(Originally published as “Respect our rights”, in City Press as a column, 6 May 2012)
The Traditional Courts Bill is meant to replace the Black Administration Act of 1927 with a law that is constitutional.
Instead, if passed, it will in effect strip between 17 million and 21 million people living in rural South Africa of many of the rights we enjoy in the rest of the country.
About 59% of these people are women, who, along with other members of their communities, will cease to be citizens and exist only as subjects.
As is stands, the bill creates a separate legal system for rural folk, geographically recreating the old Bantustans with no irony on the eve of the centenary of the 1913 Land Act.
Let me first dispense with the two main problems with the consultation process. The bill results from consultations between the state and traditional leader structures.
It patently ignores input by the Rural Women’s Movement based on consultation with hundreds of rural women pointing to the multitude of ways in which existing tribal hearings deliberately disenfranchise them.
Most rural folk were deliberately kept in the dark about the drafting process.
In the past few weeks, many rural communities expressed outrage when confronted with the bill for the first time.
Once again, the culturalist argument is being made for resisting this bill.
Those who oppose it are hostile to cultural African legal and dispute mechanisms, and we are reprimanded.
Yes, this bill partly recognises what is already operational in many of these spaces.
This includes royal patriarchs who explicitly endorse the kidnapping of girls into marriage – ukuthwala – as Chief Mandla Mandela does, to those who silently endorse it, such as Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana.
Many rural communities organise against repressive patriarchal practices, resisting forced unpaid labour, refusing to pay tribal levies, and in countless ways refusing to be docile subjects of chiefs who are given absolute power by this bill.
Legal researcher Dr Simiso Mnisi reminds us that ordinary rural Africans shape and reshape custom, culture and practice all the time. She calls this living custom.
Living custom enables culture and custom to continue to work in the interest of those who own it.
Academic Mamphela Ramphele has also challenged the false opposition often held up in conservative culturalist arguments between “foreign” legal systems at work in the rest of the country and “indigenous” legal systems that will be protected in the proposed bill.
She points out that our specific legal framework is home-grown.
We created our Constitution and legal framework. We did not import it from anywhere else. This is why it is the most progressive Constitution in the world and is globally recognised as such.
The creation of this document was achieved with the full knowledge of the brutality that laws can enable.
If there is any competition or doubt, it arises from various systems emerging from the same space that laws are meant to regulate.
The bill will bestow the final say on the chief presiding over a dispute.
It is a backlash against innovative applications and manifestations of culture by the majority of communities that are refusing to be held hostage.
Progressive chiefs do not need the bill in its current form to enshrine the chieftaincy of state-recognised royalty, elected leaders or other leaders who may contest the legitimacy of the ruling indunas and chiefs.
It takes power away from most rural folk and enshrines a feudal order that has no support.
I grew up in a part of the country that suddenly became a homeland at the end of one school year. Homelands benefit only those in power and their cronies.
In a democracy, all of us should have the same rights. Those who are rushing this homeland bill through require our complicity, our averted gaze.
But we can stop this bill from going through by ending the secrecy, publicly challenging it and holding our government accountable. We need to remember that the state works for all of us, not just the urban folk.
Much has been said in the media and private conversations on the latest revelations of the South African president’s paternity of a child ‘out of wedlock’.
Myth 1: It is a private matter.
Jacob Zuma is not a private citizen, but the President of the country and his sex and love life have implications for the rest of us. He pledged loyalty to certain principles, and it is the duty and right of the citizens to question his office when he is seen to transgress or jeopardise these same principles.
Beyond the Constitution, principles and other legal issues, however, there is no rule that citizens and institutions of a democracy can only question (or generally speak on) some things and not others. Free speech is one of the bases (and basics) of democracy.
When citizens think the president speaks with forked tongue on gender equality, on HIV/AIDS (risk/prevalence), on consistency, etc., this is not a private matter. When citizens’ taxes pay for an increasingly expensive Presidential family, they have every right to speak their minds on the matter.
Myth 2: Zuma can either have multiple partners and be subjected to criticism OR choose one partner and escape public scrutiny.
This is binary logic – which never gets us anywhere. The point of the matter is not whether in a feminist republic we’d force Zuma to choose one wife or banish him. (We’d probably banish Zuma for many more reasons, least of which his preference for multiple partners. There’d be equitable multiple partner relationships in the Feminist Republic.) The heart of the matter is that Jacob Zuma is a public, elected official and an ADULT, which means that he can do pretty much what he likes – apart from commit a crime, be caught and be convicted in a court of law (all together) – but he has to take responsibility for his choices, deal with the consequences of his actions and be grown up about it. Non-feminists could be forgiven for expressing the sentiment behind the saying ‘just be a man about it’ although not for its formulation.
This feminist wishes the President would stop acting like a helpless child who has no decisions, no choice and no mind of his own. We don’t have to agree on what the best choices are, or on why they are made, but addressing the issues instead of creating never ending smokescreens (culture, privacy, unavailability) would merit more respect.
Myth 3: Zuma’s critics romanticise monogamy, his defenders romanticise polygamy.
Debates on single versus multiple partners are such old hat for most feminists that many of us are at a loss for words when forced to explain why anti-feminist rhetoric insists on equating feminist critique of Zuma with a feminist celebration of monogamy. Are you kidding me?
Feminists have been arguing that monogamous heterosexual families were very often at the heart of patriarchal exploitation of women’s sexual, emotional, economic, pyschological, reproductive and intellectual labour for centuries.
Feminists have also said (again over and over again – across history and continents) such homes/families/households are the battleground when white supremacist heteropatriarchies exert violence – hence the devaluation and legalised separation of African/Amerindian/Native American/Asian families in slavery, colonialism, apartheid, etc.
Feminists have insisted that most women experience rape and other forms of violence from their intimate male partners in officially/formally monogynous contexts (and this has been a basic feminist premise for at least 50 years). Feminists said institutionalised monogynous heterosex is about controlling women, containing women’s sexual desire, and policing women’s reproduction.
African feminists especially have said that most monogynous heterosexual relationships benefit the man (to put it mildly) at the expense of the woman in it, and that multiple partner relationships can be about much more than oppression.
Some feminists say the institution of marriage is inherently patriarchal, so the ‘out of wedlock’ thing is not an issue in and as of itself. It’s the larger context of disregard for the dangers that come with infinite sexual relationships in a time of
age AIDS that is the problem.
Again, much creative, experimental, public essay, academic, op-ed writing and other knowledge exists on the interesting ways in which multiple-partner relationships can be affirming and interesting spaces for women. Yes, many feminists also disagree with some of the above, but it’s patriarchally inconvenient to deal with any of the above.
Myth 4: The issue is polygamy’s legality and validity, both of which are under attack.
All the people who are saying ‘it is my culture’ to practice monogamy mean it is their culture for a man to have many women as partners – polygyny. They are also saying that their culture is static and we should all respect it without question, even if and when it speaks for us too. But, as feminists we insist that if it is ours too, then we can question, change, lay claim to it, question how it is being misrepresented. Every single proponent of the ‘culture’ plus ‘ploygamy’ argument that I have read in the SA news, seen or personally debated on radio, television or new media platforms has refused the same courtesy to women with multiple partners, whether these partners be men, women, intersex and/or trans-people, or a combination. So, they’re saying ‘it is my culture to practice polygamy’ but what they mean is ‘it is my culture to enter into polygyny’. And there is nothing specifically African about polygamy – people all over the world choose it.
Myth 5: It’s ‘unfair’ to focus on Zuma and leave the women who are his partners alone in public criticism.
When one of these women is an elected public official, she will be subjected to as much scrutiny from those of us who think that public responsibility matters. But so far, the women that Jacob Zuma has relationships are not elected officials – save for Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who married and divorced Zuma. These other women are private citizens of interest and are therefore not obliged to act
Myth 6: Feminists ignore that women choose to enter into polygynous relationships.
See comments under “Myth 3”. There is nothing automatically feminist about either monogamous or polygamous relationships. Women will choose relationships with differing degrees of choice given that we live in a patriarchal and therefore unequal world. Not all women are feminist. No oppressive system has ever succeeded without the complicity and active support of members of those classes/groups it seeks to oppress. This is part of why the personal is political.
Myth 7: An apology deserves automatic acknowledgment and forgiveness, which is really the only way to deal with offered apologies in life.
Would that not just be fantastic? Then we call all go home to that great lala land that Ray McCauley lives in where all of us are Christians, and those of us who are Christians subscribe to the same gold gilded version he does. And there’d be no powerful oppressive institutions like white supremacy, patriarchy, Islamaphobia, imperialism, etc., because everything would be about individual pain and acknowledgement. This way, the only institutions we’d recognise would be the ones led by conservative men who tell us to shut up unless we listen to them justifying the validity of those other power matrices that supposedly don’t exist.
And no, I am not ‘the feminist spokesperson’. I don’t think we need one – we are all our own spokespersons. Women – whether they are feminists or not – are often not taken seriously in this country. Often what we say, and even our differences are generalised as though we are a mass with one mouth. This is patriarchy’s work – finish and klaar. The fact of the matter is that a variety of criticisms have been directed at President Zuma – but none of the variety is addressed in those who jump to his defense.
I will admit right of the bat that I wish that when the president of the republic makes front page news almost weekly, it would be for more politically refreshing reasons. I have wished this about all presidents of a democratic South Africa, and while interesting news can also be infuriating news, I’d rather read about something Zuma did that involves more than his love and sex life. I am not so delusional that I expect a feminist president when none was really in the running (although I did vote nationally for the one person I do interpret as Pan-Africanist, feminist, humane, unbought, Patricia de Lille).
I do expect the President to demonstrate some modicum of respect for the ideals that the highest office (in the country I pay taxes in) stands for. I expect not to have my intelligence insulted every week by the president and his praise singers in the ANC Youth League. I expect to wake up to months of newspaper reading without powerful men in the SACP-ANC-COSATU alliance badgering us with opportunistic talk of ‘culture’ to do their dirty, dirty gender work. When the ANC was re-elected into power, all of us did not suddenly hand over the mantle of being African cultural spokespersons to these men. If most Africans of any ethnicity are women, why do these men deign to consider themselves sole custodians of a culture they plunder for personal gain? This is truly filthy business, even for politicians of the sort we are mostly saddled with.
I am exhausted by Zuma and his antics. I am embarassed by him even though I did not vote for him again (I voted for him when I put my X next to the ANC in my previous national ballot papers, but that was before the rape trial), held no high hopes for this presidency given all that had gone before, and even though I am no nationalist (I will choose ‘loyalty’/’allegiance’ to the continent’s people everytime over loyalty to the nation state). I am most exhabusted by news of Zuma’s sex life – I wish I could say leave the details out of the news because I’ve heard more than I would want to. It is stunning that he really seems to think that power comes with no responsibility. Let him get married to as many women as he likes – as long as they consent. Let him even have multiple sexual partners in and out of wedlock.
However, he is the President of the country and what he does in his private life can have relevance for all of us, for HIV/AIDS policy, for gender relations, for the rise of misogyny in varied guise. The personal is political, and privacy is a function of privilege, and Zuma has both some institutional and significant class priviedge as the man at the helm.
What the president does is a matter of national importance. The talk of his privacy is nonsense – he is not a private citizen. And if he wants to carry on like he is, so that we are all constantly invitated to think about his sex life, then he must deal with the consequences of seeming to embrace living recklessly while in the Presidency. He cannot have it both ways – speak about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, about gender equity (even if some of us know better than to trust him) and then choose a life that suggests the opposite.
We do have a right to require consistency in the President, whether we voted for him or not. We also do have a right to ask him to step down, again, whether we voted for him or not.
I know that all eyes are on the Union Buildings with Jacob Zuma as the fourth president of a democratic South Africa, but there is something very puzzling going on in the new parliament.
First of all, Baleka Mbete, formerly the Speaker of Parliament before briefly becoming the Vice President of the country has been getting quite a bit of mixed attention. I was not watching, since some of us have day jobs that require us to occasionally be in specific classroom X on certain days of the week, but according to various media reports, she remained sitting after her name was mentioned along with other MPs for swearing in.
This was then followed by much speculation in the local media for days on end. Was she miffed that anything short of a vice presidential appointment was a demotion? Was she demonstrating diva behaviour by throwing her toys out of her cot? Was this just demonstration that women who throw their lot in with the violent men never get rewards?
And on it went, as analysts and commentators wrote and spoke and foamed at the mouth.
No matter what the real deal is for you, the fact of the matter is that she seemed like the most powerful woman in the country over the last few years. It no longer looks that way – no matter what position she continues to hold within her party. I may be wrong, and breaking news could tell us another story in a few weeks. But I am not holding my breath.
Ms Mbete is nobody’s doormat. That bit is clear from afar, so I am not writing her off by any stretch of the imagination. However, her current position (as unclear as it is – and nowhere near parly) can only make us wonder about the drama behind the scenes.
Then there is another woman who has been powerful in various ways over the last few years: the feminist former deputy speaker, Nozizwe Madlala Routledge. She, too, is nowhere to be seen in the new parly, having resigned quite suddenly (it seems from a distance) as the new order started dishing out seats and responsibilities that would decide who is who in the new regime. Although, Madlala Routledge’s departure was also much discussed, it has completely died down now and things seem to have gone back to normal. Again, my mind is working overtime trying to work this one out.
I couldn’t help thinking that something very sinister is up with the new dispensation. These are not two small childish women (as they were condescendingly called in some press) and their resolute refusal to tow the line – whatever the real line and story is – is not a small matter. It makes this blogger very curious about what is going on in the ruling party. We may not know for a very long time, given the tendency in politics to be loyal to a party that has taken the wind out of your sails.
It is precisely because I think that both exercised agency – they were not just responding – that I am perturbed and a little more than concerned.
As if the untoward mystery and demotion/(self)absenting of these women was not bad enough, the ANC fell far short of meeting its 50/50 gender parity in parliament. Again, very little was said by the usual commentators and analysts – apart from a handful of gender and feminist folks, some of whom said the strangest things this time round – even though a 50/50 split still means women are under-represented. I insisted in commentary at the time, that one after the other these signs are showing us that we are entering the age of the big men.
Now, as if South African women do not have enough problems, we have to deal with the indignity of a ministry of women, youth and disabled people. This last fact has had me so incredibly depressed I could barely do more than put a foot in front of the other, take care of admin, and do practical stuff for weeks. Yes, I still talked to and hung out with the people l love. But I could not write.
Even though I am far from a Zuma fan, and I had my reservations about his administration long before he was officially in power, I did not expect to be so deflated so early in his presidency. Yes, it is depressing that women are once again the problem in this country. No self-respecting Black person would consent to a ministry of Black people because it would be clearly recognised as racist rubbish reminiscent of and hankering after Bantu Affairs. Women are the majority in this country. We are not in power. And so it that we get a special little ministry as though we are some odd interest group or annoyance. On what planet is the women’s minister different from a Sebe in so far as she accepts such a post?
I really was hoping against hope that the Zuma administration would prove me wrong – but the signs so far, long before 100 days in office -are more worrying than anything I could have predicted. I did not vote for Zuma in the presidency, but there was never a question that he would be president. I can live with the fact that I am not in the majority because I like living in a democracy, even when what I want does not happen. I still hoped against hope that there’d be a few pleasant surprises early in his administration.
I guess South African feminists had better brace ourselves for more bizzarely offensive posturing on gender affairs. Eish.
In a previous post, I was particularly tough on COPE for the absent posters so close to the elections. I have also been irritated with the change in the face of COPE, again, so close to the elections. But those posts are there for you to read (and re-read?) another time.
I still think the Dandalas might be a liability to COPE, but would be very happy to be proved wrong. This past weekend one of the papers carried allegations that Hlomla Dandala, the highly talented, popular and gorgeous actor son of the COPE presidential candidate, Mvume Dandala, had been involved in an altercation with some LRC (previously SRC for you oldies) member on a university campus. All I have to say on the matter is that Dandala junior sure does generate a lot of bad press – pre and post COPE associations. So, he is consistent in getting weekend press coverage for alleged dodgy behaviour.
I have completely changed my mind about COPE visibility, at least in Jozi. The Congress of the People may have taken an eternity to appear, and then surfaced with lame Dandala and Lekota posters on street poles. They may also have produced unnecessarily messy confusion with two faces on the COPE election posters.
And I don’t want to even think about why the Manifesto on the website only appears in Xhosa and English, or why a party as slick as COPE does not have a copy-editor so that we don’t have to read a “summerised manifesto” instead of a summarised one on their website. And I won’t say any more about the strange punctuation of dates. (Yes, I am pedantic about these things as well as paranoid about even the appearance ethnic nationalism.)
But now the Congress of the People have taken over entire low flying bridges and metres of space on the freeway (M1) as well as a brilliantly located three-sided advert just before you cross over the Mandela Bridge from Braamfontein into Newtown. This is some coup because the latecomers are suddenly very visible in the city. I don’t know whether this is true outside of Johannesburg since I saw very few eThekwini naseMgungundlovu (in Durban and Pmburg) when I was there a month ago.
Since my last KZN trip predated the huge COPE banners popping up all over Jozi, other cities could also be in the changed environment. Those driven to comment on this posting, please say something about the COPE posters in your city or part of the country, in addition to whatever else you want to say.
In the city of Gold, there is a huge banner along the Parktown (St Andrew’s) exit on the M1 south, which is also visible when you get onto the M1 north from the Empire/Jan Smuts onramp; another equally big one just before the Grayston off-ramp again on the M1 north. But the best one I have seen covers three sides of a building in Braamfontein. It’s just before the Nelson Mandela bridge on the Braamfontein/Wits side of the bridge. From some angle it looks like it is ON the actual bridge.
So, what’s so cool about the specific COPE ad, and the other ones around the city? First, I like that they are on the freeway because, like the UDM ones that were first to grace the M1 freeway in Jozi, you can’t miss them and they say something about the parties advertised as fast paced, on the go parties, like Jozi itself. The UDM billboards are where ads for products usually are, so they are well placed to draw the drivers’ and passengers’ attention without being reckless and driving into the car in front of you.
COPE has that bright yellow that you can’t miss even from the corner of the eye, and even at night, which helps it stand out when placed on a grey concrete slab. The COPE colours grab you, and the minimalist writing is also quite succesful because you can read the message almost instantly. When you start getting bored with the yellow, the bright blue and/or bright red are sure to get you. The simplicity is both striking and very effective. Thankfully, no politicians’ faces on these ones, so they can be used again, if COPE hang around as a party of the SA political scene. This earns COPE a few stars for enviromental savvy.
They get a few extra stars for Lyndall Shope-Mafole as the Gautend premier candidate as well. The former, Director General at the Dept of Communications, was elected onto the ANC NEC early last year, post-Polokwane, so she clearly had the favour of the new leadership of the ANC. Yet, off she went to join the new kid on the block. A mystery?
Next, COPE get five stars for location, intertextuality, and wit. I am re-tempted to vote for them because I am very entertained. Regular readers know I want to be entertained during electioneering. In a good way too. COPE are making me feel a lot more hopeful that they are all they were cracked out to be at the November convention. Then, they offered the possibility of newness, imaginative platforms and politicking.
They have my attention now because I work near the Nelson Mandela bridge; my office is in Braamfontein. I drive on the M1 to and from work most days of the week. So, just like I have been seeing Holomisa’s face on that banner for months, now I see COPE everywhere. This can be both a good and bad thing.
On the one hand, such location is an advantage because you begin to read and visually ingest these billboards and banners even when you’re not thinking about them. Advertisers know about this sort of thing, which is exactly why they use billboards. Or atleast part of the decision. So, the visuals become part of your natural thinking and life environment, holding your attention even when you don’t realise it, I imagine. Does this mean people can end up feeling it’s quite ‘natural’ to vote for a party they have started to think about as part of their everyday life? Is that a serious stretch? It might be. But maybe not.
On the other hand, the placing may be a handicap because we could grow so accustonmed to seeing these banners and billboards that they fade into the background of our lives. That may also mean we forget about them if they are up too early. They really become like all the other billboards up on the freeway. I can’t really tell you, off the top of my head, what else is up on my route right now. Except for the Dark and Lovely ad with Sonia Mbele/Sedibe, which is on a building face opposite COPE’s ad. That is quite strange, but maybe there are no other billboards and banners on my way to work anymore. Maybe the Zuma posters on every streetpole and lightpole on the freeway (with the Indian cricket and the Lyric Theatre ads in between) have me so overwhelmed that I can’t see anything else. Or, more likely, the regular billboards have faded into the background.
I don’t know what the research says about this, so this is just speculation off the cuff.
Back to the election visibility of COPE. The above is all well and good, but because I live in my head somewhat – both an occupational hazard and one of the reasons some of us are drawn to certain occupations (it certainly is not the renumeration that attracts you to academia) – I have been thinking about the third, huge COPE advert that I see often as I go about my way. Wit draws attention, that’s for sure.
The Braamfontein/Nelson Mandela COPE ad is the best placed strategically. First, the building is visible from Braamfontein, from the CBD and from various interconnecting freeways into/and out of the city. Location is key in terms of maximising impact. Then there is the fact that it is placed next to (and from some angle it seems as though it is ON) the Nelson Mandela bridge. The bridge connects the academic (Wits)/activist (NGO filled Braamfontein Centre) part of Jozi with Newtown, Jozi’s cultural precinct in more ways than geographical. The COPE ad and bridge also hover above the Jozi CBD, again in more than physical ways. There is a confluence of meanings to be read just from where the metaphoric meets the physical.
But placing it on Nelson Mandela bridge is no accident, I am pretty sure. COPE is premised on its links with the liberation movement: in the name choices attempted, the party name settled on, the oft-cited liberation struggle credentials of the leadership (except Linda Odendaal, but that is another blog posting that may never happen), the fact that the website spells out the full name unlike other parties that rely on acronyms, the rampant patriotism and appropriating the colours of the flag for the logo, endless references to defending democracy and the constitution and so on.
What are the odds that the physical link with Mandela is accidental?
Now, when you speak about the poster you really have to literally link Mandela’s name with COPE, even though Mandela is an ANC member. This happens in your language. But it also happens at the level of association.
Can you get better credentials in the public imagination than saying your name next to Nelson Mandela (Bridge)? Or resting on Mandela (Bridge)? I think not.
There are other unsavory associations to be gleaned from the location of the COPE-claimed building, of course. The building (and therefore the advert) is not really on Nelson Mandela bridge, it’s actually on its right. On Mandela’s right? The Black DA?
These unfortunate readings are only suggested when you look at the bridge from up close, as you approach the bridge. But by then it is already too late because the gigantic letters spelling HOPE have got you. And we sure need hope in this country, even when we disagree on which party to turn to for that.
a) since I am still an undecided voter;
b) COPE is not paying me to electioneer, and my days of canvassing for the ANC are in the past; and,
b) I am not an intellectual for sale,
I will be thinking about another party to vote for tomorrow, and there will be a blog on that too.
What fun electioneering offers!
What is up with COPE and their presidential candidate? I have read the justifications in the papers and listened to discussions of this on radio and tv, and I still don’t get it. Why does COPE think that having Bishop Dandala as presidential candidate is a good thing? How does this move make COPE more attractive?
As far as I can tell, there are a few broad arguments in favour of Dandala’s election, and I find them all unconvincing. Then I have a few additional reservations of my own about putting my X next to COPE now. I am not saying that I was ever sure I’d be voting for them. But I was considering them for my national X, along with the two other liberation movements I had not considered seriously before. Terror Lekota’s face would have tempted me to put my national X for COPE, for I certainly will NOT be putting it next to Zuma’s face, so my national vote is up for grabs. How I feel about Zuma as state president is no secret, as I have noted numerously in public writing, here and elsewhere. But Lekota’s face I could have lived with, even if I knew the ANC would win anyway.
Before you send me lots of comments about how reactionary I am to say this, let me say upfront that I don’t care who thinks I am reactionary for not voting for Zuma. I won’t vote for a proud misogynist homophobe just to prove I am not reactionary. I am still torn about voting ANC privincially and eventually locally.
Many of my friends have already told me how absolutely dodgy I am to like Terror. And maybe I am dodgy. Maybe it’s nostalgia from when he was Free State premier and he kicked butt. Maybe it is because he is convingly anti-ethnicist and I just love it when he refuses to be bullied by people who claim to speak one language better than he does. I liked that when people were pulling the Xhosa trip when he said “uZuma akabhadlanga”, Terror retorted “that’s nonsense, I speak Xhosa as well as the next person”. He said he meant Zuma has no sense; they said he meant he was stupid. In English it sounds the same, but ngesiXhosa I am convinced it is not the same thing. Akabadlanga is closer to saying someone is crazy than to claiming that they are stupid. Maybe I like that Terror says he has changed his mind about various things, and he may keep changing his mind – like he did before when he moved from BC to ANC. All of this is perfectly fine because we are human beings, and we live in a democracy. But Terror is not going to be president, so that is a moot point.
The last thing I am going to say about Terror today is that he had a lot to do with COPE entertaining me in the first place. As can be seen from previous posts, I like being entertained in the run up to the elections.
With all due respect to Bishop Dandala, why should I vote for him? First of all, I don’t think just because Zuma is deemed “immoral”, that the best way to counter that is having a man of the cloth. I think that makes for predictable, boring politics. Give us someone we can believe in, who has charisma and who grabs and keeps our attention. You are not going to get me to vote for anybody based on a morality argument. That argument belongs in a religious community not in a secular state.
I want a president that is ethical, whether he is moral or not. Frankly, I don’t know what is moral and what is immoral. I do know what is oppressive, violent and as a result wrong. The language of morality is irredeemably religious and extremely shortsighted. Moral people have no problem with the death penalty, or throwing their lesbian daughters out of their homes when they come out.
I don’t care about Zuma’s morality. I care about the political implications of his actions and words. Morality is one of those fuzzy concepts like “taste” or “decency”. These fuzzy concepts can be made to mean anything, and historically they have worked in the most oppressive ways – against slaves, against Blacks, against the Irish, against the Jews, against lesbians and gay men, etc. As far as I am concerned, “moral regeneration”, “family values” and talks about morality, when they are not faith confined, are just conservative rubbish. I don’t even talk morality in church. Leave that kind of stuff to the ACDP.
I am an active Catholic, so this is not even about not believing in religion. Nor is it about that silly business of factionalism and denominations between people who identify as Christian. I would say exactly the same thing about a Catholic bishop, or an Imam or a Rabbi, for that matter.
Secondly, I like living in a secular state. Religion is a personal choice, and I cannot see how a priest in the presidency does not send the same kinds of worrying messages that a soldier in the presidency does. The only cool thing about a priest in the presidency would be the fact that the president goes drag sometimes. Let’s keep the uniformed people from powerful regulatory institutions (church, army, police) out of the presidency, please.
Thirdly, Bishop Dandala was the head of Methodist Church of Southern Africa until recently. The Methodist Church’s stance on termination of pregrancy and same sex marriage is unclear to me. I recognise that members of any faith community differ – just like I am feminist, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-reproductive technologies even though I have not left the church I was raised in. The Catholic church has policies that oppose termination, contraception and artificial insermination, but it also has a sterling record of fascist top leadership. (That was a trick “but”.) I am a walking contradiction in this regard, but my religious political hope comes from people like Sister Bernard Ncube, Father Smangaliso Mkatshwa and Archbishop Mpilo Desmind Tutu. So, I am not judging Bishop Dandala on what he chooses to believe in his heart. Nonetheless, a presidential candidate who wants my vote needs to tell me in a straightforward manner how he feels on abortion and lesbian marriages.
Fourthly, I am not sure that a “new” political face is the best way to go at this point. I am all for change, but too much change at once needs much explanation/clearly articulated direction. Change in an uncertain direction leads to insecurity. People don’t vote for parties they are unsure about. Did COPE not have enough headaches from the Affirmative Action controversies? Are they really as clueless as they pretend to be about how many Black votes that confusion has cost them? Do they not realise how pissed off many professional Black women are about the affirmative action PRACTICE at COPE which reinforces the national standard? Do they really have to make everything new?
Maybe they do, but then this will affect voter confidence. People won’t vote for COPE if they’re not really sure of what COPE stands for. This new kid on the block has a lot of potential, but COPE will need to do a lot to recapture the November excitement. If it manages to do that again, then the party stands a chance of double digit percentages in the polls.
There are many voters whose voting choices are unclear for the first time. COPE is neither giving me hope, nor making me feel particularly excited right now.