Why Dame Zille is ‘not racist’
THERE is a famous quip whose origin I don’t know: “I can’t be racist; I’m black!” I will start today’s piece by stating that I was born to a Pan-africanist Congress(pac) father and a Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) mother, and raised under both identities till I chose my own identity of being a communist at college some 30 years ago.
How can I be a worshipper of (white) racism? Recently our colleague in foreign asylum Keiso Mohloboli who writes for this paper posted a Facebook picture showing two scenarios under the rubric “White versus Black when South African police is on duty”. In the first, black police were jubilantly taking photos of a quartet of whites, and in the second black policemen were belligerently pointing rifles at a handful of blacks riveted to a wall in palpable fear for their lives. Keiso’s post took me back to those silly days of forcing pedestrians to cross inner-city Maseru roads only at zebra crossings; when after repeatedly driving some Europeans herdstyle to go back and do a proper crossing of Kingsway, the police were instructed to stop the practice because it was “scaring away tourists and killing the industry”.
So the law was meant to streamline the beastly ruffians that are the Bantu Basotho, and not to interfere with the cultured, civil, good people of silky hair! Is it a case of, “You might take a black man out of colonialism, but you can’t take colonialism out of him”?
Our esteemed UN ambassador, former Attorney General, justice minister, and deputy prime minister, and editor of annual publication of our court of appeal judgments, Advocate A.K. Maope said roughly a decade ago that our local judges passed verdict according to the skin colour of lawyers. Even a freshly admitted, wet-eared white South African law graduate could win cases at finger-click because judges — including the oldest and longest-serving — trembled at the sight of “white”. Given his credentials, he knew where it was hazardous to tread.
Recently the prime minister’s Senior Private Secretary Mamello Morrison said on a radio talk show that her government depended on “our own, red-lipped Boer judges” to pass judgments that favoured it at appeal court. As Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing’s spokesperson in 2015, she charged that appointment of Justice Kananelo Mosito to head that court was meant to achieve the same for then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane if he contested his assured electoral defeat; yet such cases don’t go to appeal court, and she knew as much. You might think you have your own whites, while being the whites’ laughing stock, a caricature and a zombie!
When a black South African journalist raised a question joining white noises doubting the country’s readiness to host the 2010 FIFA world cup, organising committee chairman Irvin Khoza angrily told him to “stop thinking like a kaffir”, and flatly refused to apologise; saying the man was mimicking the condescending, blackbashing white bigots. He was grovelling to them by talking down the competency and integrity of his own identity.
Keiso’s post reminded me of the raging furore about the intermittent racist rants of the patronising, self-proclaimed “kaffir” blesser that is Gogo (nkhono or grandmother) Helen Zille, the former mayor of Cape Town, reigning premier of South Africa’s Western Cape province — the best performing province by many standards, never won by the ANC since 1994 — and a voluntary retiree from the leadership of the liberal, right-wing Democratic Alliance (DA).
The city is ironically, fondly called the Mother City in South African tourism parlance, being where colonialism and 300 odd years’ “enslavement” of indigenous people was born, and this name it got only after black majority rule. Some city estate agencies and landlords still tout European and American potential tenants with epithets like “the quiet and African-free (no-blacks) neighbourhood”. As the Democratic Party, descendant of the white liberal Progressive Party of apartheid years, the DA’S latest mutation was thanks to assimilating the PAC splinter Independent Democratic (under guise of alliance) under its disgruntled coloured leader Patricia De Lille, who became Cape Town mayor when Zille became party leader in parliament following retirement of Tony Leon and his posting to South America as ambassador.
Zille attracted an avalanche fury when, after astutely moving to give the party a black front, she lost its parliamentary spokeswoman Lindiwe Mazibuko to further studies at the prestigious Harvard University, and publicly chided her as ungrateful for abandoning the party after she supposedly cultivated her.
She thereby strengthened the then ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s derogating claim that Lindiwe was no more than “Madam’s tea girl”, and the ANC’S claims that Zille & Co. took her merely as token for attracting black voters without commitment to their upliftment.
Mazibuko’s successor is Phumzile Van Damme of same schooling, stature and complexion; and a Soweto boy ‘Musi Maimane replaced Dame Zille as leader despite contesting the seat with tested white male stalwarts. He is already earning his keep by attacking measures like land restitution and the Mining Charter’s stipulation of 26 percent black shareholding towards transformation, naming them as investor repellent.
He earned himself wide criticism for travelling with his white wife to Israel recently, calling the “visit” a study tour to grasp the Israeli-palestinian affair better or fully, as though one has to be 130 years and travelled to understand the Russian Revolution of 1917 or 250 years for the French Revolution of 1789.
Since assuming office, Maimane has had to deal with recurrent social media racist slurs by eminent whites of the
party, who symbolically offer tongue-incheek apologies and go about their public life without an iota of shame or regret. The Mother Superior Dame Zille has come out on the same pedestal saying colonialism wasn’t all that bad, it gave South Africans a network of rail and roads infrastructure, an independent judiciary, modern medicine, etc. and later claiming she was misunderstood, and even read her provincial parliament Nelson Mandela’s words where he wrote that despite its blemishes, colonialism had the benefit of the modern educational system. But Mandela stopped being eternal “magic” in his lifetime – ask his country’s rugby and football teams; and cannot be invoked from the grave to whitewash racists. His invocation might have won the DA majorities in local government elections of 2016 when President Jacob Zuma kicked his legacy in the teeth, and handed the appeal of his bequest of a rainbow nation to “racists”, but the prances of Dame Zille & Co. do not show a commitment to that ethos.
Maimane has been at pains to show he has his hands sternly on the controls of the party, and can put his foot down to stamp out violation of the party’s supposed values of non-racialism, and escape publicly voiced impressions that he needed the sanction of Madam to deal with these incidents. In referring Zille to the Federal Council of the party for investigation and later indictment, he swore to the media, “The Helen Zille I know is not a racist”. Dame Zille says she was holidaying somewhere in the Pacific, under the clear skies, clean beaches, and soothing air amidst a civilisation brought by immigrant and now ruling Europeans like the legacy of Europe to South Africa, when the thought struck her mind, and she blissfully took to sharing it with the world. One of her party’s racists had earlier tweeted her disgust at the black “monkeys” which were released onto “our beaches” over Christmas. When David Bullard, star columnist of the Sunday Times, wrote around 2005 that blacks were innocently oblivious of the mass of mineral wealth they were sitting on, until the white man came along, and suddenly they wanted to take control of them, his African editor summarily fired him. Bigotry cannot be philosophised.
Because it is naturally irrational, bigotry can only vociferate stupidity. The racists of monkey beaches and of idle minerals just stopped short of saying Europeans brought these things, while Zille says as much without referring to natural environment. You don’t have to go to ample historical evidence of centuries of the indigenes’ intercourse with this nature in all its spectrum of bounty, advanced adjudicatory and healing systems, the 300-year “freezing” of creativity and divorce of these people from their natural enterprises, to convince bigots – they don’t care! Dame Zille controls three metropolitan councils thanks to appeal of her party to blacks after she swallowed the PAC splinter, harnessing Mazibuko, Va Damme, and Maimane; and the silver platter gift of mandate by the Economic Freedom Fighters. Reminiscent of Prime Minister Mosisili harnessing “Manazi” to form government, even excluding them therefrom, while also hurling raw insults at their identity?
This also brings us right round to the gluttony of Nkandla, the Mandela-zuma sons’ axis of fraud, corruption and immiserating of poor blacks in shady mining deals – which is against the primordial African ethos of sharing and fellow feeling, and more inclined to the capitalist dog-eat-dog ethic against which President Zuma is supposed to be fighting with his misnomer of radical economic transformation. In that regard he is walking in the cultural footsteps of Dame Zille. I know Basotho grown-ups of my age who still pronounce place names like Maseru and Roma differently when they speak Sesotho and English. Next, one will say I am Smalllight (literal English translation of leselinyana) instead of Selinyane, which is bosh; for that is my name, not an object. Next, when Dame Zille says you are cast after her image, and of inferior civilisation, you want to cry!
rormer da leader Helen Zille.