A Unified South Africa?
By: Mbalenhle Khuzwayo and Jarita Kassen
On 21 March 2017, Human Rights Day, social media was abuzz with a video about a violent confrontation taken at the Glen Mall Spur. A white man identified as Nico Viljoen threatened a black woman identified as Lebohang Mabuya. Nico accused one of the children that was sitting with Lebohang, for hitting his daughter in the Spur playroom.
It is naïve to think that historical impediments of institutionalized racism that is part of South Africa’s past and our society’s present anti-blackness rhetoric as well as continuous systemic marginalization of women, had no part in the violent confrontation at Spur. The audacity of a WHOLE white male to aggressively speak and grab a black child from another adult in a restaurant filled with people stems from learnt generational disrespect of black bodies. Through the dehumanization and oppression thereof at the hands of European settlers and their descendants. From violent slavery, colonialism and apartheid the ethos of Eurocentric epistemology are Western ideals that nurtured the masculine superiority complex exhibited by this white male.
Had Nico been a black man, action against his threats would have been addressed immediately with harsh repercussions. However, due to the, still, dominant Western ideology of “white is right” as well as the dehumanization of both women and blackness our society failed the black woman and children at that table. A superiority complex of white male masculinity embodied by Nico was both challenged and disrupted when a defiant black woman stood up for herself, when others did not. Confrontation is unpleasant and violent in nature but this can be said for patriarchy and white supremacy.
Below is a chart showing Patricia Hill-Collin’s “Matrix of Domination” through which privilege, oppression and intersectionality can be understood.
The more you identify with the aspects of “Dominant Group Ideology” (the inner circle) the more privileged and dominant you are. Essentially, white cisgender- heterosexual masculinity is life, toxic as it may be, anything outside of that “norm” is dismissed, marginalized and left unprotected.
The nature and people represented at the anti-Zuma marches can be directly linked to the intersectionality of privilege discussed above. On the 7th April thousands of predominantly middle-class citizens took to the streets to march behind the call for #ZumaMustFall. Many, predominantly students who protested behind the call for #FeesMustFall expressed dissent towards these marches and the selective empathy that it exposes.
Yes it is all good and well that the White, Indian and Coloured middle-class are (finally) marching for a better South Africa and making a call for all South Africans to unite. We must, however, interrogate why this march is only happening now.
When Zuma was accused of rape and despite substantial evidence was found not guilty, where was the call to unite and support the victim, a black woman named Fezeka Ntsukela Kuzwayo?
When, during the Marikana Massacre when the SAPS unjustly took the lives of 34 mineworkers, was there a protest calling for higher wages for mineworkers, where was the call to support and defend our black brothers and sisters?
When school learners at Philippi High School protested for the new school that they were promised, were arrested, where was the call to protect them?
When 94 mentally-ill patients, who were moved from Life Esidimeni Health Care Centre, died due to cold, hunger and dehydration. Where was the call to unite an hold those responsible for this gross injustice accountable?
When thousands of students across South Africa fought against Financial -Exclusion, Fee Increments and anti-black institutions where was the call to unite with us and support us in our fight for free, decolonised, intersection, quality education? Where were you when we were being tear-gassed and shot at with rubber-bullets for fighting for something that was promised to us?
Now that South Africa has been reduced to Junk Status by S&P and Fitch Ratings which directly affects the financial standing of all of us regardless of class and race, there is an outcry from those who were silent before.
The #ZumaMustFall marches has exposed the self-interested capitalists, who will only fight against a system when it directly affects them. The Spur incident as well as the apathy displayed towards Marikana and Esidimeni exposes the white supremacy and un-unified South Africa we are currently living in.
If you still think that Jacob Zuma is our biggest problem, you need to check yourself.