we know the truth cos we live it

Today I made my first ever ‘complaint’ against someone. I feel uneasy now at the thought of what the consequences for that person might be, so I’m writing this post to work out if I did the right thing. Here’s what happened:

A South African friend on Facebook shared an article about white people being murdered by blacks. I commented. There was some back-and-forth with others chipping in. One man’s contribution to the discussion was as follows:

“No use arguing with an opinionated libtard. No cure for that. We know the truth cos we live it.”

In case it’s not obvious, the libtard is me. I didn’t reply. The man had made it clear that nothing I say interests him. I felt sad. Who is this guy? I looked at his Facebook page. He is a middle aged Afrikaans man. He recently celebrated his wife’s birthday. He is proud that his son was chosen to play in the under 16s Bokkie Week. He rides a big motorcycle. He listens to Karen Zoid. Even without the endorsement of our friend in common, this man seems like someone I could appreciate. If we met at a braai, I might chirp that he was quite hip for an old ballie, and he might call me a libtard. I was really warming to the man and thinking maybe I’d reply in a nice way when I noticed his job title: he is the deputy headmaster of a Christian prep school. Suddenly his comment took on new meaning. This man who calls himself a teacher considers thinking an incurable malady. His contempt for argument is an insult to the whole education project. I looked up his school’s website. It seems like a wonderful place. I like what they stand for there, so I wrote to the headmaster.

Everyone has one Facebook event that really got under their skin. This is mine. It’s taken writing this post to work out why. I think it’s wrong to sort people into good and bad. We’d all end up in the bad pile. But there are certain professions, considered callings, in which people aspire to be noble. One of these professions is teaching. The man’s comment offended me when I realised that he was a teacher because he is supposed to care about truth. He is supposed to welcome questions. His contempt for me and my attempts to understand a complex situation should not be acceptable in his profession. That’s basically what I said to the headmaster. He replied immediately, sad and cross. I felt relieved.

so long african national congress

These were my highlights of the South African municipal elections, held on 3rd August:

The ANC lost majority support in economic and political hubs— Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, and Nelson Mandela Bay. Yes, enthusiasm for the ANC has dwindled, but the main reason its proportion of support dropped was that the DA and the EFF gained more support by encouraging a higher turnout of voters—especially youth, for EFF—and by luring voters away from the country’s smaller parties, like UDM and APC, whose supporters have never had the experience of feeling that their party could win. This means that while old ANC supporters are fairly loyal, others who were not previously able or motivated to vote, or who have until now supported no-hope parties, came out and voted for what they believe are viable alternatives to the ANC. To me this suggests that though the ANC has failed to provide even a minimum level of dignity for all, South Africans have not lost their faith in democracy. Viva!

Julius Malema is now the Kingmaker in South African politics, with The ANC and the DA both needing to form coalitions with the fledgling EFF. Asked whether they would be prepared to form a coalition with the ANC, both Julius Malema and DA leader Mmusi Maimane said no. Both gave the same reason: the ANC’s loss of majority support is a sign that the people want change, and it would be disrespectful towards defecting ANC voters to allow the ANC to govern the cities anyway. While they gave the same response, they differed in tone: Mmusi was earnest and business-like, while Julius—registering the irony of his Kingmaker position just a few years after having been expelled from the ANC— thought to add the half-serious suggestion (taunt) that if the ANC were to drop Jacob Zuma immediately, the EFF would consider a coalition.

My favourite election quote: “On 3 August we are not going to bury [the ANC] but we are going to unveil its tombstone.” –Malema

My favourite election news story: Julius Malema accidentally voted for the ANC. He was a member of the ANC for so long, selecting ANC as a matter of course, and on the day of the elections had so much on his mind that he picked Zuma’s party. The Kingmaker apologized to his supporters for this blunder, and promised to vote for the EFF next time.

julius take me to your heart

In 2012 the ANC expelled Julius Malema for trying to veer the party’s Youth League off its Mandela-sanctioned path. Malema’s—incorrectly labelled—“racist” agenda included, among other things, agitating for blacks to take their cue from Mugabe’s ZANU PF re: land redistribution, and singing the banned freedom song ‘Shoot the Boer’ at one too many political knees-ups. (He had already been found guilty of tax evasion, and had been accused of fraud and money laundering.) The ANC kicked Malema off their platform to shut him up, but he’s been noisier than ever since then as leader of his own party, the Economic Freedom Fighters. The EFF emerged, Malema says, to fill the vacuum on the South African left: no other party proposes to uplift the poor majority at the expense of the rich minority. Instead of wearing suits to work, EFF leaders wear bright red overalls, hardhats, maid’s uniforms, doeks and berets in a show of worker solidarity, and while they’ve upped the drama with their outfits, they have tempered their message: yes, they will take land and resources out of white hands and give it to blacks, but not a drop of blood will be spilt (Malema’s words). Lately, whenever Malema describes South Africa—the hypocrisy of the ANC, the exploitation of labour, the indignities of the poorest people—every word that comes out of his mouth not only rings true, but is true, and when he describes the South Africa that he envisions, it seems to me a desirable and long-overdue reality.

Malema for president? Should a white farmer’s daughter back a Mugabe-endorsing, ex-ANC hot-head? The thing is, he is hot-headed. Despite grappling with this question from a safe distance, I can’t bring myself to say that I’d vote for Malema. Not yet. Malema’s speeches tell me what South Africa looks like to him, but I can’t know for sure how that picture makes him feel or how he will act if voted in. I’d have to take him at his word. If Malema looks at his country and feels a sincere desire to peacefully redistribute its riches, then the EFF is a Godsend, but if—now or at a later stage—he actually feels something else (e.g. a desire for revenge against the party that expelled him and the whites who long oppressed his people) then can we rule out a bloodbath? I don’t mean that if Malema changes his mind about bloodshed, blacks will reveal themselves to be killers. I mean that if Malema sanctions violence as the means to achieve his economic revolution, then he permits South Africans who believe in the use of violence to do what they think is right. When choosing between parties, the leader’s emotional volatility should not be the main cause for concern, but in South Africa, where the president can unilaterally make decisions—e.g. Zuma’s latest—I think it is. To his credit, Malema has nothing but contempt for Zuma, but he reveres Robert Mugabe, who, like Malema, said some very good and sensible things before he came to power—the only problem was that Mugabe turned out to be a maniac. Casting a vote for any party in South Africa is a risk. When calculating that risk, we must ask ourselves how emotionally volatile the leader is, and do our best to imagine what will happen if he isn’t getting his way and his mood is our country’s rudder. I support what the EFF stands for, but it worries me that the party’s appeal—its very existence—depends on Malema’s personality. Malema says he wants to start a government from scratch and root out corruption at all levels. If that’s what Julius really wants, then the EFF could one day be in a position to weather its leader’s moods and steer its own course, even if Malema wants to take it elsewhere. But of course this can only happen if Malema lets it happen, i.e. if he feels like it, and I’m not convinced that he does.