For a long time in the pre-Polokwane ANC, there were rumblings of dissent and disapproval amongst black African South Africans in particular, about the lack of diverse representation of all the black ethnic groups in South Africa. The most common complaint I received from non-Xhosa groups was that Xhosa's were colonising government and business positons in the new dispensation. And yes, there was also a lot of anti-Indian sentiment - the idea that Indian 'cabals' were conspiring to maintain positions in the top echelons of power, but the over-riding, dominant complaint was related to Xhosa dominance in the ANC government. I challenge anyone from within the ANC to debunk that this was the case, and that a great deal of this sentiment was essentially 'hijacked' to bring about Polokwane.
Jimmy Manyi might be loathe to take on the deeper, more divisive issues that have been tearing the ANC apart over the past seventeen years, preferring to choose easy targets; Indians, coloureds and whites are the problem in the country. Yet it is a slippery road that Manyi, who is not the president but the presidential spokesperson, is taking us along. Indeed, one has to wonder, where is the president in all of this? Probably taking a nap during the biggest test of his presidency, reluctant to take a stand. And if they stand by Manyi, Manuel will probably have to go - thus vindicating Manyi's racism and protecting it from further criticism.
After Polokwane, the ANC NEC forced the sitting president, Thabo Mbeki, out of office before his term was over, and he left, respecting their wishes. Indeed, as he had pushed Jacob Zuma out of the vice-presidency over rape allegations that Zuma was eventually acquitted of, he was given his marching orders. He didn't try to cling to power, he respected the institution to which he had devoted most of his life and what it stood for, even when it went against him. He was upset, even humiliated, but he swallowed it up and moved on with his dignity frazzled but intact. He didn't pull a Mugabe act, and he didn't drag the country into prolonged internal conflict. He left. That's what you do when you're not wanted any longer - you don't dig your heels in and try to find ways to survive, you leave! Recently, the German minister of defence was brought under intense public scrutiny for plagiarising around 20% of his doctoral thesis, and the attention that this brought to bear upon him and the ministry he was leading, led him to submit his resignation despite not being asked to do so by Chancellor Angela Merckel. Indeed, this is what we expect of politicians who embarass and shame the establishment they represent.
Yet Jimmy Manyi is hiding away, refusing to directly acknowledge and take ownership of the vile and unacceptable comments and positions that he has put forward. It is a sad day when a fashion house (Christian Dior) acts more decisively, and with more integrity, than the great liberators of South Africa who brought us the rainbow nation show. It's often been said that fashion is fickle. Yet our politics has become more fickle than fashion ... it has turned into farce! And farce it will remain without clear leadership, and without clear speech and actions. Manyi doesn't even have the integrity to issue an apology ... choosing instead to cite his support for the ideals in the freedom charter. This fools nobody - you can't spit all over the freedom charter while charming the audiences on one occasion and hold up it's banner on the next .... really, is this bipolar governance.
And moreover, this is an infinitely dangerous trend ... it will lead to greater and greater levels of infighting and fragmentation. History shows us that this is how it goes when leadership constitutes of pointing fingers at those regarded as 'enemies'. Indeed, Adolf Hitler himself said, in Mein Kampf, that, "the art of leadership constitutes in turning the majority of a people against a single minority". People like Eugene Terreblanche also understood this well, but sought instead to turn a minority against the majority, reversing the Hitlerian notion to justify minority rule over the majority. Perverse leaders can only lead by turning people against one another.
We were all sold the idea that Jacob Zuma had a leadership style that promoted consensus, and focussed on bringing all the fragmented, leftward arms of the ANC led coalition of governance together with the centre-right pre-Polokwane leadership. Yet very quickly we have gone down the road of fragmentation, with a presidential spokesperson that is incapable of either standing by his opinion or apologising for them. Instead, Manyi has decided to duck for cover and distance himself from his own opinions. If he can say one thing yesterday, and another thing tomorrow, how can we trust that he actually means anything he says? I for one, don't. You shouldn't hold public office if you don't know how to apologise when you make a mistake, and to quit when you bring the government and those around you into disrepute.
And make no mistake, the government has been seriously damaged by this, and it will take a long time to regain the trust of those who have been the recipients of Manyi's abuse, if that is at all possible at any stage in the future. So I will attempt to paint a picture of the reactions that people will be having at this point of pathetic indecision that we have arrived at. Having made it clear that the government no longer respects the contribution and role of coloureds and Indians in South Africa these groups will be forced to find ways to survive outside of the system. To some that might mean physically uprooting themselves to seek a less racist environment in which to live and raise their children. To others, it will mean existing outside of the systems of governance, business and industry, as they will be prevented from being employed. It won't take long to drain the country of the remaining skills and expertise, and perhaps in 15 years time there won't be that many coloureds or Indians to blame anymore. Well what happens then?
That's simple. When nobody is left to point fingers at outside of the holy 'blackness' that has been reserved for black Africans themselves in the new South Africa, the fingers will point inwards. And all those prejudices that have temporarily been swept under the carpet to uphold this tenous 'blackness' will re-emerge. You see, even Rome eventually fell from within, with division and fragmentation bringing about its ultimate end. It is wholly concievable that when things get tough, and the kleptocrats have made good use of the Jimmy Manyi's to secure un-regulated access to our natural resources, the leadership of blame will re-emerge in even scarier form to tear the country apart. Then, the discourse will have changed - it won't be about coloureds in the Western Cape anymore, or Indians in business, government and industry. Instead, it will be about there being too many Xhosa's in the eastern cape, or too many Zulus in Kwazulu-Natal, too many so-and-so's everywhere - whatever is convenient for the then leadership to get us slashing at each other's throats.
Anybody who lived through the violence in Kwazulu-Natal in the 80's knows where division leads. We also know how this violence was stoked by the then Apartheid government (remember the tricameral parliament?), and how their third force was employed to get us to kill each other and forget about what brings us together. Yet now we have a leadership that is stoking the very same fires, perhaps naively acting as though these fires won't eventually consume them and their children. By standing by Jimmy Manyi the ANC is clearly declaring it's devotion to a division and prejudice. They might as well stand by Eugene Terreblanche - being black does not automatically qualify you as incapable of prejudice. Everyone carries prejudice. The most dangerous people are those who are unaware of their own prejudice, or deny it, and therefore cannot confront and change it.
Owning up to prejudice is the first step towards dealing with it, like any problem a person may have. Manyi has no integrity, no courage, and no intellect, and he is unfit to represent the highest office in South Africa. Whether he has the courage to apologise and act on this will not depend on his sensibilities - it will rely on concerted pressure from media, civil society organisations and ANC members ... but who in the ANC will stand up against this? They're all to afraid that if they step out of line then the careful alliances and networks they have been cultivating over the past seventeen years will disappear, along with all the gravy train benefits. I want to remind the ANC that we spilt our blood, sacrificed families, lives and livelihoods to fight this struggle because we actually believed in non-racialism, and part of this is knowing how to take a stand. How could you have forgotten so soon how this freedom was won, that you trample upon it like an old racist from the Apartheid regime? Too scared to upset your benefactors? Too scared to be outed from the corridors of power?
Where is COSATU on this? Where is SACTAWU to explain how many coloureds in the Western Cape have been laid off in the post Apartheid era because we lowered trade barriers with Asia and cheap imports rendered our texile industry uncompetitive - where are they to explain how ravaged these forcibly removed coloured communities are in the Western Cape (i.e. by crime, drugs, gangsterism, hopelessness, apathy and social breakdown)? Where are they to explain the awful realities and history of foetal alcohol syndrome? No, we are just a bunch of coloureds in the western cape gaily dancing through the misery of an existence where you are judged as not white enough and not black enough at the same time, even though all you really want is to acknowledged as a human being. That is too much for the presidents office, who tells us there is an "oversupply of coloureds in the Western Cape". Mark my words, it won't be long before there will be 'too many Xhosa's in the Eastern Cape', and 'too many Zulus in KZN', and then we would have sunk too far beyond the point of return.
The time to act is now. The struggle didn't end just because you all started receiving big salaries. Ordinary people on the ground are still struggling against the same economic and social exclusions, everyday prejudice, lack of basic services, breakdown of social and community structures etc. that are a legacy of Apartheid. But instead of dealing with these, the presidency seeks to re-invent Verwoerds dream for him. He must be smiling in his grave, listening to Manyi, because he knows exactly where this kind of talk leads.