You’re reading my journey to figuring out which party I will vote for
This particular page discusses my relationship with the African National Congress. Other political parties will be commented about on other pages.
Does the ANC’s (prominent) role in the liberation struggle forever obligate any of us as black people to vote for them?
If we say that our obligation to the ANC is binding, then the black majority didn’t revolt against apartheid; it merely revolted against that apartheid being perpetrated by a white minority-rule government. We didn’t say “Enough!” to oppression and exploitation; we’d simply had enough of having it outsourced when we could very well find fellow black people to do the job for us. One of my friends always says that all that people want is not freedom, but a fair dictator. Sadly, that explains the relationship between many of us and the ANC to a tee.
The morality problem
As someone who was not directly scarred by apartheid, I believe myself to be more morally neutral in my assessment of the ANC’s track record as the ruling party than many people who were scarred. Most of its supporters admit that their religious allegiance to the ANC was cemented over the course of the struggle, and that they are willing to wink over a multitude of wrongs done by the ANC both then and now.
This is why, in the pro-ANC segment of the black community, my moral neutrality is not seen as a strength but as a weakness. Many ANC followers think that when my allegiance to the ANC is put to the test, any test, I should be loyal to the ANC. Most of these people don’t believe that the “other side” is capable of fairness, so for me to make equitable moral assessments on anything that concerns the ANC betrays “our cause” as black people. They see fairness as naïveté, the love of impartial justice as sanctimonious, and often remind me
just how oppressed and disadvantaged black people were under apartheid. They say we ought to be more forgiving when “one of ours” takes moral shortcuts to a better life or makes mistakes – especially if that one played a role in our liberation. Fraud and corruption are
small prices to pay for freedom. Never mind that this mindset could eventually do more to destroy us than apartheid did.
But it must be asked – how much corruption, scandal, and poor service-delivery, should any of us tolerate before we’re allowed to reach the conclusion that the ANC has broken covenant with black people? Who gets to decide for me that it’s okay for me to say, “Enough” if I’m not allowed to come to that decision by myself?
It appears I’m free to think for myself, as long as what my self thinks happens to be what someone else’s self would have me think.
Speaking to an ANC-loyal relative recently, I mentioned persons of other races that fought for the liberation of the black majority. He replied, “Well, they betrayed their own; we can’t help that. We don’t owe them a passing thought.” The danger with thinking in terms of
“them” and “us” is that the group becomes the chiefest good, as well as the yardstick by which the morality of decisions is measured.
When the Group is the measure of morality, it eclipses any objective set of principles, any impersonal constitution and any impartial governing policy. It also makes it difficult for “them” and “us” to find common moral ground because, dismissing objective principles, we don’t see what “they” could possibly have gained in working to liberate persons of a different colour skin, nor in what they could gain from following objective moral standards. That’s a tragedy; there was a time when a good deed was its own reward.
The maintenance of a healthy democracy requires that one sometimes risk dissent with the party that liberated one into that democracy, otherwise the liberation was a charade, no more than a change in scenery instead of policy. What I’ve noticed, though, is that people like Lindiwe Mazibuko could speak utter nonsense or utter truth, but that wouldn’t influence many hearers’ assessment of their ideas. They’re too busy wondering how she could dare work for the DA. Perhaps I’ve been hiding under a rock, but I’ve never heard anyone quote, criticize or comment on anything she’d actually said, but just making ad hominem insults.
When the Group is the measure of morality, any peace achieved under the regimen of “us and them” is not peace at all but a truce, one that is reiterated every 5 years by the black man voting ANC and the white voting DA, not on the basis of what those parties actually stand for but because each race has an idea of which side its bread is buttered on. In this truce, we agree to stay in our respective corners without killing each other and call it democracy.
But it’s mostly a stalemate, one kept stable by the fact that the majority now has power and therefore no reason to stir up trouble – no reason, that is, until its refusal to make moral assessments (without sentiment) depletes its every survival resource leaving only those resources belonging to the minority. When the Group becomes the measure of morality, running South Africa stops being about repairing the damage done by apartheid, and becomes about fixing the ever-growing errors of our trusted leaders and of citizens with suspect moral compasses. Had there been a moral culture in place that transcended groups from the dawn of democracy, many of those errors could have been avoided.
Moral neutrality is not a weakness; it is the power stay honest in a world in which judgment is often clouded by sentiment.
can greatly distort how we view reality. But it does not distort reality itself. The demand to be treated like a human being presupposes the responsibility to reason like one in spite of any lingering, perception-distorting pain. Babying a person is expensive business, even if that person was once victimized by an oppressive system. That may sound callous but it’s well-known that if you give a man fish instead of teaching him how to fish, you create a problem – namely in this case, that the person remains as powerless and victimized as when he was under systemic oppression.
The collective dignity of black people does not lie in our permitting that rules be bent so that our leaders may have their cake and eat it; it lies in rising morally and intellectually above those who would have stripped us of our humanity, rising regardless of whether “the other” chooses to adopt a more humanized view of us or not.
In a sense, we never defeated apartheid because apartheid did not need to last forever to destroy us; it only needed to stick around long enough to leave us in a state wherein even if freedom were declared, we’d never have the capacity or the responsibility to handle it.
What the ANC’s failure to back the Constitutional rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, has to do with you
The nation’s predominant cultures are based on hetero-patriarchy. Hetero-patriarchy demands the hyper-masculine impenetrability of its men; this is how hetero-patriarchal societies protect and preserve themselves, quickly singling out LGBTI persons for exclusion because they don’t fit into this system.
This nation is very hetero-patriarchal.
So how did this nation, being so patriarchal, end up being impaled again and again on phallic greed of the patriarch it trusted in so much? Well, if you think about it, hetero-patriarchy tends to draw the election of patriarchal men into leadership. But being hetero-patriarchs, those men will treat their people the way they believe husbands have a right to treat their sub-ordinate women.
And didn’t we see the signs? The suspicions of rape and corruption loomed simultaneously over our polygamist in what was a three-part omen of things to come, that is, the gathering of rape, corruption and greed into the leadership style we currently enjoy.
If male African culture is built on indomitability, and its men are encouraged to be competitive and impenetrable – each of its men is a microcosm of what society wants to be – then homosexuality is seen as treason, and that’s another one of the reasons ANC-supporters like Jacob Zuma: he understands “African culture” and will not let some touchy-feely, namby-pamby Constitution get in his way. His election was the inevitable result of the pecking order demanded by African culture. But from my perspective, it was the betrayal of those who most badly need the provisions of the Constitution upheld. Whether anyone realizes it or not, the ANC tossed aside the needs of women and LGBTI persons when it chose Jacob Zuma as its next leader.
But the cultural hierarchy, the mindset, that people trust to protect them and give them an “African” identity, can turn around and violate those who hold to it. Every patriarchal African country is poor. Tribalism and hetero-patriarchy are two sides of the same coin. Hetero-patriarchy necessitates homophobia. Homophobia is the ugly cousin of family brats like dictators, misogyny, AIDS, crime, and poverty.
The Constitution is antithetical to the Culture because where the Constitution is essentially about equality, the Culture is defined by a worldview in which men are people and women are objects – though the Powers pretend to be operating behind the neo-democratic Constitution which describes women as people. The President of the ANC can play two sides off against the middle: to a church, he will be honorary pastor; to African leaders, he will make disparaging comments about how un-African Christianity is; from the liberals, he will accept praise about how advanced the South African Constitution is; to fellow hetero-patriarchal people, he will give assurances that the hetero-patriarchal cultural value systems they are used to will remain intact by exhibiting hetero-cultural behaviour and homophobia. The Constitution becomes nothing more than a condom he can may or may not wear as he rapes the country.
“Thabo Mbeki was a great president,” my father once said. “He just made one big mistake.” “What was that?” I asked. “Accommodating the gays the way he did,” Dad replied, not knowing about me. “He shouldn’t have given them so many rights.”
“I don’t see how he had a choice,” I remarked calmly. “He was bound to do so by the Constitution.” “I know that,” Dad said nonchalantly. “But it goes against culture,” he said, before voting Jacob Zuma into office knowing full well that Jacob has no time for nonsense like actually implementing the Constitution on behalf of women and LGBTI South Africans. The Constitution becomes lip-service, a distraction to placate human rights’ activists.
Because Zulu people know that Zuma is the double-agent who’ll sign off a democratic Constitution while actively endorsing the hetero-patriarchal Zulu culture, the government can theoretically play the Zulus off against the other tribes. When Jacob Zuma became president of the ANC, KwaZulu Natal switched from being the heartland of the IFP to being the ANC’s stronghold. Putting Zuma at the helm of the ANC may have been a Constitutional betrayal of women and LGBTI persons, but it was a stroke of branding genius. The ANC would be acting more within the requirements of the Constitution if it removed Jacob Zuma from presidency, but then it would lose popularity.
Dealing with the ANC is like walking through a hall of mirrors: every person has reflected back to himself what he wants to see; not everyone can see through the trick.
Twitter handle: @SKhumalo1987