#MotionOfNoConfidence: Why Did It Fail? (Part II)

Until enough black people have direct line of sight on the economy, being on the president’s side and letting the Guptas’ looting continue is the shrewdest thing an ANC MP could do; it is smarter than voting against President Zuma even in a secret ballot.

As said before, when President Jacob Zuma does something that upsets the economy, white people take to the streets and march.  There, they’re surrounded by crowds that looks representative of Mandela’s Rainbow Nation.  But South Africa is overwhelmingly black, not racially “balanced” let alone a rainbow with neat, equal colour bands.  The missing black crowds will only know what is at stake and fight for it to the extent that the economy is transformed and they have more skin in the game.

This means there are not enough black South Africans backing an accountable government today any more than there were before the Zuma faction arose, and it rose up, in part, because there weren’t enough black South Africans to hold the government accountable then.  If Zuma had lost the motion yesterday, there still wouldn’t be enough black South Africans to keep the next lot accountable because the next cabinet is under insufficient pressure by white people to ensure transformation.

Part III will explain why it needs to be white people fighting for economic transformation so that clean governance can stick (due to enough black people then having direct line-of-sight on the economy, and knowing what is at stake).

All of this means voting for a less corrupt president was much ado about nothing.  And in case you were wondering why black people who despise Zuma were changing their profile pictures into pictures of Zuma laughing yesterday, this is probably why.  Zuma is a symptom.  White people are dying to paint him out as the cause, eliminating him and declaring their work done.  That will change nothing in the long run; without a thick black middle class, South Africa will fall back into the same corruption.

“Siya, there is no way the ANC MPs thought that through in that much detail!” you may be saying.  Okay.  How much conscious thought do you put into a fist-fight?  Eating?  Dancing?  Do you keep your K53 handbook next to you when you drive just in case you forget how?

No.  You just know.  Likewise, politicians just know how politics works whether they can articulate it out loud or not.  That is why very little worries them: nothing fundamentally changes in South Africa, though a lot seems to be happening on the surface.  Lots of talking, marching and court cases.  No transformation.  Our politicians would not have to use active thought to figure out what is happening in South Africa until 100 000 white people suddenly marched for economic transformation.  Ask me about numbers, and I will tell you of an untransformed economy.

Until something fundamental changes in South Africa, ANC MPs see themselves as playing a game based on white rules.  They can never lose that game even if they are caught cheating because there are not enough white people (or the black middle class) to enforce its rules.  You can remove the Zumas, the Guptas and Bell Pottingers but until a large black middle class with skin in the game comes into existence, these crooking elements will simply be replaced with another lot like them.  Voting them out won’t be the end of the game, just a brief and unprofitable change its players, which, in the medium-term, won’t guarantee a permanent banishment of corruption.

Why, then, should these current MPs not be those players, given that before long, a group no better than themselves will fill the benches?  And the only way to ensure a stay in the game is to keep Zuma and his cabinet in the game and not replace them with another lot that will eventually turn out like Zuma but will not hire the MPs who have potentially disrupted their lives to give said new lot the opportunity to hire and fire newbies no better than they are.  The sacrifice of shaking the ANC profits absolutely no one but creates a lot of risk.  Why fire the only boss you know will hire you?  MPs jobs were not at immediate risk yesterday, but with someone other than Zuma as president, you just never know.

Make no mistake about it: those MPs know that a vote against Zuma is not a vote against the ANC.  Do not underestimate their political acumen.  They did not get to Parliament by being complete idiots.  We can throw all the civil societies, media, court cases and scandals we want at government and it won’t change a thing.  Navigating those is as simple for them as not being caught off guard when someone comes swerving from around a corner is to you.

It then doesn’t make a difference to power whether there’s a secret ballot or not because the vote may as well be secret to those who could have held the government to account but do not have direct line-of-sight on the economy to know what government is doing.

Thank you for reading, and please catch Part III.

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Book should land in mid-April next year.

#MotionOfNoConfidence: Why Did It Fail? What’s the ANC’s Next Move? Part I

How is it possible that given an opportunity to act in secret, ANC MPs would still reveal themselves as Zuma loyalists?

Answer: the audience they’re playing to doesn’t care much about protecting Constitutional democracy, and won’t until it experientially knows and feels the connection between its interests and the rule of law.

Before explaining that further in Part II, I think it’s crucial to understand why we must anticipate the ANC’s next move.

Many are speculating that the ANC intends to recall President Zuma.  If that’s true, then the ANC’s “self-correction” will happen at a huge cost to Parliament.  When the ANC was cornered about Zuma before the vote, its defenders’ responses to media and other parties implicitly agreed that there were only two choices before the party’s MPs:

On the one hand conscience, duty towards the country and the Constitutional fulfilment of the parliamentary oath, all of which weighed strongly towards supporting the motion of no confidence.

On the other hand was (at best) the choice to keep the party united long enough to discipline its bad seeds as it saw fit later on, without letting opposition parties score points in Parliament.  This second choice would swing ANC MP votes strongly towards not supporting the motion of no confidence.

But this undermines Parliament’s reason for existing (even if those parties were just scoring points!) because it captures the power to hold the Executive accountable from Parliament to Luthuli House.  But because democracy is abstract while the ANC isn’t, stealing from democracy to shore the party up (with the whole country watching) is easier than taking candy from a baby.

This is all assuming no one from any opposition party voted against the motion of no confidence without first telling the National Assembly.  If the ANC alone rejected the motion only to support it later in another forum, it’s saying other party MPs aren’t to be trusted to propose motions in good faith for the Republic; therefore, the ANC has to protect its existence over-and-against Parliament’s mandate.  Even when the other parties are right, they mustn’t get a chance to act on it before the ANC does.

When, then, will the ANC ever let Parliament do its job on ANC office-bearers?

The ANC MPs defended this choice by pointing out “the hypocrisy” of parties that don’t deal with their wayward members and former leaders.  Whatever its merits, the weakness in that argument is that the country has already rejected those parties (and whatever hypocrisy they may or may not be guilty of) by not voting those parties in as national government.  If the ANC will not protect Parliament because doing so would be going over and above the standard supposedly observed by other parties, then the party is calling on South Africans to grade its success not against the Constitution, but on the curve in relation to how well or badly other parties deal with their leaders.   Then there is no distinction between itself and those other parties insofar as protecting democracy ahead of party interests is concerned, and who wins 2019 becomes not a question of who deserves to win, but who has the most campaign resources and funding.  From there, it is only a matter of time before who wins court cases becomes a question of who has the most money for the most expensive lawyers.  Our judiciary has been exemplary, but it cannot hold out against capture forever; South Africa needs to also do its part.

If we rejoice at a pre-2019 Zuma recall, then in the build-up to the 2019 elections the ANC will tell South Africans that it is a listening party that’s serious about dealing with corruption — but it won’t say, “we deal with corruption by undermining the democratic institutions, like Parliament, that were created to deal with it.”  Our complacence at this is a kiss goodbye to all that has not been undermined, all that has not been captured.

Although waiting on internal ANC disciplinary accomplishes the same end as a successful motion of no confidence in Parliament, it does so by choosing what can be done over what ought to be done.  It’s the politics of the pragmatically possible over principle.  It’s Machiavellianism.  In that case, all our thinking on law, principle and virtue must conform to and justify whatever the ANC say as events unfold.  Their preying on our fear of speaking up is consistent with Machiavelli’s understanding of Fortune as a woman that must be beaten and mauled into submission:

“it is better to be impetuous than cautious, because Fortuna is a woman” who “more often lets herself be overcome by men using such methods than by those who proceed coldly”.

As such, voters — I mean the good Fortune of being elected to administer public funds — is a “friend” of men who are “less cautious, more spirited, and with more boldness master her”.  If she is not subdued, she will use her courts and other pillars of democracy to walk all over rulers who are too diplomatic or “effeminate” to overpower her.

Obviously, Mduduzi Mañana has been taking notes.  So has the rest of the ANC.

How does one resist?

One does not until one has the numbers to do so.

How does one mobilise them?

The answer is in Part II.

Please share, comment and retweet: SKhumalo1987

Book should land in mid-April next year.

 

#NoConfidenceVote: Some Schadenfreude to Get You Through

This article first appeared on Daily Maverick.

How did we end up with MPs who’d “suicide bomb” the Constitution on President Zuma’s behalf?  If Simon Sinek (author of bestseller Start with Why) followed South African politics, he’d probably say the explanation is biological.

We each have a rational brain (hopefully) that functions as our “press secretary”: think Sean Spicer, Zizi Kodwa, Anthony Scaramucci or Gwede Mantashe explaining the irrational decisions we’ve made at the more animal level of our limbic brain that houses and responds to our Donald Trump shadow.  Each lie Zuma tells is limbic-brain talk intended to resonate with his own.  It’s “true”, or rather, compelling and effective at the felt level.

Likewise, pro-Zuma MPs did not ooze into the National Assembly by osmosis.  They were directly and indirectly voted in by South Africans whose basic Maslow Hierarchy concerns don’t and can’t involve upper Maslow issues like the currency exchange rate, the Constitutional Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, JSE-listed company share prices and credit rating statuses.  Those things can’t take top-of-mind priority until you’ve visibly got skin in the game.  Do you know by how much the walkable square footage at the poles of this planet has changed in the past decade?  You’re probably too busy dealing with what’s in front of you right now to develop a direct line of sight on climate change; it’s “the scientists’ problem”.

In 1994, the system designed to exclude black people from economic participation was altered to include them in voting.  Nothing was designed to give those voters direct line of sight right now on financial indicators, or put their skin in the macroeconomic discourse.  They live in a commercial wilderness colder than the melting poles, but not as cold as outside the ANC and its campaign-season blankets, rhetoric and free food.

Sustainable economic growth will require that those at the periphery of this economic wasteland be pulled in a bit at a time until a critical mass has been included and a tipping point has been reached.  Even if we exorcised the Guptas and the Bell Pottingers tomorrow morning, their replacements would slide right in and carry right on.  We need for enough South Africans to know what’s at stake.

Until then, at a limbic level, the people will only vote only for the kinds of people they can trust.  That’s not a race thing; it’s a human thing — as human as not knowing how much ice melted at the poles of the only planet most of us have ever live on.  At a limbic level those trusted and voted in will, like them, see the Constitution as a fence, a high suburban wall that keeps the status quo’s beneficiaries’ in and poor people out.  These are people who’ll agree it’s “full of demons” for making it easier to access gay rights (on paper, at least) than basic amenities.  My point is that the Rainbow Nation, gay people included, was not a stillborn; it was and is a breech birth.  Or as DA MP, Zakhele Mbele, says,

“When people lack jobs, opportunity and ownership of property, they have little or no stake in their communities”

and

“Economic inclusion is the foundation for social inclusion.”

We tried to make social inclusion the foundation for economic inclusion, and it hasn’t entirely worked.  As an indirect result, our options for president may whittle down to prejudiced rape apologist, Julius Malema, whose

“analysis of the [South African] situation is accurate, but whose calls for ‘radical economic transformation’ ignore that Broad-Based Black Economic Transformation already makes the provisions he invokes as political rhetoric to whip up populism,”

as says BEE Novation MD, Lee du Preez.  “The economic message of BEE was never politicised because to politicise economic policy while it’s barely christened by the business world is to break the gentleman’s agreement, an unspoken code of etiquette,” he further points out.  “Not troubled by those niceties, Julius punted nationalisation and expropriation as though BEE had never existed, let alone been christened, let alone achieved equality and equity when it was used properly.”

Malema’s faction previously occupied the niche the Zuma faction does now.  The only difference is the Zuma faction privatized nationalisation (read: captured) for the benefit of an elite and politically-connected few; Malema took that Molotov cocktail of limbic entitlement and hurled it from the rooftops to the masses who caught it.

But Karma, bless her soul, may have delivered a coup the grace.  The Gospel According to Juju is that Baleka Mbete was promised Deputy Presidency, but Zuma used her and dumped the baby (Parliament) on her lap.  If she poisons that child against its daddy by making the vote of no confidence a secret ballot and it passes against Zuma, he and his cabinet (possibly including the Deputy President he appointed, Cyril Ramaphosa), must resign.  Chapter 5, 90(1)d of the Constitution indicates she could then run the country for Woman’s Month as Acting President.

Who knows whether she’d use that time to pull some levers, like bribes (she learned from the best!), to manoeuvre conditions in the country in her favour for the ANC presidential race?

If I could just endure her yelling, “Order!  Order!” for what would feel like eternity, I’d consider giving my immortal soul to be the demon at her shoulder telling her to stick it back at Zuma.  Hell hath no fury and all that.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Siya Khumalo speaks and writes about religion, politics and sex. Next year April, he will release a book.

A Question About the ANC Policy Conference

Conversations with politically clued-up persons reveal Dr. Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma will win the ANC’s succession race this December, beating Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa.  This seems to be an open secret in politics — written, scripted, foreordained.

Let’s look at the math necessitating this.  Cyril’s faction would fill positions from which they’d initiate processes to offer Zuma and his cronies up as sacrificial lambs to wash the ANC’s many sins away.  But just how sure are our handlers (the Guptas) that Dlamini Zuma can win now and carry the ANC through 2019?  Sipho Pityana does not mince his words about the plan as he imagines it:

“We shouldn’t rule out the possibility that Jacob Zuma’s project to sell South Africa’s sovereignty could involve rigging the ANC elections in 2017, and even the national elections in 2019.”

In an article titled, ANC conference: It’s not about policy, stupid — it’s about who wins, Stephen Grootes says the meeting starting this afternoon is important only because it

“gives us the best possible test of the relative strength of the different factions.”

It’s not about which ideas win; it’s about whose faction does.  It’s about who’s willing to play dirtiest.  Now, the tribalism the ANC used to shore up support cannot take the party forward through an educated woman.  On Voting Day, all manner of sins shall be forgiven the ANC, but for the sin of presenting a woman as the country’s presidential candidate while the country wages a war against women’s bodies, there will be forgiveness in neither this term nor in the term to come.  “But the ANC is about gender equality!” some will say.  Not quite.  While it’s one thing to get ANC members at an elective conference to vote for a female leader, it would take a miracle to repeat that at a national scale.

Could Dubai commission a PR strategy that to overcome this that wouldn’t simultaneously dismantle the thought patterns that have made the ANC’s looting more tolerable than the idea of a woman president?  Impossible: once patriarchy is challenged, so, too, is tribalism and nationalism.  But for fun, let’s imagine the ways a would-be Bell Pottinger could get around this patriarchy without exposing the ANC’s low-key abuse of nationalism, race politics and tribalism:

They could position Dlamini-Zuma as a natural continuation of Zuma’s legacy.  The challenge there is Zuma’s greatest achievement as president was becoming president.  There’s little else for a protégé to repeat.

Another way out of the conundrum would be to have Dlamini-Zuma’s persona so completely eclipse her husband’s, it would be tantamount to emasculating him.  Her message would be, “What was impossible with this man will be possible with me”, namely land expropriation and the “radical” transformation (read: deformation) of the economy.

Or a hybrid approach: he loosened the lid from the jar she’s now unscrewing open.  But how would they formulate that message and roll it out in two years, given people’s growing disenchantment with the ANC and, consequently, a higher threshold of scepticism to overcome?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the patronage network’s only way through the much-needed 2019 with any of its favoured candidates would be what Pityana said — election rigging.  The question we should be asking ourselves isn’t whether elections are free and fair; it’s to what extent they haven’t been, and to what further extent they won’t be going forward.

Accordingly, this is the question we should be asking ANC attendees delegated to this conference: what is the going rate for a parliamentary seat’s worth of votes?  Does anything else matter?  Soon after the Constitutional Court said,

“Central to the freedom ‘to follow the dictates of personal conscience’ is the oath of office.  Members [of Parliament] are required to swear or affirm faithfulness to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution and laws.  Nowhere does the supreme law provide for them to swear allegiance to their political parties, important players though they are in our constitutional scheme.”

the ANC replied that its MPs are

“representatives of the ANC in Parliament and derive their mandate from the political party which deployed them.”

Just so we’re clear, never has an organization sung so consistently from the same hymnbook on any other issue.  This means no organization’s members have ever been as unanimously in on a gig.  History experts, tell me: treason been committed at this scale?  ANC experts, tell me: does the party’s idea of “the revolution” entail violating the country’s constitution?  These are not philosophical questions; they have enormous economic implications.  Do you know much more money we could save for even more looting if we replaced the ANC’s MPs with one Luthuli house correspondent, and elections with auctions?

Many questions, issues and answers will take up airspace at this time.  The discourse will move along much faster, and everything peripheral will instantly fall into place, if we approach the next two years asking everyone in the ANC just one question: what is the going rate for a parliamentary seat’s worth of votes?

Wouldn’t you want to know how much your body and soul were worth, if you’d been put on the slave market?  If you’d been trafficked or had your organs auctioned off?  I’d want to know.

I have friends in the ANC.  All I’d want to know from them is how much were they paid for my freedom.

Please follow, comment and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Book under construction

#ZilleTradeOff: Why Helen Zille Could Be Found Guilty

To grow substantively in 2019, the DA has to adopt a jurisprudential philosophy that could, unfortunately, be used to hold WC Premier, Helen Zille, responsible for bringing the party into disrepute through her colonialism tweets and defences thereof.

I have glimpsed Helen Zille’s humanity through her political nimbus.  I’m not sure which shines brighter.  So I regret our collective obligation to examine her actions, which needlessly stand in the way of the political realignment our country needs.

Zille apologised unreservedly and then defended her tweets.  Will she also apologise for the confusion this created as to what was unreserved about her first apology, never mind whether her DA can be trusted to say what it means?

She’s made claims on the relationships among causes and effects (colonialism and progress — the benefits of the latter being unevenly distributed and subjective) but those claims are speculative at best and dangerously mistaken at worst.  So people understandably interpret her argument through the cynical lens of the political moment, as well as varying complex motivations imputed to her.  That comes with the territory!

Apart from these considerations, her tweets are nothing that’s never been said before.  It’s when you start asking, “Why her?  Why this medium?  Why now?  What’s her intention?  What taste does she want to leave in people’s mouths?” — questions she would have asked as a journalist — that you start wondering whether a mind as analytical as hers spent so many years studying how news works “from the inside” that her subconscious could seize this opportunity for a perfect storm.  So what scores is she settling?

Why shouldn’t people find that line of questioning more relevant than her claim that “the legacy of colonialism wasn’t all evil”?

Just as her post-apology behaviour is not consistent with apologising, her tweets aren’t coherent among themselves as to her beliefs on the immorality of colonialism.  And how many of the countries she compares ours to had the former beneficiaries of oppression stay without having to make reparations?

When there is an injured party and a party implicated with injuring (or indirectly benefiting from the injury), it is the injured’s prerogative to rank the pros and cons of the situation — not the injurer’s or beneficiary’s.  I use this analogy because sexual violence was a sub-legacy of colonialism: what if a rapist’s family said to one of his victims, “But what our son did to you gave you this beautiful child, so the rape’s legacy wasn’t only evil”?

Wouldn’t it be more respectful (dignity is constitutional!) for the rapist’s family to wait for the survivor to frame the story?  Everyone frames stories because just as there is no objective fact-book against which to test Zille’s posited relationships among causes and effects (apart from the more immediate contextual considerations of who she is and what her intentions could have been when she pursued this path), no story dropped down from heaven fully-formed.  No court would say her tweets were “correct”, for then it would have to exonerate tweets on how today’s Jews benefitted from scientific advances made during the Holocaust.  It could be easier for a court to condemn Zille’s tweets than rule them “factually correct.”

Even if Zille’s voicing her opinion is constitutionally sustainable on the basis of her right to freedom of expression, the tastelessness with which she exercises it right conflicts with others’ right to dignity (which includes the aggrieved’s right to frame the story) and will be the reason neither the DA’s nor South Africa’s constitution will be supported by voters come 2019: those legal frameworks fail to endow black persons with equality.  The failure happens when those interpreting them don’t impress contextual equity into disputes.  No constitution or constitutional right was ever formed or ever operated in a vacuum.

The justice framework we inherited came about because former President Nelson Mandela, among others, backed down from implementing what would have been seen as perfectly justifiable measures in 1994.  His reticence about justifying that version of justice was prior to and made possible Zille’s rush to justify her interpretation of the rules.  If we’d applied her approach to law during Mandela’s moment, there would have been no Zille moment.

Prior to her self-justification should be mindfulness that a negotiated settlement is negotiated, as opposed to meeting all the needs of every party, let alone the aggrieved who could make the greatest claims.  It’s a settlement as opposed to being an ideal and perfect ending.  From its beginning, “We, the people of South Africa, Recognize the injustices of our past”, the letter of our law decidedly points beyond a threadbare reading of itself towards restoring dignity; towards spirit, not letter.  The constitutions ultimately answerable to the Constitutional Court are signposts guiding us to interpretations that allow aggrieved parties to frame for themselves, to their own equity and dignity, their stories of how they came to be aggrieved.

We’re stuck in 1994 until we outgrow the ANC.  The DA must grow, come Helen or high water.  That the announcement on her possible suspension was mishandled may discredit the DA, but it doesn’t re-credit her.

The DA could be the ANC of the 21st century if it does what the ANC never did — liberate, not tax money, but black people and all South Africans.  But that would depend on the jurisprudential philosophy it segues into.

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

Book loading

On #MenAreTrash (Multiple Trigger Warnings)

In response to Karabo Mokoena’s shocking murder, the online community has taken to social media to say #MenAreTrash.  People are rightly calling out men’s inertia towards gender-based violence.

But…

***

One afternoon in school, I noticed a group of older boys whisper conspiratorially behind me.  I started walking away discreetly.  One of them followed.  Dilemma: was I to draw more attention to myself by breaking into a run, or bite the bullet and face whatever humiliation was coming?

Before I decided, one of them groped me indecently with the school watching.  They laughed as he walked back to his friends, an exaggerated “swish” in his movements.  I picked up what everyone around me was saying through the blood rushing to my ears:

“But he isn’t gay…is he?”

“I’m sure he is.  Why else would that guy have done that to him…?”

A girl turned to look at me and asked, “But you are gay, aren’t you…?” as though that justified it.

Often incorporating sexual harassment, bullying was rarely one-dimensional.  Is this as bad as what women go through?  Nope.  Still, my observation was that while female students were neither the primary sources of homophobic bullying, nor derived any direct benefit from the maintenance of that status quo, they enforced it then as women play a significant role in enforcing it now.

***

 

I will say upfront there will be some mansplaining so you may want to turn back now.

The expression men are trash has a distinctly heterosexual dog-whistle pitch.  What made men “trash” or “dogs” in the distant past wasn’t rape or violence.  It was infidelity / inattentiveness / inconsiderateness / inability or refusal to provide within the contexts of the relationships they had with women.

Not being raped by her intimate partner wasn’t one of women’s ironclad expectation.  Women’s rights were not universal; they were dependent on the men (brothers, fathers, husband) in their lives.

So a woman’s lot was to be infantilised in exchange for accepting romanticised portraits of patriarchy; it was also to accept gender-based violence as the man’s exercise of his rights, or displays of his jealousy.  Mind you, if we rewind further back and visit the places we sourced Abrahamic religious scriptures, we see men could technically neither cheat nor rape except other men’s wives and daughters.

What men could do wrong entered public discourse rather incrementally and contextually.  So the expression “men are trash” has not meant the same thing throughout time; it has had slippery meanings that have stuck to it through time, meaning whatever women wanted the words to mean, given whatever they could speak out about at that time.  It is only recently that femicide became something polite society speaks about.

We could have had something that more acutely reflected today’s concerns, like, oh I don’t know: #AllMenAreRapists.  #YesAllMen.  #AllMenAreMurderers.  But unlike rapist and murderer, the word trash embraces all the resonances the word has carried through the ages.

So women are rightly telling us we’re trash for not doing more to stop gender-based violence, but somewhere in that crowd is a jilted lover, a woman scorned, who is also calling all men trash for all the other ways we have betrayed the promises heterosexism and hetero-patriarchy made to women and to her.  All men’s crimes, responsibilities and failures from throughout history are lumped together into one slam of the gavel.  The problem with a consolidated criminal charge is femicide presupposes one context, one worldview and one set of promises; rape, and all men’s other crimes and failings, presuppose others.  The word trash potentially hijacks anger from one context and uses it to relieve frustrations from another without explaining either very deeply (go 140 characters!); it therefore potentially Trojan-Horses very non-feminist, male-dependent energies into the public psyche while dishing them up as feminism and independence.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s agree on heterosexism as the assumption straight is default and normal.  Heterosexism’s implicit promise to women is that if they give little bits of themselves to patriarchy, they’ll get all patriarchy’s benefits without its pains.  Its implicit promise to men is that since their identity is (falsely) tied up into dominance, women will be where they demonstrate said dominance and preserve said identities through the subjugation of women.  While not every couple within the heterosexist framework realises every pleasure and every pain made possible by the heterosexist framework, heterosexism has funny ways of intersecting with other structural lies to produce hell on earth.  Bear in mind, again, when they say, “men are trash”, many women are venting at the inevitable frustration at men that comes with buying into this lie, and they are venting at rape and domestic violence at the same time.

My point is we can’t complain about breakdowns in heterosexism as it once was (wishing to rescue and enjoy it) while complaining about rape culture as we now face it.  The heterosexism that powers rape culture cannot be the paradigm from which we fight rape culture because it places more of a premium on sexual conquest than it does on consent.

The demand that there always be a male and a female in relationships is the demand that there always be a conqueror and a conquered as a reflection of broader social norms and structures replicated in our workplaces, governments, academia and other spaces in which men live out their trashiness.  “That’s not true!  We believe in equality!” many heterosexists will say.  But if they did, they’d validate LGBTI persons, experiences and relationships as representative of authentic human experience as much as they do CIS-heterosexual lives and stories.  If they don’t, then consent isn’t the backbone of a “normal” relationship, in their world: conquest is.

There is no middle ground between these two extremes.  If we pretend there is, let us not act all shocked when the statistics for violence against women, especially black lesbians in townships who defy heterosexism’s demands, indicate we cannot centre heterosexuality without spiralling gender-based violence out of control, without finding horrendous intersections between heterosexism and other structural oppressions (classism, racism, etc.).

If we centre consent to displace conquest (or power, or dominance) and, consequently, heterosexism, in our experience of sexuality, we would have gone a long way towards erasing eradicating rape culture.  #MenAreTrash the heterosexual culture that produces rape culture and domestic abuse, and passes its frustrations off a battle against rape culture and domestic abuse.  It’s time to pick between heterosexism and women’s lives.  You cannot rescue women’s bodies and heterosexism at the same time, yet few, if any, who tweet #MenAreTrash feel any need to interrogate the relationship amongst these violences and norms, despite the relationship being resonant in the historical and contextual stickiness of that word, trash.

#MenAreTrash was borrowed indiscriminately from experiences found largely in respectably heterosexist Hotepist stories in which men overstepped the boundaries of soft-core patriarchy.  This went unquestioned because deep down inside, those who used the hashtag also desired patriarchy’s benefits without its baggage — so much so, they neither saw through it nor really heard where it was coming from.

Many jumping on this bandwagon aren’t fundamentally against patriarchy; they’re against patriarchy’s excesses and those excesses’ incompatibility with, and betrayal of, fantasies of “happily-ever-after” they could have gotten out of patriarchy and heterosexism.  They are performing patriarchy even as they claim to fight it.  If they spoke against homophobia and heterosexism as consistently as they do about everything men do wrong in more domestic and more familiarly heterosexist environments — from cheating to inflicting violence — then my feminist chord would be resonating with the men are trash note.  It isn’t.

At the end of the day, many of the women tweeting “men are trash” are still going to turn around, selectively benefit from the very patriarchy they sometimes take a stand against, and still remain oblivious to the struggles of the LGBTI community being killed, raped and murdered on their doorsteps.  Their primary allegiance is to the “normality” of heterosexuality and rescuing that from its own violence so they can return to it without critiquing it or their place in it more deeply than that.  They are feminist to the extent that they can get soft-core patriarchy to deliver on its promises and hold back on its excesses and its violence — but not its violence against queer bodies.  Why are homophobes not trash when hate crimes against LGBTI persons are reported?

I’ve paid my dues to the straight community.  Everyone — yes, everyone — from that world has already trashed me.  I get bonus points for double-trashiness, having been gay in a straight world and a man in a world where all men are rightly regarded as suspects.  The heterosexism that suffocated me then is no different from the heterosexism that suffocates you, but hey, why question the air you breathe?  So it’s okay if I don’t get brownie feminist points for not tweeting #MenAreTrash.  Look closely.  Those brownies aren’t brownies; they’re something really nasty that looks like brownies; that feminism is negotiated patriarchy dressed up to look like women’s empowerment.  It calls patriarchy’s bluff, but has no plans to fundamentally destroy it.

A similar argument gets made about white people, apartheid and ongoing structural racism.  It goes: the white people who passively benefitted from apartheid should be lumped together with those who actively drove apartheid.  If white people were serious about non-racism, they would take responsibility for the whole mess.

My issue here isn’t heterosexuality (just as the issue isn’t “whiteness” but Whiteness): it’s heterosexism and its beneficiaries refusal to take responsibility for perpetuating the gender inequality that’s inherent to their way of being when that way of being is centred as THE way of being

So as long as the voices of heterosexists who are simply trying to tame patriarchy instead of dismantling it are mistaken for feminist voices just because they can imitate them, you will worsen the problem even as you go about fighting it, and, I’m sorry to say it, women will be complicit.

 

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Jacob Zuma is a Political Genius. Here’s Why.

Barring President Zuma’s untimely demise, there remain only two possible futures for South Africa. From the moment the new cabinet was announced, we’ve been choosing one of the futures without realising it.

Had we been serious about holding government to account — see South Korea, Brazil, and parts of the U.S — we’d have mobilised, occupied, barricaded roads and protested non-stop from yesterday, strategising on our feet. Something like last night’s reshuffle requires a quick show of public strength. You can’t over-plan it.

This future begins at immediate resistance from the moment we see an abuse of power. This the future we have not chosen.

We wouldn’t march and then go home to wait for an answer, nor sign petitions and wait for answers, nor wait for someone else to unseat Zuma. We’d disrupt everything — bearing in mind physical and legal risks — until we’d removed him.

But because we are South Africa, we waited:—

For EFF to defend approaching the Constitutional Court. The chances of anything coming from that are good enough to pursue it, but not enough to rely on it alone. Separation of Powers is real. They really seek to humiliate Zuma for political points. They will achieve spectacle, not change, because spectacle is the most political parties can offer by themselves right now.

We waited for the DA to persuade the Speaker to convene a sitting where the House would pass a motion of no confidence in the President, and for them to stop the swearing in of the new ministers. The latter hasn’t worked nor has the former worked in previous times. As for the anonymous ANC MPs that Mmusi Maimane mentioned, who’ve said they’ll vote for Zuma to go, they don’t exist until the public knows who they are. And not that I have heard any calls for it, but Speaker Baleka Mbethe would never allow a secret ballot because that would be a betrayal of Zuma. We are recycling tired tactics.

No political force that has the power to oust Zuma has the will, nor has any political force that has the will, the power. Zuma alone could theoretically have both, and he is not stepping down (not that there is anywhere lower for him to step down to).

Even Cyril Ramaphosa’s disagreeing with what the President did isn’t the same thing as openly disagreeing with the fact of his Presidency. If the Deputy President is fired, he’ll become a martyr and that has its own ramifications.

We waited, also, for mass resignations from cabinet and for more action from the SACP. We waited for the Top 6 to act. They chose their words so carefully; we called those revelations “damning” and too quickly gave their speakers credit before they had acted on those revelations. They did not act because they were only acting surprised.

We waited ourselves into Zuma’s trap.

What he’s done this time is too big to undo. He can’t reinstate 3 out of the 6 fired ministers, for example, let alone undo the 20-piece reshuffle. Trying to reverse any of it would only embarrass the country further. Had it been one minister, he could be frog-marched to undo it. Who decides where he should start fixing this?

Before this was done, it was too daring to be done. Now that he has done it, no one can dare him to undo it. Those who have the will have not the power; those who have the power have not the will. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” and Zuma knows it.

The shock-and-awe (or “rapid dominance”) military doctrine calls for overwhelming displays of power that demoralise and paralyse opponents. For having used it, Zuma is stronger than he was when he first called then-Minister Pravin Gordhan from London.

“If Zuma can stay in power for another week,” a friend mused, “he would have survived this and emerged stronger.” Another replied, “Every 24 hours that pass with him in power make it more likely he will make it to the end of this week.” In Christopher Nolan’s movie Interstellar, there is a planet whose proximity to a black hole means an hour spent there is the equivalent of seven earth years (this is time dilation).

The gravitational forces on Planet Zuma mean every second he is in power allow him to wreak earth-years’ worth of havoc. He appoints and disappoints his ministers at unheard-of hours, knowing well that ordinary South Africans will confront him for it in the safety and convince of their own time — when we can take time off from our very busy lives.

Opposition parties, civil society, clergy and other entities have made plans for legal challenges, parliamentary moves, marches and the like. These plans may end up diverting legitimate anger into hamster-wheel freneticism that serves only the reputations of the organisations that arrange and parade their speakers, singers and causes at these events. Remember a particular anti-Zuma march. We went. We crossed the Mandela bridge. We crossed back. It was a “success” and we felt great.

But Zuma didn’t fall.

A protest march ends when marchers leave. An #Occupy ends when the target (Zuma) leaves. Any politicians that could have fought Zuma now knows that South Africans will march and leave before Zuma has been forced to leave. We show up, but never stay up, long enough to ensure that Zuma falls to never do to a Gordhan what he did to a Nene. We have used up all our good guys. Would you trust us to back you?

In this future Zuma, will cash in what remains of the ANC’s brand equity and the country’s economy. He and his political generation will have no need of those burdens after 2019. Whoever wins the ANC Presidential race may become opposition leader in 2019 not because of anything the ANC has done, but because of what the last 24 hours have enabled Zuma to do in the next 24 months.

If he shock-and-awe nuked us yesterday, watch him go nuclear.

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Judgment Day: ANC Politicians Must Unseat Zuma or Leave the Party

Today, struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada was laid to rest. Former President Kgalema Motlanthe took this opportunity to read out Kathrada’s unanswered letter to President Jacob Zuma, in which the President is challenged to resign.

This got me thinking about a tendency amongst the “good” ANC politicians to throw Jacob Zuma under the bus, subtly or otherwise. I also thought of how our usual response is to applaud and cheer.

Can we please not laud those politicians who have Damascus Road revelations or challenge the NEC to resign, until they themselves leave?

I fear by the time the ANC’s “good cops” rescue us from the ANC’s “bad cops” there will be nothing left to rescue. We are those frogs in that pot in that boiling water, acclimatising to a temperature that’s killing us when we should be leaping out.

We can’t separate the ANC from the situation our country is in, both the good and bad. This implicates everyone in the ANC for all of it.

No South African can legitimately opt out of falling under laws the ANC uses its majority to pass in parliament. To support the ANC is to agree that the party should have the greatest say in the way parliament passes laws and scrutinises the actions of the Executive. So the argument that the ANC isn’t wholly responsible serves no one except the ANC.

The dollar doesn’t discriminate between citizens who said, “yes” to the President’s financially risky decisions from those who said, “no” to them. When we go nuclear, the bill isn’t going to land with those citizens who agreed to nuclear power. We may be near Passover, but no lamb’s blood on any doorpost is going to exempt any of us from whatever happens in Lootuli House (sorry, Chief Albert Luthuli).

Therefore, distinguishing the ANC from the decisions made by its leadership gives the party protections no human being in this country has, and that, at the citizen’s expense. People would be left with no choice but to join the ANC in order to enjoy the rights taken from people and given to the party. I submit everyone in the ANC knows this; that is why they remain in there. Life is easier for those who love the party more than the country that the party abuses.

Another example is crime. Criminals don’t knowingly pick victims who said, “yes” to the ANC’s crime-fighting leadership, or lack thereof, over those who said, “no” to it: we’re all victims and victors of the consequences of the ANC’s leadership in this regard. Once again, separating the ANC from the consequences of decisions made by its deployees, when citizens can’t be separated from those consequences, gives the ANC rights no human being can enjoy — at cost to human rights.

Those people in the ANC who “see the light” and speak up are only in a position where their voices count for more because we’ve let the citizens’ count for less. We did this each time we centred their denouncements of Zuma without demanding their exit from the party Zuma leads. They’re not heroes; they’ve thieves, albeit indirectly, benefiting from the mess they’re criticising.

They seem more exposed to harm for speaking out, but that’s why they’re safer — their publicity shields them and puts a higher premium on their blood while the blood of ordinary South Africans outside the ANC can be bought and sold for 30 pieces of silver. Remember Marikana.

They are not heroes. There’s no risk for them. We need to stop applauding them for saying what others are saying (but go unheard, because they are voiceless) and demand they exit the party.

Thank you.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

That book is almost done working on me. 

Why We’re Not Singapore

Assuming Singapore is perfect (a discussion for another day) and where we’d like to go, why are we taking so long get there?  Is it that we’re not drawing on the gifts that colonialism bestowed upon us?  As Western Cape Premier Helen Zille tweeted:

“Would we have had a transition into specialised health care and medication without colonial influence?”

and,

“For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.”

The previous blog post answered — at the risk of making it sound as though whose ancestors built what toys is the measure of civilisation — that Africa had specialised health care, medication, impressive (if not “independent”) judicial systems, as well as transport and water systems that were on par with or ahead of anyone else’s, before colonialism.

That post also said the anthropologist jury is still out on whether a civilisation’s development is dependent on the duration for which its people are settled and their infrastructure maintained, or dependent on cycles of conflict, displacement and resettling.  Either way, bearing in mind that it had just been settled by Bantu people from further up north (not forgetting the Khoi-San), the region we now call Southern Africa was, by Eurocentric standards, relatively “civilised” by the early 17th century.

Zille’s view not only passively says to take advantage of what colonialism left behind; it actively says we’d have to have gone through colonialism to advance as Singapore did.  That undermines everyone except the colonialist while failing to judge said colonialist for his crimes against humanity.  That smacks of white supremacy.

There’s a reason Helen Zille felt the need to tweet that at this discursive moment.  South Africans are under a lot of pressure, especially economically.  Politically, we’re feeling helpless.  When something is squeezed like we’re being, what’s on the inside starts coming out.  If you squeezed something you’d thought was an orange but its juice was sour, you’d start wondering whether it was a lemon or a grapefruit instead.  Likewise, if you squeeze our Rainbow Nation, and white supremacist thoughts start flowing out, then perhaps our economic and political issues are symptoms of that identity crisis.  Misidentifying South Africa as “new” when its thinking is fundamentally old is akin to getting your name wrong at the start of a test.  In the unlikely event that you could still remember the correct answers after that, your mark would still be misallocated.

The reason our strengths don’t match Singapore’s is that one party that could arguably take us there — the DA that Helen Zille is a member of — insists on being a victim of its own success.  When it explains its governance successes, in none of its statements, articles, or other communication does it say, “A significant number of our core members and network of service providers achieved these results because they got major head-starts under apartheid, which the party therefore benefits from.”  For then, restitutions would be unavoidable.

We can describe the DA as non-racial and non-racist until we’re blue in the face (to match the flag), but it would be more responsible of us to admit that a significant number of South Africans believe the DA exists to protect white interests, despite having heard arguments to the contrary.  We’d logically extend that responsibility into the way we explain the DA’s successes, conceding that the DA started out with a structurally unfair advantage.  These wouldn’t be concessions to empty populism; they’d be giving others’ views the benefit of the doubt.  What happens if we don’t take this approach?

The DA’s Penny Sparrows, Dianne Kohler Barnards and Helen Zilles still unconsciously believe corruption and incompetence are inherent to majorly black political parties, whereas good governance and ethics are inherent to majorly white ones (or colonialists) — and they’ll say that on social media.

We could have had an ANC that was as corruption-free as the DA, or we could have had both parties’ members start off on similar economic bases in their private capacities and their respective networks.  But we’re being dangerously naïve if we tell ourselves we could have transitioned into healthy democracy without reparations, and have nothing go terribly wrong.  There are no free lunches in the universe.

At dog-whistle politics’ pitch, we’re explaining “black corruption” and “incompetence” without reference to this initial disparity or the presence of racial bias in the way we ruminate on, say, state capture by persons of varying skin colours — and then we’re shocked to discover that people like Helen Zille think colonialism was beneficial.

The intellectual white supremacy Zille openly tweets of is a natural flowering of the moral white superiority that’s been assumed all along.  This is why black people would rather countenance the ANC get away with murder than vote the DA into power.  They can hear the dog-whistle messaging.  (And yes, I know I have said a lot of this before.  Do I at least get marks for consistency?)

We’re not Singapore because the impulse that causes us to look to colonialism to make us a Singapore is indistinguishable from the impulse that divides us into coloniser and colonised, undermining the latter to justify the former — while we delude ourselves into thinking our identity is Rainbow Nation.  The juice that comes out when you squeeze is racism.

We’re not going to be Singapore until we figure out how to be who we say we are first.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

I’m nearing the final stages of that book working on me.

“It Isn’t Afrophobia or Xenophobia” Sounds a Lot Like #AllLivesMatter

There are three sources of “alternative facts” we need to be wary of: the devil, Donald Trump and the ANC War-room.  And right now, I’m not so sure the last isn’t the first in disguise.

Last week, a lot of ANC comrades on my Facebook echoed President Zuma’s explanation that the planned march against illegal immigrants, and the subsequent violence, weren’t a manifestation of xenophobia but of people’s frustration at crime and a stagnant economy.

This presupposes crime and unemployment are a relatively new thing in South Africa.  “South Africans don’t really hate foreign nationals; they just hate the ones who are responsible for this recent explosion in crime and unemployment — which makes their enemy not foreign nationals, but crime and unemployment.”  For if crime and unemployment have been around for a long time, contrary to this explanation, it would mean foreign nationals are being punished in government’s place for government’s failures.

If a local and a foreigner committed the same crime, we’d be more likely to notice the foreigner doing it.  We’d even believe the foreigner invented this crime.  This is especially the case when said foreigner is darker skinned; then we’ll credit him with running the whole “black market” of vices and crimes that everyone, our own included, are implicit in.  Because black is the colour of evil and criminality.

Nowhere is this double-standard more revealed than in the complaint, “We tried reporting them to police, but the police were bribed.”  Were these bribable police one of “them” or one of “us”?  If one of us, then the difference between “them” and “us” only exists in our head so we can shift responsibility.  Our police took the bribes.  They took the proceeds of the crimes; this alone proves that “their” crimes are our crimes.  Furthermore,

We have two white men who own half of everything and a white populace who own almost everything else.

We have a black Zulu president with 783 corruption charges hanging over his head and a questionable cabinet behind him, which is also quite black South African.

We have done very little, collectively, to make this cabinet do its job and enforce the letter as well as the spirit of the legislation we have in place.  On paper, we have every reason to be a prosperous nation.  Why aren’t we?

We recently had an Indian family leave, peacefully, with the proceeds of alleged state capture.

Any relatively light-skinned race can get away with murder here.  But the split moment Africans of blacker skin tone are perceived to be running some “black market” of crimes and vices, we sanction marches against them that we know will turn violent.  If this isn’t a xenophobic-Afrophobic double-standard, then please tell me: what is xenophobia?  What would something have to look like to be Afrophobic?

Would Moses have to come down from the mountain to tell us, “Yes, this is Afrophobic”?  Would God’s voice have to boom it from heaven?  Please.

A dark-skinned vendor I used to buy fruit from at a street corner in Durban told me that whenever xenophobic attacks were happening, people, fresh from hunting foreigners, would glare at her and strike up conversations in Zulu — and she’d make sure to reply in the strongest Zulu accent she could pull off.  Because she knew she was being profiled.  She was being tested.

So yes, we, black people, are racially profiling other black people.  That’s what’s happening.  That is why people in Nigeria hate our guts.

If #AllLivesMatter is how many have denied the reality of structural racism, we are doing exactly the same thing when we say, “It Isn’t Afrophobia or Xenophobia.”

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