The media's stony silence on racism concerning the DA
When Helen Zille used the phrase "educational refugees" to describe the situation facing many children and parents in the Eastern Cape who, faced with a meltdown in their own province, chose to relocate to the Western Cape, she was lambasted. The self-referential universe that is South African social media went into moral indignation overdrive.
Fueled by the ANC, who defined the response, she was labeled everything from "stupid" through to "an empress of racism and racial bigotry". Editorials abounded, most of them - as is typical of most political analysis today - sat on the moral fence: she had a point, but she was "insensitive", "foolish" and racially "out of touch" for articulating it in the way she did; all, of course, with the benefit of hindsight. As if anyone had woken up two months ago and thought the word ‘refugee' was in anyway problematic.
Well, moral outrage lends itself to comparison. It is by its nature absolute, and its condemnation fundamental. So, one is inclined to ask, is it consistently applied? If not, what does it say about those who engage in it? In particular, what does it say about their moral code?
Today's Democratic Alliance march on Cosatu House to protest against its persistent blocking of a Youth Wage Subsidy is a case in point. Cosatu and the various affiliates that comprise it, as is their wont, resorted to violence and intimidation to try and stop the march. Its hatred was evidenced in part by some of the posters its members brandished. @phillipdewet recorded the following examples:
- "Zille is trying to Verwoert-erise GP and SA!!!"
- "Futsek moron DA"
- "Beware ANC, apartheid is back"
- "HIV-Aids is better than Zille"
- "Zille stop ur kak jy is die hond"
- "Foetsek DA"; and
- "Zile fuck you"
Hateful stuff. Intolerant and disgraceful. And this isn't first time. This kind of intolerance and hatred has been for 18 years spouted by the ANC and its alliance partners against the DA. Historically, however, the response to it has been muted at best. It is true, here and there, there are articles condemning it, but compared to the kind of invective and outraged that is directed towards the DA when it is seen to stray, it pales to the point of being effectively non-existent. No huge outrage from political commentators. No overwhelming flood of editorials. No sustained social media outcry.
Here are some questions: Which Cosatu member made the poster "HIV-Aids is better than Zille"? Does Cosatu condemn it? What public pressure is being put on them to deal with it?
I am sure in the aftermath of the march much will be made of the violence. That is an open moral goal even the unequivocal and ambivalent can kick the ball into, but far less on the attitude that underpins it: naked racial hatred.
Why is this? Why the hypocrisy?
Because many of South Africa's moral police - that patrol the internet and current affairs, scavenging for ammunition - use the ANC as their ultimate moral guide. Perceived racism on the part of the DA must be absolutely and fully investigated, condemned and vilified. Any other kind of racism, well, that's okay. At the very least, it might generate a few mutters about its inappropriateness.
There are many examples of these kinds of blinkered moral crusaders. And about the widespread, naked and almost permanently present racism against the DA, particularly against the DA's black members, you will struggle to find a world written by them. It simply does register.
Take Lindiwe Mazibuko for example. Repeatedly and relentlessly she is racially vilified and attacked, in the most brutal and dehumanising way. The kind of things that make Jessica Leandra's recent comments look like mild beer.
After the march, two Twitter comments stood out for me. One from someone called @dayjoyskillz who's bio reads: "Creative Partner @ E-touch News". A journalist no less.
"I wish that token @LindiMazibuko got hit with brick on her pig face ... Beat them cosatu beat them ... Bloody Agent !!!"
Someone else called Zwelo Masilela (@Zwelo), in a tweet not directed at Lindiwe, but fuelled by the same kind of anti-DA hatred wrote: "It's not enough I want to see white blood".
Those tweets come against a long history of similar abuse, here are some other tweets directed at Lindiwe and the DA over the past year:
- @Duncan_Thabiso: "@LindiMazibuko you are so gullible, naïve and stupid. When are you going to realize that you are being used as a front for "unity"? #kaffir"
- @encinitwa: "@LindiMazibuko I think u shud look urselfs in the mirror those white males in that DA office sees in u is a kaffir kind#Wakeup"
- @Sesi_Sugarplum: "@LindiMazibuko you are a sick person & just so u forgot to look in the mirror this morning, u are still black! SIT DOWN!"
- @Solomfuneko: "@Sentletse @tefomohapi @LindiMazibuko house nigga..."
- @leboramoshaba: "We'll see how you feel the day Hellen Zille calls you a Kaffir."
@dayjoyskillz has been at Lindiwe for some tims, after she was targeted by an Eastern Cape union member in a car recently, @dayjoyskillz wrote:
"I wish she had a faster car. Next time u won't be so lucky...Darkies hate u"
More recently, one @JacquiThePoet posed the following question: "#TrueOrFalse [email protected] is a housenigger."
To which she received the following replies:
- @ras6: "True story"
- @draique: "@JacquiThePoet YES! True! She does nothing Black people! Its like her race is a hindrance to her."
- @refilweafrica: "After much dandruff scratching I could say I'm inclined 2bconcurringRT @JacquiThePoet: #TrueOrFalse [email protected] is a housenigger."
Was the there an outpouring of moral outrage? A slew of blogs on the Daily Maverick (where many of the moral police hold fort)? A deluge of tweets? Nope, all quiet on the Western front. Does the media lock onto these people, follow them, report on them, speak out against them? Not a chance.
(And don't think these things are hidden away in the Twitterverse, many of them have been retweeted by Lindiwe to some 30 000 people. The march tweets were widely retweeted. Helen too often retweets unadulterated hatred against her. For example: @rasebitse: "@helenzille I wont mind to rape you Zille and make South Africa proud. I wish you can be shot to death by Malema.")
Because for these people racism directed against the DA, particularly black-on-black racism is legitimate in way other kinds of racism is not.
I have provided here a small selection of examples. But look elsewhere and the problem is rife. Read any blog by a black DA public representative on Politicsweb or News24, the comments sections are filled with this kind of thing.
Ask DA youth member Amanda Ngwenya or DA Federal Youth Chair Mbali Ntuli about the kind of racist abuse, the pure hatred, they have to endure from fellow black South Africans. It is despicable. And yet it is all laughed off. As if on some level it is deserved, for daring to believe something different.
South Africa is filled with ‘experts' on race. Constantly redefining the problem and, often, reinforcing it by doing so, but mostly they offer a limited analysis. Their eyes blinded to the biggest challenge facing this county: the acceptance that being black doesn't mean being one uniform thing.
Let's see what sort of response follows this article, it will be instructive. Let's see if the same intensity with which white racism is interrogated (and make no mistake, I am not suggesting that does not exist or is equally horrific) is applied to the kind of racism and hate-mongering that is directed at the DA and, in particular, its black members.
This article first appeared in Inside Politics.
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