Monthly Archives: September 2008

Minister exodus after Mbeki

The news reports continue to tell us that the ANC says there is “no crisis” after the deputy president of the country resigned followed by ten ministers and three deputy ministers, after President Mbeki was forced to resign by his party. However, until a few months ago, it was the same ANC that argued that the party is not divided. Why then, if this was so, then, and is so now, did Mbeki need to be replaced by ANC vice president, Kgalema Mothlante, in order to ‘restore unity’ within the party? Which party? The same party that is not divided? Mh. Interesting.

Then we had outgoing President Mbeki declaring that there was no crisis on crime, on HIV/AIDS, on gender based violence, and definitely no crisis in the time lag before announcing the Zimbabwean election results. Well, history sure showed him, huh? There is still a crisis on all these fronts. He is an ANC man, even if the same party he devoted his life to has just humiliated him in public. I want to add “unnecessarily”, but when is it ever necessary to humiliate another person?

Nobody has quite addressed the question of why, with only a few months until the end of his term, Mbeki had to be pushed out? Unless, of course, we all read this for what it really is: a very public flogging and humiliation. It is now clear that the axed premiers, Nosimo Balindlela of the Eastern Cape province and Ebrahim Rasool of the Western Cape province, were a practice run.

With all of this as backdrop, then, forgive me for thinking there is a huge crisis yet again. Whenever we are told there is no crisis by ANC men, there usually is. So, given that the incoming caretaker president is a unifying figure in the ANC, why are so many of his comrades resigning after Mbeki was forced to resign? What are we to make of the allegations that the vice-president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka along with these ministers and deputy ministers had drafted and submitted their resignation letters before Mbeki had even made his speech on Sunday but that he had implored them to stay on?

Where is this fantastic, well-planned, thought-out transitional arrangement that the new bloc claims to have in place? Why are we supposed to be so excited about this unifying new president that has had a significant walk-out of members of his own party before he even makes his first speech? Who is he to unify? The new power within the ANC/alliance with itself? It sure looks like it.

We, the citizens and residents of South Africa, will pay for this in more ways than one. Morale is already very low and there is much talk of the ANC hopefully splitting in some sections of the country. This would be sad indeed, but which ANC would this be sad for? It is too late for the fracture bloc, if indeed it exists, to register for the next elections, which the new ANC bloc should not win if this is how they intend to do things. Unless there is more drama awaiting us in the soapie that is September month in South Africa.

I am also intrigued by the manner in which the leaders of smaller opposition parties in parliament are now scurrying to eat their words, especially the ID and DA, who were quite convinced according to public pronouncements that Mbeki needed to go, are now making senseless comments. So what is new, you may well ask. What do they care whether the ANC is reliable or not in what it promises and claims? Has it not been their business to claim that it is rubbish and unreliable anyway? It is even harder to take them seriously now than it is to take the new bloc seriously.

Along with many other South Africans, I suspect that the walkout is far from over. I was not surprised by many of the names of the resignees. I did expect a few more names than appeared on the list, however. It does matter that those who are leaving cabinet with Mbeki are mostly senior ANC and alliance members.

The resignations as of this afternoon are as follows:

President of the Republic, Thabo Mbeki (ANC)
Deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka (ANC)
Minister in the Presidency, Dr Essop Pahad (ANC)
Minister of Public Service and Administration, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi (ANC)
Minister of Public Works, Thoko Didiza (ANC)
Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel (ANC)
Minister of Defence, Mosiuoa Lekota (ANC)
Minister of Correctional Service, Ngconde Balfour (ANC)
Minister of Provincial and Local Government, Sidney Mufamadi (ANC)
Minister of Intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils (ANC)
Minister of Public Enterprises, Alec Erwin (ANC)
Minister of Science and Technology, Mosibudi Mangena (AZAPO)
Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, Loretta Jacobus (ANC)
Deputy Minister of Finance, Jabulani Moleketi (ANC)
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aziz Pahad (ANC)

That is 15 people out of a total of 40 national departments , but what that really means is that

* the presidency has lost three
* finance has lost both minister and deputy minister (although there are now reports that they resigned on the equivalent of a technicality and are happy to be re-sworn in)
* correctional services ministry has lost both the minister and deputy minister

The remaining ministries have either a minister or deputy minister still in place. Nonetheless, the exodus is not insignificant. It is a strong statement, no matter what the ANC NEC spokespeople would have us believe. It is no small matter when several ANC heavyweights walk out in this manner over something the ANC NEC says is not cause for division.

It makes me wonder what other significant fissures there are in this undivided party. What is next?


Thabo Mbeki’s resignation

As I listened to President Mbeki deliver his final speech to the nation as president, I could not help but feel a mixture of sadness and irritation. What could forcing him to resign a few months shy of the end of his term achieve?

Tried as I did, I could not see that there was any sense at all to the decision by the ANC NEC. The fact of the matter is that what the ANC NEC has communicated is that voters’ choices and opinions do not matter, because Thabo Mbeki is the country’s president, not the ANC’s. They made their choice quite clear on the 18th of December in Polokwane when they chose to elect the former national deputy president, Jacob Zuma.

Now, I am no fan of Jacob Zuma by any stretch of the imagination and my views on this are public stemming from his rape trial. At the same time, I had also long ceased to be a fan of Thabo Mbeki’s, although not for the much touted reasons he fell from grace. I don’t particularly care that he is stubborn, elitist (intellectually), somewhat longwinded and quotes too much canonical English literature when he is making his speeches. I like stubborn, intellectually elitist and somewhat longwinded speech makers. I like poetic political speeches even when I am not in agreement with their content. Generally, political speeches are as exciting as watching paint dry. So, I liked having a poetic president. As for his penchant for pipes and English literature — well, I am a professor of postcolonial literature, so again, not a bad thing in my book. No, I did not ever think he was such a bully as to deserve the label ‘dictator’, as several people suggested in conversation over the last few months. But South Africans are nothing if not melodramatic.

I was irritated by Mbeki’s double speak on gender, more irritated by some of the economic policy shifts that occured under his administration (from RDP to GEAR), fatigued by his HIV/AIDS stance, and so on. But I did not care too much that he did not want to be bullied by his (former) comrades since “discipline”, “deployment” and “representing the organisation” seem to work increasingly as longhand for “accepting being bullied”. But then again, this is why I am not a branch member of the ANC. I have happily voted and even canvassed for the ANC in the past because until recently, I was unshaken in my belief that it is the only party worth believing in. It was also the organisation that espoused, at least on paper, all the values and principles that I wanted to see in my country. The procedures, endless discussions, protracted negotiations and showing off on who received the best political education that characterises how branches and meetings are run? Not for me.

I will not be voting ANC in the next election. I’d rather die than vote DA. So, I don’t know what I’ll be voting. But I did vote for President Thabo Mbeki, and even when I was most irritated by him, he was the president I voted for. I had no problem when he fired Zuma from parliament, and was ambivalent when he fired Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, but only because she is a feminist and I was never sure I had the full picture of what happened.

I do wish that we voted for Presidential candidates, rather than organisations, because then Mbeki would have seen his term to an end. I think that the entire saga was designed to humiliate him and has been in the works for a long time. That is why the deputy president of the ANC was rushed into parliament a little while ago. Someone mentioned that plot Steve Tshwete spoke of a few years ago. It may be a coincidence that Mathews Phosa features so prominently on Tshwete’s list and that he has been the face on television whenever Mbeki’s axing (yes, axing) has come up. Whatever, let the ANC men fight their battles in and for the party their own way. However, this latest move to compel Mbeki to resign as the country’s president was not necessary. There is nothing that a new government can achieve in the few months left until the new elections. It is clearly about humiliation because strategy-wise, it sucks.

A colleague of my sister’s commented that this is a glorified coup. Well, it certainly feels like one – sans the military in the streets and the awful music on the radio. I am sick to my stomach. I don’t know why the ANC NEC members seem confused about this country – they seem less and less able to tell the difference between where ANC NEC terrain ends, and where SA starts. There is a subtle distinction between being the majority party in government and being a political party allowed to make decisions on behalf of the entire citizenry: their approach to the NPA, the Presidency. What next?

It’s a sad day indeed when the only people making any kind of sense are the two former leaders of homelands (bantustans). A very sad day indeed. But then again, if Zuma supporters can mobilise the ethnicists that used to hide behind Zulu nationalism as part of the mix outside his court room appearances, why can’t ex-homeland leaders us all every now and then?

I fear that the repecurssions of this ill will staged at the country’s cost – a brazen performance of violent masculinities if ever there was one – will cost the citizens of this country very, very dearly. I want to be wrong, but fear I will not be.

Eudy Simelane – Black lesbian killed – march



Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Ndaba Tree; Kwa-Thema Civic Centre Behind the Clinic @ 10h00

Act against hate crimes

The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project together with Kwa-Thema based community structures, social movements and the residents will hold a public march on September 10, 2008 from 10h00 to 14h00 to raise their voices against the delays in the court proceedings looking into the murder of Eudy Simelane.

The day after Freedom Day, 28 April 2008, Eudy Simelane, a woman, a lesbian, a national Banyana Banyana soccer player and activist was tragically killed in her KwaThema home township for who she was. She was killed because she is a lesbian. Her killing is an act of homophobia! Homophobia is the hatred and fear of lesbian and gay people. Her killing represents the violation of many basic human rights, as suffered by lesbians, gays, transgender people, people living with HIV/AIDS, women, girls, foreign national and others!

During the last three months the case has suffered delays attributed to three State agents: the Director of Public Prosecution, the SAPS and the Prosecutor. We demand a thorough investigation; raise concerns over the DPP in referring the matter to the High Court; and insist that the Prosecutor make efficient consultations with the other two agents.




For further information you can contact:

Pretty Makhanya Phumi Mtetwa

076 226 4795 072 795 9194

What if the ANC lost in 2009? (1)

It seems as though every time I turn on the radio, tv and read a newspaper (all of which I do more than my fair share of) somebody wants to talk about Fikile Mbalula, Zwelinzima Vavi, Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema. It is incredible to me the extent to which people will go to ensure that they are in the public eye. In showbiz they say any publicity is good publicity. Well, I guess the alliance partners think so too given the ways in which they have been hogging the airwaves even when there has been nothing interesting to say.

The ANC is a few years away from turning a 100. It would be a damn shame if it did not make it to that centenary because the people in charge of the various bits are so set on a self-destructive path. Self-destructive for whom?, you may well ask. A good question this. I would hazard a guess that this is a self-destructive path for all of us who live in this country, who want to keep living in this country, who love this continent, who do not think human dignity is negotiable, who believe that the ANC has a conflicted but noteworthy past that should be treasured and deserved, who think gender matters beyond the lipservice paid to it by various misogynists that we are now supposed to think of as leaders.

First, the defiantly re-asserted claim that Malema and co would “kill for Zuma” is troubling at a myriad of levels. Who would they be willing to kill for Zuma? The judiciary that they are rubbishing? They were very happy with the patriarchal judge who let Zuma go during his rape trial. What has happened now? I suppose it is a case of “when the judiciary agrees with us, it is impartial, when it is against us, it is open for attack”. Sadder, still, are the effects of such threats for SA: it doesn’t matter who Malema and co claim they were threatening when they said such things and then all scurried to back each other up. What matters is that this kind of threat communicates quite clearly that they do not care what this country wants and are willing to hold us all hostage for not being in their “camp”, whatever that means. Since they are so big on conspiracies, I am convinced that the whole “camp” talk (Mbeki vs Zuma) is really about something altogether different. We will get worn out focusing on the inner-wranglings between two “camps” with patriarchal, dodgy men at the helm of each, while the real business of stealing the country and holding us hostage takes place sneakily.

But SAns are loud-mouths and opinionated if we are nothing else. And this is our country, not just Malema’s, no matter what he says. Malema et al’s threat is to the ordinary South African who dares disagree with what Malema Inc think should happen in the country, who disagrees with who should lead, who has other ideas about the value of human life, who is critical of the culture of militarism that is our double edged inheritance on this continent.

What is the proper response to these threats? What happens if it has the opposite effect to what threats usually achieve: what if people are embarassed, enraged and put off by threats to kill those who disagree — because that is really what these threats are about — and choose to use their voices, hands and minds to vote differently next year? Yes, most of us have proudly voted ANC in the past even without having carried membership cards. Some of us have eagerly canvassed for the ANC in elections in the past, owned membership to allied organisations (COSAS/SANSCO/SASCO, etc). But if most people who vote ANC in national elections have never been ANC members, choosing that party for what it meant and had been able to achieve in the past, what is to stop people resisting being bullied in the future by those who have taken over the same party?

People are not stupid, and Malema Inc would do well to remember this. If the ANC lost next year, it would not be the first liberation movement turned political party to have suffered this fate. The same arrogance and bullying that Malema et al subject us to now has been seen elsewhere too, to varying degrees and ends.

Personally, I would have prefered to see the ANC in power well into its next 100 years, but I fear that if this happens it will be a different ANC from the one that freed this country and has been voted into power over and over again. It would be an ANC which is happy to trade on ethnic nationalism (also known as tribalism) much like the IFP and Bantustans did, even as this contradicts the very heart of the organisation.

Perhaps, I should not despair. A friend of mine says people get the government they deserve. If I believed that I would have to believe that we deserved apartheid, that Zimbabweans deserve the current crisis (speaking of movements gone awry), that Nigerians deserved all those coups and dictatorships, etc, etc. I don’t. But I know that spin works and these days we are so uncritical of spin that when Malema Inc pretend that threats of violence are the same thing as vigilance and militance, we believe them. What if we didn’t? Which country would that be?

Where are Zimbabwean women in the news?

I spent all of last week in Harare, having been invited to go on a feminist solidarity mission with nine other South Africa feminists. Well, mostly, I am not sure one of them identifies as a feminist. Nonetheless, we will all be writing a few things and speaking in media, reflecting on the trip because it was a life-changing experience for me. Lebo Mashile has already mentioned the trip in one of her radio interviews. We’ve set up the blog here to discuss some of our impressions, so it should be live later this week. Go and take a peak.

It was very important for me to go for various reasons, not least of which were the following:

*as I watched the news coverage of the Zimbabwean negotiations, I felt a little de ja vu since the same footage of men in suits and sometimes a cowboy hat:) would be shown over and over again, as though on a loop. How many times have we seen women being locked out of processes they worked just as hard as men to make reality?;
* I know from various other African feminist forums that Zimbabwe has a very powerful and vocal women’s movement, yet there was almost complete silence in the news about all the activist energy and general experiences of women in Zimbabwe;
* the news never gives the whole picture, and as my friend and co-solidarity feminist sojourner, Gail Smith says, news channels have tended to peddle victimology stories about Zimbabwe, as though women have no agency and are doing nothing but receiving blows to the head, etc;
* it’s well and good to be informed of what is happening in the world, but generally the bulk of the media avenues fall short of providing nuanced coverage of what is happening in the world;
* I could not shake the feeling that there was much more going on than we hear on the news. How could there not be? According to the news, there are no women in Zimbabwe because they are certainly ignored except as those that occupy the sidelines;
* Che Guevara said: “si tu eres capaz de temblar de indignacion cada vez que se cometa una injusticia en cualquier parte del mundo, somos companeros”, which translates into: if you shiver with indignation whenever you know an injustice is done in the world, then we are comrades. I think we are all each other’s business;
* Sometimes the best of intentions are misguided – there certainly are enough examples of how some feminists tried to support sisters in a different part of the globe and ended up complicating the issue in unproductive ways, rather than assisting. It is important to offer the kind of sisterhood and comradeship that makes sense for those you want to link arms with in struggle. This was part of my motivation;
* I was tired of not being sure what to do except incorporate a critique of what is happening in Zimbabwe here and there when I speak, lecture, teach, write.
* Conversation matters for me – it’s a space for reflection, regrouping, strategising, support.

I lost my physical voice in Zimbabwe because I had the beginnings of a flu when we flew out of OR Tambo airport on Monday morning. But this is good in many ways, because I had gone to Harare to listen, to learn, to try to hear the difficult. Now, as I settle back and try to process all that I felt, saw, heard, learnt, wondered about, my physical voice returns slowly. I hope that my writer voice will return in ways that surprise me as I write here and elsewhere about that trip that needs to be spoken about.

South African public holidays

September is heritage month in South Africa. We like these month-long gigs named after the most significant public holiday of that month. Sometimes, though there is more than one “most significant” public holiday a month and then we have a competition for recognition of sorts. In no particular order, June is youth month because of June 16, 1976 which was the day of the Soweto uprisings, now just called “youth day”. August is women’s month because of the march on the Union buildings on August 9th, 1956. September is heritage month … and on it goes. But thank Goddess that December is not reconciliation month, which would be just the kind of weirdness Safrikans are capable of coming up with. I think by December everybody is so worn out and ready for a bit of a break that they gloss over world aids day and wait for the party season to start. Then it’s new year’s day before you know it and all the work starts again. I must admit that the first six months are my absolute favourite as far as endless breaks are concerned: new year’s (01 Jan), sharpeville day (now called by the benign ‘human rights day’ – 21 March), easter (four and sometimes 5 whole days off in march or april), freedom day on 27 April and May Day on 01 May. When one of these holidays falls on a Sunday, it’s even merrier because there is an extra Monday for us there somewhere.

This is all odd, of course, since I am a workaholic of note and therefore generally tend to do some work most days of the year. Yet, a public holiday puts me in an exceptionally good mood. Except May Day and Good Friday, that is. It’s incredible to me that most people have to get to work even on May Day. Me thinks this a sad and unfortunate irony. I was raised Catholic and so Good Friday is not exactly party day given the historical and religious significance. But in addition to this, Good Friday is also the day with the worst possible television programming every. It’s quite remarkable really.

I am usually exhausted by the beginning of September, which explains this post. Heritage? Let’s see. Rather than the usual things about culture and remembering things to be proud of, it would be really good to focus on some broader heritage issues this month. Foremost in my mind are thoughts of Zimbabwe (since I have just come from there and I will be writing a whole lot on that trip over the next few weeks), Biko (since Biko day is a September non-public holiday), SA higher education transformation (since the ministerial committee writes up its submission this month)

It’s not clear – at least not to me -why September is heritage month. Below are some events that tooks place in the month of September before 1994:

2 September 1879 The Zulu and British sign a peace treaty
5 September 1909 Yusuf Dadoo was born.
7 September 1992 the Bisho Massacre.
10 September 1944 ANCYL officially launched.
25 September 1774 Viva Frelimo rallies by SASO.

I am pretty sure it was not named for one of them, though.