Thuthukile Zuma: Does Anyone Ever Deserve Anything in SA?

2014-07-27 23:26

And so we read in the news over the weekend that Jacob Zuma’s daughter, Thuthukile Zuma, has been appointed to the chief of staff position in the post and telecommunications ministry. An outcry was heard, newspapers were sold, websites got hits and, yes, she trended even in physical spaces where a discussion hardly got to its death without her name being wrapped in some dissatisfied, bitter verses that sought to describe in the most profound ways just how undeserving of her job she is.

Typical, isn’t it?

No one ever gets a job they deserve, at least in our opinion as the public.

Well, I have a problem with this tendency that seeks to undress people of all their accomplishments and their capabilities in an effort to leave them in their racial, political or familial nudity. We do it every day, assisted by the provocative newspaper headlines with a subliminal agenda to evoke a particular kind of reaction which turns out to be the accepted way of responding to the issue at hand.

I’m going to argue that although Thuthukile is a Zuma, we cannot in all fairness reduce her to that as if by herself she is undeserving. Let me begin in this line of argument by expressing a bit of shock that so many black people fell prey to the Zuma-reductionism of Thuthukile as if they themselves aren’t victims of a race-reductionist bandwagon from affirmative action critics, often in grossly unfair ways. Whenever a black person makes a few considerable steps up the corporate ladder, many of our white friends refuse to acknowledge his personal worth as a contributing factor to his advancement to higher levels. Instead, and quite cheaply, they claim his race made way for him. To most white people, especially in the private and higher education sectors, any upward mobility enjoyed by a black person is solely due to him being black.

In light of that, it came to me as quite a sad case of a strategic amnesia where those who suffer from the same cheapening criticism from their other racial counterparts suddenly forgot what it feels like to be reduced to a small part of yourself as if that’s all there is in your essence.

But beyond blackness, I also find it quite 'funny' that the very same white people who also are accused of not deserving any of their economic and corporate privileges were also resorting to the same rhetoric. When a black person hears of a white person’s success in the corporate world, the first thing that comes in his mind is the fact that he is white, and the company is owned by his family, and his family benefited from apartheid, and such other reductionism reeking things.

Moreover, I picked up other comments coming from women, black in particular. And wow! This is the very same demographic that is subjected to sexist remarks at their employment and promotion in the workplace, reduced to mere objects that decorate the transformation front so that government deals don’t fly out of the window. The same women who’d argue that they must be seen as equally competent in the workplace were the ones refusing, quite hypocritically, to see Thuthukile as equally competent.

From attributing it to political connections and nepotism to race and gender, it appears everyone else’s achievement in this country is never about what they can offer, but what they look like, who they know, how they choose to make love and the accident of being born in influential families.

We excel in reducing people to something sensational, cheap, sickening.

Specifically, black people have become haters of their very own excellence. Every black person who gets a breakthrough has to have been corrupt or must be friends with some politician, or a puppet of white people who use him to their advantage. Whatever the manufactured excuses, the centrality of the sentiments is that this particular person doesn’t deserve whatever he got.

Admittedly, to most of black people it’s a matter of frustrations from a dream that’s been deferred for too long a bearable time. It’s a feeling of exclusion from the commanding heights of the economy and politics. I’m one of those black graduates with expectations of finding a job to escape the poverty zone.

Truth is there are many white graduates who progress very rapidly in the workplace simply because they speak a particular language or their parents are in the senior management of the firm. So we can easily dismiss them as undeserving of their managerial positions on the basis that the private sector is white-owned, they speak a particular language (Afrikaans) or their uncles are in top management.

But do we ever do that? No, we call it meritocracy. So I'm chilled with Thuthukile moving higher. Akere we persecute her father for being “illiterate”. What do we want from her since she has far more than what her father has?

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