Letters to the editor: May 16 to 22 2014

Clever ones vs the rest of us: The next battle?
As an ANC member, I am worried that the next five years of a Jacob Zuma government will be stormy. His legacy will show that corruption increased after he took over. He dissolved the Scorpions, protected the corrupt and defended his Nkandla palace, calling us “clever blacks”. Contemporary historians, public administration gurus and analysts will compare five years of Zuma with those of his predecessors.

Over the election period, I travelled from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then to Bloemfontein; in all these cities I saw banners showing Zuma and his predecessors, Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela. Mainly because of his weak character, Zuma had to speak mostly about their achievements over 20 years of democracy.

Mbeki was an architect of the African Union reforms, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, membership of the Bric grouping (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and the spadework for the 2010 World Cup.

Zuma, by comparison, when not electioneering, visited four district councils in a year – at the height of the campaign to unseat him. – Nokuzola Mati

– In the shadow of the ANC victory parties across the country (probably paid for by the state and not the party), it’s worth scratching the surface, ignoring the spin and simply looking at the figures.

Despite more voters compared with 2009 (an increase of more than 700?000), the ANC lost 3.8% nationally. Of the nine provinces, in five the ANC now has a smaller percentage – especially in Gauteng, the economic power house of South Africa (the ANC is down 11%) – and in four other provinces the ANC’s majority is up by only 3%.

This puts the ANC’s victory in perspective.

The Democratic Alliance, by comparison, has gained 6% nationally. But provincially it has made progress in every province, especially Gauteng, the Western Cape and the Northern Cape. In KwaZulu-Natal it has replaced the Inkatha Freedom Party (which lost 50% of its votes) as the official opposition.

The Malema boys have stormed the electoral system in Limpopo, North West and Gauteng, with more than 10% in the last.

The ANC is clearly declining in urban areas. Are we heading for an urban/rural divide? Or, to use Zuma’s own words, a divide between the clever ones and the rest? – Theo Martinez, Johannesburg

– The sustained vitriol of the Mail & Guardian may please a few of your readers and sponsors, but it can’t be said to be representative of the views of the majority, who overwhelmingly voted for the ruling party, despite the print media’s clever advice.

Play the ball and not the man – and tone down your nauseating vitriol. It helps no one. – Joseph B Gumbi, Pietermaritzburg


Webster was more like Biko
Give your life in the struggle against the oppression of black people in South Africa and if you’re white you’ll go down in history as an intellectual. That seems to be the message of an article marking the 25th anniversary of anti-apartheid activist David Webster’s assassination (“The lesson the murder of David Webster holds for the present“).

Webster was compared with activists Rick Turner and Neil Aggett, who were also victims of the regime’s security apparatus. The article characterises all three as “nonviolent, unassuming, intellectual critics”.

I knew Webster in the 1980s, in Johannesburg and later on his trips to Harare. I recorded many hours of interviews with him for a book on nonracism, and later drew on these interviews in a biography. In addition to teaching at Wits University, he was a compassionate supporter of detained activists and a brave investigator of state violence. But what I remember most about him is how he lived his commitment to nonracism.

When asked about his understanding of democracy, David said his insights came during the year he spent in a hut in a Mozambican village while researching his master’s degree in social anthropology.

“I now understand that having an education and being literate is not the same thing as being intelligent,” David explained. “Many of the Chopi people I know are not able to read and write. But they certainly know how to run their lives. And they do it very well.”

I believe Webster would want to be remembered as a South African activist, and an African. He certainly had things in common with Turner, the banned philosophy lecturer who encouraged white people to support black workers, and with the medical doctor turned trade unionist, Neil Aggett. But Webster also had a lot in common with an icon of the South African freedom struggle, Steve Biko, an intellectual who pioneered the Black Consciousness movement.

Biko was, like Webster, a victim of the apartheid security police, murdered in 1977. Like Webster, his terrain was the university; as a medical student Biko reshaped the South African student movement. And, like Webster, Biko did not publicly advocate violence against the violent and oppressive apartheid state.

Surely the similarities in the lives of Biko and Webster are more relevant than their different racial identities.

The 25th anniversary of Webster’s murder is an occasion to remember him alongside all the others who gave their lives in South Africa’s freedom struggle, regardless of race or level of literacy. – Julie Frederikse


Cape Town honours fascists
Your article “Varsity buildings salute apartheid” reports that Stellenbosch University still names a building after DF Malan and still has a plaque honouring HF Verwoerd.

That’s nothing. Cape Town still has streets named for Malan, JBM Hertzog and Hans Strijdom. Portugal celebrated the 40th anniversary of the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship, but Cape Town has a Salazar Plein honouring that dictator!

Cape Town has indeed renamed some streets, and not in honour of racists, but it is resistant to removing other racists’ names.

We need to sustain pressure until these names are removed to the museum where they belong. – Keith Gottschalk, Cape Town

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