When the liberators become the oppressors – Herman Mashaba

In open letter Joburg Mayor says ANC's racism towards MMC Michael Sun must be condemned

An Open Letter to the ANC by Mayor Herman Mashaba

5 April 2019

Cllr Micheal Sun is a man of rare steal, a dedicated MMC and a proud South African who has served the people of Johannesburg with distinction for over 12 years in Council.

Since coming into office, I have only known Michael to act with the best interests of our residents at heart.

That is why, when protests broke out in Alexandra under the #AlexTotalShutdown banner, I asked MMC Sun to address the community and receive their memorandum of grievances, as I was unable to immediately meet with the protesters.

Indeed, I have asked the MMC to serve in this manner on a number of occasions – a request he has always graciously honoured.

Over and above this, the MMC was armed with a commitment that I would personally meet the leaders of the protest in order to collectively address the grievances of the community.

What ensued on the day in question has left me deeply angered and concerned.

As soon as MMC Sun arrived in Alexandra, ANC councillors, Tefo Raphadu and Rudolph Marema, had introduced themselves as the leaders of the protest action.

Rather than seeking to assist the City in meaningfully engaging with the protesters, the councillors sought to incite the crowd into racially abusing the MMC.

In their efforts to encourage the crowd into racially abusing MMC Sun, these so-called leaders went so far as to address their ANC followers by saying, “Look, a white man is here to address you.”

Unsurprisingly, whilst attempting to address the protesters, MMC Sun was racially abused by the ANC’s members, led by their ward councillors, on the basis of his Chinese ancestry.

In a video, the jeering ANC members can clearly be heard screaming “No ching chong,” and “No Hong Kong” in an effort to strip Michael of his dignity and prevent him from addressing those members of the protest who wished to see the legitimate concerns of the community heard.

This has seemingly become a practice adopted by the ANC and its allies.

A similar incident took place in 2017 when a march by COSATU and the SACP racially abused MMC Sun, for which they issued a public apology.

Whilst some may argue that “theatre” is part and parcel of our political landscape and that it is okay to belittle a political opponent in the context of a protest, we can never allow racism to form the backbone of that interaction.

I wholly condemn the ANC’s racist conduct - a weapon which was used to strip MMC Sun of his personhood and sense of dignity.

Wednesday’s attack of the MMC wasn’t targeted at him alone but was an attack on others of Chinese ancestry as well.

As a black South African, I know all too well the dehumanising effect of racial abuse. I am ashamed that Michael was treated in this denigrating manner.

What is deeply ironic, if not profoundly sad, is that this racist attack comes at the hands of Nelson Mandela’s own ANC – an organisation which holds a proud history of fighting against racism under apartheid.

The liberators have truly become the oppressors.

I demand that Cllrs Raphadu and Marema, alongside the ANC, publicly apologise for their racist comments towards Cllr Michael Sun.

The ANC would be wise to also apologise to those of Chinese ancestry – South African or otherwise – who would be rightfully offended and hurt by the conduct displayed by its members.

All this said, I truly sympathise with the challenges faced by the community of Alexandra. Their plight is the culmination of decades of government neglect and broken promises. The community of Alexandra is rightfully upset.

I have also noted the challenge of ANC President, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, for me to address the community of Alexandra.

I welcome this.

While I am ready and willing to account to the community as to what the multi-party government has done in Alexandra over the past two years, I suspect that the President will not be willing to come to Alexandra so that he may account for over two decades of government failure in respect of the area.

The City of Johannesburg has and continues to attempt to engage the community leaders of Alexandra.

So far, these attempts have come to no avail as ANC ward councillors obstruct the City’s efforts.

Never the less, I hope the President will take up my offer for a time and place where we can go and address the community together on service delivery challenges and the many broken promises which have been made to the people of Alexandra.

Indeed, on the eve of the 2016 elections, it was the ANC Mayor of Johannesburg and the ANC Premier who signed the Alexandra Statement of Intent, promising the massive development, which has never been funded by the National or Provincial Grants.

Just before the 2011 Local Government Elections, the ANC promised the people of Alexandra 90 000 houses and the few that were built are occupied by foreign nationals. In 2007, President Mbeki made Alexandra a Presidential Priority Project and nothing materialised beyond this. The failures of the ANC in Alexandra now trace back over the tenures of 3 Presidents.

I have engaged the MEC of Human Settlements many times on this matter, and there has never been a commitment of funding forthcoming.

In light of this, there is much to account for in respect of Alexandra.

Truthfully speaking, the ANC not only owes Michael Sun an apology for their hateful racism but also owes the people of Alex an apology for their failures in government.

Issued by Luyanda Mfeka, Director: Mayoral Communications, Office of the Executive Mayor, 5 April 2019