#MduduziManana: Shocking, Yes; Surprising?  Not So Much

It’s barely Tuesday, and South Africa’s high-drama news diet has already served up Higher Education Deputy Minister, Mduduzi Manana, assaulting Mandisa Duma for calling him gay.  Yet, subsequent discussions and apologies have unpacked neither the homophobia in her using the word as a slur, nor his frame of reference for clearly agreeing it was an insult.

I’ve shared before that in high school, I, too, stumbled upon that girl who used the taunt, “But you are gay” as a weapon.  Such is intended to emasculate you amongst male bystanders.  If you don’t aggressively (read: violently) disprove it, her gender be damned, you’re seen as allowing the taunter to get away with it.  This is as good as saying it’s true that you’re gay.

Gayness is seen as letting others wield power over you (by calling you gay, for example); the idea of being dominated this way has sexual connotations I won’t go into.  Femininity is framed as weakness before others’ insults, which carries the same connotations as gayness is thought to.  The only way a man can shift being feminised (or made gay) off of himself at that point is by feminising others back.  Ergo, violence.

Verbal bullying is more complex than that, of course: the accused is belittled simply in being put on the defensive because he’s likely to become defensive.  The defensiveness is self-evident weakness, making this an instantaneous vicious cycle — a perfect political trap.  The insulted is caught off-guard and already on the back-foot.  Without violence, denialism arouses suspicion amongst bystanders until it’s vindicated through violence.

Is there a choice, besides violence?  Yes, there are two.  One can enter a spiral of helplessness and shame leading to suicide.  Bottled frustration corrodes and putrefies from within.  The other choice takes, not so much inner strength as it does patience; so much so I’m convinced it comes from a higher power.

For after the antidepressants, psychotherapists and good friends have held you back from the pit, and pulled you back again when the depersonalisation, the dissociation and the disjointedness become part of your being, or non-being, this self-exile coming from being convinced your body’s impulses are so much more evil than “normal” teenagers’ that though they still get to date, have first kisses and Matric Dances, you don’t, can’t and shouldn’t.  It all starts blending into the same muffled, colourless procession of events happening on the other side of a kilometre-thick glass separating you from anything and anyone else.

And all you can really do from there is map out the socio-political terrain that produced the teenage quadrilemma of bully/be bullied/kill/be killed.  You calmly, clinically do a post-mortem of who you used to be, the imaginary being who was willed out of existence by years of self-hate, and share the reports as opinion articles for others to read and scrutinise.  You bisect yourself, and invite others to take a look, all the while wondering whether they can really hear you since you’re having some sort of permanent out-of-body experience.

You tell them that the Donald Trump who asserts his masculinity by threatening to bomb everyone is no different from the Donald Trump who brags about molesting women, is no different from the Trump who disparages gay and transgender rights after flip-flopping on them.  The Jacob Zuma who asserts his masculinity through tribalistic othering is not an innocent bystander from the Jacob Zuma who showers after possibly non-consensual sex (otherwise known as rape) with his friend’s daughter, and that this Zuma is not surprised at another Zuma, alien to himself, who goes off-script with gay rights.

Still, the society that made “gay” a slur trusts individuals whose modus operandi is domination to willingly hand over their tax returns and account for their homestead upgrades; it trusts them to do the “honourable thing”.  And you know, you wonder if you’re changing anything or if your sense of disconnectedness derives from society’s paralysis; if your trauma is an expression of theirs.  Except you know about it, and they don’t.

The ANC makes room for Manana’s and Zuma’s behaviour.  If its MPs vote against Zuma in today’s motion of no confidence, it won’t be because of the party’s commitment to respecting the Constitutional Court’s say-so on their parliamentary oath.  Likewise, if the ANC finally caught up on Nkandla, it wasn’t because it respected the Public Protector’s constitutional mandate.  If it’s horrified by State Capture it isn’t because it respects the Constitution’s view of South Africa as a sovereign state whose integrity must be upheld by its office bearers.  If the ANC seemingly champions gay or women’s rights, it isn’t because its president or its deputy ministers fundamentally believe in these causes.  Come to think of it, the ANC doesn’t seem to believe much in the supremacy of the Constitution or the inviolability of human rights.

“When someone shows you who they are,” Dr. Maya Angelou said, “believe them the first time.”  When we hear of people in the ANC behaving as Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana did, we should certainly be shocked and outraged; we should do everything we can to shield their victims from further harm.

But be surprised?  If we’re still surprised, then the emotional putridness has corroded and decayed the last bit of sense from within us.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Book loading, catch it mid-April 2018


#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.
Thank you. Please share, comment and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

The hashtag is #ZumaTradeOff: please send questions, make comments, share and tell your friends.

My book is coming. 

The Unbearable Brightness Of Being Out – #MrGSA2015

Call me weird but in school I never put my name on the cover of my workbooks.  I always wrote it on the inside, on the second last page in the bottom right quadrant.  Most other kids put their names and the picture of a celebrity on the cover.  That was probably important, the celebrity on the workbook cover or on the bedroom wall.  Having a future version of a future self to look foward to says that one at least believes oneself to have a future.  That’s why it’s important for developing teenagers to have role models.


Stolen From Patrick Prins

Stolen Borrowed From Patrick Prins

My name?  I wrote the name of the subject and the kind of workbook it was (self-study, exercise, homework – whatever) and tried not to show whose book it was if I could help it.  When anyone else covered my books and put my name on the front, I’d redo it.  Though I didn’t know what the closet was I had instinctively conformed to its demands.  It’s first requirement is invisibility.  It’s hiding right out in the open under people’s assumptions about who you are and who everyone else is.

Like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, the closet is something you carry around with your other mental burdens and masks.  It uses up a lot of personal bandwidth.  It filters your words and the pronouns you choose (“he”, “she”) and steers you from the conversations you must avoid.  It is the excuse for why you’re single (as far as people who don’t know are concerned) or the distance between your and that (imaginary?) girl who lives on the other side of the country.  Or overseas.  Or on Venus.  You can’t get into a relationship with anyone the people around you know because you’re already involved with someone who lives so far away, whom they won’t meet for an indefinite period.  It can’t be helped.  It’s your apology for depriving others the joy of seeing you affirm that yes, the institution of (heterosexual) marriage is still intact and can still sustain everyone’s hope for a better life.

The closet is the high-minded rationalizations for “discretion” used by gay men who won’t let the world know.  “My private life is private.  I don’t see why I should walk around with a billboard saying who I am or make my sexuality what defines me like it’s a political statement”.  Of course they don’t see that sex and the body are extremely political and that the right to privacy is also subject to the political whims of the Powers-That-Be.  The unbearable brightness of being out is terrifying.  It’s safer to avoid it and not see the legislation of countries steeped in homophobia or the “corrective” rapes happening in our backyard.  It’s more polite to dismiss the entire business of being “out” as a construct that applies only to those in the “the scene” who want to celebrate what should be left in private (incidentally, this kind of talk exposes, upfront, the belief that being gay is shameful).  

Coming out is messy, disruptive and transgressive; the closet is safe, decent, and polite.  There is no judgment in these observations but there is conviction in them.  The struggle is real, much too real for us to pretend otherwise.


Each oppression entrenches the others. Homophobia has to go


The power of the closet is that it convinces you this particular struggle is illigitimate and that you’re a whining baby for wishing that things were easier or different.  It teaches you to internalize the low-self worth daily pushed on gay people.  It tells you that the rights you’re asking for are special rights (when they’re the same human rights enjoyed by other members of society), the protections you’re asking for are special protections (when the very concept of “hate crime” shows they’re not special but appropriate) and that the issues being brought to the surface are shamefully personal when it’s really the status quo that’s shamefully dehumanizing.

The closet convinces you that your name shouldn’t be on the front cover.

So when I clicked “send” and watched Gmail swallow my form to drop it off with the people manning the MrGSA applications’ inbox, I began writing my name down on it.  I haven’t looked back.  People’s responses have restored my faith in humanity.  The other weekend when the other eleven heroes, the organizers and I met for Pride, I grew to see that I was surrounded by some of the most talented, beautiful, creative and evolved beings this planet has.  I realized just what the world is missing out on.  This is the missing piece of the human rights’ puzzle.

My name is Siyathokoza Khumalo and I’m putting it on my life’s storybook.  I am nowhere near perfect but I am a good person in continuous development.  And like eleven heroes I met past weekend, I am a son any parent would be proud to have.

Things are going to change for the better.  The caked ways in which we’ve pretended to be a healthy society will be shaken; the reality of who we are will come to the surface and we’ll have an opportunity to choose between what’s real and what poses for a polite, sanitized version of reality. 

If we choose reality we’ll be surprised at how beautiful it can become.

Thank you for being on this journey.