Miyeni strikes at core of women and blackness

2011-08-06 11:27

Eric Miyeni’s assault on Ferial Haffajee was vile, anti-black and ­anti-women. But I have my own issues with Haffajee, as it seems that everywhere she goes, black voices like that of Azapo and other ­traditional black leftist movements suddenly ­diminish with her ­editorial control.

One can practically count on one’s fingers the number of times Azapo was reported on or was ­allowed space in the Mail & Guardian in the many years that she headed the newspaper, something she has now transferred to City Press.

Like many black talkshow hosts and newspaper editors, she seems to have a particular taste for charterist and liberal politics, and has now taken the last sympathetic platform available to black consciousness views.

Even the space allotted to average readers is drastically reduced to a paragraph or single-line, ­Facebook-type posts; thus reducing the public-intellectual platform that papers like City Press historically provided to black people in this country.

That said, I would have never fathomed nor reserved the kind of vile and anti-black, anti-women vitriol that Eric Miyeni poured on Haffajee in his column for whatever frustrations he had with her ­editorial and personal approach.

I say vile, anti-black and anti-women because his assault on Haffajee’s person goes beyond the limits of personal criticism and seeks to distort the rational ­political meaning of blackness.

For starters, for a supposedly learned, black adult such as Miyeni to evoke in a celebratory manner the political curse of necklacing of people in the 80s, which continues to this day under the guise of urban mob justice and ­rural witch-hunts, is just beyond comprehension. It demonstrates the depth of his ignorance and lack of empathy with a nation that remains scarred by the internecine violence that was stoked by the apartheid regime.

Miyeni’s choice of words and his remaining arrogant steadfastness about his remarks must be seen as an assault on women in general, and the rural poor and old in particular, for it is these women who suffer the worst forms of abuse with burning tyres around their necks as they get accused of being these black snakes, the witches, that sow death and discord in ­African communities.

A snake has a particular and ­significant religious/cultural meaning, being the devil in biblical God’s orchard and its demeaning association with women, as in ­biblical Eve or a tool of witchcraft.

A mere reference to a person as a snake seeks to dehumanise and invite assault on that person. The insensitive Miyeni calls on us to do this exactly as we begin ­Women’s Month.

Nothing can be more anti-black and anti-women than to dehumanise fellow men and women.

Given that Haffajee is both a woman and black, Miyeni’s view reduces black people and women to empty vessels who cannot have any ideas and agency of their own other than being the carriers of white capitalist – and by obvious extension, male – agendas.

It is this kindergarten type of ­reverse psychology that seeks to blackmail us into silence in the face of insidious abuse of office and political power.
Miyeni’s remarks cannot be seen as anything but an assault on black people in general and ­women in particular.

Is it not strange that the democratic dispensation has seen ­non-white (coconut) type of reactionary agendas masquerading as revolutionary black thought?

This to affirm its anti-liberation struggle values of crass materialism, conspicuous consumption and selfish accumulation of riches – not wealth, for the latter is shared – on the back of our collective plight and aspirations.

Can real black men and women stand up to defend their humanising pro-poor struggle that Steve Biko eloquently refers to as a “quest for true humanity”?

Miyeni and his ilk cannot be representative of this struggle, for theirs is a dehumanising quest.

They must feel not only the ­slogan “wathint’ umfazi, wathint’ imbokodo”, they must hear the million voices of upright citizens of our country.

» Toyise is a member of the communication unit in Azapo’s public information ­department

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