Why Dame Zille is ‘not racist’

Lesotho Times - - Leader - nthak­eng Pheello Selinyane

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.

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