Is ‘100% Zuluboy’ a tribalist slogan?

2008-10-10 00:00

Censoring or banning slogans such as “100% Zuluboy” and militant songs such as Umshini Wami in the ANC will not solve any problems, but can only deepen the divisions within the ruling party.

This was the view expressed by Jane Duncan, the director of the Freedom of Expression Institute, responding to questions from Weekend Witness this week.

The issue came to the fore again this week as former defence minister Mosioua Lekota launched a scathing attack on the current ANC leadership, accusing it of not doing anything to condemn such slogans, which he said were tribalist, and the songs “promoting violence”. He said such songs have become irrelevant.

“Censoring these forms of expression may create more problems than it solves. For one thing, it will make Zuma supporters even more defiant, as they may feel that they and their leader are being persecuted once again. If the ANC is to deal with this problem, then censorship is not the answer, but building progressive political consciousness through political debate and education linked to mass mobilisation is,” said Duncan.

She also pointed a finger at the Mbeki leadership of the ANC, including Lekota, saying that it could have done more to deepen understanding of ANC traditions within its rank and file.

“These developments suggest that the pre-Polokwane ANC was not really concerned about doing the hard work of building the party as a coherent mass movement …”

Duncan said Umshini Wami is an “expression of anger” by some ANC members who felt alienated under the Mbeki leadership.

“It will not go away until the grievances of rank and file ANC members are dealt with. So it is rather rich for Lekota to call for sanctions against those who sing the song, as the leadership of which he is a part has to take much of the blame for creating these conditions … ”

Dr Suren Pillay, a senior research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council, agreed with Duncan, saying that the ANC leadership could have done more to condemn such slogans when they emerged in the run-up to Polokwane, but said it was no surprise that the slogan “sits uncomfortably with some ANC members as it does overtly appeal to a Zulu identity”.

Pillay said that while it is not ideal to be an alarmist about the issue, it also should not be trivialised.

“These sorts of statements when made in a jovial manner can snowball into something more threatening,” he said.

Zakhele Ndlovu, a senior political lecturer at UKZN, felt that the issue has been blown out of proportion by Lekota and other disgruntled Mbeki supporters in a bid to score cheap political points. “I think that these statements or slogans were a response from some people who felt that Zuma was being victimised and that all this was done to block the ascendancy of a Zulu person into the presidency. The underlying message is that Zuma is a Zulu man who is proud of who he is. I do not see any problem with that as long as you can embrace your identity without undermining other people.”

At the time of going to print, the ANC had not responded to Weekend Witness questions. These included a question on whether the printing of the T-shirts was authorised by the ANC and whether there were plans to ban such slogans.

The slogans: Where they come from

Awuleth’ Umshini Wami is an old liberation song that literally translates to “Bring me my machine [gun]”. It has become Zuma’s trademark song.

The 100% Zuluboy slogan emerged after the hoax e-mail saga. Zuluboy was used in the e-mails to refer perjoratively to Zuma, but was then picked up by his supporters.

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