Letters to the Editor: November 12 2010

Mngxitama’s Cliff-hanger

Andile Mngxitama’s rant (dare one in turn call it racist?), “The face of white supremacy” (November 5) refers. Gareth Cliff may indeed be a spoilt white boy, but he is also well known for being an “equal-opportunity offender” and someone who remains unafraid to speak truth to power. Mngxitama gingerly tiptoes around the content of Cliff’s letter—basically that the government should do exactly that: govern—and pulls out the well-worn race card.

It is too easy to dismiss relevant criticism of the government with a blanket accusation of subconscious racism, a verdict arrived at in increasingly imaginative ways.
No such niceties for Cliff, though, because he is a “white supremacist”.
As Mngxitama then goes on to demonstrate, such an accusation grants instant relief from having to engage with critical factual content.—Leon Groenveld, Roodepoort

“The face of white supremacy” captures the realities of the new South Africa that we are living in. White South Africans will always consider themselves superior to blacks and this is perpetuated by blacks, who have now become conformists to the white master’s way of doing things.

Black South Africans fail to decipher the racial motives behind this so-called push for clean governance. At the root of most white criticisms of the government is the fact that whites want to show how incompetent blacks are. Take, for example, this campaign called Lead SA.

This is a white man’s way of showing the government that it does not know what it is doing. The war can never be won when black people are hell-bent on impressing the white master and not challenging this new form of white supremacy.—Gaza Ndlovu, Boksburg

I am no fan of Cliff, but it must be said that Mngxitama’s rant against him is ridiculous. From a point of view as blinkered as his, no one with a white skin can do anything right.

It is convenient that Mngxitama believes blacks cannot be racists, thus granting himself a licence to hurl the most appalling insults at white people.
No doubt this is in the interests of “transformation”, which, in Mngxitama’s eyes, is probably something as crude as seizing all the assets of white South Africans and giving them to black South Africans. On the other hand, all that it takes to make a white person a racist is for him or her to criticise any black person.—Alex Myers, Cape Town

Mngxitama’s article persuaded me to look him up on Facebook to find out what was behind his rhetoric. I wrote this to him: “Hi there, I just read your article in the M&G. There are a few things I disagree with: are white people not allowed to say some nasty things about Manto [Tshabalala-Msimang] with her idiotic Aids stance? Why is that racist? Also, are white people not allowed to criticise African states? I think your comments are too simple. This race issue is maybe even too complex to formulate an opinion about.” His response: “thank u and neva eva again advise me on racism whiteman!” This is revealing, and was the gist of his article: just shut up, white people, and stop complaining. His later messages to me are unquotable (thanks to his obsession with the word “muthaf***er”).

Mngxitama says that the “white men in the Treatment Action Campaign” who criticised Tshabalala-Msimang’s policy were correct in their criticism, but finds this despicable because “whites have taken everything from blacks”. Even if a whitey is correct in his/her criticism of a black person, s/he must still shut up because of the past. White views are permitted only when they criticise other white people. Sounds a bit like apartheid.

How are we ever going to become a truly multiracial society when people think like Mngxitama? As a young South African, this saddens me.—Thomas Huigen

Mngxitama accuses whites of getting rich by means of “plunder, theft, slavery, colonialism, apartheid and ill-gotten privileges”. But we are not rich—our per capita income is lower than that of whites in North America, Australia and the European countries our ancestors came from. Afro-Americans also have higher incomes than us. And now, moreover, we must finance millions of blacks deprived as a direct result of lousy black leadership.—Barend J Alberts, Saldanha

For the first time I agree with Mngxitama. I usually rubbish his commentary as purple-blooded reactionary banter. But this time he phrased himself well and addressed an issue that has been weighing on my mind for a while. I still cannot comprehend why Cliff was given royal treatment. Apart from being a motor mouthed Radio 5 DJ, who is he? Who does he represent, except an elitist minority who pretend to be acquainted with social issues when in actual fact they are wrapped in a thick bubble and are more concerned about themselves and their keep?

Instead of insulting, criticising and finger-pointing, why doesn’t Cliff offer solutions and participate actively in nation-building and the betterment of South African society?

This continued subtle racism from a minority is offensive to the ideals Africans as a whole are pursuing. It is tiring to explain and apologise to whites. The government is accountable to everybody, not just Cliff and his type. Instead of moaning, let Cliff declare what it is he wants done - and he must get down and dirty. If not, then he can pack up. To Mngxitama, I say: “I feel you on this one.” Not yet uhuru, my brother.—Keletso Thobega

Poultry cartel article unfairly reported
It is a matter of grave concern that the only source of information for the article, “Egg and poultry cartels in the wings” (November 5), appears to be the Competition Commission’s press release on the penalties agreed to with Pioneer Foods and the company’s reported admission of its own guilt across several of its operations.

The press release alleges anti-competitive activities by other role players in the broiler or chicken-meat industry and the commercial egg industry. There are no details on exactly what it is Pioneer claims is at odds with the Competition Act, neither have these alleged irregularities been made publicly available or subjected to due process in assessing the merits or otherwise of the allegations of anti-competitive practices by the egg and poultry industry. Also, at no stage was the Southern African Poultry Association (Sapa) or, to our knowledge, were any of our members mentioned by name in the article, approached for comment. This is mandatory in fair journalism.

The commission seems to be indulging in trial by media as opposed to trial by law. I find it disappointing that a newspaper that prides itself on the highest standards of investigative journalism would commit the elementary error of considering a press release to be the whole story. Pioneer’s mea culpa may be a tactic to avoid even more onerous penalties than its admission of guilt has earned it to date, but these alleged admissions remain unproved, untested and unverified.
Sapa’s view is that we supplied the commission with all the information it requested from us in February this year. We have heard nothing since.

Until all parties involved in these investigations can present their views, it is presumptuous to assume anyone is guilty of any offence. To infer other­wise, as does your article, is inaccurate and misleading.—Kevin Lovell, chief executive, Southern African Poultry Association

Gumede: M&G is playing the man, not the ball
I have never in the history of the Mail & Guardian seen such biased and gutter journalism as that splashed in last week’s edition, accompanied by a cartoon and a one-sided editorial about Robert Gumede. Following the apology to Gumede the M&G was ordered to publish by the press council, I conclude the M&G has a beef against Gumede, not because it suspects he made his millions illegitimately, but because he’s black. After failing to produce a shred of evidence that he got millions in tenders using underhand tactics, the M&G goes on the warpath—using his ex-wife.

This transaction happened in 2007 and for his ex-wife to “spill the beans” now smacks of sour grapes. You failed to mention that, after the acrimonious divorce, Zongi Gumede said she had transferred the money in 2005. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Sam Sole has been pursuing the story from his days at Noseweek and failed to unearth any dirt. So he brought his baggage to the M&G and, with Adriaan Basson, he has failed to find any evidence against Gumede. Instead they resort to playing the man not the ball.

Sole has dirty hands. He is an embedded journalist who has been used by Gumede’s business-partner-turned-enemy John Sterenborg. The fact that Sole’s flight to Durban to interview Sterenborg was paid for by Sterenborg posed an ethical dilemma. He never mentioned it until Gumede’s revelations on the SABC, where Gumede exposed him for the charlatan he is.

Please, Mr Editor, do the right thing and apologise to Gumede and the readers who part with R21,50 to buy your newspaper. Last week you completely lost the plot.—Themba Sepotokele, former journalist, now a media trainer

Critical thinking sells out?
Your invitation to the Mail & Guardian’s Critical Thinking Forum must be a joke. It appears that whoever concocted the question to be debated has absolutely no clue about the situation in South Africa with regard to carbon emissions and energy needs—or it was deliberately phrased to steer the debate in a direction that would avoid the real issues. Or did one of the biggest global environmental polluters/destroyers/exploiters, and in my opinion liars—the sponsor whose logo adorns the invitation—get to design the question on the basis of its own self-serving interests?

Where is the M&G heading? Once a highly respected publication, it seems to no longer possess a sense of the importance of retaining its critical independence. There is no difference whatever between the government censoring the media and letting corrupt corporate interests manipulate your outreach. Is the temporary use of your good name for corporate propaganda purposes now up for grabs to the highest bidder?

If your invitation is meant to be a sincere attempt at fostering critical debate I suggest getting your act together or risk losing the flimsy remaining fragments of environmental integrity and credibility the M&G has left.—Wally Menne

Let no more children die
The tragic story of the death of Leon Booysen (0ctober 29) horrified me. What kind of criminal justice system do we have that allows young offenders to die like this? What kind of warders allow young offenders to be violated in this manner while in their care?

A 14-year-old, irrespective of the crime he has committed, is still a child who needs parental care and protection. Booysen died a tragic death and he endured severe pain. How many more children must die in police custody before something is done? Minister [Nosiviwe] Mapisa-Nqakula, I hope Leon is the last child to die in police custody and I hope he is also the last child to be violated in police custody.—Tshepo Msibi, Johannesburg

Moving township tale
The story by Monako Dibetle, “But I live in Kagiso” (November 5) was very moving. It gave an objective picture of the misery and hopelessness in which blacks live, 16 years into democracy. This is the picture in many townships. I wish the M&G would feature more such stories.—Zolani Dinwa, Msobomvu, Eastern Cape

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