Letters to the Editor: March 30

Genderqueer bondage threesome, anyone?
The recent article by Mark Gevisser on sexual identity debates in the United Nations (”Towards a progressive culture”, March 16) was interesting. It is good that South Africa is taking the lead in fighting for fundamental freedoms for gay and lesbian people in Africa. There should be no laws prohibiting ­consensual adult gay sex and gay people must be free from violence or the threat of violence.

But I see that “gender identity” is now always tacked on to the end in these debates.
It is a term that is contestable—and should be contested. South Africa gives the right of transsexuals to change sex, but gender-identity dysphoria, or the experience of believing that you are in the wrong gender body, remains a listed psychological condition that many therapists claim can be cured.

The term “gender identity” has potential to confuse. The background paper for the 2010 Australian Human Rights Commission’s consultation on “sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity discrimination” defined gender identity as including “being transgender, trans, transsexual and intersex. It also includes being androgynous, agender, a cross-dresser, a drag king, a drag queen, genderfluid, genderqueer, intergender, neutrois, pansexual, pan-gendered, a third gender and a third sex.”

Clearly all people should be free to have consensual adult sex and should be free from violence or the threat of it. But guaranteeing human rights for an ever-increasing smorgasbord of specialist sexualities will enforce the view that all forms of sexual expression are to be equally celebrated. Sexuality then becomes merely a matrix of increasingly strange possibilities (anyone for a genderqueer bondage threesome?).

This is not something to which people have democratically consented, either in South Africa or the rest of the continent.

Some of these “gender identities” are clearly freely chosen forms of sexual behaviour, so it also makes nonsense of the term “sexual orientation” and the existing important rights that gay and lesbian people have.—Philip Cole, East London

Denialists simply have open minds
Nikiwe Bikitsha’s article, “Reopening a closed Mbeki chapter” (March 23) was very interesting, although I haven’t read Frank Chikane’s book. I am interested in the misuse of spy agencies, not only in the ANC’s factional battles, but also in sowing seeds of division in the Pan Africanist Congress and bugging innocent citizens’ phones.

I was also interested to know on what grounds Bikitsha labelled Thabo Mbeki “an Aids denialist” in the same article. I am not defending Mbeki—he is capable of defending himself. I am concerned about labelling people with whom we disagree. This labelling was prevalent during Mbeki’s term of office, for instance, when he labelled his opponents “ultra-leftists”. This stigmatisation is dangerous and stifles debate and the free flow of ideas. Are those who hold a different opinion on Aids “Aids denialists”?

Are a group of Australian scientists who wrote a report in which they raised serious questions about the accuracy of HIV-antibody tests and the relationship between HIV and Aids “Aids denialists”? These scientists showed that HIV tests produced inconsistent results. They also found that HIV could not be isolated in all Aids patients, but it could be found in people who were HIV-antibody negative. We should try to understand why there are inconsistencies, instead of labelling those from another school of thought as “Aids denialists”.

Journalists, scientists, academics, scholars, commentators and politicians should avoid fixed positions and must always keep an open mind.—Sam Ditshego, senior researcher, Pan Africanist Research Institute

Journalism students lost in translation
In your article “Stellenbosch faces up to discrimination” (March 23 to 29), “journalism lecturer” Hannelie Booyens says: “Most students in my class have no truck with die taal.

About half of the Afrikaans-speaking journalism students prefer to write in English.”

Towards the end of 2011, a student in said journalism department emailed me a list of questions in English, presumably as part of a journalism research project.

The formulation of the questions was clumsy and imprecise. Some of them I simply could not understand. At the time, I thought Ms Booyens must be having a hard time teaching this one - not too bright. But after reading her recent remarks, it dawned on me: the student was one of those Afrikaners who preferred “to write in English”!

It does that. Makes you look fatuous when you’re actually not.—Tim du Plessis

Sharp truth is that not much has changed
We have come a long way since the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 (”Power to the people still a pipe dream” and “Why Zuma can’t bury Sharpeville”, March 23).

But I feel that perhaps the threat to our human rights is even greater today.

Underlying the socioeconomic conditions in which many people find themselves are the same factors that were entrenched by apartheid.

High poverty levels remain a challenge, unemployment is a sore point and access to economic opportunity is still restricted to a large degree. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is not growing any smaller.

Unless we redouble our efforts to increase access to economic opportunities for the majority, dramatically reduce poverty and unemployment levels and bridge the wide gap between the haves and have-nots, I am afraid another Sharpeville massacre is not impossible.—Motalatale S Modiba, Kempton Park

On ‘Sexwale’s prints all over R10bn tender’:

  • Tokyo is primarily an industrialist. A gifted moneymaker, in fact. Fat reason for him not to be a government official. His commercial interests have expanded to such an extent that they can’t not cause a conflict of interest. Government cannot hire billionaires as high-ranking officials. It is just too grey.—Thobile Ntaka
  • What is expected in a world of governmental tenders? Look at the United States and the utter corruption of their military tender programmes—rather than pay bribes, they fund politicians and distribute their military manufacturing all over their country to make it politically impossible to stop failures. The whole notion of making government services delivered by private industry (a key ingredient of neoliberalism) is an invitation to corruption. That anyone should be amazed is itself amazing.—Johan Meyer
  • This is not a case of “where there is smoke there is fire”. More like “where there are smelly socks there are corpses”. There was a time I truly respected Sexwale. However, it seems that his capitalistic greed for both wealth and power has caused him to disrespect his past. Sad!—Gregg Clarke

On ‘ANC’s unpaid millions’:

If you are stupid enough not to ask for full payment upfront when dealing with the ANC then you deserve the pain that follows.—ps246

On ‘SA presence drags down Brics’:

  • South Africa deserves to be in the Brics in as much as Nigeria must, at least, nominate a candidate for the top World Bank post. The role of Europe in the underdevelopment of Africa, South Africa included, cannot be underestimated and the Goldman Sachs boss’s urge for South Africa “not to look at history” is wrong and a baseless argument. How does one account for Sandton within the environs of Alexandria? The income gap needs to be resolved and part of that is a painful process of affirmative action and wealth redistribution.

    Secondly, Goldman Sachs is still stuck on the nation state whereas, as Africans, our drive is to [break down] these borders and embrace our regional blocs. So, to see South Africa as a single entity in 2016 displays shocking ignorance. Despite its challenges, the Southern African Development Community is a competitive region with lots of resources, oil, infrastructure, precious metals, coal, water and relatively educated masses. It is also a fairly stable region despite the dictatorships in Malawi, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The trick that Goldman Sachs wants to sell, like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank’s prescriptions to the developing world, is to display a sense of failure so that we despair and “ask them to invest to save us”. Nonsense! Our oil, coal, platinum, timber and food need to be refined in Africa and exported as end products rather than continuing to feed the neo-colonial design of perpetually making Africa the source continent.

    Julius Malema and Robert Mugabe might be misfiring on certain political lines, but on the redistribution of wealth they are right. Stability in Africa will only be guaranteed by a mutually reinforcing, two-process solution—wealth redistribution and education. On that basis, Africa needs to be patient, improve its governance and reduce corruption, develop its education, beneficiate its resources and export final products. When that happens, we will bring our own hedge funds to compete with Goldman Sachs, just like the Chinese, Indians and Mexicans have done.—Itai Zimunya

  • South Africa is the least corrupt of the Brics nations. The problem is that we are also the least educated, and therein lies the rub.—Brencis Price
  • But first, [O’Neill] said, policymakers need to concentrate on four things if they want capital to pour in: stability of government, weeding out corruption, the rule of law and education. “That applies to South Africa too.” I agree with all but two: the South African government is stable and there is rule of law in South Africa.—Sicelo Nkosi

On ‘Reopening a closed Mbeki chapter’:

  • Fact 1: At no point in the book does Frank Chikane refer to Mbeki as a saint. All human beings are prone to mistakes. Even Mandela made his by not addressing Aids, allowing outcomes-based education and giving us what is known as the arms deal.
    Fact 2: Like everyone, Chikane is entitled to his point of view.
    Fact 3: If anyone finds Chikane’s book offensive, then any person can also write a book.
    Fact 4: Personally, I am tired of white people being given free rein in writing our stories. No matter how highly esteemed we may be in our professions, white people see us primarily as garden boy, kitchen girl. So, for a black person, any book about our history, from any viewpoint, must be celebrated first, then critiqued.—Ntombiziyabusa Bhengu

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