#ZumaTradeOff: A Bigger Reshuffle on the Cards

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The hashtag is #ZumaTradeOff

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#ZumaTradeOff: One Sitting Away From Constitutional Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did we learn nothing from the cabinet reshuffle?

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

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

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

This is all assuming that they want to keep their assets. I don’t know. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with altering the Constitution if the people affected don’t mind, I guess.
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The hashtag is #ZumaTradeOff: please send questions, make comments, share and tell your friends.

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#ZumaTradeOff: What are White People Planning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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That book is dancing on me.

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

As We Protest (God Help Us All)

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

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

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

Reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

and

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

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

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

The Conditions for Zuma’s Removal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Most Important Condition:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

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

 

 

 

 

Junk Status: The Gift We Never Wanted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other presser was just as measured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please follow, share and retweet: SKhumalo1987

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

There is something about Donald J. Trump

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 11.24.27 PM

Put your race-talk fatigue aside and hear me out.

Yesterday I shared the above Instagram post by one Future Baby Mama (@dynamite8503). It reads, “Trump has disrespected black ppl, Muslim ppl, Mexicans & the disabled. I guess he gotta kill a dog for white people to see how evil he is. Smh.”

The first reply my share received read, “That is such a racist and insulting comment.”

I felt like replying, “Now you know how the black, Muslim, Mexican and disabled people have felt every time Trump opened his mouth.” I did not say that, of course.

Others pointed out that they haven’t met one white person who doesn’t think Trump is evil. And so on and so forth.

Here is my problem with these kinds of responses.

In the States, and in many ways in our home, inequality is systemic, it’s real and the only people who stand to gain from not seeing that privilege excludes anyone who is not a heterosexual white Christian male – are heterosexual white Christian males or people who share in one or more of these attributes and their accompanying privileges.

That is why Donald Trump can get away with saying the moronic things he does about people who do not belong in his demographic as a heterosexual white Presbyterian/Christian male: white people in general do not want to talk about inequality and privilege as demographical realities. Many are not only ignorant of the true extent and effects of systemic racial inequality but are ignoring the reality. And they get very angry at anyone who insists on treating it like the systemic demographic issue that it is because systems, demographics, lump the good and the bad together.

But we must view insults directed against Muslims as the fruit of systemic white Christian privilege preserving itself the only way it knows: systemic exclusion and othering. Because that is what it is.

After this post, I was tacitly asked to celebrate that many people (some of them even white Christians) condemned Trump’s words in general, instead of focusing (as I had been doing) so closely on exploring the mindset in particular that brought these words out of his mouth. Such a focus on the mindset instead of the incident would seemingly condemn scores of white people who are ignoring systemic white privilege.

I felt I was being asked to generalise this particular expression of racism as though it were like any other. You know, the way black people can also be racist towards people of other races and black privilege is so real? Because they can and it is?

Only, not quite. And here is why.

Utopian non-racialism and non-discrimination only work on paper and in theory. The effects of colonialism, heterosexism, whitism, and so on, are the effects of systems that did not set themselves up by accident but existed by ruthless human intent. Recent, relevant history is not about racism in general but systemic white-on-black systemic racism in particular. That is not just a theory but the tragic reality.

America removed racist policies in general without confronting white privilege in particular – and now has the blood of many unarmed black shooting victims on its hands. Had those people had a lighter skin colour, they’d probably still be alive today.

Contemporary racism is the insistence on treating actual history as though it was one of many scenarios that may or may not happened in a past where racism may or may not have flourished: this fuzzy, selective amnesia allows the formerly privileged to say he is now being oppressed when what is happening is that an actual past is being addressed.

What will it take for heterosexual white Christian males, or people who share one or more of the attributes of maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality and/or being of the Christian tradition, to stand up en masse and say, “Enough, Donald Trump, we do not accept what you’re saying about people who happen to not be heterosexual, or white, or Christian or male?”

This is white privilege in a nutshell: if Muslim people tell Trump he’s wrong, it won’t make much of a difference. If white people say exactly the same words, it will make a difference. Nobody has as much power to discredit Trump as his fellow white male heterosexual Christians. That is what actual history has left us with.

Have white Christians spoken out like this? Yes, but we haven’t reached the tipping point where the body of bigotry Trump embodies is rejected in its totality precisely because Americans insist on dealing with bigotry in its generalities (homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, etc.) but not systemic, historic white male Christian heterosexist capitalist privilege in particular. Because that in actuality, and not racism in theory, is the problem. And Donald J. Trump embodies the prejudice that is dominant now. He has not recanted or qualified his words because he has not had to.

So while reassuring rumours about white people who think Donald Trump is evil persist, there is little reassuring evidence that there are enough of them acting on those thoughts hard enough. There is right now in fact more evidence to support claims that Santa Claus is real.

This leads me to conclude that despite reassurances otherwise, white Christian America will take what passes itself off as safety and security at the cost of “the other’s” dignity and humanity.

That is what is not just racist or insulting, but downright evil.

“Racist” Instagram posts should be getting shared. We should all be uncomfortable.

Thank you for reading. You may take up your race-talk fatigue now.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex

Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

#KeeganHirst Is Still The Hero – And Why That’s A Problem

“Rugby League Player Keegan Hirst – First British Professional To Openly Say He Is Gay,” the news headlines say.  They talk of the outpouring of support he’s been getting.  He tells of his past denial regarding his sexuality.  “I had a wife and kids.  I’ve been a builder, doorman, worked in factories – I play rugby.  I tick every macho box.  How could I be gay?  I’m from Batley for goodness sake.  No one is gay in Batley.”

Now I don’t want to be that guy who takes anything from Keegan Hirst’s coming out story, or from him.  His achievements are remarkable.  No doubt he is a wonderful person.  Whatever this moment means to him, it is his moment.  He doesn’t need my or anyone else’s permission to do that.  And of course, he’s in the UK and hasn’t got a clue that this piece is being written.

But I’ve run out of credit to give to these big athletes coming out.

When the straight-acting, white, beautiful white male rugby player comes out, what actually changes?  We’re still celebrating the fact that his world has not disclaimed him.  He’s still the hero on that world’s terms.  So what’s changed is that the matrices of dominance – male hegemonies and the bro code – have expanded to include gay people who, in essence, don’t look or act different from everyone else, and therefore don’t disturb the equilibrium.  The most importants part of the package he represents as a brand have not changed.

He is still the promise of physical prowess and machismo and coolness.  Nobody actually has to see what he does in his bedroom anyway, so the “important” bits are still there.

What changed in Uganda when Keegan Hirst came out?  Did something improve in the situation of the township lesbian in South Africa who has been brave enough to live her life as authentically as she could from the start despite the overwhelming risk?  Why did Duduzile Zozo have to die for me to find out who she was?

How can I share and celebrate the coming-out story of a highly-paid athlete who has sacrificed – what? a shot at one endorsement but the greater prospect of that other one instead now that there’s a story to sell? only he and God and those close to him know what he has sacrificed – when all it is, is us convincing the same power-brokers and gate-keepers that the brand, the surface appearance, the thing that people like and buy into and find familiar, can accommodate a homosexual orientation?

How is that bringing about fundamental change in a world that is desperate for more than just a cosmetic face-lift?

What are we trying to do as consciousness-raisers?  Convince the same people within the same structures that we’re just like them, or critique their structures completely?

Another example.  I’m tired of hearing people say, “Wow, I like this new Pope.”  Why do we want the Pope to have an epiphany about gay people when we should want for gay people to have an epiphany about themselves and stop trying to get that system, that establishment, that institution, to “accept” them?  The question shouldn’t be whether that establishment can accept gay people.  The question should be – how in God’s name can gay people forgive and accept these establishments.  This Stockholm Syndrome business has got to end.  This sucking up business, this thing of believing the Oppressor’s narrative about his superiority or the order, the security and the stability of the world he’s selling, has got to come to an end.  It is  religious establishments that need diversity and gay people, not the other way around.

So I ask you again: what changed for the sensitive, artistic gay kid who is being bullied in school?  He won’t be called “faggot” but the underlying attitude will still be there.  The words change.  The intent behind them doesn’t because all that’s happened is that “faggot” got shifted from the “insults” column to the “we don’t call people that anymore because some macho rugby players are gay” column.  That’s what political correctness will do.  But the underlying contempt for difference and femininity and vulnerability is still there, fundamentally undisturbed.  I can’t, in good conscience, play along any longer.

So congratulations, Mr Keegan Hirst.  Whatever this moment means to you, take it in and relish it.  You don’t need my or anyone else’s permission to do that.  You have every right to be proud of yourself, and the people around you have a right to be proud of you.

But you could be the among the last sports’ stars to be celebrated for coming out.  It’s achievement that’s been done to death – and I do mean to death – by heroes whose names will never make as many news headlines.  Their stories were just not as glamorous, I guess.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

Why #JeSuisBaga” Terrifies The President Of Nigeria

It’s telling, how President Goodluck Jonathan volunteered more words about the murdered French Charlie journalists than on the soaring number of Boko Haram victims.  What likely surprised him about the Boko Haram atrocities wasn’t that they happened; it was that anyone outside Nigeria noticed.

One of his officials wrote the human collateral damage off, mumbling of how “everyone knows” that “these things happen” around “these times”.  I don’t know who kicked him under the table before he banally added that the administration was “doing everything” in its power to end the carnage.  But those words were barely out of that mouth when people began criticizing the president for dancing at his daughter’s wedding when the body count from the record-breaking massacre was barely concluded.  At the very least, he could have had the decency to spin the tragedy into a photo opportunity, like these guys.

image

…let us take a selfie

And with election time coming up mid-February, the President is now as cornered as his country is by the Gunean Gulf.  But none of Africa’s political leaders are any better off.

Each African statesman wears two hats.  One is as the leader of a liberated former colony that’s selectively adopted facets of various human rights’ charters.  The other is of the biased referee in tribal conflicts so complex they could be topics for masters’ theses.

This is why in Tanzania, for example, the government has prohibited female genital mutilation but still needs to sell the sanctity of human rights to traditional leaders.  Likewise, President Jacob Zuma has condemned sexism and homophobia, but the memo hasn’t cascaded to the people on the ground because it was released by a divided leadership.

African leaderships work by playing to the perceptions of two groups of people – international spectators and the local players – and, if need be, playing them off against one another with them in the middle, their hands ostensibly tied.  They need to please foreign funders so they may keep their voters happy but the founders have demands that will alienate the voters, and vice-versa.

Many Nigerians cooperate with the Boko Haram because members of Nigeria’s security forces have committed violations for which leadership is powerless to demand an account.  I speculate, maybe unfairly, that the situation has persisted for so long and has become so normal, that purging the army of rapists and other human rights violators would amount to disbanding the military.

To understand the complexity of an African statesman’s position, it helps to remember that these presidents resent how a white woman (the Queen of England) gets to assess how they perform as leaders of democracies without her having to give up her own non-democratically elected crown before she opens the British purse.  It’s an emasculating double-standard they’ve inherited from her ancestors’ scramble for Africa.  The imposition of western values (read “human rights”) is seen as the insult of cultural imperialism added to the injury of past economic, political and bodily exploitation.

So this aid the UK gives to African countries is really Child Support that Father England (run by a white woman) pays to Mama Africa (run mostly by black men) to help raise the spat-out republics that erased and replaced indigenous territories.

For the African statesmen to be well-mannered ladies, smile, wave and play along is one thing.  But for them to roll over and remain supine while being insulted this way, not just by Europe but people in their own countries that mock them for how they are controlled – that doesn’t sit well.

Egos smarting, they will hold on to presidential office for a number of terms directly proportional to how emasculated they feel.  And the more pressure there is to step down from office because of the human rights’ violations that happen during their conflict-ridden terms, the more they imagine themselves to be seen, by their people, as pressurized to give in to Western values (read “human rights”) imposed by Father Europe run by a white woman.  To give in is to accept colonization; a betrayal not too different from old Kings selling their people off into slavery.  That, and they owe too many people too many favours and can only stay out of jail by staying in power.

Not that there is anywhere left for him to step down to, but for Jacob Zuma to leave because of offense taken by some “western” sensibilities towards his pastime (corruption) would be for the big black man to give in to the small white minority in this country.  And who runs the country, after all?  Verwoerd?  Rhodes?  The Constitution is a western artifact; an impostor from the bad old days.

So these leaders, if you want to call them that, tolerate human rights’ violations that happen under their gaze while hoping nobody notices that, oh, I don’t know, 200 girls just upped and left school at gunpoint (talk about a steep drop out rate), or that 2000 lives fell off the human balance sheet just before the president’s daughter’s wedding.  How rude of them, and how inconvenient their timing.

The below image by Charlie is insensitive but prophetic.  Because rape is normal, run of the mill, everyday, the way things are, in Africa.  Violence is normal.  Poverty is normal.

A depiction of the kidnapped schoolgirls impregnated and yelling, "Hands off our (welfare) allocations" In French

A depiction of the kidnapped schoolgirls impregnated and yelling, “Hands off our (welfare) allocations” In French

Now you’ll imagine that the answer to this is simple. Pump civil rights activists into Africa’s veins so that her countries will be legible for one last jolt of international aid, and rebuild once and for all.

But it’s not that simple.  These activist often run into gatekeepers on their way in.  Does anyone remember those voices telling our Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities that funding to feminists groups must be cut because feminism is unAfrican, domestic violence has to be resolved at home and women should be submissive to their husbands?  Those were gatekeepers talking.

Gatekeepers are not a body that can be held to account for their words.  They can make off the cuff remarks on any platform.  They represent and coalesce the most uninformed views on any issue, which makes them a brief but unified force of resistance against the imposition of “western values” (human rights) on “our way of life”, to quote the president of Gambia.  They also wield an inordinate influence over Africa’s political leaders.

Gatekeepers have the upper hand in that their definitions of terms and lingo are already “in” with the people they are influencing.  If the gatekeepers are Christian in a Christian country, then they can label the human rights activists as the antichrist.  If Muslim, the devil; if the gatekeepers are steeped in ethnicism, they can paint the activists out to be unAfrican, the embodiment of the west’s attempt to supplant local values, or infiltration from some evil force known only to the local superstition.  Gatekeepers are tribalists and you are always playing on their turf.

Tribalism is reasoned cronyism.  It breaches the normative systems we’ve agreed upon as republics.  To please tribal gods, Africa’s political leaders will cut corners for their clan members.  But when corners are cut, they corrode.  When things corrode, they are corrupted.  Jobs for pals, especially pals who share your mother tongue, is the essence of both cronyism and tribalism.  But once the line is crossed, it’s erased.  The police aren’t going to be much help.  There is currently an investigation into allegations that our police actually engineer unlawful arrests so that the SAPS can be sued.  They then split the awarded money with the people they’d colluded with (for interests’ sake, these allegations are concentrated far more around the City of Johannesburg than they are around the Western Cape Province).

Law?  Order?  You tell me.

For the world to turn the spotlight on Africa over issues like ebola and kidnapped schoolgirls, is for the world to familiarize itself with the grim underbelly of this dark country we call Africa.  And that’s a good start.  We want accountability and transparency.

#JeSuisCharlie resulted in massive on-the-ground action because everyone immediately knew what was at stake.  Knowledge is power.

#BringBackOurGirls fizzled out because, well, reasons.

#JeSuisBaga can either be an indulgent moment of “look at me, I’m aware of what’s happening in the world around me, I have a global conscience”.

Or it can be the declaration of war for the life and soul of Africa, a battle that, for us, would begin in South Africa.  The President of Nigeria (along, I think, with every African head of state) is hoping it will be the former; that it will flash and fizzle out before the next shiny thing grabs our attention.

Let me know which it is for you.

For more updates, follow and don’t forget to retweet

@SKhumalo1987

SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

Oh, The Boko Haram Killed 2000 Innocent Women And Children? Bitch Please, #ImCharlieHebdo

Disclaimer: do not shoot the messenger.  I don’t subscribe to or believe all the points I am about to make, but through this piece will adopt various “voices” that correspond to perspectives of people who very likely do.  But for every sentence here, I could happily write ten alternative viewpoints.  My own opinions will occasionally appear among the perspectives shown below.

Imagine that there exists a scale, or an “economy”, in which each thing, person, culture or country is valuable only insofar as it helps humanity edge closer to global liberty; to an inspiring vision of an escape from the dreariness of the world as we have it.

All tragedies are equal, but some tragedies are more equal than others.  The higher the victim of a tragedy is perceived to be on this scale, the greater the loss for humanity.  For in the death of those who’d accumulated the most credit on this scale is the death of humanity’s brightest hopes for achieving betterment.

With the well-worn narratives of colonialism, apartheid, racism, white privilege counting for more than black lives and many other truths in the background, I submit that this is why #JeSuisCharlie trended ahead of the Boko Haram massacre of 2000 souls.  This may gall the political correctness purists, but didn’t the cat get out of the bag with #BringBackOurGirls?  Many people needed to “cover their bases” in terms of appearing legitimately concerned and convinced of the equality and value of all human lives.  The purists froth at the mouth about this selective or short-lived activism, calling it pretentiousness and hypocrisy.  But even the purists were really revelling in having something to get their panties up in a bunch about; they, clever perceptive good people, caught “those hypocrites” out before anyone else did; they got the scoop first, and had to be first to break this “story” about human vacuousness so that they could, for a moment, feel morally superior to “those pretenders”.  To a degree, then, even the zeal for authenticity is motivated by self-interest.

But rather than try to “catch out”, purge or condemn the hypocrisy or go on a witch-hunt for hypocrites, what if we factored it into our data as we created solutions to help us get to where we want to get as a species?

The Hypocrisy Of Freedom

I am a liberal.  I am also aware that the above-mentioned hypocrisy is the tribute that some liberals pays to the ideal of equality.  There is no telling whether the concern liberals have for “humanity” is an ocean of genuine altruism of only tea-spoon deep that doesn’t nourish actual humans.  Liberals are often accused of reducing the world’s issues to just intolerance.  So, in some instances, the liberal attitude is simply there because, well, if I can’t care enough about you to actually get involved with your struggles and experiences, why should I seek to control you or to have enforced laws that would control you?  The liberal is often a liberal because he knows that he cannot love you enough to be morally accountable for your well-being once oppressive laws have limited your ability to fend for yourself, but will preach “love” as the answer.  The liberal doesn’t want to be the reason why you can’t fend for yourself; therefore, s/he will back out of your rights, hope that holding your hand and singing Kumbaya with you will help you on your way to self-sufficiency, and just wish that world peace were here already.  Visualize it.  It is here.  Law Of Attraction.  You know, reality for people who can’t take reality.

A white acquaintance spoke of meeting two groups of black kids. The one group was better off, better educated and better adjusted than the other, and the two groups had friction between them.  My acquaintance described his wish that more black kids would be afforded the same opportunities that the first group had.

I couldn’t help wondering.  Am I listening to a genuine altruistic concern for black lives, or is it really a concern that the black majority’s lot would improve so that the tax payers – which is mostly the white minority – would feel some financial relief, and experience a South Africa that even better serves their interests without burdening them with the question of whether black people have enough as well, or are getting the raw end of the deal?  Was I listening to someone’s sense of white entitlement disguised as compassion for those less privileged?

The answer I was happy to live with was that it doesn’t matter as long as the lot of black people does improve and everyone gets a better country.  I have a gay Xhosa friend who explained his reasons for voting DA in similar terms.  “The DA’s main voter base probably wouldn’t like me; the ANC is probably right about that,” he said.  “But they and I need a country that has enough room for civil liberties, and a more viable economy than what the ANC can offer”.  Mutual interests, he said.

By erring on the side of shrewdly massaging and believing in the other person’s humanity – mixed, as it may be initially, with pretentiousness – one can disarm and help the other person actually become more comfortable with a reality in which he wants to care for “the other”.  People like being appreciated for whatever goodness they do have.  People can fake altruism until they make it, if you give them space to work past the nonsense they were raised believing and grow into what they’d prefer to believe about themselves instead.

However, if one just throws even the pretensions of humanity back in the other person’s face, one puts the other person on the defensive.  And no one – not even people who do legitimately care – likes to be on the defensive.  Nelson Mandela knew this.  That was the secret behind his magic.

We need that magic back.

An Example From The States And Another From Here

I recently saw a tweet that described white privilege as the ability to say that black lives matter now and then, but to not have to actually live, day and night, in the danger of being black with your life mattering less, or having to live as an outcast from the inner courts and spaces of social privilege.  This reminded me of the backlash against white tweeters and bloggers who shared stories about how they had been treated better than black people when they broke the law.  #CrimingWhileWhite was their (perhaps feeble) attempt at calling our their own white privilege in the face of the Eric Garner #ICantBreathe and #BlackLivesMatter campaigns.

And what did the black activists, who’d been demanding that white people face up to white privilege say, when those white tweeters and bloggers indeed stepped up to corroborate the charge that white privilege was real, as the black activists had demanded that white people do?  Suddenly, those black activists were accusing those white respondents of using their unquestioned white privilege to hijack the narrative of black suffering under white privilege (yes, reader, I also nearly fell off my chair) just as black South Africans were suddenly were stunned that white people had the audacity to adopt black babies.  People who wouldn’t give a second look at their own suffering brothers and sisters were suddenly righteously indignant.  Did these whites think they could make up for apartheid now, by pityingly throwing handouts at the blacks they’d impoverished?  And what about the black kid’s heritage?  “What about his right to a home?  Isn’t that more important?”  No, the black purists insisted; let our own care for our own.  Which they often can’t or won’t.  So I fall off my chair.

Before you go, “Well what the hell else were the white people in either country supposed to do?  Fast, pray, sit in ashes and sackcloth and repent of being white for two decades instead if engaging as they knew how?”, give those black backlashers the benefit of the doubt.  The liberal rhetoric of human equality is, in many instances, mere lip-service though it’s sometimes followed through with action.  And guess what, darlings?  At least the fucking tribute is being paid to the fucking ideal and sometimes gets us there.  Only God, and the person paying the tribute or granting the gesture need know how in/sincerely it is being given.

Unless you’re Mother Teresa then like most mortals you will rank issues, struggles and tragedies according to some scale or another, and keep some of your deepest priorities hidden beneath a script that conceals your true self (which is transformed incrementally with increased exposure to the world).  For many, the Charlie shooting resonates with the scale I described in the opening paragraph.  The closer an act of violence strikes at what you hold sacred (e.g. liberty) the more important it will be to you.  Before trying to convince someone to adopt a cause, it may be important to understand that some level of self-interest is at work – and to play to that.  If I die tomorrow, nobody owes me their grief unless I served some of their interests.  Je Suis Charlie caught people out.

Otherwise when liberals suddenly remember that 200o people died in Nigeria, they are then forced to pull up the liberal rhetoric of human equality, and everyone comes down on them for their pious pretentiousness.  That script is probably just hollow, hypocritical lip-service paid to the impossible ideal of treating all lives, tragedies and losses as equal.  But at least the goddamned tribute is being paid.  Woe! unto them that would rather liberals go backwards into not even observing this polite protocol of routinely mourning a loss that isn’t my loss.  I wonder which liberal would have the guts to say, “Bitch please, I’m Charlie Fucking Hebdo today”?

The Hypocrisy Of Liberals Is Not The Worst Evil In The World: Evil Is The Worst Evil In The World

It is in this issue that I partially disagree with Steve Biko.  But I utterly respect the man.  Unlike most self-righteous critics of the liberal discourse, he put his money where his mouth was, paying the highest price like martyrs Socrates, Christ and Hani.  The rest of us can only gaze at such moral Prometheuses in our midst.  But until we’re willing to go to the distance they did, let us not confuse ourselves with them.  We are not them.  They are not us.  A liberal is a person who knows he is not them and, in compensation, tries to minimize his oppression footprint in this world.  The hypocrisy, self-interest, shallowness and short attention span of liberals is not the worst evil in the world.  The failure to condemn all evils with proportional zeal is not the worst evil in the world, for then life would be about worrying whether one has sufficiently condemned all evils as they deserve. Life is not about doing God’s work: life is for the living.  If you feel strongly about the rhino but are just over human issues, I am not going to sit in judgment over you, if my legitimate concern is eradicating evil.  Your inconsistency is not the worst evil in the world.  Evil is the worst evil in the world.  I don’t have to condemn your failure to condemn evils proportionally before I can get around to condemning evil.  Attacking you wouldn’t be a demonstration of my goodness but of my superiority.

And that’s effing annoying.

Liberals pay lip-service to many ideals.  And in many cases, they do muster the courage and altruism to follow through on their words but you’ve got to make it easy for them, and I will explain how and why soon.  Because when it’s time for them to put their money where their mouth is, they’ll sooner lose money than lose face.  But they’ll probably only lose money for a greater good – not a greater Nkandla or more corruption – that, in the medium and long run, will make everyone’s world a better place.  If this were not so, this coming tax revolt would have started already.

What’s my point?   It is that we now know, with a fair level of certainty, that mixed into genuine human concern is some degree or another of hypocrisy.  And rather than try to erase or condemn the hypocrisy, we can factor it into our basic data as we formulate solutions to help us get to where we say we want to get as a species.

Even In Personal Matters, Some Deaths Matter More Than Others

If this were not so, the death of an immediate family member wouldn’t be prioritized ahead of the death of a total stranger.  You already have a belief about the power of those near you to meet your emotional, financial, familial, relational or sexual needs.  So your world really revolves around you.  For the most part, everyone’s does.  It’s a given.  That’s why the scale in the opening paragraph exists: people are looking for people who will help them maximize their freedom; more importantly, people will be generous enough to share resources and freedoms with others only insofar as it will help them expand their resources and freedoms.

The genius behind apartheid was conflating white people’s desire for freedom with their fear of the black communist (“swart gevaar”; “rooi gevaar”) who would take that freedom away.  And everyone wants to reduce apartheid to just racism, and looks at us who say it’s a little more complex than that as though we are air-headed racism denialists.

Oh, okay.  Never mind how rapidly, how shrewdly and how expediently those “racists” suddenly realigned their political stances in 1994.  Overnight, vacuous conciliatory platitudes became stock-in-trade.  Racism?  Don’t give all assholes that much credit: they’re too absorbed in their assholery to actually hate you for your skin colour.  I see this even today with black people who (justly or not) want to snatch the land out from under white farmers.  “I hate white people!  They took our land!”  Oh, and what are you doing this weekend?  “Watching a movie that stars a mostly-white cast”.  Hm.  Okay.  Apartheid was a crime against humanity but it was also a very cunning game that used racism as a tool.  Actual racists are people dumb enough to have been played: they are, in fact, too dumb to count.

Consistency

At any rate, if we all truly believed in the value of all human lives, we’d all live like it.  You wouldn’t eat until others had eaten.  You wouldn’t wear shoes until every child in the world had shoes.  You would be Mother Teresa.  You would show liberals what altruism looks like beyond lip service.

And maybe, in your capacity, you do live this way.  Most people aren’t Mother Teresa and their compromise, their equilibrium, lies in supporting entities and persons who have organized around themselves the power and integrity to transform the world for the betterment of all.  So those people pay taxes, donate to charity and they volunteer now and then.  Or they share satire that exposes anti-progress mindsets for what they are.  They celebrate those nations and entities that, however imperfectly, represent the observance of liberal individual human rights so we can all get out of one another’s bedrooms, genital choices and freedom of movement: the sooner, the better for world peace.  I don’t care enough about you to help you so let me not restrain your freedoms.

According to the scale I’ve described, an attack on individuals in liberal nations that is motivated by nothing other than hatred of those rights, would then be seen as an attack on the civil rights of individuals everywhere.  In other words, the utopia-that-could-be died with those 10 French journalists more starkly than it died with the death of the 2000 massacre victims in Africa.  In countries with a lesser respect for individual human liberties, the death of 2000 is inevitable (“It’s just Africas killing Africans now.  They’re not being killed by an external force or colonialist anymore so we don’t have to worry.  It doesn’t mean as much as the death of liberty.  The blacks are always at it”) even if it happens at the hands of a group that is somewhat more intolerant than the 2000 people it kills.  I say this imagining that liberal tolerance could be measured, lest we confuse, for example, Uganda’s extreme polar opposites – David Kato and Rebecca Kadaga come to mind – with the slaughtered 2000 Nigerians on that other side of Africa – but that’s a personal grudge for another blog post.

This is why liberal South Africans will mourn more for the death of a white American celebrity who has worked for the advancement of women’s rights, than they will mourn for an unknown black woman in Africa who has died as a victim of domestic violence.  Africa has so many systemic and cultural barriers to the on-the-ground realization of human rights – barriers that many Africans buy into and propagate in the way they vote and in the way they run their communities – that to prevent the death of one woman in those communities makes “less sense” (note quotation marks) than preventing the death of that white American celebrity.  Even in the fight for human rights, you have to wonder which bit is the horse and which is the cart.  I’ll be honest enough to point out that not everything boils down to the above scale but do keep it in mind when wondering why #Charlie went off the charts.  And in case you’re wondering, the “Africa” where the black female dies is our back yard.  And yes, white women can also die from domestic violence.

Some will point out that the outpouring of grief over the white American celebrity’s death is connected to her being a closer fulfilment of the distorted ideals of beauty we inherited from the colonialist.  Rather than detract from my overall observation, this point supports it.  Even when their ideals are distorted, people would still rather pay attention to whatever reflects their aspirations, even if those aspirations are in conflict with themselves.  Please note the popularity of weaves, extensions and other fake hair accessories.  But freedom – now there’s a clear and fair aspiration.  If someone spent the whole day sulking about Charlie and not Nigeria, lay off and go do something about Nigeria if you feel that strongly about it.  “Why haven’t they started a twitter hashtag campaign or protest marches about this the way people did for Charlie?”  Because, love, “they” is “you”, and “you” are busy asking why “they” haven’t done anything.

Unfortunately, many of us black people see liberal pressure to observe all human liberties as cultural colonization.  Then we turn around and call out liberals who mourn more for attacks against those institutions and individuals that are at the forefront of the right to free speech – a right underpinning many of those liberties by the way – while not mourning the deaths of those disenfranchised individuals that liberal institutions and persons claim to have the best interests of.  But by calling this inconsistency out, we really do nothing more than also hypocritically take advantage of the catch-22 that we have kept in place by making the preservation of human rights and the preservation of institutions that defend human rights an either-or situation.  If the leaders in Africa were at the forefront of defending civil liberties and human rights, the death of the 2000 would, sorry to say, have meant more to the world.  Right now, the perception is that Africans elect leaders that don’t care, and that those leaders tell the world to mind its own business as they continue to rape their people both literally and metaphorically.  African leaders have been selling their people out politically and, under the slave trade, quite literally.  Their hold over their people is the shared belief in ancestors, culture, the divine rights of kings – they use these mental strongholds to their advantage – yet those kings probably don’t believe these “myths” (quotation marks) themselves: they merely understand that these myths keep their people loyally chained to them.  And these commenters below are starting to sense it or already do know.

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The white colonialist ancestors of Charlie Hedbo never cared about us.  Then again, neither do our leaders.  The world spent a long time wondering whether South Africa wasn’t more economically expedient under apartheid before deciding that certain embargoes had to be placed on the country.  Because self-interest.  What Charlie Hedbo offers, in place of the pretense to care, is one tool (satire) whereby oppressors can be critiqued.  See below tweets.

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In other words, even in their gross Eurocentricsm, these European thought leaders have a lot more to offer me than most African political leaders.  Having long ago fought for our freedom, African political leaders now take, take, take.  Having once been the oppressor, Europeans today, ironically, impart the attitudes needed to kick off inefficient leaders.  Allegiances change in the blink of an eye.  In other words, God helps those who help themselves.  Politics and loyalty seldom mix.

I don’t blame those who throw liberals into these catch-22s.  The liberals sort of had it coming.  It is only now that liberals are being forced out of their intellectual complacency that they realize, and admit, that the individual human right to be surely trumps the individual human right to observe the religion, culture and heritage of choice, where that religion, culture and heritage threatens human rights.  Charlie Hebdo was aware of this and relentlessly satired both the individual and the individual’s anti-liberal religion because the latter didn’t exist without the former.  This is an oversimplification, so I’ve planted an example of what I mean for you to enjoy.

imageCloser to home.  There may be no criticizing the heteropatriarchal Zulu culture whereby Former President Jacob Zuma has multiplied wives and marginalized women and gay people – yes, I know about Lynette Brown, yes, I know Zuma’s apologized for those statements, no, I am not a total ignoramus –  or behaved more like a tribal chief than the leader of a democracy without criticizing the very Zulu, very black, very Jacob Zuma, or, by extension, his very blackness and his very Zuluness.  For the essence has no existence save in the man.  There is a tribalistic conspiracy afoot.  Political correctness will be sacrificed, if we are to uproot the conspiracy.

One of the privileges of being a liberal white person in apartheid was not having to think the implications of being a liberal through to their unthinkable logical conclusion – that is that one day white liberals would have to criticize black culture without being accused, correctly or not, of being racists, cultural colonialists or attempting to erase black identity.  Today, Helen Zille is cosying up to traditional chiefs though I tell you, if the DA had to win enough votes, those chiefs would have to actually work for their money; at the moment, this is largely optional.  By that point, Zille won’t have to be around to break this shocking news to them; that job will be left to whoever fills her seat.

More immediately, my culture doesn’t pay my very western bills.  I do.  And nothing about my bills necessitated my culture.  I don’t have the luxury of time to undergo an identity crisis before figuring this out.

Common Sense For Common South Africans

Now we know that to eradicate poverty we must keep the economy intact.  But that is dependent on the liberal observation of individual rights.  A woman, for example, cannot escape poverty if she hasn’t got the right to own her own property.  And the observation of liberal human rights works, as described above, by prioritizing the protection of those institutions, entities and persons that wield the most influence in terms of advancing those rights for all.

In our desperate bid to prevent cultural and psychosocial colonization, we resist and detest the preservation and promotion of individual human rights and the institutions, countries and the cultures that symbolize their actualization.  If our desperate bid to throw out the bathwater of liberals’ hypocrisy, perceived or not, we throw out the baby of liberals’ power to actually get us where we all say we want to go.  The world values the lives and legacies of each country’s individuals only as much as each country values the lives and legacies of its individuals.  In turn, those individuals can affirm their own importance by choosing a government that preserves their rights.  The longer a country has enshrined liberty and human rights as it is empowered to do so by its people, the more “valuable” each of its lives will be to the rest of the world because each one is then proof that there is a better world to be aspired to.  Each person in a liberal, successful country represents liberty and immortality.  And yes: unless the geography gods placed your country over vast reserves of oil, “liberal” and “successful” generally go together.

In this algorithm, the death of a white journalist in a liberal country would be the death of liberty and immortality itself, even if that journalist was largely blind to his privileges or the historical injustices that secured them.  The torture, mutilation, persecution, oppression and immolation of a black person in an unnamed village in Africa is the death of another symbol of oppressedness.  It’s the death of yet another reminder of our own mortality and frailty.  Over and above the selfish human tendency to not get involved, it’s just easier to not look and not know about the latter while getting emotional about the former.  In the reflexive prioritizing of 10 journalists’ death, we learned something valuable about our common journey to survival: it is based on self-interest.  Surprise.  You didn’t know this.  Oh my God. Hold the presses.

We all have a vested interest in choosing technique over tradition(alism), science over ideology  and rationality over its alternatives.  This means that each person is valuable only insofar as that person uses every resource at his or her disposal to help others move closer to living well and realize their liberty.  The very young, very old and very fragile are only as valuable as they have had the fortune of being born among people who work for the betterment of all; their deaths “count” by association.  This is one of the reasons Barak Obama’s daughters have more bodyguards than most people’s daughters: when you’re not busy wondering just how humane his foreign policy is, you’re feeling uplifted by how humane his domestic stance on human rights is and how it’s impacted the American economy.  You’d probably feel safer with him as South Africa’s president and would probably mourn his death far more than Jacob Zuma’s regardless of any claptrap you’d give me about valuing their lives equally.  You probably don’t.

And that’s why some hypocrisies are better than others.  If African countries want the world to care more for their women and children, those countries have to make it easier to care by opening their doors wider for human right’s activists.  Because when you’ve bashed your head against a wall trying to get someone to open the door, you eventually stop caring.  All that “those people” remind you of, every time you hear of them, is how far back we can go as a species.  The world eventually stops caring.  The world is Je Suis Charlie because France would allow it.  The world and France are in general agreement about human rights.

The world is not the victim of a domestic crime in Africa.  Africa wouldn’t even admit that domestic crimes exist, in the sense that feminism, for example, would describe domestic violence.  Resisting “cultural colonization” and erasure, 99% of African countries have put up barriers to any real help.

The death of 2000 Africans is a statistic, a footnote in most people’s thought processes.  The death of 10 white, male, callous but supposedly liberal journalists is a tragedy, a travesty, the death of all that is pure and good, and their fans will repost those samples of their work that weren’t overtly racist (because some are hideously so).  Here, moral purists will froth at the mouth about this ghastly, ghastly hypocrisy.  But think about it from this extreme edge of the civil liberties’ battlefield: where, as a gay black man, for example, would you prefer to be born?  Nigeria, or France?  Sure, in France you’ll perhaps be fetishized (“BBC, oui!”), which is a degradation in itself.  But you’re not very likely to be burned alive for who you are.

“I am Charlie” trended and it will get trendy.  Reader, brace yourself for its commercialization.  I foresee walking shoes and book deals growing out of this new shiny, bloody thing.   Blockbuster movies and documentaries running for weeks.

Then, in a decade (as it happened with Rwanda) when the dust has settled, someone with a conscience will want to “tell the untold story” of “the forgotten victims” of the Boko Haram massacre.  And everyone with a global conscience or wishing to appear to have one will state on twitter that they’re watching the movie, and will wax lyrical about how good Africa is becoming at telling her stories.  They’ll say it’s all proof of this African Renaissance – the rebirth that always already is but never is.

But some jaded souls are already wondering whether we aren’t in another decline yet, a Post-African-Renaissance.  This show of concern for Africa will only turn into as much real global concern as Africs is willing to have for herself.

“God bless Africa”, we sing.  To which he surely responds, “I only help those who help themselves”.

@skhumalo1987
Skhumalo1987@gmail.com

 

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