In black and white: ANC’s great race to the bottom
When it comes to ‘representivity’ among its leaders the ruling party does not exactly walk its talk
Perhaps in his briefing folder for last week’s Brics summit in Sandton, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had an article from The Times of India datelined July 23 2011.
It is headlined “Durban is largest ‘Indian city outside India’.” It notes that the UK and the US have the most overseas Indians in their countries. But of all the cities of the world, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs states that “Durban has the highest concentration of Indians” living outside the Indian subcontinent.
This remarkable demographic fact, perhaps touched on by President Cyril Ramaphosa in bilateral chats with Modi, appears to have escaped notice by the delegates to Ramaphosa’s ANC KwaZulu-Natal conference recently convened in the same city of Durban.
They managed to elect an entire slate of top five leaders without a single Indian among the select. Something very similar happened in Gauteng in July.That province houses the greatest concentration of whites in the country – about 1.9m of a national total of 4.95m, according to the last census. But notwithstanding the racial demographics here (whites constitute over 15% of the provincial total), not a single one was elected to the Gauteng top leadership of the ANC. Neither were any coloureds or Indians.
It is rather reminiscent of the interchange at the dawn of the age of the motor car, when a designer asked mogul Henry Ford what colours should be used on the vehicles. He apparently answered: “Any colour so long as it’s black.”
Of course, if merit or voter support or the roll of the conference dice were the deciding factor in the ruling party’s decision making, these inconvenient facts would be of passing interest.
Indeed, to the best of my knowledge, not a single commentator or editorial or even opposition party has noted or criticised the monochromatic nature of the ANC leadership in the two largest provinces in the country.
In fact, the lack of “representivity” (a wonderful South African neologism) probably extends right down the ANC into its provincial executives as well. But since the party has not updated its websites for the past several months, that fact and figure cannot be accurately stated – yet. But the shock election of the politician who presided over 140 deaths in the Life Esidimeni tragedy, Qedani Mahlangu, probably took most of the oxygen and outrage on this score.Racial demographics and obsessiveness with ethnic percentages is about the only consistent policy and measurement which has guided ruling party thinking in the past two decades. It permeates every policy and pronouncement of the government: employment equity, BEE, industrial policy, the land debate and the composition of every single state department. Even cities and provinces outside the governing party’s control are obliged to implement the “demographics as destiny” approach to their appointments and public tenders.
It is perfectly true that minorities do slightly better in the vastly overstuffed national cabinet, whose promised size reduction has gone the same way, in the new dawn era, as the legend of Scotch mist. A grand total of two whites and two Indians were found places there, but each of them is a member of the SA Communist Party. This means they are about as representative of their communities as the man in the moon.
By contrast, the much-assailed – recently self-harming –Democratic Alliance is forever surveyed under the racial microscope. I suppose if its voter support were the basis for its provincial leadership elections, you would expect to see white or Indian or coloured leaders of the party in provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and the Free State, for example. In those places DA public representatives are elected overwhelmingly by support from the minority communities. Yet in each such province, and in the bulk of others, the party has black leaders.
Perhaps the DA has aspirations for the future, not an appointment with the past. And its many critics, anyway, accuse it of “window dressing” or label the black incumbent “coconuts” or “Uncle Toms” – insults dredged from the racial swampland which remains undrained 24 years after our new nonracial democracy arrived.Just imagine, though, if representatives from minority communities, fed up with slights and the selective racial advantaging from the ANC, decided to launch a new political movement. Its founding declaration proclaims “membership is reserved for only whites and Indians”. It would be unconstitutional and there would be mass outrage and marches, and doubtless the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) would launch an urgent investigation to close it down.
Strangely enough, though in reverse, precisely such a new political formation was launched in KwaZulu-Natal last week. The Mazibuye African Congress opened its doors for the first time, fueled by supporters of Jacob Zuma. But its leadership announced that “membership would be reserved only for black South Africans”. No outrage here, no investigations by the SAHRC and, while there might be millions of disappointed whites and Indians (apparently, as a concession, coloureds are generously included in their definition of “black”), the ANC has kept silent on these violators of the constitution.
But then this goes to the molten heart of our country today. The previous victims of racial discrimination are ipso facto, or by automatic operation of a presumption, deemed incapable of racism or discriminatory behaviour.
There was a Middle Ages religious sect that practised this principle. In the 16th century, the Antinomians were heretics who believed that “to the pure all things are pure”: If you were of the elect you could more or less do what you liked – “eat, drink and fornicate as they duly did in the certainty of salvation”, as one critic noted.
But this operational principle, or glaring double standard, is no way to run a 21st-century country or modern government or progressive ruling party. Unless they intend to condemn them all to the scrapheap of history.