The past few weeks have been more than arduous for President Cyril Ramaphosa, as a volley of tribulations have come flying at him in quick succession. Though his usual strategy is to fob problems off with a charismatic smile and “I am innocent” platitudes, the public, it seems, is finally waking up to the possibility that Ramaphosa may not be their ‘Mr Clean – an image that corporate media has so ardently pushed to the chattering class over the years.
Oscar Mabuyane’s Eastern Cape election victory and his self-serving support for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s second term is not a triumph for the Native South African majority that is still colonised and economically subjugated more than 28 years into a ‘so-called’ Constitutional Democracy.
The relentless legal battles waged against our current South African Public Protector, Prosecutor and Ombudsman, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, are more about the concealment of the involvement of ANC Tripartite Alliance leadership in corruption in which White corporate bosses and certain members of the inner circle of the ANC Boys Club, including President Ramaphosa, are implicated.
A copy of the Report on the ANC Integrity Commission’s (IC) engagement with Minister Lindiwe Sisulu reads like a petty and contradictory missive written by those with a vindictive agenda to excise a senior member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) for apparently ‘going rogue’ on them. In it the IC recommends that the NEC should: “publicly reprimand Cde Sisulu and instruct her to write a public apology to the judiciary. It goes on to say: “If this instruction is ignored, appropriate action should be taken and the NEC should publicly distance the ANC from her harmful utterances, and apologise to the general public.”
PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY: THE ROBBEN ISLAND EX POLITICAL PRISONERS INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS PROGRAM.
03 FEBRUARY 2022.
We, as a collective of Ex Political Prisoners, are disturbed to note that Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was one of the first to jump into the boxing ring in response to Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulus’s long overdue article, Hi Mzansi, have we seen justice? After some reflection we are prompted to ask where Zondo fits into the scheme of things regarding the CR presidential campaign? Why would the Acting-Chief Justice risk engaging himself in a political fray when this can easily be construed as his involvement in a potential ‘conflict of interest’ on the eve of interviews and nominations for the position of the Chief Justice?
I was born in South Africa, classified ‘Indian’ by the Apartheid Government, schooled with and educated by Indians. I still maintain a family home, in what used to be and largely remains a Group Areas Act Indian settlement, in Northdale, Pietermaritzburg.
When I saw the news of Jackie Shandu’s comment, ‘one Indian, one bullet’, I was not filled with anger or moral outrage. I did not respond with shock or horror. My heart sank, and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of utter helplessness in the face of what I knew was going to be a backlash of mammoth proportion against this passionate young scholar and activist. I believe Shandu was attempting to express a National and unspeakabable grief (that is being suppressed and ignored in a most inhumane way) through his use of a turn of phrase that is symbolic in South Africa’s history of protest. This is, in my opinion, the legitimate use of artistic and literary device to vocally express that struggle and the lack of actual power or, as in this case, weapons.
To truly understand and obtain a holistic grasp of South African Indian racial prejudice of the kind that led to the Phoenix Massacre, and all manner of violence against Black bodies around the Province, including my town and area, one must have lived, breathed and moved among the ‘race’ as I have. But most importantly one must be seen as ‘wanting to belong’ to this cultural group, racial category, classified community, as apart from, and even against, other so-called ‘communities’, a term that seems to have become an accepted and constitutionally sanctioned euphemism for race. To associate with Blackness beyond any perfunctory level of interaction, such as labour, business or casual social niceties, is unusual, especially for Indian women. Inter-marriage is an ultimate taboo and will have you disowned, ostracised and isolated if not declared publicly insane.
It is difficult to be intellectual about what to me felt like an attempted genocide of Blacks by so-called ‘Indian Communities’. Discourse around Asian Anti-Black racism in Africa and abroad is by no means new. That Gandhi used racist notions of cultural superiority to plead the case of Indians as deserving better treatment and greater freedoms than their Black counterparts to the British is similarly well documented. To deny now, as absurd and untrue, that cultural, economic, socio-political and linguistic prejudices and behaviours kindled and nurtured by the Apartheid state and perpetuated beyond it by the permanence of the Group Areas Act as the ultimate social and racially motivated social engineering experiment, has led to this bloody moment in South Africa’s violent history, is National mental illness and tragic delusion.
I am terrified of Indian racism in South Africa. I don’t remember an exact moment of any realisation of it, but the recollection of my fear of it began as a child. It was triggered by sight, sound and general sense. The tones of voice and body language reserved for Blacks. The jobs reserved for Blacks. The language reserved for Blacks. The dishes and utensils reserved for Blacks. With the privilege of an educated and politically involved family, as well as by virtue of being in the Christian minority among Hindu’s and Muslims, my inter-racial social interactions were unusual compared to my peers. We socialised to some extent with people of all races and class. There was no overt racism in our household (which is not to say that it did not exist), which made it all the more complex and difficult to comprehend when confronted with the extremities of it among peers. Apartheid was ultimately a lived reality based on difference that we wore like second skin.
The late eighties ushered in a new era of discourse in Indian High Schools. Suddenly we were discussing the potential repercussions of a New South Africa in which we would have to integrate or at the very least assimilate. The idea seemed inconceivable. My most outstanding recollections of those debates were that the boys were up in arms that their half-clothed sisters would be at the mercy of Black predators at the local Olympic Swimming Pool. Any dissention was seen as lunacy and sexual deviance. General racist slurs, the gruesome sexual dehumanisation of the Black female body in casual conversation, the construction of the Black male body as representative of physical threat and sexual violence was the everyday stuff of my teenage years.
Thirty years later, the more things have changed the more they have stayed the same. I have developed a near phobia of leaving my yard for fear of what I will see or hear beyond it. They WE us THEM decent blacks LOOTERS stupid illiterate useless K……For the duration of the period in which so-called communities felt the need to patrol the suburbs armed with artillery, knives, sporting equipment, garden and household cleaning implements as well as Bob whistles in defence of their lives and property, I lurked awake, night after night, sick with fear that the men marching up and down past my house would get what they desperately wanted – A Black to kill, preferably a Zulu, but any would do. People died here. But it wasn’t a massacre and we’ll never know. People died all over. And we’ll never know. But we do know about Phoenix.
When Jackie Shandu made his statements on the stairs of Durban City Hall last week, I had yet to have seen any public comment or media coverage that located the Phoenix Massacre, or any other racially motivated violence in the Province, within the context of deep-seated entrenched Apartheid racism among White, Coloured and Indian so-called communities. The prevailing narrative was one of stubborn defence. While the bloodletting continued unabated the SA Human Rights Commission, the DA, African Democratic Change, The South African Hindu Maha Sabha and eThekwini Municipality said and did nothing. The contrasting response of the public to so-called Hate Speech as opposed to Hate Action speaks volumes of the hypocrisy upon which this Democracy is based.
Jackie Shandu retracted his statement for obvious reasons, made as they were ‘in the heat of the moment’. Had he not, I would support him anyway. If Mr Shandu is to be held up to the Nation as an example of the consequences of ‘hate speech’ where are the warrants of arrests for the hundreds of Indians, Whites and Coloureds (including teenagers) who filmed and posted to social media their hateful, barbaric incitements to murder (and in at least one instance rape) Blacks in so-called defence of property? Until that time, when the daily humiliation, deprivation and dehumanisation of Black Africans by Indians (and other minorities) is boldly acknowledged and addressed at its root I will stand by my support of both Mr Shandu and his statement and continue to reject the racist identity of ‘Indianness’ foisted upon me by both the Apartheid and current government, as an abomination and embarrassment. Bite that bullet.
The rain beats purposefully down upon the tin roof. The sound is orchestral and makes it all the more difficult for me to hold in last night’s drink now terrorizing my four year old bladder. Grandpa snores gently at the far end of the gigantic bed. He is a Health Inspector and rides a motorcycle. Sometime he lets me wear his helmet and pretend to ride but no matter how hard I try to stretch my fingers across I cannot grasp both the handles and the brakes simultaneously. Granny’s chest heaves beside me under the stifling guthrie (A heavy covering made of many old blankets stitched together and covered). If I wake her now, she will be cross and grumpy. She will swear and curse under her breath so as not to wake grandpa, and pinch my arm and push me hastily down the slippery, ragged brick path to the outside shed. There I will climb up the gigantic wooden box and straddle myself across the pit-drop toilet while the paraffin lamp in her hand casts a ghostly glow over the proceedings. Tomorrow, I have been warned, THE PRISONERS are coming to fetch THE WASTE. I am to remain indoors and out of sight for the duration of this event under threat of a severe beating if I don’t. I wonder what THE PRISONERS will look like. I think of THE HOBBIAHS in the story that Ayah reads to me, with their red eyes and sharp teeth, tap tap tapping on the tin roof. I am thrilled and terrified that they are coming. I know I will creep creep creep to the curtain and squint through the tiniest gap in its togetherness tomorrow.
I squirm and try to HOLDIT. That’s what my mother always says when I need to go at a bad time. HOLDIT! I shift under the burden of blankets, careful not to tumble over the edge of the bed, and ponder the afternoon’s events.
My mother has been attacked by ASMA. Ayah packs my bag and dad drives me in his Valiant along the narrow, winding, dusty sugar-cane road from Shakaskraal to Verulam where I am left with my maternal grandparents because mum has had an ASMA attack. I love driving with my dad. I like to listen to the humming of the mammoth motor car, peering at the clouds through the little square window of my made-in-china plastic camera, a little replica of my dad’s real one. It has a button that clicks and a little lever that whirrs when I turn it; just like the sound of dad’s each time he whirrs the film to take a new picture. I don’t mind being away from Mum. Even when she is not being attacked by ASMA she is in a bad mood. One time she broke plates. I think it was my fault. Grandpa says I’m a good girl but mum says I’m not. She smacks me when I pick the flowers from her garden but I can’t help it. They are so pretty and inviting, especially the little purple ones with the yellow and black tumbling all out of the middle that she keeps on special shelves in a special place on the veranda. They are AFRIKIN VYLITS. Come and look at my AFRIKIN VYLITS says mum when there are visitors and they have finished their tea. Besides there is plenty to be done at granny’s house – chickens to feed, eggs to gather, dogs to pet, cats to chase, fruit to eat. Maybe a visit to the shops would yield granny sweets; hot, sharp peppermint disks wrapped tightly together under a wrapping that said XXX. My taste buds had tingled in anticipation as I lay back and closed my eyes into the sun, colours popping and bursting in my brain. And dad driving.
The tin shack has a kitchen with an enormous primus stove, a small bedroom hardly larger than the enormous bed and a modest lounge. It nestles below road level at the bottom of a curving, sandy driveway, neighbourless and surrounded by bush and a small forest of litchi and mango trees. Behind the house a dull concrete building is divided in to a single parking garage and a large coop; beside this are scattered kennels and cages of the rescued creatures that the WHITE LADIES of the Animal Anti-cruelty League bring to Granny en route to their new and hopefully happier lives. One time there was even a goose that chased me. I’d run for my life from the creature, as it snapped and hawed at me, running and jumping and leaping, clumsy and deranged. I’d burst into the kitchen, slamming the flimsy door shut in the nick of time, it’s breath still hot on my behind. I try not to remember my fear and make another concerted effort to HOLDIT.
When the WHITE LADIES come I have to stay out of the way and be quiet. Granny takes out the special WHITE LADIES cups and saucers. Grandpa and Mum look like white people but they are not. Granny is short and round and dark. She is definitely not a white people. Ayah is a HINDOO. She has mandarin skin. She was dark like granny but wanted to be light like mum so she tried a medicine that didn’t work and now she has mandarin skin and no one will ever marry her so she has to look after me forever. She likes to sing. Sometimes when there are weddings she dresses up in a fancy sari and sings a special song. Then she doesn’t look like my ayah any more. Then she looks like a HINDOO princess, like the pictures above the brass lamp in her father’s barbershop. Mum never wears saris. Mum wears WHITE LADIES clothes. Sometimes she even wears trousers. Ayah says mum is a very special lady because she looks like a WHITE LADY. Ayah says I am very lucky that a WHITELOOKING lady like my Mum is looking after a DARKLOOKING girl like me. She says Mum and Dad broughtmefromthehospital when I was two weeks old. Ayah also says sosadshecanthaveherownchild.
Granny has saris. She has cut one of them in half for me, lengthwise, to drape around myself; the pleats stitched together, easy to wind round and round and fling over my shoulder as I sing the made up words to my HINDOO songs. Only today, though, I have been slapped for singing in my sari. For a second I forget to HOLDIT as I remember the stinging humiliation of the afternoon.
Ayah had taken me to a prayer. There had been bells and shells and lots of singing and sweet things to eat. I thought of the singing when dad had left me and driven off in a cloud of sand. I could remember some of the words. REAL WORDS! That was much better than the silly MADEUP words I would sing, to the tunes of HINDOO songs granny and grandpa listened to in the evenings on their record player that looked like a little square suitcase, while whirling and twirling in my little sari. PAR PAR ZINDAGEEEEE KAHBI KAHBI MERE SONA HE LALALA AH AH OH OH ….
HARE RAMA, HARE KRISHNA, HARE, HARE, HARE, HARE! I sang in my sari. HARE RAMA, RAMA RAMA, KRISHNA KRISHNA!!! I sang in my sari and whirled and twirled in the fading light watching and listening for the purr of grandpa’s motorcycle coming down the drive in the looming dusk. HARE RAMA HARE KRISHNA … The sudden grab of my arm, the twisting pinching flesh, the quick-fast five-fingered explosion of pain in my gums and teeth and eyes, so unexpected, sucking the sails out of my sari as granny shrieks and shrieks. DON SING THAT, DON SING THAT, WE ARE KRISTIANS WE ARE KRISTIANS. SING ANY OTHER WORDS ANY OTHER WORDS NOT THAT NOT THAT!!!!
HOLDIT HOLDIT HOLDIT HOLDIT.
The big black umbrella has kept our heads dry, but our feet and legs are wet from the rushing river of rain that races over the path to the pit. I may as well have peed in my pants I was so wet. Granny huffs and puffs under her breath, heaving and cleaving and towelling us dry before putting out the lamp and curling back under the covers. STUPIDGIRL STUPIDGIRL STUPIDGIRL.
HARE RAMA, HARE KRISHNA … I dream that I am singing in a sari. DON SING THAT, DON SING THAT, WE ARE KRISTIANS WE ARE KRISTIANS shout the WHITE LADIES. Dad is driving, mum is wearing trousers, I am a brown cloud of dust and THE PRISONERS are coming to fetch the AFRIKIN VYLITS.
Juanita Chitepo is a Theatre practitioner, musician, educationalist and writer. National Arts Festival Fringe Productions comprise a solo performance in Masquerade of Mannequins, a play exploring Indian Female Identity in SA; Speaking Spaces/ Archaeology of an African Identity, a play about the still birth of the Rainbow Nation work-shopped with and performed by Grade 10 to 12 students from 5 PMB High Schools and SOUNDGAZE: Moving Images of Marie in Woyzeck, an Inter-medial interpretation of the original comprising a live band, an original score and photographic images. She has been published by Chimurenga Magazine and National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe.
The list of black people being murdered and brutalised grows by the minute. It’s not just by police officers and military but people behind the uniform they are wearing and the system, aka systemic racism, that backs up police and military action. Basically, systemic racism is anti-black practices, the unjustly gained political and economic power of white people, the continuing economic and other resource inequalities along racial lines, and the white racist ideologies and attitudes created to maintain and rationalize white privilege and power.
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: