By Bathandwa Magqaza
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 10 of VARSITY News.
Identity politics in South Africa and, elsewhere where colonial imprints can be discerned, is a very contested phenomenon. It is, therefore, perplexing and disheartening that twenty-six years post the demise of the apartheid regime a company like Clicks dogmatically publishes hair advertisements which portray and label black African women’s hair as dry, dull and damaged.
The Clicks advertisement became a double edge advertisement. It irked black African peoples and united them in denouncing the company advertisement, publicly and explicitly calling the Clicks company what it is, i.e. racist. However, on the flip side, it sowed divisions among black African peoples on tactics to denounce the Clicks advertisement. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) henceforth, popularly intervened on the matter – with the clarion call to all their members to shutdown all Clicks stores across the country. The EFF’s intervention intensified the issue.
Clicks boss, Vikesh Ramsunder, demonstrated remorse, accountability and further said, “I am deeply disappointed that we allowed insensitive and offensive images to be published on our website“. Moreover, Ramsunder said, “negligent employees” had been suspended. Ramsunder’s response, however, seemed to have failed to quell the EFF leadership and its constituencies, because their Clicks shutdown efforts across the country, were intensified. The previous assertions that Ramsunder’s response failed to quell the EFF leadership and its constituencies can be solicited from the outgoing Wits Vice Chancellor and Principal, Professor Adam Habib. In his recent Daily Maverick article, Professor Adam Habib characterised the EFF’s shutdown of Clicks to be an “incitement and violent imagery that was evident in the communication of the EFF leaders”.
Furthermore, Professor Adams Habib defined the EFF’s involvement as “a power grab”, because their actions were of someone “awaiting an opportunity for political spectacle”. He thereafter insisted South Africans to take a stand against, “the cohort who romanticise war and violence”, because South Africa is a constitutional democracy after-all and all anger should be within the boundaries of our constitution.
Former Public Protector, Professor Thuli Madonsela, who was an illuminating beacon in the darker days not so long ago, was lambasted for her response regarding the matter. She claimed that “Clicks was legitimate, but anarchy and violence was not”. Mbuyiseni Ndlozi responded, “Find the nearest hell Thuli… when you get there, you know the cerebral thing to do. We need no approval from your coconut logic”.
I spoke to the UCT SRC deputy secretary general, Siseko Kosani about this issue, he is also a member of the EFF constituency. I told him, “our economy is in tatters, we have just witnessed numerous retrenchments which exacerbated the country’s unemployed rate to 40%”. Thereafter, I asked him, “in what way is the EFF’s mode of reaction (protest & demands) effective for our economy?”. From a Marxist perspective, Siseko eloquently asserted, “the South African economy is divided into two extremes, there are those who have and those who do not have. Our economy benefits the minority, those with the means of production”. He substantiated his assertion by arguing that even if our economy and GDP preforms well, the wages of the proletariat class are likely to remain stagnant while the bourgeoisie get richer.
Nonetheless, South Africa is not isolated from the global economy, thus President Cyril Ramaphosa has a strategic goal of attracting foreign investments to reinvigorate our economy. However, his goal might be obstructed by these incidents because which investor in their right mind would invest in a country where a minority party in Parliament can muscle a company and close its operations through violence without a single murmur from government?