The silly reaction to Zille’s tweet


“the affluent urban 'blacks' are always looking for racist cues.

Their proximity to whiteness (the lifestyle of privilege) makes "them" react to 'their' internalized inferiority premised on skin colour, and history is often conveniently and selectively used as the point of reference.” Sandiso Bazana

Ludwig Wittgenstein, a British philosopher once said; “If people did not sometimes do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done”. The philosopher associated silly behavior with doing something unusual which will earn one the attention they were perhaps looking for, and in the process learn something important. Mrs Zille tweeted a silly tweet (that I will not repeat here), and the response was as silly as the tweet. I hope both (Mrs Zille and the ‘reactors’) will learn something from this article.

The silly reaction to the tweet that was shared by Mrs Zille is indicative of the ‘craziness’ that is seemingly uniquely South African. To an extent that Mrs Zille’s tweet warrants for a disciplinary action within her party, that’s even crazier that one ever imagined the extent of craziness in our political discourse(s). In this piece, I’ll briefly explain why the response to the Mrs Zille’s tweet ‘is’ silly and explain why South Africa reacted the way it did, to an extent that the author of ‘Pale Native’ and columnist Max du Prezz suggest that Zille should step down—the ‘white’ liberal view. Utter nonsense!

I know of several people where I come from who say “it was better ngokuya kwak’phethe abelungu”. This sentiment is of course premised on a reductionist view of the experience(s) of colonialism. The same reductionist approach is evident in Mrs Zille’s tweet—often reducing colonialism to the ‘introduction’ of material things like infrastructure that still serves the interests of the ‘former’ colonizers.

Colonialism is broader than the reductionist tweet offered by Mrs Zille and ordinary people who speak in similar careless ways—colonialism was not about infrastructure, the infrastructure that Mrs Zille alludes to was designed to service the greed and occupation of settlers.  It was a system of dehumanization.

With that being said, amongst ‘black’ people, Mrs Zille’s statement is not new. The reaction though has been ‘a grandstanding’ stunt, as the British philosopher suggested, hence I refer to it as ‘silly’. The truth of the matter is; just like the use of the word ‘nigga’ by ‘white’ Americans behind closed doors, ‘black’ people do also amongst themselves allude to the positives of a loosely and selectively defined experiences of colonialism.

Seeing that ‘black’ people are the ones who took offence, apart from the ‘white’ liberals. Let’s break down the character of these ‘blacks’.

In the democratic South Africa, we’ve seen a more pronounce emergence of two kinds of ‘blacks’; the poor and the ‘affording’.

The poor and dejected ‘blacks’ agree with Zille. Those are the ‘blacks’ who feel dejected and rejected, those who have not gained anything tangible in the democratic dispensation, those who have given up; there is millions of them. The poor lives in conditions that make them see nothing positive about the democratic dispensation. They have remained spectators in the spectacle of opulence by the elite.

Then you have the ‘smart’ ones, the ones created by the system, those who were lucky to get some undeserved “returns” from the system, the sons and daughters of so and so, the ‘chosen’ ones (at least in the eyes of the have-nots), the educated class, the ‘the incorrectly labeled emerging’-middle class, the spenders, the bank clients, the haves-- the ‘silly’ ones. Those are the ones that were offended by Mrs Zille’s tweet.

For some reason, their proximity to the privileges associated with being ‘white’ delusion them into thinking that ‘white’ supremacist ideas no longer exist. Class dynamics that Dr Blade Ndzimande refers to in his published PhD thesis become even more apparent.

The urban ‘blacks’ are self-appointed spokespersons of the poor ‘blacks’.

There are fellow ‘black’ people, some prominent in the ‘black’ community who have endorsed colonial project and the apartheid agenda, even beyond Zille’s narrow identified ‘gains’ of colonialism.

One of the African intellectuals of the Cape who is celebrated today is Mr T.J Jabavu. Jabavu was once accused by Sol Platjiee for being a black conformist. The first public lecture that was held at the University of Fort Hare in the name of the late Jabavu, organized by the executive of a students residence named after Jabavu was addressed by Dr Lwazi Lushaba. Lushaba was at the time a lecturer of Politics in the department of Politics at the University of Fort Hare. In a big hall, with some members of the Jabavu family, and students present, Lushaba revealed a “hidden” truth about Mr Jabavu; the fact that he supported colonialism.

According to Jabavu, Colonialism was good for the natives as it sought to ‘civilize’ the ‘backward’ natives. Those who hate the truth thought Lushaba was high on some drug, just like people now think Mrs Helen Zille is also high on some drug for unleashing the ‘offensive’ tweet. However, after Jabavu’s lecture I picked a book in the University of Fort Hare’s Howard Pim library. A book edited by Dr Mcebisi Ndetyana, entitled African Intellectuals in 19th and Early 20th Century South Africa. I learnt that in fact, Lushaba was correct, and apparently, a lot of people had reprimanded T. Jabavu for his ‘fondness’ ‘of’ colonialism.

Jabavu’s assertions of course prove what Frantz Fanon writes about in the Wretched of the Earth. Fanon argues that “the final aim of colonization was to convince the indigenous population it would save them from darkness.” Fanon takes it a step further and says; “the result was to hammer into the heads of the indigenous population that if the colonist were to leave they would regress into barbarism, degradation, and bestiality.”

In line with Fanon’s assertions above, in the democratic South Africa, the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini praised the apartheid government and applauded the apartheid government for its gains. Zwelithini charged the democratic government of destroying the ‘gains’ of the apartheid era and for being ungrateful. He pointed to certain structures that were created by the apartheid government, he mentioned parliament and other apartheid structures. The same infrastructure (gains) that Mrs Zille alluded to—the same structures that the current ruling class has sought to protect, by all means possible.

This is of course at the center of Mrs Zille’s thinking about colonialism. The ‘gains’ the Zulu King and Mrs Zille referred to suggest that; Africans would have not been able to progress in their ‘civilization’ to that level and beyond. Mrs Zille’s assertions are clearly indicative of the ethnocentricity of the European culture that is imbued with superiority complex that characterizes the psyche of the colonists. Yes, Mrs Zille’s skin color allowed her a position of privilege during the apartheid period, just like some African Kings who conformed to the demands of colonists.

Imagine Mrs Zille, a German descent saying “not everything about Hitlerism was bad; she won’t. Why? Because according to her, the ideas of phrenology still apply; ‘blacks’ are not creative, they are innately submissive people. Hitler was cruel, there are no positives to take from Hitlerism because Germans are innately creative and superior people. For Mrs Zille, the superiority of ‘white’ people cannot be tainted and cannot be debated, it’s a given—their skin color is enough.

The urban ‘blacks’ proximity to ‘whiteness’ (privileges and the life style) makes them believe, unconsciously (because of class) in meaningless slogan of non-racialism, and when reality strikes, they react. These slogans survive the day and moments of subterfuge on the table of the urban ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’.

The most intelligent lesson to learn from Mrs Zille’s silly tweet is that ideas of supremacy have not left us because there has not been a dedicated process of social re-engineering in South Africa, the old complexes of superiority and inferiority are still entrenched in the psyche of our society.

Zille’s tweet in my view was a reminder.

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