The liberals have all been suckered

2012-03-17 09:00

It was with an anxious measure of foreboding (from liberals) that I read in last week’s edition Mr Cyril Ramaphosa’s gentlemanly reprimand of the media in the wake of public criticism of the mooted “review” of the Constitution by the ruling party.

I take a different, though not opposite, view of the matter.

Liberals (in the classic sense in which the Black Consciousness Movement used the term in the 1970s) and their sympathisers are foaming at the mouth with ­affected rage. Why?

Well, black people in power started ­talking about “reviewing” the Constitutional Court. Horror of horrors! But what does that mean exactly?

The trouble is that while we black ­people have largely gone out of our way to learn the English language, its idiom and its phonetic frailties, white people have largely ignored our efforts and instead make merry over our pathetic ­attempts to sound like them and look like them – what with the now fashionable trails of “human hair” and skin-lightening creams by which the Krok brothers have become relatively well off.

In that process, malapropisms and rampant mispronunciation have become ­entrenched in black English speech.

Meanings are lost in the mirth, and the proverbial Tower of Babel has sprung up only to collapse in a heap of engineered misunderstanding.

The root of this is that the only means we (black people) have had to convey our ability, intelligence and competence over the years has been a rich English diction coupled with an indispensable twangy or nasal accent. Anything but native speech patterns would do. Akere we had no ­opportunities in our chosen professions to demonstrate our abilities?

So, it became a survival motif to sound intelligent, clever and competent. Then we learnt that white people started ­believing that if it sounds clever, then it must be clever.

Inevitably then, “high” English was born and the twang and nasal pronunciation resonated with those of us looking for a ticket out of the township.

We started saying “comity” to mean “committee”; “corporation” meaning “co-operation”; “beggar” to mean “burger”; “anonymous” to mean “unanimous”. We started using words like “clever” when we mean “intelligent”; phrases like “in the ­final analysis” when we mean “in the result”; “as a consequence” when we mean “as a result”; and, yes, “review” when we mean “assess”. Therein lies the rub.

“Review” has a jurisprudential ring to it (see, I told you we like “high” English); “assess” does not.

Given our history of cultivating an appearance of intelligence and competence by words and accents, no black president or Cabinet minister worth his or her seat in Parliament will be caught dead using a simple word like “assess” when he can say “review” and thereby happily attract the demurring ­attention of liberals on the eve of an elective conference.

So, I say all those liberals and their sympathisers who balk at the mooted ­“review” of the Constitutional Court have been comprehensively suckered by the black ruling elite. It’s a bitter pill to ­swallow, I know. Blacks aren’t supposed to outwit liberals.

But there you are. ­Accept it and move on to the next ­challenge. I promise you there will be no “review” of the Constitutional Court or the ­Constitution.

The results will be released closer to the Mangaung elective conference and they will confirm that government has indeed delivered a better life for all South Africans, but that more work needs to be done.

The “review” debate is a red herring and liberals have all been suckered! Blacks are not as naive and bereft of all cunning ways as liberals have accepted.

I am just a proud black man that for once this cunning has been employed at the expense of the unwitting liberal.

» Ngalwana is an advocate with the ­Johannesburg Bar 

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