Listeria Monocytogenes: South African business’s dirty little secret

People’s feelings about a company govern the extent to which they’ll “forgive” its transgressions.

On Monday 5 March 2018 the CEO of Tiger Brands, Lawrence MacDougall, spent an hour insisting its subsidiary, Enterprise, was not responsible for the listeriosis outbreak that claimed 180 lives. Yet by 15:00, the business’s market capitalisation had fallen by R5.7-billion and the share price by 7.9% to R391.47.

People’s feelings about a company govern the extent to which they’ll “forgive” its transgressions. The Facebook post of a man from Kimberley cataloguing Tiger Brands’ sins — which included bread price-fixing and carcinogens in Tastic rice — was typical of a growing public outcry against the accounting and operational “irregularities” that big businesses like Steinhoff are seen as getting away with. Last year, Tiger Brands’ black woman ownership was at 4.56%, prompting a post by a black mother to fellow black mothers:

“We can’t achieve Radical Economic Transformation without you as a consumer and it starts with you loving only the brands that love you.”

The CEO of Tiger Brands refrained from apologising for legal reasons. It’s probably just as well: the bottom line linked to Tiger Brands’ social capital faces a terrible prognosis because this crisis is proxy for an instance of retribution many black people feel never happened, but should have: for the role they believe was played by “white monopoly capital” under apartheid. Those black people eat and trade in the inexpensive processed protein product that’s now killing them and their township street “kota” businesses.

Had Tiger Brands been broadly perceived as reciprocating its customer loyalty by substantively and visibly developing those township enterprises, its share price would have a better prognosis (instead of being exposed to a possible lawsuit).

What they saw in place of this support — of an apology — was power on the defensive; this, from a business that purportedly knew about the pathogenic bacteria a month before the product recall. Now, the tribalistic psychology behind why business hegemonically empowers people and enterprises from the same race as its existing people is being projected as racism over everything Tiger Brands says about the importance of its consumers’ health. Those consumers have no memory of the brand caring for them beyond memories they themselves made as its unloved customers.

The captains of industry tend to associate with men like themselves and cover one another’s insecurities by not introducing “different” people into those spaces — “others” whose unexpected competencies would call into question the legitimacy of those hierarchies and groups. The members of these groups mutually reward one another’s cultural “sameness” by systemically extracting wealth from those not in those groups, for redistribution amongst those within that group. Those inside these old boys’ clubs then use that wealth to back an appearance of accomplishment that exceeds more than what they’ve truly pulled off. They’re using attributes they never worked for (skin colour) to distinguish those they’ll reward from those they’ll exploit in exchange for having more power behind that skin colour. Then they only work with those who look like themselves to hide from having to face the black embodiments of their scam.

Anyone from within these groups who considers fighting for justice and organisational sustainability by bringing “the other” in has to first overcome the fear of being punished by his colleagues. But on 5 March, the owners of Tiger Brands were given 5.7-billion reasons to rethink.

For Tiger Brands now exists, in part, at the mercy of black stakeholders. They’re about to show whether they believe they consumed a product whose price-point and availability in townships represented their exclusion from privilege. Are they sick to their stomachs with the status quo because Listeria Monocytogenes is the corpo-realisation of South African business’s dirty little secret — that it treats black people like (and so feeds them) dirt?

Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

Listeriosis may have been the final proof black stakeholders needed.

Is transformation the answer? Yes, but the danger with box-tick B-BBEE is when a business starts with its “what” (making lots of money that members of the old boys’ club can wrap their inadequacies up in) instead of a good “why” (serving the societies they do business among through shared value while making big profits), it’s doomed to lose both. Any accounting report that says otherwise is lying about how such businesses accomplished this pro-hegemony “what” without resorting to an anti-everyone-outside-the-group “how”.

This means all “white monopoly capital” share prices (not just of the baloney monopoly on polony) are exposed to the same risk. These businesses’ operational, reputational and managerial “deep-cleans” call for transformation.

The correlation between the unsustainability of enterprise development through hegemonic tribalism, and operational compromises that lead to whole industries suffering like South Africa’s processed meat industry, is why BEE Novation tweeted, “Don’t compromise: serve enterprise development that doesn’t kill your whole industry.”

The business’s MD, Lee du Preez, explained that when businesses participate in proper Enterprise Development (an element on the BEE scorecard) of supply chains in compliance with BEE, instead of the rules of the old boys’ club, they tend to straighten out the rest of their governance requirements too.

Don’t compromise: your enterprise will soon worship you for unpacking its need for a transformation strategy.

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints, title You Have to Be Gay to Know God

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Love of Power Vs Power of Love: A Tale of Two Stories – Inxeba and Black Panther

If a movie’s success is its audience’s agreement that it’s delivered on its makers’ artistic promises, then the respective viewers of Inxeba and Black Panther seem to have started this year on a cultural high note. So why, in the absence of complaints from its actual intended audiences, has the Films and Publications Board upgraded Inxeba (or downgraded it, depending on your perspective) to an X-rating?
We saw the state recoil from the backlash when Generation’s Jason and Senzo kissed; we saw the outcry when We The Brave ran an ad with a same-sex kiss. I submit we’re more comfortable, as society, with violent men than we are with vulnerable men.

That’s not a dig at Black Panther: I haven’t watched the Marvel creation yet, and I’m quite looking forward to it. But I have questions about some reviewers’ overtones of, not quite black triumphalism, but indomitability. I find startling the contrast between those and reactions to Inxeba’sexplicit depiction of something that scares us more than the choice between explicit sex and explicit violence: “the wound” of human vulnerability.

Judging by reviews, one could be forgiven for concluding that unlike InxebaBlack Panther is the undisputed Truth — with a capital-letter T — about the black identity that colonialism otherwise mutilated and continues mutilating in its mutilated depictions of mutilated black men — black men who, by starring in said stories, are willingly co-opted into colonialism’s accusation that their own culture has scarred them in ways colonialism never could have without their cultural treachery.

Black Panther, on the other hand, is consumed as a story about untouched, self-realised black society. But history never happens in a vacuum, and not even in our inconvenient reality is indomitability the restful given of having never been colonised: it’s the result of non-stop performativity imposed by the custodians of our cultures, and that performativity is in the same WhatsApp group as toxic masculinity.

If you don’t think Black Panther has inadvertently catered to that social appetite, then imagine how its black audiences would have reacted to seeing Black Pantherdepicting Wakanda’s sons playing with dolls. Would it have received the same treatment as Inxeba?

Think boys with dolls are gay? Consider this: what if, as children, we develop our capacity for tuning into other people’s feelings when we role-play with dolls and humanise objects? When we imaginatively project human feelings onto them so we may practice how we’d react in those scenarios?

Has it occurred to us that we can talk about the nuanced similarities and distinctions between robust and ongoing sexual consent a hundred billion times, but without thatexperiential foundation in childhood, all that talking will never, ever land with the seriousness that a serious confrontation with rape culture requires?

Even if it does land, later on, it will still be incorporated not into a commitment to treat women as human equals, but to help them feel less conquered in what’s still fundamentally their conquest. Think “pick-up artists”. The relational, empathetic core, however well it’s imitated later on, must be developed from much earlier than puberty.

Or look at our political landscape: the danger with triumphalism is it’s a lot like nationalism and tribalism. In his article on “the dangers of Zulu Nationalism”, Mondli Makhanya reminds readers of ANC KZN’s responsiveness to Zulu ethnicism.

“We know [Zuma] will not hesitate to pull the Zulu nationalism trigger as the cantankerous chief from that province loved to do. We should prepare for that eventuality once his fraud and corruption trial begins and the State Capture commission implicates him in more criminal activities.”

And unless ANC KZN splits away from the mother body — a possibility with a set of terrifying implications of its own — KZN’s tribalism will be inveigled in the party’s messaging to voters in its build-up to national elections next year.

This is all to say we must enjoy Black Panther and whatever good comes from Cyril Ramaphosa’s term the way we should have enjoyed the good in Mbeki’s term: with eyes open to the dangers likely to be around the corner.

This is especially important when ratings are changed, seemingly, in response to public pressure.

This all also means keeping our hearts open. For any triumphalist black self-representation as martially indomitable, there may, accidentally, be the repression of those whose likelihood to yield to the power of love makes them less likely to be lovers of power. Inxeba is a story about a person dying to be a person. Who are the black movie superheroes supposed to save, if not exactly such?

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints, title You Have to Be Gay to Know God

Inxeba: Ripping the Wounds right open

The value of the film Inxeba’s gay storyline against a backdrop defined by traditional masculinity is not exclusively for gay men: it’s for everyone. Many of the social media comments about the backlash against its airing question why those who’d suppress the movie haven’t been as vocal against rape culture. In view of Inxeba’s focus on homophobia, this line of questioning can be taken further.

 

Men nowadays are rightly asked to confront rape culture, but this request often stops short of asking heterosexual people to examine their consumption of heterosexism. As I previously pointed out: “When a lesbian is murdered, or raped, or burned, or mutilated, the #MenAreTrash brigade is nowhere to be found.”

“Corrective rape” is when a lesbian is raped for saying no to every man’s sexual advances, making it an attack against every woman’s right to say no to any man’s sexual advances. There is no point at which the battle against rape culture should be more focused. But because we live in a heterosexist society, there is no point at which it receives less attention.

Where there should be a focus on the “corrective rape” of lesbians, we instead see that anger at rape culture is coloured by the consumeristic demand that men live up to straight women’s Ken-and-Barbie fantasies as loyal, romantic, door-opening, bill-settling partners, as well as disappointment that they bring to life women’s worst nightmares instead.

For while many of the Hollywood-type Valentine’s Day “Ken” behaviours expected of men are admirable, their proximity to pre-existing gender roles is their proximity to traditional heteronormative masculinity — and it’s that masculinity that rapes.

Traditional masculinity’s essence is performativity. There’s nothing sustainable or consistent in basing social norms on the pursuit of the desirable outcomes of that non-stop performativity, while stomping out its less desirable outcomes — masculinity as power-over, as validation-seeking through dominance and as forced access to women’s bodies. Far from being an aberration of heterosexism, rape culture is what happens when heterosexism finally gets its way and dictates all romantic and sexual identities and behaviours.

Addressing rape culture without addressing homophobia isn’t confrontation: it’s negotiation. Because at the end of that negotiation there are no consequences for the “corrective rape” of lesbians, those lesbians’ bodies are the price society is willing to pay for the service rape culture renders — validating heterosexism and Old Testament tribalism.

The same black friends keep embracing definitions of black masculinity in which men are powerful providers — but these definitions only work if they make rape and domestic abuse the effects of landlessness and economic exclusion. The socialisation of boys and their consequent insecurity at having to continually live up to assumptions about masculinity (which sounds flattering so as to pass traditional masculinity off as more intoxicating than toxic) is never questioned. It sounds seductively convenient to lay the blame for male violence at the feet of colonialism and apartheid because then we never have to examine ourselves. But when structural racism becomes the explanation under which we sweep male violence without having to problematise male socialisation, neither structural racism nor male violence are solved on real terms.

We see that socialisation plays a more decisive role than economic displacement in breeding rape culture in that when black men do experience economic empowerment, a considerable number of them direct that newfound wealth not towards providing for their children but into further demonstrations of dominance and power, often through womanisation. The message that masculine value is tied to the power to provide simply compels men to prove that they have that power without deploying it into their children’s service.

If you think that sounds absurd, then tell me why some of the poorest kids in our townships will often have some of the richest fathers. I’ll tell you why: it’s because in its fear of feminising men by letting them nurture children, straight society has the nerve to leave the responsibility of fathering with mothers — and then it still turns around to say it is we, gay people, who have confused the gender agenda for everyone. Even rebuking rapists by saying “real men don’t rape!” reinforces the heterosexist box in dishing out its idea of “real men” without scrutinising it. When the black woman’s intimate partner insults gay people, she ought to pay attention: he is talking about her. Gay bodies are the price straight society is happy to pay for its lease on heterosexism. But what overthrows us, overthrows straight society also.

When they’re not being bashed by homophobes, gay men exist as straight women’s social accessories and entertainment; as their missed sexual and romantic opportunities. “What a waste,” they say. “A waste” because the moment a man ceases existing as a sexual and romantic prospect replete with the performative expectations of traditional masculinity, he ceases existing in the ways men have been trained to count on and believe in for their validation by the very society that acts all surprised by the down-side of traditional masculinity. Gay men are “a waste” for the same reasons straight men are “trash”.

Gavin de Becker wrote: “Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect while most women fear rape and death.” The common denominator is the socialisation required by heterosexism. These are the wounds Inxeba has ripped wide open.

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints, title You Have to Be Gay to Know God

#NxasanaJudgment: Appealing will hurt Zuma – the days of disrespecting the NPA are over

This post first appeared on Daily Maverick on 11 December, 2017

When a court has to go to the unthinkable extreme of violating the Constitution’s visible expression in order to protect its invisible meaning to prevent said Constitution and itself from being complicit in crime, the president in question is a problem.

Corruption Watch‚ Freedom Under Law and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution asked the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to review the R17 million settlement paid to former National Director of Public Prosecutions, Mxolisi Nxasana.

Written by Judge President Dunstan Mlambo and judges Natvarlal Ranchod and Willem van der Linde, the judgment set aside Shaun Abraham’s appointment as Nxasana’s replacement, picked on the “pattern of the president’s conduct in litigation, of defending what ultimately turns out — on the president’s own concession — to have been the indefensible all along, banking on any advantage that the passage of the time may bring”, as well as Advocate Abrahams’s failure to retain prosecutorial independence “on all the material issues with the position of the president”. They also said the deputy president must appoint the next prosecutions’ authority director.

Zuma’s appeal will probably say the judgment violated the doctrine of the separation of powers. The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association likewise described the ruling as “judicial overreach”, a “judicial coup”. But the judgment has introduced an insight not even an appeal can erase. It could be argued that the judgment was the court’s protest against “the pattern” it spoke of.

Even allowing that the court went too far at any point, it could be said the alternative would have been the court’s failure to defend itself and the doctrine of the separation of powers from being inveigled into what its representatives justly saw, at the time (on the basis of what the president’s counsel conceded) as a pattern of defending the indefensible and undermining the rule of law.

The president’s counting too often on the doctrine has had the effect of undermining the purpose for and spirit in which it was formulated, making the court’s violation of the letter of the doctrine a stronger expression of its spirit than upholding the letter would have been.

When a court has to go to the unthinkable extreme of violating the Constitution’s visible expression in order to protect its invisible meaning to prevent said Constitution and itself from being complicit in crime, the president in question is a problem.

Because the High Court’s judgment said ignoring the possibility that Zuma uses court processes to subvert justice would be naïve, the next court he appears before has to give serious consideration to the possibility that the presidency’s professed hopes that the grounds of appeal will be “properly ventilated in the normal course in court proceedings”, is really dog-whistle messaging for, “this will buy us time”, corroborating the charge that the president’s broader view of the judiciary is contemptuous; that the legalese his legal team uses is a mockery of the “principle of the separation of powers‚ constitutional legality and the rule of law” he purports to be “minded by”.

If this judgment is legally weaponised by an interested party, any court (Supreme Court of Appeals [SCA], Constitutional Court) could legitimately take the initiative and contemplate the possibility that the president’s conceivable scorn towards the Constitution that sets out how it should serve the “we, the people” in its preamble is the flip-side to his seriousness towards serving the interests of someone other than “we, the people”. I’m no lawyer, but the circumstantial evidence for State Capture could emerge in future judgments against Zuma if a judge holds the president’s known conduct in litigation up to the light of the Constitution. Legally, the president’s failings will take on a “captured” shape.

The extent of the victory the SCA grants Zuma’s appeal will depend on its willingness to overturn the implicit finding that he bribed the former Director of Public Prosecutions to vacate his job, and its willingness to condone (for whatever given explanation) the illegality of the amount paid from the public purse for said bribe. Even if the complaint that the doctrine of the separation of powers was violated is accepted, the SCA would be expressing a preference for the presidency’s abuse of the doctrine of the separation of powers for evidently questionable ends, over the High Court’s violation of the letter of the doctrine so as to uphold its spirit.

The Constitutional Court would settle the matter to Zuma’s disadvantage unless his legal team’s success at proving the violation of the separation is coupled with successful contestation of the factual findings that informed the High Court’s judgment. Then, the extent to which the appeal overthrows the High Court in this case would overthrow their client in every future case. Zuma risks winning this battle by losing the overall war to stay out of jail until 2019 — which is a Pyrrhic victory.

Even before then, the president could be accused of leaving the judiciary (and Parliament, whose members are constitutionally mandated to act by conscience despite their party’s contrary belief) between a rock and a hard place: he could be accused of throwing them into constitutional crises that would most simply be resolved by his resignation. It’s too soon to tell the form and the platform such accusations would take, let alone the outcomes they would build to.

This much, we now know: the High Court agrees with Shaun Abrahams’ warning that the days of disrespecting the NPA are over.

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints, title You Have to Be Gay to Know God

Why I believe Nomvula Mokonyane

This post first appeared on Daily Maverick on 8 December, 2017

The Guptas’ skin colour pulled our collective attention to the place behind the curtain, forcing many of us to realise there was a curtain.

Nomvula Mokonyane, ANC NEC member and Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation, said “white monopoly capital” may lack “the brashness of the Gupta family”, but it definitely exists and its dealings with State-owned Enterprises escape “wider scrutiny”.

This adds weight to the idea that far from liberating black people and fighting corruption, the ruling party keeps black people poor as its members liberate tax money through unsavoury relationships between State-owned Enterprises and capital.

When western (political and economic) powers no longer had a red enemy to retain South Africa as an ally against, apartheid was dead. Former president FW de Klerk unbanned the ANC because the liberation movement would have realised it “could not achieve a revolutionary victory within the foreseeable future”.

We need to right-size efforts against apartheid with historical facts instead of measuring them by their emotive impact on us or by their cost to those who made those efforts, if we are to understand the ANC’s relationships with disgraced software companies, auditing firms and media conglomerates. Only by centring the explanation that the ANC was meant to help with looting all along can we contextualise the Zuma faction’s attempt at pre-arranging a December electoral outcome that will leave the party with some semblance of “unity”.

President Nelson Mandela’s term was the one time we suppressed our country’s “capturedness” — to let some pressure out of the valve, as it were — after which the ANC embraced its role as the visible fall guy with gusto. As long as there was a (black) government to blame, there was no need to scrutinise the private sector.

It’s as though the National Party’s negotiations with the ANC was its saying, “You may judge us for apartheid now, but once you’re in our shoes you’ll know it was the lesser of two evils.” The ANC “liberated” South Africa by cloaking the exchange of keys to the same car in a peace that cannot last and is therefore not peace at all. South Africa’s usefulness to the global economy lies in its openness for labour/resource extraction at low cost. If you hope to remain a politician in a world where they’re a dime a dozen, you have to set up a system that will allow you to keep some people desperately poor (with permission from your richer constituencies) otherwise the economy in your stewardship is useless to the Powers-That-Be. Think Arms Deal. The Guptas’ skin colour pulled our collective attention to the place behind the curtain, forcing many of us to realise there was a curtain.

When millions of grown adults wage culture wars and overspend for the birth of a Saviour whom nothing in the New Testament connects to 25 December, is it so difficult to believe members of the ANC make money off the myth that the party exists for the liberation of black people when news headlines — and Mokonyane’s confession — show it more beholden to the cluster of businesses the old government was in bed with? The shamefulness of corruption exposés serves to embolden shameless politicians and their comrades. This fatigues the public’s sensitivity to scandal, which frees morepoliticians to do it.

One also wonders whether the Constitution was designed to make it difficult for the courts to force the Executive and Parliament to do their jobs. Though communism has blind spots, its adherents are correct when they describe corruption as the sport politicians play with private business. A corrupt businessperson wouldn’t need to know whether his ambitions would be most likely frustrated by scrutiny from courts or regulation from Parliament to know that divide and conquer alwaysworks. The separation of powers put in to save us can also drag processes out forever. Is it really an accident that our Executive is crooked, our Parliament is complicit in said crookery and our Judiciary can only serve to highlight the country’s impotence against those disembowelling it — further emboldening thievery? Have Russia in the US and Bell Pottinger in SA not taught us that nothing happens by accident?

With UBaba kaDuduzane’s ascent to the ANC’s pinnacle in Polokwane 10 years ago, the refined dining of white-collar criminals that this system was designed for was dragged down into the savage feeding frenzy of common, bare-faced thugs who’d decided it was their turn. This has decidedly focused our attention on every move government makes. One begins to wonder whether the reason ratings agencies (which have also been caught in scandals) don’t think South Africa is “safe” for investment is that under the penetrating gaze of our investigative journalists, our government will, willingly or not, “kiss and tell” as to which businesses have bedded it — ruining those businesses’ reputations abroad.

Never an organisation to miss a historical opportunity for self-enrichment, the ANC will use the elective conference to capitalise on its own shame and position itself as the only thing that can save us from its own role in the country’s demise. Whether it presents multiple faces for its branches to ostensibly choose from, or overtly prearranges deputy presidency compromises to blunt the blow to whichever faction loses, it’s playing for 2019 numbers because at its core, the ANC is more about securing permission to dine with “white monopoly capital” or the brash Gupta family than it is about anything else.

Dr Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I believe Minister Mokonyane.

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints, title You Have to Be Gay to Know God