Double standards and racism deepen in South Africa
The qualifications saga of Chris Hart illustrates that being a white man is all that's needed to escape the embarrassing media circus.
The Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF) has noted with utter dismay the institutionalisation of double standards and racism by the mainstream media, corporates and academic institutions.
Most South Africans will remember how some of the black senior people were called out for their fake degrees. Media was very swift and diligent in using all the available avenues including legal dispensation to access information. Universities that were contacted were at hand to give out credible information and some of the University personnel became instant radio and TV celebrities that were regularly interviewed.
The faking of qualifications should indeed be deemed a fraudulent act because not only does the perceived level of education determine the remuneration levels, it also accords one underserved societal respect. Media must be commended for their investigative capabilities to unearth such delinquency.
Having been accustomed to this level of vigilance by the media the PPF was thoroughly disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm displayed by ALL forms of media to investigate and report on the qualifications saga of Chris Hart, (the now suspended economist who is a chief strategist at Standard Bank) which was doing rounds in the social media.
The black people who were called out made front pages of the mainstream newspapers and were in the leading news bulletins in the various electronic media. But Chris Hart, a white man, is spared this embarrassing exposure. Instead, a few people in the media fraternity came to his defence in all fronts. A technology journalist, Duncan McLeod took to Twitter to defend the racist rants of Hart. A prominent and respected founder and publisher of BizNews, Alec Hogg, also launched a spirited defence of Hart and in the process made desperate yet unsubstantiated claims that Hart has a BSc degree.
It was indeed unsuspected that of all publications, Drum magazine would take us out of our misery and report that in fact Hart failed his BSc so badly that he was not allowed to register again.
Hart then went and completed a two-year higher diploma in education in 1985, which he indeed passed very well. He then registered for a BCom degree in 1989 and in 1996 he completed all requirements for qualification with a single major in taxation. There are a number of questions and issues that arise from this murky scenario and serve to point out the double standards and institutionalised racism.
Why was Hart not hounded by the mainstream media as it happened with the affected black parties?
Why is it that the media vigilance is generally directed at black people and becomes hapless when it comes to white people?
At the recent PPF conference on anti-corruption, there were lamentations that the mainstream media turns a blind eye to the Private sector corruption yet it is vigilant against the government and the ANC.
Now that Hart does NOT have even a 3rd year Economics course, how did he become a household economist in a respected institution like Standard Bank?
If Hart was black, would Standard bank have treated him the same way?
If indeed the Wits academic standards allow for a person with a single major to graduate, what does that say about the much acclaimed high standards of Wits?
Hart himself, why did he allow the world to refer to him as an economist when he knew that he does not have such a qualification.
All this happens in a backdrop of an environment where transformation in the country is practically in reverse gear. The 2015 report of the Commission of Employment Equity painted a gloomy picture where black people occupied only 13, 6% of the top positions. African women are languishing at only 4% of the total 20% women representation. The net equity of black ownership of the JSE is stagnant at 3%. Again despite all this information being in the public domain, there is still very little evidence of mainstream media reporting on these issues and mobilising society to do what is right. Even more disappointing was the lack of public outcry to highlight these anomalies.
The conclusion sadly is that we now have a new normal. Our new normal is that the absence of black people in top positions no longer raises an alarm. In fact, corporate South Africa has been unambiguous in its distrust of black people as demonstrated by the new trend of joint chief executives responsible for the same bottom line.
The new normal has also provided a safe haven for the breeding and nurturing of racist stereotypes and has emboldened the racist elements to call black people monkeys, openly revere apartheid bosses like Verwoerd and PW Botha and provided a climate for people like Chris Hart to accuse black people of entitlement.
Clearly this reversal of the transformation gains cannot be allowed to continue. The deepening of subliminal and institutional racism and double standards must be brought to a grinding halt.
The PPF is calling on the mainstream media to embark on a serious introspection as their biasness only serves to further entrench racist stereotypes. Society must also be vigilant in protecting the gains of our young democracy. The PPF will embark on a world –wide research on anti-racism legislation and will make formal submissions to the ANC to outlaw and criminalise racism.
Mzwanele J Manyi is the president of the Progressive Professionals Forum