/ 28 March 2013

Threats are bad; white supremacy is worse

Andile Mngxitama.
Andile Mngxitama.

While this is not the first threat that Mr Mngxitama has made on my safety, he is not a racist; he is just often intolerant of differing opinions – both black and white.

I do note that there have been principled statements about this matter from individuals and organisations expressing, without side agendas, solidarity with me. I want to thank those people for their comradeship. While I appreciate those statements, I still wish to say that I have never solicited any support from any person or organisation.

I would also like to clarify that I categorically distance myself from anyone who thinks that they have come to my defence by reporting Mr Mngxitama to his boss at the Foundation for Human Rights –  if this was done, it was without my knowledge or consent. In fact, I do not think that he should be fired and think that it was opportunistic and vindictive if anyone tried to get Mr Mngxitama fired and his family's livelihood punished over this ridiculous saga.

Furthermore, the media reporting on this matter has been disheartening and opportunistic. Verashni Pillay's op-ed, in particular, smacks of moralistic ridicule and colonialist wording: "Not, as he has done with this rant, backwards into a primitive space where violence is the only answer." The use of the words "backward" and "primitive" when we are dealing with accusations of racism sticks out like a sore thumb as particularly problematic.

It is relevant to ask why the media is defending me now when a number of other (primarily black) activists have accused Mr Mngxitama of threatening them over the years – why did they keep quiet then? And why do these same people in the media keep quiet when ANC thugs attack Abahlali baseMjondolo members at KwaNdengezi or Uganda shack settlements? Or suppress evidence of police cover-up at Marikana? Or fail to report on the huge divide between services rendered to Khayelitsha versus Constantia? Or fail to question our political subservience to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank?

It seems that while Mr Mngxitama has brought much of this on himself, there remain many people who just can't wait to get rid of Mr Mngxitama, not because of his calls to violence, but because they feel threatened by the way he attacks white supremacy. White supremacy has used Mr Mngxitama's deplorable threats, and has used me as well, to ridicule Black Consciousness. Just read this latest ThoughtLeader article by some young liberal hacks. I have no love lost for Andile Mngxitama. Yet at the same time, I feel uncomfortable with the way liberalism is using this saga to further its own aims. This feeds right into the hands of anti-black and anti-poor politicians like Helen Zille or Mamphela Ramphele.

For the record, I have never claimed to represent blacks, to be part of the Black Consciousness tradition, or be part of any Black Consciousness movement. As a white person, I do not believe I can claim such a role. However, I can and do claim to be a person that has a deep respect for the  BC tradition and I try to honour it as best I can. One of those ways is to write in support of activists who do carry on this powerful praxis.

I appreciate the fact that Andile Mngxitama has now renounced his threats against me and has asked his friends and supporters to stop their violent threats as well. I truly hope that his statement is the beginning of a new way forward because despite our differences and regardless of the threats, Mr Mngxitama has a lot to teach every one of us.

I would also like to ask that Mr Mngxitama allow me space in his New Frank Talk to respond the the baseless accusation that I "destroy black peoples organisations". (To clarify, I was not involved with Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape when Mzonke Poni was removed as chairperson by its members. Nor did I write any press releases about it.) I think this is more than a fair request.

Furthermore, I am willing to sit down with Mngxitama or anyone else who was offended by my article titled “Biko would not vote for Ramphele” and engage with him/them in a constructive fashion. I hope that people will take such an opportunity to do so.

Most importantly, I hope this saga comes to an end soon. There are bigger fish to fry: they are the ones running our country and economy and who continue to pretend that we are living post-oppression in a post-racist democracy. They are the ones killing the Tatanes, Mambushes, and Macias. They are the ones making the poor poorer, keeping almost all the land in the hands of white farmers and multinational corporations, and they are the ones oppressing the workers in the mines.

On March 30, some of those who want real change will be marching with the wife/widower of Andreas Tatane for 15km from Gugulethu to Khayelitsha. Anyone who wants real change in this country should support this and other similar initiatives.

Jared Sacks is a Cape Town-based social justice activist, independent journalist and founder of the nonprofit organisation Children of South Africa.