This letter is written as a result of a discussion about Nkosinjani Speelman, the mayor of Matjhabeng in the Free State, on the Facebook community page “Heidedal Enough is Enough”, which has 7 400 active members.
The page has its genesis as a consequence of the collapse of service delivery in the Mangaung Metro a few years ago. These predominantly coloured members are voters who can potentially influence the voting patterns of their spouses, children and parents. The page has also become a crucial instrument for residents to hold their public office bearers accountable publicly, and to force service delivery through naming and shaming. There are hundreds of other pages, similar in nature across the country and across different communities. These pages provide a powerful platform for people to air their grievances in general and with the ANC.
The people, on whose behalf I am writing, are aggrieved by the manner in which the ANC does not deal with perpetrators of racism in their own ranks.
Speelman was caught describing a group of young coloured people during a visit from the South African Defence Force (SANDF) prior to lockdown as “boesmans” who should be subjected to “skop and donner”, thus insinuating the use of force against them.
He was charged with misconduct by the Provincial Disciplinary Committee (PDC).
On August 6, the National Appeals Committee of the ANC (NCDA) released their final findings, effectively overruling the PDC and reinstating Speelman as mayor of the Matjhabeng local municipality, with minimum consequence.
Our disgust in the handling of the Speelman matter stems from the following:
1. Allowing Nomvula Mokonyane to preside over the case. The former minister is on public record for stating that, “the ANC doesn’t need your dirty votes” during an election campaign in Bekkersdal, addressing informal settlement dwellers. Mokonyane is tainted with allegations of corruption and maladministration and therefore does not hold the moral high ground to preside over any entity that seeks to correct the behaviour of public representatives;
2. The NDCA noted that “the utterances were very serious and in direct transgression of the Constitution”. Speelman, therefore, got off scot-free with the appeals ruling. Let me remind you that Penny Sparrow received a suspended sentence for crimen injuria and had fines imposed for hate speech by the criminal court and the equality court, for calling people “monkeys”. The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal was very unhappy with the sanctions imposed by the courts as they “believed the conduct she displayed warrants an arrest, jail sentence, as opposed to money that must be paid”.
3. On the other end of the political spectrum, Khaya Magaxa, ANC acting chairperson in the Western Cape in 2018, allegedly called coloured people dogs. It appears that the person, Sammy Claasen, who brought the complaint, was instead disciplined. Vicki Momberg was jailed on four counts of crimen injuria for racist slurs against a police officer. Adam Catzavelos received a fine and a suspended sentence.
If ordinary citizens can be held to account, how much more the public representatives of a non-racial organisation?
The sanction of the NDAC has as its only objective, to protect one of their own, in an instance where the coloured community has once again become collateral damage in the slate politics of the Free State ANC.
Racial utterances are divisive, hurtful and break the social contract. The manner in which it was dealt with creates the impression that racism is tolerated and acceptable, albeit with an apology, when perpetrated by ANC members.
Speelman has apologised to the NDAC to ensure his position. He recognises in a so-called public apology, rendered a day after he made his derogatory remarks, that he affronted ALL of the coloured community. He also arrogantly reiterates the notion that violence should be applied against communities to ensure compliance with disaster management regulations.
The coloured community is yet to receive an acceptable apology from Speelman, as directed by the NDAC.
4. The NDAC, in support of their decision, also considered a statement by Hendrick Minnie, the provincial co-ordinator of the ANC Free State minority groups. Please note that Minnie does not speak for the coloured community, he does not speak on behalf of the people of Bronville or even the coloured community in Heidedal, Bloemfontein, where he is a branch executive member of the Abel Kamanda Thapedi branch in ward 47. The branch secretary, Mpho Chabeli, has publicly condemned Speelman’s utterances as derogatory and negative towards the coloured community, maintained the outcome of the PDS and distanced the branch from Minnie’s conduct. Chabeli confirms that Minnie acted alone and in his personal capacity.
The communities of Bronville and Heidedal are outraged at Minnie’s actions and want to state explicitly that he does not speak for them, and that they are not accepting Speelman’s so-called apology. A request has been made to the branch to deal with Minnie’s conduct.
A fair request would be to know, to what extent Minnie’s personal writings contributed to a different outcome from the conclusions of the PDC, and whether the NDAC, without Minnie’s writings, would still have reached a different finding than the PDC?
We, therefore, request a review of the NDAC decision, the removal of Speelman, who by his actions is deemed unfit for public office, and disciplinary action to be taken against Minnie.
The ANC, in failing to deal with deep-rooted racism in its own ranks, is allowing the gains that have been made towards racial and social integration to be eliminated – against its own values and policies. Social cohesion is disintegrating before our very eyes, as you continue to treat some more equal than others.
Gregory Werner is the administrator of the Heidedal Enough is Enough Facebook page