most likely to work.

The catch is, we’d have to take an indefinitely long time during working weekdays to disrupt the system – and possibly run into trouble with the law for trapping members of parliament in the building against their will until they pass a motion of no confidence against Zuma. We would have to hold hostage those who hold the country hostage.

In all of this, the EFF kept oddly quiet. At first I had no idea why. Eventually, its senior-most members started issuing statements that the march and the campaign were largely motivated by white interests and priorities. “It won’t succeed, it requires black leadership,” Malema said. “I refuse to sign #ZumaMustFall petition.”

A lot of white Facebook commenters said he just wants glory for himself, as though that is necessarily a bad thing and as though this desire for renown does not have some sound thinking behind it. It would destroy the EFF irreparable brand if Julius went along with this campaign.

Today the march(es) happened as planned. I attended the Johannesburg one. The turnout was okay and disproportionately white. While “disproportionately” is not “mostly” I do not recall ever seeing that many white people in one place. Ever.

But what was achieved? Beyond frustrated South Africans coming together to share their frustrations, I do not know how a #ZumaMustFallMarch is any more effective than #ZumaMustFall trending on Twitter or how ice is any more water than liquid water is water. It is the same thing in a different form: the same frustration expressed on a different platform without it being harnessed to achieve anything in particular.

Like the DA, vast numbers of white people suffer a crisis distinguishing the preservation of the systems upholding constitutional democracy with the preservation of the values of constitutional democracy. The whiteness of the #ZumaMustFall campaign showed its hand not only in its timing – it broke out when R290 billion vanished from an economy that most black people have little direct participation in – but also in its setup. The campaign balanced safety, systemic and legal correctness, against the need to protect the values of democracy. In my opinion, this was its unforgivable flaw. There should have been no balance. The system should have been brought crashing to its knees immediately, consequences be damned. I have stated before that protest history belongs to those who have nothing left to lose.

When the establishment belongs to the enemy, there is no way you can beat him on that establishment’s terms. White privilege is not knowing that the establishment that belonged to you for decades at some point got hijacked and vomited you out, and that there is no way to confront it without embracing the identity of the outlaw.

The narrative of white moral whiteness will not allow this. Having been preserved by a system that called black people animals, they cannot bear to be hunted down like animals. Someone at the protest had a sign that read, “ZOOMUCH.” I wanted to whisper to her, “Put that away.” She doesn’t get it. Most white people don’t. Who gets to call whom a “zoo” or a “circus” now is a more complex and contentious issue than they realise.

Some of the pre-march speeches were so excruciatingly long that some of us went off to coffee shops to where we sipped on cappuccino foam as white as the privilege that affords such mid-protest luxuries. It was there that I overheard someone say, “This march has nothing to do with race, religion or political affiliation.” I turned to him to reply, “This march has everything to do with race, religion and political affiliation.”

White people will isolate themselves if they keep separating the issues. Just as no decision is a decision and just as colour-blindness can precipitate the same effect as systemic racism, any move in the political arena is the advancement of someone’s or another’s agenda. The only people who have a vested interest in ignoring this are those whose agenda is being advanced at that moment. When someone says this march has nothing to do with race, he ignores which race group has the most to gain from this particular demonstration, at this particular time, by these particular means. I have already tried to explain why the #ZumaMustFallMarch in its current forms reeks – unforgivably – of privilege, and why the face of that privilege is largely white. “This has nothing to do with –” is nothing but, “I absolve myself for benefitting from the status quo while advancing an agenda that most benefits me under the banner of it being equally good for everyone.” It’s not. Zuma’s fall will achieve many good things, but it won’t automatically bring about the upliftment of black people, and anyone who says it will is part of the problem. This is why many black people have decided better the devil they know than the devil that does not know itself.

If you’re sick of discussing the racial aspect of these marches, consider the possibility that you’re subconsciously shielding yourself from a confrontation with your deepest priorities for supporting it. You’re not tired: you’re ashamed of the dissonance between your professed reasons for wanting Zuma gone (“Good for everyone!”) and your actual reasons (“Good for me”) and I say this because if your professed reasons and your actual reasons kissed at any point (“What’s good for everyone will logically be good for me as well”) then you’d likewise see that discussing the racial aspect of the march is good for you as it is for everyone. You would not be tired of addressing the race issue because you would see that it is not a side topic but the main topic.

By keeping its mouth shut, the EFF has let the other players play themselves self empty. It now has all the cards. One of these days, it’s going to find an excuse to mobilise a large, mostly-black crowd to go and do something spectacularly effective in dethroning Zuma and his cronies. That excuse will be something closer to black people’s immediate priorities than the JSE and the rand-dollar exchange is. They picked #FeesMustFall as one of their battles because they knew it was closer to black people’s hearts than it was to the white people who, let us face it, largely gave it a lot of unnecessary and ill-informed flak. Truth is, a movement structured like #FeesMustFall is more likely to inch South Africa closer to justice than a movement like #ZumaMustFall.

The EFF normally jumps on every shiny thing and burns itself out chasing it. It is a disconcerting sign of their rapid maturation that they shrewdly held back on this one. Whether we like it or not, the way they’ve responded to this episode has, so far, been crafty and ingenious enough to carry them into more seats in parliament.

Whether we realise it or not, the EFF is the only political party that seems to be evolving during this crisis.

Thank you.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex

Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987


From #ZumasResigned We say #GoodbyeZuma

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 10.13.58 AM

Over a year ago, thousands of South Africans said #ZumasResigned. We didn’t wait for him to hand over his resignation. We took it from him. Because there was nowhere lower for Zuma to step down to, we didn’t ask for him to step down. We dismissed him in our minds and turned President Jacob Zuma into #FormerPresidentJacobZuma.

[Update, noon, 15 December 2015: it is being said that someone hacked into ANC webpage and announced that Zuma has been recalled. Someone else retracted. I suggest we run with the recall and never look back]

We beat National Assembly and the ANC NEC to it. We made him irrelevant, relegating him to history before he was ready to be one of its artefacts.

Today at one, they announce something big.

We can colour the mood of the announcement before it happens; accept and make peace with the fact that Zuma has been recalled before anything is said. We can do this so clearly as to leave no room for any other possibility. We, the citizens, decide the headline before a handful of politicians do. If government announces something other than what citizens have accepted as the way things are, they will show themselves as behind and unaware of the settled sentiments of the country.

We prepare for Zuma’s exit from Presidency by pronouncing its prognosis to be hopeless. We stifle whatever hope there may have been with a huge but solemn outpouring of collective, advance grief over the presidency we declare to no longer be. Goodbye Zuma. It’s over.

Let’s have a minute of silence to let it sink in. The laughter is but an echo now. The systematic undermining and open mockery of our constitutional establishments – Public Protector, Judiciary and the network of patronage that’s sunken its tentacles through the Executive – is over. Oversight and Parliament rendered toothless – that’s over too. Goodbye nuclear-cost nuclear deals: it was never meant to be.

We say goodbye to endless court-cases and a roller-coaster Rands, to the spin and the doctoring and hollow-voiced volleying. To the succession of mistresses and the success of friends with fake qualifications. To Waterkloof air base Gupta jet landings and Marikanas.

So fill out the mortality report. Complete the task. Switch off the life support. Take away the oxygen mask.

Hear the breathing grow fade out. Softer. Quieter. Nothing.

A year ago, we shouted #ZumasResigned.

Today, out of respect, we whisper #GoodbyeZuma.

We shush and stifle anyone who rudely raises his voice to yell anything to the contrary.

The corpse is still. The porters are here.

Perform his last rites. Assemble the mourners. Tell it not to his enemies, lest they revel in it. Let our children’s children hear about the Presidency that no longer is. Let the urban legends about the Man Who Was Presidency begin. That we see his ghost, but he no longer is. Let him be a myth that older children use to scare younger ones; a boogey-man, a national lesson learned.

The time is 1 this afternoon. Call it in advance.

#GoodbyeZuma. His Presidency Is Dead.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex

Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987


Brilliant Fix, #PravinGordhan. But #ZumaMustSTILLFall

This afternoon I watched the best episode of The Fixer ever made. Except it wasn’t produced by Shonda Rhimes and it didn’t star Kerry Washington.

As @samcowen tweeted, “Pravin Gordhan is human Gaviscon.” In his first address in his new-but-he-had-it-before gig as the new new Finance Minister, Gordhan made all the right noises, growled at a few journalists over the KPMG draft report, cracked a few jokes and overall played the role of the reassuring voice of reason in our government. Everything’s gonna be fine, he said. The Titanic isn’t sinking. Can’t you hear the violins and see the fireworks?

Among none of his generalities is there anything solid anyone can quote back at him if and when things go pear-shaped. Which they will because Jacob Zuma still wields considerable power in South Africa.

So even as the dust appears to settle around the finance minister swap, Twitter users nevertheless are carrying #ZumaMustSTILLGo as a hashtag. Gaviscon relieves symptoms. It doesn’t effect cures. We desperately need a cure. Jacob Zuma and the network of patronage that’s formed around him is the disease – not necessarily any particular finance minister.

For this reason, I believe the best thing we could do at this moment is occupy Union Buildings and Parliament, soon, with the following list of demands:

  • Jacob Zuma must be recalled as President of RSA with immediate effect. (He was not democratically elected: his party [as awful as it is] is what was elected by the voting majority. Possible replacement options, if they must be from within the party, may include Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Thabo Mbeki or even that Kgalema Motlanthe guy. Cyril Ramaphosa is a no-go because he’s the fall-guy for Marikana. They cannot throw out someone they know that we know is corrupt or incompetent or both. Whoever the heck the new president is, we must be trading up.)
  • Dudu Myeni must be removed from the SAA Board. She’s on her third term as Chairperson and apparently that’s not allowed. SAA needs to become profitable, soon. Speaking of political femme fatales, Baleka Mbete needs to baleka from Parliament. Now that her only job (shielding Zuma from  National Assembly) is gone, she must go with it.
  • The nuclear deal must fall or government must propose a sensible means of funding it.

We cannot be placated by crumbs. We must say #EnoughIsEnough to being taken past the limit, then drawn in with gentle reassurances so we feel like it is all better again. Enough to the political roller-coaster rides. Enough with the manipulation and the complacency.


Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex

Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987


How Privilege Killed The #ZumaMustFallMarch Before It Even Started


Protest history belongs to the desperate.

Protest, by definition, is the stance of the oppressed and the desperate. The less someone is crushed by the status quo (or the more someone is cushioned by the status quo that was), the less that person’s need to protest.

Protest history grants hard-won victories to those who, unable to endure the way things are (or foreseeing the long-term effects of the way things are), exchange what they are doing at that moment, their need to be legally correct, to be in good standing with the world they find themselves in, their self-preservation instinct – in short, everything that makes us all human – for the superhuman decisiveness of responding to the hour they find themselves in with the selflessness and tenacity it takes to change the situation they’re fighting against.

In other words, protest doesn’t belong to people who give to a cause what they have, but to people who give to a cause what the cause needs. There aren’t enough of those as yet because the only people who can afford to give this cause what it needs are people who have nothing left to lose. The past that produced privilege for some at the cost of others, has not as yet effected a sufficient informed desperation for us to actually topple Zuma and his administration. Because privilege.

The desperate not only uphold the privileged in good times but they often also have the power to save them during bad times. We saw this with the students during the #FeesMustFall campaign and the subsequent call that they must fuel the #ZumaMustFall campaign as well. The privileged criticise them while they’re doing what needs to be done, and reap the benefits after it’s done. It is the privilege of the privileged to stack up social awareness points by venerating the selfless months or years after their blood has been mopped up. The moppers, the cleaners, the gardeners and the fixers – they are the true custodians of freedom. Not those who turn freedom into a chic sound-bite after the dust has settled.

South Africans are in a desperate situation but not all South Africans are desperate for the situation to improve. Let’s face it. Those who have nothing left to lose are given paltry hand-outs that convince them that the government cares for them, and those who still have something to lose think they can bargain with this situation. I’ll Occupy Parliament, but will it be legal? Erm, no? Will my safety be guaranteed? I’ll march to the Union Buildings, but can we do it during the public holiday? I’m working during the week. I can only protest one of the causes of unemployment on the day that I’m allowed to take time off the place where I am employed. I’m not desperate enough. Because privilege.

I stayed up very late at night reading tweets and Facebook statuses around the #ZumaMustFall campaign.

Judging by the status updates and tweets of some of its members, the DA route is that current problems can and must be solved at the voting booth (or in court, where they live). Protest cannot be captured or converted into parliamentary seats. Votes and court rulings can be parcelled into neat campaign points. It’s the Party’s privilege to ask us whether we can channel current desperation into future elections.

As I pointed out yesterday: as long as we’re willing to negotiate with the way things are, the government will have another card to play. Dictatorship and state failures aren’t events: they are processes. And baby, we’re in process.

Everybody knows what has to happen: we need to go to National Assembly in great, great numbers, from the soonest working hour, and #OccupyParliament until a list of demands is met. Demand one: #ZumaMustFall.

Privilege produces plastic people. Zuma isn’t going to fall because those who have more to lose will risk less. The tragedy – what could have been – is that if we’d just showed up and occupied, together, we could have minimized the risk to ourselves anyway.

Freedom, you remain so near yet so far. We could grope about and finally find you in this darkness. But we are blinded by the bright, white light of privilege. Makubenjalo.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex

Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987


#ZumaMustFall March: Concerns And Optimism

A #ZumaMustFall march to the Union Buildings is being organised for the 16th of December.

The 16th of December is a public holiday four days from today.

One of two things will happen. The first is that the march will achieve its goals. As one of my friends has pointed out, whoever organised the march probably thought there would be a better turnout on the day because it is a holiday. It could make a difference and I hope it does.

But that could work against the protest.

The Office of the President, having heard that the march is coming (with more than four days’ warning) will find an emergency for Jacob Zuma to attend to either halfway across the country. There will be skeletal staff at the Union Buildings and Luthuli House. This is, after all, a public holiday in December. It’s easy to explain away the presence of no more than security and admin.

So thousands of marchers will make an appearance. It will be a terrific show of solidarity and commitment on their part. And because ours is a participatory government that engages its citizens, a delegation from the ruling party or the government will come out to meet the marchers, listen and nod thoughtfully at what they have to say, and promise to get a response from the Office of the President as soon as possible. Or set up a task team.

By the end of the day the crowd would have dissipated, the march would have lost momentum and the holiday would be over.

The next day, a much smaller crowd will re-appear but the diminished size of the protest will be an indication that much of it was an anger-venting exercise, that the protesters have been heard and that the Presidency is free to take its time coming up with that promised response to demands that Jacob Zuma step down. In other words, it will be back to business as usual. If I’m correct about this second scenario, Zuma’s direct response will be that he never made himself president but was deployed by the party which, in turn, was elected by South Africans.

His Office’s response will be something along the lines of:

“Concerning the removal of Nhlanhla Nene from the Finance portfolio, Honourable President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma has the constitutional right to appoint and dismiss ministers as he sees fit. As indicated previously through media, Mr Nene was not fired but moved to a more strategic position. Furthermore, there has been no change to fiscal policy as such and therefore no need to panic.

“Concerning the request that the President must be impeached: such an action would be absolutely reckless in light of recent changes in our place in the global economy. It would as be indefensible both politically and towards President Zuma himself. Until a court case can find him guilty of a crime that warrants dismissal, or the National Assembly pass a vote of no confidence in him, or the ruling party recall him, or the electorate vote for a different party, the demand for his removal, forwarded by however many marchers on the 16th, cannot override the expressed wishes of 11 million voters. With all due respect, the marchers could have  been anyone from anywhere. We have to take our mandate from registered South African voters. To do otherwise would be to neglect our duties, which is precisely the thing we’re being accused of doing.

“We will take this opportunity to remind everybody that anyone who wishes to express discontent is free to do so through their parliamentarian or other existing government structures and channels.

“We thank the citizens and the marchers who appeared on the 16th for exercising and being concerned with the protection and sustenance of their democratic constitutional rights. We wish everyone a safe and prosperous festive season and we look forward to continued engagement in the new year. Thank you.”

The media will broadcast the response; on social media, Zuma’s supporters will try to whip up a non-existent warm, fuzzy contentment with the response, dignifying it as far as possible. Twitter and Facebook will go from a smugly hopeful, “They must have heard the dissatisfaction of all those marchers!” to losing its marbles and trending #ZumaMustFall like there’s no tomorrow.

Come New Years Eve, Jacob Zuma will still be president and something will happen to distract everyone from #ZumaMustFall. The New Age and SABC will carry that story instead until it becomes the new shiny thing.

Looking at these two possibilities, I have to wonder: what is so important on the working weekdays before the 16th that we have to wait for this far-off Public Holiday? Work? The money being made on the preceding workdays is losing value by the hour. What that means is that by the time the drought takes its toll, the salary we’re devoutly going to work for would have lost the value needed to buy the imported foodstuff we’ll need to live off of. We’re being squeezed into a trap with life-or-death consequences, and we cannot rely on existing legal structures to rescue us because by their nature, they follow processes and those (if the law is to have any meaning at all) take time. That’s why the DA lives in court.

Zuma will get away with everything he’s doing not because the country isn’t angry but because the country doesn’t know how to say: “Let’s go and occupy Union Buildings or Parliament or the nearest City Hall, now.” Our country doesn’t know how to have a proper tax revolt that involves corporations’ PAYE and individual TV licences and etolls. Zuma will get away with everything he’s doing because until anger translates into quick, organised action, it is just that – gatvol hashtags and indignant write-ups. He’ll be free to act unilaterally unless and until we respond through our decisive action.

The tragedy is that the opportunity is there. There are people within the ANC and government that are dying for an episode of meaningful protest action; that will trigger a domino effect of other actions that will make Zuma’s removal a greater likelihood.

The problem, as I see it, is that the people who now could be protesting, spent so much time protected by the system that they never had to learn the value of impolitely demanding immediate change by bringing the establishment to its knees. The tenderpreneurship faction that supports Zuma is more resourceful than we give it credit for, and if protest is just limited to what’s legally permitted it will not be effective. I’ve given the rationale for civil disobedience before but we’ve seen proof for it twice; first, in the protest that led to the fall of apartheid, and after that, in the #FeesMustFall campaign.

The #FeesMustFall protest was peaceful and well-organised. But it was also too sudden to be legal. The Powers-That-Be were never ready for it. That’s why it achieved results. It took them off guard.

I am going to join the march on the 16th but personally, I would have much preferred one sooner and on a working weekday. Anything of value requires sacrifice, and I am not talking about submitting a leave form to get time off at work but simply downing tools and strategically occupying a place that could bring a major city to a sudden standstill.

On a working weekday.

I wish our protest on the 16th the best of luck and hope that scenario two is wrong.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex

Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987