Adam Habib is not me. Sipho Singiswa questions Adam Habib’s appointment as Director of SOAS by University of London.

By Sipho Singiswa

As an indigenous Black South African I write to express my dismay and disgust at the recent appointment of outgoing WITS Vice Chancellor, Adam Habib, as Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) by the University of London. Board Member Marie Staunton, the Chair of the SOAS Board of Trustees has this to say in her pleasure at his appointment:

“I am delighted that we are able to make this appointment of Prof Adam Habib as the next Director of SOAS. From an impressive field, he was the outstanding candidate to succeed Baroness Valerie Amos, our current Director.

His record of leadership in South Africa, his academic pedigree, his outspoken commitment to diversity and equality, his willingness to challenge received wisdom across society, his commitment to engagement with the student community and his vision on key issues such as decolonisation, make him a superb fit for SOAS and the values we share.”

I ask Staunton and those responsible for this rewarding of Habib, if they are aware of the disdain and anger that many indigenous South Africans have for him after his role in the utter brutalisation of Black students rising up in the Fees Must Fall movement and protest for the free education that was promised to them in the Freedom Charter? Are they aware that our Black majority views Habib as a hypocrite and a conduit for the racism that continuously plagues us?

The mention of ‘his commitment to engagement with the student community and his vision on key issues such as decolonisation’, begs some unpacking.

Let us take you back to Fees Must Fall over the period of 2015 to 2017.

It was during the Fees Must Fall uprising that Habib’s hypocritical and racist attitude was exposed through his consent to the politically-motivated brutalisation of indigenous African students in protest, which resulted in scores of students being maimed and many hospitalised through the attack on them – firstly through the deployment of private security and then through the apparatus of the state security cluster, both being let loose on students under Habib’s stewardship. Why does none of this seems to matter to the London University, which  seemingly rewards him for his brutality. He gets to go abroad and leave the matter of reparations for the traumatised students untended to.  He is not even asked to account for his role in the multiple atrocities against the student community. Afterall, he came across as ‘reasonable and on the side of the students’ in Rehad Desai’s film on the uprising titled Everything Must Fall, as one Fallist told me. 

The question this throws up for me is why the global system continuously rewards those who willingly campaign against reasonable demands from the Black collective?  I am further forced to ask if some minority group members view their claim to Blackness as just another stepping stone in their career. Where is this visceral connection to what it means to be Black and indigenous in South Africa and Habib’s part time Black status?  How does Habib’s claim to Blackness resonate with the masses whom he so easily throws under the bus when it comes to protecting the neoliberal system? Is he in anyway, qualified to speak on behalf of, or even represent Africans? In my view he does not represent my experience of being African or Black in any shape or form.

His political expedience and selective ideological amnesia is a case in point. As a Xhosa adage summarises, he speaks from both sides of the mouth. He is notably Machiavellian in his ability to slither to any side of the ideological scale and pretend to be sympathetic toward the black economic and decolonial struggle, while simultaneously assisting the state, in partnership with white capital, to smash a youth struggle that threatens their status quo.

I am  reminded of the ideological hypocrisy that forms the basis for  the charlatan relations that currently exists between the racist Israeli government and the ANC government. On the one hand the ANC officially professes, on public platforms, to support the Palestinian people’s struggle for justice, while, on the other hand, some of its leaders are  simultaneously doing business with Israeli entities in trading,  allegedly including military components.  It is also rumoured that the ruling party receives election funding from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, a staunch supporter of the Israel policy of illegal occupation of Palestinian ancestral land. This ideological fraud is no different to Habib’s fraudulent claim to Blackness. As Biko denoted – Blackness is a state of mind.

This young woman told us that she answered a knock on her door – she says she opened thinking it was a friend and a group of three cops burst in. She relates how one of the men beat her and then one shot her while she was fending them off. She has had to undergo a number of surgeries since then and reports that she was barred from writing exams after this incident. David Webster Residence, WITS.
 #HabibsApartheid #FeesMustFal#BlackLivesMatter

And, just like FW de Klerk was rewarded with a Noble Peace for presiding over apartheid policies and protecting white monopoly capital while continuing to defend and paint the history of colonial and apartheid brutality with a veneer of respectability to the western world, Habib has been similarly rewarded with a Directorship position at SOAS at the University of London, for helping to defend and protect entrenched apartheid-based minority privileges and attitudes that trample on the basic rights of the indigenous majority. He too has painted the violence against Fallists in a veneer of respectability and this has obviously been swallowed hook line and sinker by his London colleagues.

This is the man who favoured the employment and deployment of militia from South Africa’s apartheid era as well as from war torn African countries, who are now employed in privately owned South African security companies.  (These mercenaries, studies show, have most likely committed human rights atrocities against innocent civilians, including women, children and vulnerable elderly people in the countries of their origins before fleeing to or being head-hunted to South Africa.)  It is obvious that, based on his conservative political considerations as well as being one of the pet gate-keepers favoured by white liberal South Africa, that Habib rubberstamped the employment of the former militia members precisely because they had no loyalty to, nor sympathy with, the struggles of oppressed ‘South African’ people.

What makes it worse is that these militia members are mostly in the employment and control of former apartheid security force officers who include members of apartheid  ‘Death Squads’ commandos. These same security companies are often used in controversial political destabilisation of communities engaged in social transformation protest and Fees Must Fall was no different. These security bosses are often the very same players who were instrumental in the violence during the height of the liberation struggle against the apartheid regime and its state/business sponsored ‘so-called’ Black-On-Black violence, something that FW de Klerk still defends while denying  ‘apartheid atrocities’ as a crime against humanity. Similarly Habib defends his heavy handed tactics against the black student collective and also denies the human rights atrocities enacted by the militia style war he facilitated against the students.  

Bullet cartridges at Webster House Wits after a night of terror in which Habib called a curfew which played out like Apartheid’s state of emergency .The collection (not complete)of rubber bullets in the David Webster res shot into the windows on the night of the sudden curfew, at students who were ducking for cover in the one space they thought was safe.
#HabibsApartheid #FeesMustFall #PoliceBrutality #BlackLivesMatter #BlackChild

When Habib’s employed militia-type thugs could not put an end to the  #FeesMustFall student protest, despite the well-orchestrated brutality towards the students, he requested and/or consented to  the assistance of the Task Force Police – which escalated the brutality towards the students, as well as the workers, who had joined the protest for the promised free education and the decolonisation of the education system in the white minority dominated universities in South Africa.  

Habib’s consent to the this militia style brutality on the WITS campus can be justifiably likened to the violent apartheid attack on the Black youth during the 1976 student uprising.  Habib’s reckless Trump-style attitude and consent to the use of state brutality resulted in countless human-rights abuses and hundreds of young African students being maimed, many with serious injury resulting in a number of surgeries. Many faced jail time. The psychological trauma has also never been factored into the aftermath of #FMF and many of the students were, and continue to be, emotionally and psychologically traumatised by this brutality.  

There is no doubt in my mind that the brutality was thus because it was a rising of majority Black students who were on the more radical side of the struggle.  The Biko, Fanon and Sankara (ists)  who were calling for a just, pro-black social order, received the worst of it. Habib, it seems, specifically targeted the EFF and PASMA students during his rule of terror over that period.

As a former leader of the 1976 student uprising in Cape Town, an ex Robben Island political prisoner and a filmmaker and social justice activist, I experienced and recorded this brutality directly and I state that the violence against the Black Child was no different to that engaged in by the apartheid state in 1976. Habib, in Voster-esque authority, was relentless in his will to smash the student uprising at any cost and he acted against the student community rather than with them.

What experience of indigenous African suffering and Black pain will Habib be speaking from when he arrogantly rubbishes Black Epistemology and Ontology in the current political and educational environment? In our indigenous African framework he is an upholder of the apartheid education system and just like many like-minded gate-keepers with ‘manufactured’ struggle credentials, he plays a key role in the sustaining of racist stereotyping of indigenous African people from his position as a beneficiary of the ongoing system of separate development that protects apartheid style minority privileges at the expense of the indigenous African majority.

It is also interesting to note that in certain inner-political circles in which the liberation struggle principles still exist, there are speculations about Habib’s struggle credentials, which, many have said, seem to have enjoyed a boost from the CIA allegedly placing him on the list of persona non-grata on US soil.  The White-owned media houses created so much hype about this possible political stunt without probing any deeper than the surface, and one can only wonder at what their end game was.  Habib’s name is nowhere to be found on the list of of the apartheid government’s formerly secret document listing the 7000 enemies of the apartheid state. Some say this stunt was a set-up to ratify his position as a gatekeeper using his ‘struggle credentials’, to give him some political legitimacy to infiltrate the African political environment for effective diversion. Who knows –  but unfortunately this speculation is not easily his ignored given his pompous and off-the-cuff political rhetoric, which exposes his deeply held negative attitude towards the African people’s struggle for equality.

And again we have to ask what criterion the London University used in their appointment of this self-serving, pompous gate-keeper who masquerades behind the ‘Black Identity’ when it suits his mostly neoliberal agenda, as a suitable representative of the African subject?

How do we Africans come to terms with this affront to our collective psyche, especially in the face of Habib’s brutal repression of indigenous African students and his well-documented racism towards the indigenous African people?  In his trope it is clear that Black Lives do not Matter. Why are the indigenous South African academics and intellectuals quiet about this hypocritical appointment of a known anti-black gatekeeper? What happened to the notion of authentic representation of the oppressed that was one of the mantras of the South African liberation struggle for justice , equality and democracy? 

Does this mean there are no indigenous African intellectuals and academics qualified enough to head a Department of African and Oriental studies in the whole of the African continent, to a point where the hypocrites in London chose to appoint a purveyor of anti-black sentiment, and a rubber stamper of violence toward my people, as a representative of the historical and current Black condition in a country that pushes white business at the expense of all.

Adam Habib does not represent my African Identity any more than a white oppressor does. He must be called to account for his role in the multiple brutal aggressions aimed at Black students over Fees Must Fall. We will not rest until justice has been served.

#AdamHabibIsNotMe

#BlackLivesMatter

#AfricanRestistance

Sipho Singiswa is a struggle veteran having been a student leader in Western Cape in the 1976 uprisings. He was arrested at the age of 15 by the apartheid police and spent 2 years in and out of solitary confinement in the apartheid prison system where he underwent months of torture. He was then sentenced to Robben Island for 5 years. His name is listed on the 7000 enemies of the apartheid state.

Click on these links to view the war against the Fallists on Wits Campus.

Time for a woman to take the reins?

By Gillian Schutte.

The presidential race is underway and for the first time in our democracy a woman, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is presented as a definite contender. An interesting by-product of this is that the matter of the ongoing underrepresentation of women across society and in government is back on the table and being hotly discussed on social media.

Though it is said that women enjoy more cabinet representation in South Africa than many other countries on the continent, there is still a long way to go. Statistics show that despite the fact that women outnumber men in South Africa we have remained a male-dominated society. Women in business, in politics and in institutions still earn less than men. Few top positions are filled by women as the glass ceiling is still firmly in place. In this system black women are the most compromised as witnessed in the low numbers of black women in leadership positions across the board. Those who are black, female as well as poor are most unable to enter the neoliberal market and are forced to eke out a living on the margins of society.

All this came to mind as I watched Lindiwe Sisulu give the keynote address at the annual memorial lecture in honor of struggle stalwart, Lilian Ngoyi, in Khayelitsha last weekend. Her feminist and pro-poor delivery was resonant and this got me thinking about what sort of President she would make and how hard it would be for a woman of her stature to run for this position in an administration that remains male dominated.

Feminists from across the political spectrum have been hopeful for some years that a woman president would be elected in South Africa. Thus far all the political parties remain headed by men or have an overwhelmingly higher number of men in office. This means that despite a constitution that promises equality between the sexes, the issue of institutional patriarchy still remains. Until we see equal representation of women in business and in politics, we cannot argue otherwise.

It was revealed in the media recently that Sisulu may also join the presidential race and has been on the receiving end of death threats as a result. Though she has not verified her involvement political writers have indicated that she has the backing of key branches in the Eastern Cape as well as many struggle stalwarts and MK Veterans. Student leaders such as Mcebo Dlamini have publicly declared their support of her saying that students will not be ashamed to march beside her.

But in a male dominated administration it is clear that if Sisulu does campaign she will not only have to run the gauntlet of men in power, many of whom would no doubt resist her efforts, she will also have to deal with the lack of support from women within the ANC ranks since she is effectively running against the Women’s League choice of candidate. To complicate matters further it has been said that Dlamini-Zuma is also Number One’s number one choice.

With a Women’s League that has been harshly critiqued as an organisation that has lost its way and spends its time and resources spin-doctoring on behalf of President Zuma instead of fulfilling its mandate around women’s rights, it seems inevitable that Sisulu will not get support from those quarters within the cabinet. Some have said that they take their instruction from the men on top and lack the feminist agency that one would expect from a movement with its roots in the struggle for justice for women. In fact many say that the Women’s League’s dismal track record shows exactly how little they do to address the multiple injustices meted out to women in South Africa, particularly those surviving on the margins of our economy. Feminists have written on social media that they have become a useless entity there to serve the patriarchy instead of their own constituency.

There have also been strident voices on social media intimating that it is no surprise that Zuma is campaigning for Dlamini-Zuma in the succession race, insisting that she remains beholden to him via relationship and history and is his ‘stay out of jail’ ticket as well as a conduit through which he can maintain his network of patronage and his fingers in the Treasury coffers. Her current campaign tour, on which she has been given presidential security despite not being Member of Parliament nor a registered VIP, has been criticised and she has already been accused in the media of spreading divisive politics. This all compromises her own track record and as a woman in her own right. Dlamini-Zuma, who attained her medical degree at a time when to be black and female meant exclusion, is not the empty vessel that some chauvinistic writers have described her to be. She has held top office in the ANC government and has just completed her term as the first female chair of the AU.

But the fact that she is backed by The Women’s League in cabinet seemingly means that no other woman except the one selected by Zuma himself, will receive the much needed backing and lobbying from them – a matter that sources say, has created tensions within the ranks of the ANC. Apparently since Sisulu has become a potential contender the gloves are off and she is being undermined and disparaged by many of her female colleagues who say she is more of a fashion model than a leader and other such demeaning insults.

If this is true it is an all too familiar scenario that occurs in any environment where patriarchy has taken root and women are forced to play second fiddle. I’ve heard stories from other political parties, progressive social movements, universities and NGO’s that there are always exploitative men who will subject young women to sexual misuse and manipulate more susceptible women to wage war on the strong women leaders who pose a threat to their boys club.

This was a conversation that occurred throughout the Fees Must Fall Movement for example, when female students contested the domination of leadership spaces by men, decreeing that there could be no revolution until patriarchy falls.

Some independent studies suggest that until all women recognise systemic and attitudinal patriarchy as the thing that thwarts their career progress, chances are they will turn on each other in the workplace where patriarchal approval is often the only thing they can rely on to get ahead. Instead of uniting with other women to deal with this institutional chauvinism that continues to undercut them, creates glass ceilings for them and systematically sets them against each other these studies suggest that women will often internalize patriarchy as a way to survive this inequality.

Nowhere is this divide and rule approach more visible than when women are vying with men for political power. In a world where women still have to work doubly hard to gain the same approval as men or to secure social and political power, it is no surprise that this often materialises in hostile marginalisation of women by women. And sources close to Sisulu say that she on the receiving end of this syndrome and is thus being frozen out by the pro-Zuma faction of the women’s league, in response to her possible campaign for presidency.

Sisulu’s arrival as a potential contender in the presidential race has destabilised many it seems. This inimical response could have a lot to do with her stellar track record, not only as a former liberation fighter and senior in the MK, but also because she holds a very senior position in the NEC being one of the longest serving ministers in the cabinet. She also has an impressive record in good governance, an impressive academic record and has published several academic articles pertaining to women’s contribution to the struggle, women in the agricultural sector, and worker women’s rights amongst others. This will endear her to many women from across the sectors especially if her campaign highlights her contributions to knowledge-production around issues that affect their lives. Her CV is studded with global awards and currently I am told, she is doing her second PhD with Leeds University.

It is possible that she is recognised as the dark horse in this race? Could this be why she received death threats even as a comrade who has held the office of Minister of Defense and Military Veterans, Minister of Public Service and Administration and who is currently serving as Minister of Human Settlements.

Not only that but her work on the proposed anti-corruption bill will stand her it good stead with many voters who are sick and tired of the news around endless corruption and patronage within the ANC and the business sector.

If the rumours around Dlamini-Zuma and her inextricable ties to President Zuma hold any truth it would seem more prudent and progressive for the ANCWL to back someone of Sisulu’s stature. This would provide an ideal opportunity for women to become a united front to take the women’s cause forward, independent of the patriarchy. If anyone is up for this it is more likely to be Sisulu, who would come in as an independent candidate without any of the tribalism and benefaction baggage that Dlamini-Zuma has allegedly been coerced into dragging into her campaign for presidency.

This could be the ideal point in South African history for women to band together and vote a solid woman candidate into presidency. It could well be that Sisulu is exactly what the South African voting constituency is looking for after the Zuma and Marikana era, and she could well be the ideal candidate to win this race and to stitch back together the ANC’s tattered image.

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Snatching the Mic off Black Rage

By Gillian Schutte

I am an ardent supporter of ‘profane tongue’ as a protest performance tool when used to challenge and interrupt the violence inherent in the dominant discourse. I am also a supporter of the shit wars and regard the unfolding of the port-a-potty protests as the most potent disruption of elitist hegemony in a post 94 South Africa – followed by the Rhodes must Fall campaign.

At a time in our history where the collective is brutally suppressed and black anger is presented on mainstream media as the ultimate violence, the marginalised masses find new and inventive ways to make their grievances heard. If this means spewing the human waste that they are forced to live in, into the sanitised public spaces of the well heeled, then we should applaud their bravery and inventiveness. In a neo-colonial world order where democracy and human rights for the rich means “shoot to kill” for the poor, it stands to reason that protest becomes a desperate cry for the recognition of the collective and individual humanity of the disenfranchised.

Like it or not, defecation is the most visceral and inevitable aspect of being human no matter what your class, race or gender. By importing the unfettered faeces of the poor collective, who live with dismally inadequate sanitation, into the deodorised spaces of those who are able to flush their own faeces away in actual toilets, they are successfully exposing the extreme and dehumanising cruelty of a Capitalist system that privileges some and entirely de-privileges others.

By the same token using so-called ‘dirty language’ to express frustration at enduring white hegemony or at political elitism is an equally valid form of insurrection, as is stencilling profanities onto monoliths of race-based power rooted in a protracted history of colonialism and representative of entrenched white male privilege – such as Jameson Hall at UCT.

Of course the common sense response from the privileged class to the use of the profane in protest is usually shock and outrage. They decry the animalistic behaviour of the filthy bodied, filthy mouthed, uneducated poor. They criminalise their desperation. They cover their noses, eyes and ears and demand that ‘these people’ are taken in hand and disciplined, incarcerated and even massacred if needs be. They consent to the militarisation of the police force to keep the ‘unclean’ out of their pristine spaces.

Sometimes they use elitist theory to delegitimise the intellectual premise for black protest in supercilious articles brimming with white supremacy masquerading as academic thought.

Or they just shut off the mic.

Theirs is an infantile semantic reaction. They decide how things ought to be and transpose their own set of meaning and values onto the poo protests, onto Rhodes must Fall and onto the defacement of Jameson Hall. Instead of engaging the semiotics of this protest action from the subaltern perspective they insist that this is just bad behaviour. They develop top-down arguments to criminalise black struggle and to silence black Rage.

Italian theoretician, Antonio Gramsci, argued that Capitalism maintains its control not only through state violence but also through a hegemonic culture, which propagates its own values and norms into a ‘common sense value system’ that is imposed on all. Its managers are enacted through lobbying and political funding into the realms of political influence, the mainstream media, the judiciary and the academy. Through this well-oiled network they work together to maintain the status quo.

The chattering class’s superficial discourse is influenced by this ahistorical, depoliticized dominant discourse and is, for the most part, lacking in underlying wisdom. Its logic is built on debating skills, personality cults, common sense fallacies and individualistic narratives constructed to push the illusion of a bourgeois social superpower.

It is through social and mainstream media chatter that the middle classes amplify their outrage and become the self-appointed arbiters of norms and standards as they move towards being the new dictators. Whilst paying lip service to progressive values they demand from the system, often in silent complicity, that more fascist methods are used against the poor collective when it challenges their sense of decorum.

State, as it becomes increasingly corporatised and oligarchical, readily obliges. They rely on this middle class consent to keep the masses down – ensuring that the collective is broken, abused, and fractured to avert real possibility of mass revolt.

Civil Rights activist, educator and author, Dr Cornel West, talks of this syndrome in the US context in his critique of President Obama. He calls it the co-opting of black individuals by neoliberalism. As West has written “We live in a time of ruthless ambition and individual upward mobility. This has largely obliterated the collective fightback and basically the black elite class have betrayed the black poor.”

The black elite class is what Left critics refer to as those neoliberal blacks who are useful to white hegemony, because they can easily pay lip service to the black cause in convincing language – but when it comes down to it, it is clear which master they serve. In South Africa this is also seen in black protectors of white hegemony – social and media gatekeepers who perform as if they are critical of systemic issues, but scratch the surface and it is nothing more than self-serving empty rhetoric that is ‘well adjusted’ to the status quo.

It is they who snatch the mics off expressions of black anger when their masters become uncomfortable.

In an entrenched hyper-capitalist system such as South Africa, the dominant discourse enduringly emanates from white monopoly capital bolstered by the black elite who benefit form it. It remains a “Master Narrative’ based on bourgeois norms and values. This narrative is often at loggerheads with the wider black narrative – especially when the black elite chooses to rebel against this white cultural hegemony, as happened around “The Spear” debacle. But for the most part the state is complicit in the white cultural and economic hegemonic in this country.

It is no wonder then that a young black audience member would shout out “Fuck whites” at the Ruth First Memorial Lecture – in utter frustration at the constant pushing of systemic whiteness in public spaces as well as the co-option of radical spaces by an increasingly corporatized liberal academic echelon. It is also no wonder that in an epoch where rampant individualism has taken the place of the collective, as observed by West, that a black liberal celebrity compere would take it upon himself to cut off the mic held by the frustrated interjector.

Switching off the microphone that amplified black anger, metaphorically and literally, is just what is expected of them. They are willing to be the mascots of what West calls the ‘superficial spectacle and hyper-visible celebrity born out of the culture of raw ambition and instant success. They are co-opted and incorporated into the neoliberal regime’ and are used to legitimate the ‘colourblind’ capitalist agenda.

But when they are exposed for doing the master’s bidding and reveal themselves to be complicit in the liberalist anti-black agenda, they quick-talk their way out of it using debate tricks and duplicitous discourse inherent in the Nature of neoliberalism. They play host to a non-existent radicalised consciousness and claim that white supremacy is high on their agenda.

Yet you will be hard pressed to find a radical critique of Capitalism and its reliance on the violence of white hegemony in their body of work.

As Angela Davis has warned: “Since the rise of global capitalism and related ideologies associated with neoliberalism, it has become especially important to identify the dangers of individualism. Progressive struggles—whether they are focused on racism, repression, poverty or other issues—are doomed to fail if they do not also attempt to develop a consciousness of the insidious promotion of capitalist individualism.”

The act of switching off the microphone of a Black person expressing his anger and pain which is rooted in a brutal colonial history, is the violence of whitist complicit bourgeois hegemony. It is racism by proxy. It decides on what the rules of engagement will be. It decides on the parameters of “freedom of expression”. It decides on what is acceptable or moral behaviour. It trivialises Black protest voice as fraudulent or labels it as violent.

If it is called out it will easily use the progressive struggle language available in its arsenal, to deny this conservatism and appease a black constituency.

The new liberalist trend is to push the dominant discourse and then attack dissenters with self-serving platitudes about their own ‘progressive’ agenda whilst dictating the terms and policing black rage.

You can’t push whitist cultural hegemony and then claim, in debate savvy doublespeak, that you are doing the opposite.

Oh wait – apparently you can in this slippery neoliberal epoch which relies on forked tongue discourse to maintain the status quo.

Who but the chattering class is buying it?

If you use the master’s tools to manage ‘Black rage’ or shut down counter-hegemonic language then you are working for the master – no matter how much you bleat the opposite.

An edited version of this was published in Sunday Independent 30/08/2015