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
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