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Black anger and white obliviousness
  • GENRE: Society, Politics, Opinion
  • LENGTH: 10 600 words
  • READING TIME: +/- 90 mins
  • ISBN: 978-0-9921902-3-1
About TO Molefe

TO Molefe is the son of two former teachers – voracious readers, thinkers and open communicators who encouraged him to think and act independently. They likely pondered the wisdom of that decision once he eventually took their advice. Molefe started writing after a successful but ultimately unfulfilling career as a chartered accountant. The publications he has written for include the Daily Maverick, the Christian Science Monitor and The Big Issue, as well as several public and social sector publications..

Black anger and white obliviousness
When black anger and white obliviousness are in play, the race of the critic always matters.
To Molefe

White people don’t get it. They don’t get why black people stop listening to them when what they say, or how they say it, suggests obliviousness to the experience of apartheid and its legacy. They don’t get why Helen Zille loses her audience - for anything else she might say – when she tweets that Lindiwe Suttle’s complaint about racism in Cape Town is “complete nonsense”. They don’t get why Brett Murray’s painting hurts and offends even black people who agree with his general point about President Zuma, and why black artists who paint JZ naked can get away with it.

But you know who does get it? Jacob Zuma gets it. The ANC gets it. They understand how black anger about apartheid and black anger about white obliviousness to that anger can be used to shield themselves from criticism.


In November 2012, the South African Communist Party (SAPC) in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s home province, called for legislation to protect the president’s dignity. Blade Nzimande, the communist party’s national leader, who also serves in Zuma’s cabinet as higher education minister, voiced tempered support for the call.

Nzimande explained that a national debate was necessary on what was acceptable in society given the growing anger in black communities over what he called the lack of respect shown by sections of the white population.

“The SACP is raising a much more fundamental issue”, he said in an interview on Radio 702. Nzimande argued that there was a difference between hurling insults and criticising poor performance, and that much of what has been directed at Zuma has tended toward the former. Criticism is always welcome, he said, but insults are not. Without this debate, he warned, the carefully negotiated peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy was in danger of coming undone.

Nzimande cited the specific example of cartoonist Zapiro, who in September 2008 drew ‘The Rape of Justice’ cartoon. Zuma at a time was fighting off charges of corruption and had been acquitted of rape two years earlier. In the cartoon Zuma’s staunchest supporters, including Nzimande, are seen holding down a distraught Lady Justice as Zuma undoes his belt and prepares to drop trou. “Go for it, boss!” ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe is seen saying.

Zuma immediately sued Zapiro, Avusa Media, publisher of The Sunday Times, the paper in which the cartoon ran, and, for good measure, the paper’s then editor Mondli Makhanya. He demanded a total of R5-million for defamation and injury to his dignity.

But in October 2012, on the eve of the matter’s appearance in court, Zuma first dropped the amount sought to R100 000 before withdrawing the case entirely. Through his spokesperson, Zuma maintained that the depiction was hurtful and defamatory, but he claimed that he preferred to err on the side of constitutional freedoms, a claim that his critics did not fail to call implausible, disingenuous and tardy.

Zuma’s decision to drop the lawsuit against Zapiro might not have gone over altogether well with some of those who had been depicted as his accomplices.

Nzimande, for one, would seem to have wanted the matter to go court to set some sort of legal precedent. His voice became tinnier and strained during the radio interview when he brought up Zapiro’s ‘Lady Justice’. “The fact that Zapiro drew a cartoon depicting us as rapists is deeply offensive”, he said. “And for him to come and patronise us to say he was in the anti-apartheid struggle, that’s really even worse, because having fought against apartheid is no basis to insult people.”

He added that he sensed growing anger in sections of the black community about the insults hurled at Zuma, ostensibly because “some of these insults have got hugely racial and racist undertones”.

This isn’t the first time a Zuma defender employed the argument that an insult to Zuma is, in essence, an insult to South Africans in general and to black Africans in particular, as the ANC-alliance parlance goes. Thus, Nzimande’s comments followed on from those made by presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj, who earlier the same month had accused DA leader Helen Zille of racism for calling Zuma’s homestead in Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal, a “compound”. Despite its South Africa-specific, apartheid-era derived connotation of referring to the living quarters of black workers on the mines, the word had been used widely before Zille used it, even by members of Zuma’s administration.

But that didn’t matter. Once used by somebody white – especially the leader of an opposition party which the ANC has systematically labelled racist – the opportunity was created for his defenders to tap into black anger and white obliviousness.

It worked. Partially.


+1 #4 Jahstin Time 2013-06-21 21:13
There is no point or chance of meaningful debate really until we are considering issues such as the replacement of ALL home security and citizens firearms with effective non-lethal 'stun" technology, so we can shoot first and everybody involved can challenge lies in court later without fear, no accidents, everyone can have one, (available out there, in the back rooms, like electric cars were in the 1960's)with life sentences for transgressors, looking at possible small exceptions for genuine hunting needs of self-subsistenc e peoples that pose no threat to anyone and never have, and probably prefer the old methods anyway.And talking of old methods, the absurd hemp laws which up till now have work 100% for the benefit and present spread of corruption.
+1 #3 Jahstin Time 2013-06-21 21:02
In my previous comment i neglected to say that i agree with Jamboka's comment 100% too. and hear is a message to all patiently still committed true "Charter" activists out there.

To all those brave and honest, hard-working, responsible and accountable, compassionate, humble and selfless ANC politicians out there, somewhere, and to those who feel I give 'Madiba' a rough deal! He had the choice of retiring with huge respect, and being a wonderful, grandfather and highly influential and respected world elder statesman, and handing the wheel in SA over to those committed to The Freedom Charter, after WE , who gave him that symbolic power with OUR actions collectively through UDF mass action, agreed to stop civil unrest because we trusted YOU to remain true!

I applaud the efforts to all obviously corrupt ANC politicians and active members, for taking the rap, and keeping alive a false image of Mandela that is untainted with corruption, that we can idolize, make ourselves feel better with, in spite of our indoctrinated lazy corruptness, because we have 'Him' representing us and our nation, an we're his fans after all, so.....and his sellout even immortalized on a banknote now, the ultimate king of cash!

Well done guys, for trashing your reputations. You could hardly sell out for nepotism without police state capitalism, could you, since 'He" sold out the Freedom Charter early '90's, for a nice cash-flow deal with Anglo-America and the US Federal Reserve Bank (for the politically connected), soon after his release from the Victor Verster Prison Warden's luxury house (so he and his wife could move back in to their very nice gardens, swimming pool, entertaining facilities, posh comfy bedroom, and personal chef).

After all the years on the Island and then Pollsmoor, I suppose it was the reverse psychology that worked to soften him toward co-operation, not torture. Perhaps if "whites" had applied that good logic to everyday life in SA from the start we would actually be a real rainbow nation today? Since the leaders they put on the Island were actually quite conservative, just desperate for assistance (and associations) where-ever they could find it.
It was those interim "plurals", Tri-parliament and Presidents Council co-operative leaders, like Hendrikse, Rajbansi, Buthelezi, that were actually loud rabble extremists initially, before Rivonia. Like the Tsotsis and Inkatha, they used against us (the UDF) decent people. Mostly we're a bit conservative our-selves, but should be free to choose for ourselves when to make a change, with knowledge and intelligent consideration.

They just had to get that inconvenient Chris Hani out the way first (hey Nelson?)! And have 1st a pipe smoking 'Englishman' denial-list, that loves his 'tipple', and was trained by external ANC to be a nice foreign ministry face for Europe to be comfortable with, and then an open gangster with a smile that says, "Don't you feel lucky? (punks-he leaves that out)) well don't you?!", to follow your illustrious footsteps. while you sit on your throne above us all like a Godfather! in a book on nuclear winter called "Einsteins Monsters", Martin Amis wrote a short story about WWIII beginning, and ending in a day, a brief nuclear encounter, which no-one noticed as they were now all focused on Ronald Reagan's vital signs flashing past over all channels 24/7 to see how the market would play today.

That's where my respect really stared going downhill, to a point of more then cancelling out his pre-Island days and his 1st 25 years on the island. After that it starts to get fishy, and it's a fast downhill slide to 'Him" being used as a dangerously powerful tool for 'status quo' for the maintenance of good order and false image of united nationalism (like the early popes in Europe, murdering political gangsters of note) in this police controlled, corporate monopoly playground, with cosmopolitan freedom for the wealthy, and labor-pool poverty on the peripheral for the rest, in pretty much the same established order as The National Party handed it over to their new buddies, the ANC, who also give some electricity (allowing lots its theft, so masses can buy cheap appliances), and (if you're lucky) some water and the odd toilet here and there, and give huge tenders to fly by night buddies who build a minimum of substandard housing and are generally unavailable or immune to accountability later (like all diplomats and most politicians and cops). - What's with this obvious scam??!!!
+1 #2 Jahstin Time 2013-06-21 20:58
Eish! Tell us something new! Like what we as common ex-UDF activists and ordinary folk out there going to do about it. Us, who really don't have a human rights and freedom of culture friendly bunch of people representing us,or anybody but themselves, in parliament. People who don't understand that well marketed, false a feeling of power and freedom 1 day every 5 years is not worth the total helplessness we have (apart from the wealthy and govt. authorities)for the next 5 years to decide anything essential about our own lives. we need to "elect" through appropriate public CV processes, qualified professionals with vision and experience who care for community,

Engineers for building, agricultural experts for that, for Doctors for medicine, academics for education, bank staff for finance and accounting, and so on, and powerful trained public protector teams without vested interests, to see that service delivery and development is fair and redresses past imbalance for a while, and new education and training programs are inclusive and make sense to end this perpetuation and cycle of focusing on the past to ensure the future just as bad or worse, and rather use the focus to learn from the past and make all of peoples suffering that many can identify, all over, through time, count for something, mean something, and move forward considering our associations not with skin color, but with actions, today, and personal living, feeling and thinking culture, today, not your father's or children's, but yours.

I din't think it's stupid and not right to force people to pretend they like politically correct legal behavior. How can you trust anyone, if they are mostly pretending. People have to confront, interact, or avoid each other honestly, as they choose, within the boundary of common behavioral laws, assault, theft, etc, and not imposing yours unreasonably on other people physically (positive new smoking laws etc to deal with this kind of issue), or denying them, As this govt. does with the old Apartheid Hemp "compulsory genocide" Law, allowing for incarceration for possession of a historically very useful natural life form (Jews take note of this) , even if the victim has done nothing wrong from anyone's point of view, and Catholic priests can give liquor to underage kids in a church near a school on a Sunday, without a licence in a public place, supply, and distribute with impunity (Rastafarians take note of this).

And while the world changes, we behave like an idiot hill-billy denial freak with a gun that uncle Elmer shoved in his hand and said "Shoot the damned critter, Moonshine!" 1000% unjustifiable law now, and still this major human rights abuse affecting millions of people in this country alone, like before, people had the choice of behaving the way Apartheid wanted, or being a natural honest hardworking self-respecting creative person, and falling foul of the Law, and people have the choice to use the obviously beneficial (especially to the poor) and extremely versatile natural "god given" resource, not be and be judged by their behavior, just "Its the law - bang", or following orders like they did in the Reich and at Auschwitz.
+2 #1 Jamboka 2013-06-12 09:21
I believe that some whites are taking the reconciliation issue for granted. The fact that as blacks we chose to ignore the pain and humiliation makes some think we are stupid. One of the biggest issue I have is that we are not allowed to voice out racism, it has become taboo. People are afraid to say it out loud, but choose to discuss it behind closed doors. Let the nation debate racism because it is real and happening.

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