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17 Sep 2008 00:00
I know BEE and affirmative action types like me are supposed to be violently opposed to a recent court decision which agreed that 10 000 South Africans of Chinese descent should be allowed to take advantage of the benefits of BEE because they were also previously disadvantaged.
Newsflash: I am not bothered.
If the employment equity law can allow white women to be classified previously disadvantaged, then what’s the fuss about a few Chinese people? You may argue that the Chinese did not suffer as much as the 30-million blacks and did not hurl enough stones at the police and South African Defence Force as some of us in the townships did.
But I digress. As far as I am concerned, I do not see how 10 000 Chinese, mostly ordinary traders, can be a threat to those of us who want to build roads, own mines, sell arms and control the media—all in the name of empowerment.
That said, I have to appeal against this historic court decision. I know one of these 10 000 South Africans of Chinese origin (this politically correct way of speaking, by the way, is not good for space-conscious journalists) who should be excluded for the largesse and the loot of BEE. Mo-China, as we used to call him, has no right to claim that he was previously disadvantaged. If anything, Mo-China exploited the lot of unemployed and unemployable black women to make a living during apartheid.
You see, Mo-China used to administer the fah-fee game back in Dobsonville where I grew up. For the uninitiated, fah-fee was—and still is—an illegal number game of chance where the administrator, in this case Mo-China, draws numbers from a bag and the players have to guess which number he will pull out. The player has a choice from numbers one to 36. These numbers also had symbols and totems. For example, if memory still serves, one stood for king, seven for skelm, 16 for birds and 36 for vagina. Yes, vagina.
I mean, not only was Mo-China exploiting the downtrodden, he was also vulgar. But that is beside the point. Of most concern to me is that, unlike the Lotto, Mo-China was not regulated and audited. He normally drove into the township in his highly secured bakkie and went to a house where he had a runner working for him. The runner would quietly confer with Mo-China while the punters waited with trepidation to hear the winning number. All the runner had to do was show a sign and then only the winners would stay behind for their winnings. No questions asked. No correspondence entered into. Mo-China never uttered a word or left his vehicle. Not that he could speak any South African language.
Mo-China could not be bothered that women like Mamusu, who had never worked in her life, spent her last cents trying to get lucky and she remained luckless for nearly two decades. At the time a single bet cost about 5c and, if you won, you got 10 times your bet. To be fair, a 10-1 bet is always good. But at 5c a bet, even in the hardest of times, Mamusu’s winnings afforded her only a loaf of bread and maybe a tin of snuff for the week. And then, of course, for the rest of the week she would lose again, twice a day because Mo-China had morning and afternoon ‘meetings”.
Unlike the Lotto, Mo-China never made anyone rich. And because he did not belong to the lotteries board, he was not compelled to disburse a percentage of his exploits to deserving causes, such as to the schools attended by Mamusu’s children. Mo-China was allowed to exploit the poor without recourse or pity.
Now tell me, how can this man be allowed to join the queue to loot business and the state of millions of rand ostensibly because he and his ilk were previously disadvantaged? This is not only a man who stole from the poor, but also pissed on the authorities. Every time the police cornered Mo-China to arrest him, legend has it, he would spill a sack of old and fake bronze coins—which he always kept with him—on the ground, leaving the aggressive law enforcers battling one another for the spoils while he made a dash for it.
BEE and affirmative action have their faults, but I do not believe that such noble causes should be put into disrepute by allowing charlatans and seditious characters like Mo-China to benefit from them. No china, not now, not ever.
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