Category Archives: South African universities

The Full text of my 7 minute talk at Wits and Con Hill One Billion Rising

The Full text of my 7 minute talk at Wits and Con Hill One Billion Rising

I am a feminist, a WITS Professor, a member of the African feminist and global feminist movements, and a member of the 1in9 Campaign, a feminist campaign – now organization – started to provide support to the woman we call Khwezi, who laid a charge of rape against the man who is now President Zuma, 1in9, an organization which supports other survivors of sexualized violence.
I believed Khwezi in 2006. I STILL believe her.
I am rising today in rage, and I am dancing today in love, metaphorically holding hands with billions of women rising in all parts of the world today to say ENOUGH.
All gender based violence is brutality. ALL of it. ALL the time. It is always an act of war.
I am rising today to say: ENOUGH.
It is time to render violence against women illegitimate on our campus. It is time to stop these acts of war on women’s bodies and psyches. It is time to STOP giving airplay to the excuses that make gender based violence seem harmless, excuses that allow it to stay normal.
STOP RAPE and other violence against women by stopping with the excuses. Enough excuses!
• excuses keep gender based violence: violence against women, girls, boys, gender non-conforming people, queers of all hues in place;
• excuses allow brutal men to violate others with impunity – on this campus, in this city, in this province and country, and across the world;
• excuses enable rape culture, slut shaming, intimate femicide, sexual harassment, sexual trafficking, the forced marriage of girls to men old enough to be their grandfathers;
• excuses say it is fine to blame and punish a survivor for the short skirt she wears, fine to excuse the male professor who sexually harasses his students and colleagues, overly sexualizing them, making inappropriate comments that the woman student is obliged to think of as compliments to stay alive;
• excuses say the white misogynist institutional culture of South African HE institutions is the excellence we should all aspire to. Excuses provides an alibi for systemic violence epistemically, materially, emotionally, financially;
• excuses say violence against Black women is part of generalized Black violence and that brutal men cannot be called the monsters they are when they rape, beat the crap out of their partners and make excuses. ALL men no matter what class, race or religion have patriarchal power and can choose to brutalise and get away with it.
• excuses say only working class Black men are violent and white women and gender non-conforming people don’t have to deal with this from middle and upper class, educated, white men;
• excuses make violence against women possible – they are part of a complicated network that say women are not human, so our pain is generalized, unimportant;
• excuses are the permission we slowly give for violent men to keep women and gender non-conforming people hostage on this campus, in this city, in this country, across the world
ENOUGH excuses. When we make excuses, we become perpetrators – we become the problem.
I rise today because the day has come for the women of the world to redefine what justice means – it is not politician’s speeches, it is not non-sexism at the bottom of stationery, for many of us, it is not in the legal justice system.
I rise today with my sisters of all classes, sexual orientations and nationalities across the world to say we – the majority of the world’s people – are the face of survivors and victims. There is no mystery. The survivors of gendered violence walk the streets all day everywhere, sit next to you in class, are the people you are busy falling in love with, are your sisters, best friend, lover, mother, daughter, your teacher.
I rise in solidarity with all survivors, victims and those who will be brutalized by gender based violence again. I rise and dance to counter the isolation that gender based violence breeds, to counter the shame, to refuse to shoulder the blame and to put an end to the excuses.
I rise to say our bodies are ours and we matter, whether we survive like most of those wounded and walking the planet, or like Nandi Mbizane, taken from her home, who still cannot be found,
or like Anene Booysen we could not survive, or like Khwezi we cannot come home.
I rise because a billion women rising at WITS and campuses across the world, in Kenya, Bangladesh, Ghana, Malaysia, Venezuela and everywhere else can change the world. I rise because in the 7 minutes I have been speaking to you, 16 women have been raped in SA, and many more women in every country in the world. In SA 1in 2 women will be raped at least once in her lifetime. Both will be sexually harassed on a regular basis and may be beaten on top of that.
I rise because it is time for rage. I rise because it is time for justice.
I rise because it is time for love – for myself, for the many women, gender non-conforming people, children who walk with the silent torment that survivors know too well. I rise because my body is mine, all our bodies belong to us and are not just battlegrounds. I rise because I love women and because I choose women. I rise because feminism is the movement that taught me to dance. And because I know that movement CAN, WILL, MUST end this brutality.
We WILL redefine justice when we continue to rise and rise and rise and dance in our own name, in our self-defense and in self-love. The time has come – for love and rage, love for ourselves and rage at the unmarked monsters that brutalize women everywhere.
WOMANDLA!
* Constitution Hill talk was similar, sans WITS parts. Photo: Wits Communications

So what if Julius Malema’s flash about his cash?

Maybe I am just not as smart as I used to be, but there is something that does not quite sit right with me about the whole media saga on Julius Malema and how he makes his money. The newspapers have been awash with speculation that the president of the ANC Youth League, who is overly fond of refering to himself in the first person plural (we), may or may not be benefitting from unethical practices by one or more of his businesses. The argument, roughly, is that he is a director/owner of various businesses which have benefitted from tenders from government. This is then used to make the additional point that these untoward business deals support his apparently lavish lifestyle.

Let us first get the disclaimers, or as Sibongile Ndashe would say ‘the passwords’, out of the way. I am no fan of the ANCYL president by any stretch of the imagination, but I do not think he is stupid. Far from it, I think he is incredibly canny, witty and deliberately funny. You don’t get to be as powerful and incredibly popular as Julius is by accident. And make no mistake about it, he is incredibly – and somewhat frighteningly – popular with a whole range of people. I find the ongoing jokes about his real or fabricated matric results distasteful.  At the same time, I think that Malema can be a bit of a loose canon – which is not always a bad thing in life, mind you. I was enraged by his very thinly veiled threats as he announced that he’d kill for Zuma. I was outraged and offended when he made the hateful misognynist comments about Khwezi. And I would not vote for him because I do not knowingly vote for misogynists. In other words, most of the time he annoys me endlessly. That is a very nice way of saying I find him unbearable most of the time.

But.

Yes, but.

I do not understand the specific tenor of the media obsession href=”http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-02-21-malemas-lifestyle-sponsored-by-govt-tenders”>with how he makes his money. Firstly, I am not entirely sure that this is news, apart from the general way in which the culture of conspicuous consumption, flash living, and  corruption are newsworthy – sort of.  At best, if all that is claimed about Malema’s finances is true, what does it tell us about our society or political elite that we did not already know? The media has never shied away from illustrating the connections between political power and business connections in the awarding of tenders and other irregularities. Corruption does always need to be exposed – but what does ongoing exposure of what we (think we) already know achieve?

It confirms our suspicions over and over again, makes us angrier and then maybe prods us to act differently in response to the shoddy work of those we elect to power.

1. If Malema is guilty of doing something illegal – whatever corruption or other guise it takes – he needs to be brought to book. He needs to be investigated, arrested and convicted (in an ideal world, all three together).  But I am fascinated by how most media reports are less interested in establishing and/or claiming that there is criminality than in focusing on his body and questioning his gumption in being flash about his cash. In South Africa, are you kidding me? In the world in 2010?

2. If Malema is lying about having resigned from the various Directorships, then I would really like to know what he is hiding. It does not make sense for what he is hiding to be what we already know. That would not be very effective hiding, now, would it? And remember, I don’t think he is stupid. On the one hand, there may be something much more sinister here than ‘just’ corruption in usual guise. On the other hand, he did not technically need to lie to cover up the generalised corruption the papers claim they have found. Given that he is not a public state official – but an elected party official. Technically, he can own as many businesses as he likes and do as much business with government, receive as much cash funded by our tax rands as he likes and not owe us an explanation, unless there is something untoward and illegal happening. Unless ‘we’ elected him to the ANCYL presidency, which I did not. The fact that he seems to have lied about these resignations worries me a lot more than the possibility that he is getting tenders and money through political connections. Newspaper reports and arguments by Redi Direko who interviewed Malema on her show on 702 this morning point out that Malema is still listed as Director of several businesses he claims no connection with. She also pointed to some other illegality since he arrived for the interview with her in the same license-plate free white Range Rover he arrived at Wits in last week. As Direko pointed to the irresponsibility and illegality of driving/riding in the car, Malema remarked that he had not noticed and would talk to the driver about rectifying this. Does he really expect anyone to believe this? Then, there is the bizzare gameplaying or scapegoating that he engaged in rather than answering another journalist’s questions.

This all makes me wonder much more about what is really going on here. I wish the media were doing a better job of actually providing some news on this front, rather than telling us how he flashes his cash at the same time that even respectable media outlets celebrate others who flash their cash. Part of this hypocrisy on bling culture and celebrity culture is that old fashioned business is founded on the same unethical and unscrupulous acquisition of money through barely legal ways.

As for Malema, I wait with bated breath for the REAL story to break, and will continue to scan the repetitive ‘news’ for something new.

Jansen legitimises trivialisation of poor Black people

This is the longer version of my column in this past weekend (01 November 2009) in the City Press:

I have been as intrigued by Jonathan Jansen’s inaugural lecture as the thirteenth Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS) as I have been by some of the responses. Time may have shifted somewhat, but the Jansen saga is a reminder of various things we would do well to reflect on. Jansen lyrical references to the conflicted pasts of both the Free State province and the University itself did little to mask the real meat at the heart of Jansen’s talk: his decision on “the Reitz matter”. Although he claimed his interest in “closing the book on Reitz” and “reconciliation, forgiveness and social justice”, the University of the Free State’s first black rector legitimated the ongoing trivialization of working class black people’s lives. The ANCYL is wrong to expect us to claim him just because he is black and pretend no insult has been uttered. The workers who were victimized by the students the new UFS rector wishes to protect are also black. Who claims them?

Unlike Jansen, I am not surprised that the Reitz “atrocity could have been committed on the grounds of an institution of higher learning”. This is the easiest part of the entire Reitz video saga, unless we deliberately choose to ignore both history and the ongoing state of South African academia. It is the academy that first popularised notions of racial and other supremacy through scientific racism. Higher education continues to be shaped by this legacy in ways too numerous to list here, but on which much academic literature exists. Jansen knows this well. His claimed ignorance is a mere rhetorical strategy and not a very convincing one at that.

Having recognised that the racist performance captured on tape was enabled by institutional power, rather than individual deviant peculiarities, Jansen proceeds to re-enact it. First he treats the entire matter as though it is about sets of two arbitrary individuals set up against each other: errant young white men versus violated black workers who can be quickly compensated so that they may forgive. It is noteworthy that Jansen spends barely any ink on these workers. The bulk of his narrative is dedicated to those who matter: the young men whose futures are at risk, who need to be re-intergrated into the university community in order to acquire further institutional power. In order to mask this evaluation, Jansen is silent on the place of justice, responsibility and recognition. Not for these young UFS hooligans, the expulsion metted out to many other students who act in ways universities do not like, even if the latter’s transgressions are victimless. In Jansen’s book, the futures of the expelled UFS students are much more important than the lives of the students financially excluded from his and many other institutions of higher learning.

Jansen evokes that terrible convenient Christian narrative we had to all deal with during the fraught TRC to invite us to share his complicity. But Jansen takes it a step further, and unlike the TRC the violated are not even required to forgive, or speak at all. The workers who were publicly humiliated will be compensated in unnamed ways; they are not even important enough to consult. Legality stands between Jansen and the acknowledgement of their humanity. The workers are simply required to forgive these young men for their behaviour, and stop being difficult, like the rest of us. They need to just pretend that their humiliation is over and stop being a nuisance. This is one of the inheritances of the TRC: this terrible obligation of black forgiveness. Along with it, we are invited to turn a blind eye to the very many ways in which violence against poor black people is endemic at UFS and the country. Like many others with institutional power, the new UFS rector has chosen the side of power.

Jansen has felt himself pressed to frequent Reitz, but there is no mention of how hard he tried to connect to the man and women who suffered such indignities. After all, along with the burden of obligatory forgiveness, black people are ever-ready to take the money and run. Biko was wrong when he said that all black people’s feelings matter. According to Jansen, white supremacists need not take responsibility for their action, no matter how obviously rightwing. In Jansen they have a brilliant ally.

As for the proposed “Reitz Institute for Studies in Race, Reconcilliation and Social Justice”, I think it calls for a rare moment of action by South African academia: its complete boycott. I know that you could not pay this particular Black woman academic enough money to go anywhere near it.