/ 10 April 2008

Makoe doth protest too much

In its investigation of complaints laid against the Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ) for barring white journalists from its relaunch event earlier this year, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) twice wrote to FBJ chief Abbey Makoe to respond to these complaints.

Makoe never responded.

Thus it was rather surprising that he reacted so strongly this week when the SAHRC released its findings. He claimed the FBJ was being “banned” and likened the findings to a “judicial ambush”.

The commission, also following a public forum held in March on this matter, found that the FBJ had acted unconstitutionally by barring white journalists. It also recommended that the FBJ consider amending its constitution to open its membership to all races, subject to its aim of furthering the “advancement and empowerment” of black journalists.

SAHRC chairperson Jody Kollapen said that the FBJ’s excluding people based on their race was not acceptable, though exclusion based on membership only would have been accepted.

Makoe, however, called on journalists to consider the “circumstances that had led the SAHRC to what amounts as its first banning order to a black initiative”.

He called the SAHRC’s public forum a “shame trial” instead of an opportunity to consider different points of view, and said the FBJ was invited to the hearings “under the guise that it was an open discussion on the question of racism”.

In its response later in the week, the SAHRC said Makoe was being “mischievous” and “untruthful”, and Makoe’s stance certainly isn’t helping diminish the controversy surrounding the FBJ.

The SAHRC is held in high esteem and trusted by many South Africans for its work in the past, and its recommendations — for that is what its findings against the FBJ were — should not be taken lightly.

In rubbishing the commission’s findings, Makoe has simply managed to make his organisation appear even less amenable to fitting into a democratic South Africa than its critics have claimed.

Jacques Kallis
South Africa’s premier all-rounder was this week named the world’s leading cricketer for 2007 by cricket Bible the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. Kallis was honoured for his 1 210 Test runs at the impressive average of 86,42 and 20 wickets at the relatively miserly average of 25,75 apiece.
ANC Youth League
The kids aren’t alright. That much was clear from the shambles that the ANC Youth League this week tried to pass off as its national conference. Naked bums, chair-throwing, election delays, fake coffins … an embarrasment to Kgalema Motlanthe and the ANC, and to us all. Grow up, already.

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