Racial bean counting

2009-05-19 00:00

So, how many white male MECs has the African National Congress appointed in the eight provinces it controls?

Helen Zille’s appointment of the Western Cape provincial cabinet has been heavily criticised over the past week. The main objection has been that, regardless of the merits of the individuals concerned, far too high a proportion of her provincial cabinet possess male genitalia. A subsidiary objection is that too many of her appointees are “white”. These two objections have coalesced into the complaint that Zille has appointed a “predominantly white male cabinet”. This is, according to the ANC and various commentators, intrinsically “racist”.

In a speech last week, the ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, observed that Zille’s appointments did not reflect the racial demographics of the province.

“In a province where the coloureds are 54%, Africans 24%, whites 22% and women 50%, Zille’s cabinet is 60% white males. It is actions of this sort that must be taken up. The racist and right-wing content of the DA programme must be exposed on a constant basis.”

In his response to the controversy, Cope’s parliamentary leader, Mvume Dandala, also stated that “the racial make-up of the [Western Cape] cabinet is also not adequately representative of our society”.

The Sunday Times, meanwhile, described Zille’s executive as a “circa ‘70s Nat-looking cabinet” (simply because six of its 10 members are white men).

Funnily enough, it was the avowedly Africanist City Press which exposed the hypocrisy underlying these complaints about the lack of racial “representivity” in the Western Cape government. As it pointed out in an editorial (and news report) on Sunday, the cabinets of Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Free State, and North West “are all black [African]. That is hardly representative either, but no one was making an issue of that.”

Indeed, the ANC has only appointed two white MECs — both women — in their eight provincial cabinets. In other words, ANC premiers have not appointed a single white man to any of the 80 MEC positions they control. Whites thus make up 2,3% of the provincial cabinets outside of the Western Cape, and white males 0%.

White South Africans constitute between 11% and 12% of the electorate. Across the whole country there are 99 provincial cabinet positions, including premiers. Nine of these positions (or 9,1%) are currently occupied by whites, and six (6,1%) by white men. This means that, according to the sacred principles of racial bean counting, whites are actually marginally “underrepresented” in provincial government.

If Zille’s opponents get their way — and her democratically elected cabinet is replaced by a demographically representative one — then there would be only one white male (or one percent of the total) in all the provincial cabinets of South Africa.

— Politicsweb.co.za

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