After the electioneering hype has died out; after the electorate has had a say in how it wants and/or wishes to be governed in the local municipalities and the Independent Electoral Commission’s monotonous, but necessary, messages of “Love your South Africa” have been forgotten, one of the things the local municipal elections of 2011 will remembered for will be the increased number of black people who stood as candidates for political office in the areas in which the generally white supported Democratic Alliance was contesting the elections.
Chief amongst those black people who joined the DA’s ranks and is in the running for the mayoral position of the Johannesburg is Mmusi Maimane, who at 30 could be the City of Gold’s youngest mayor. Him being young and being born and bread in the South Western Townships (Soweto) has, sadly, seen his political standing being interpreted by some as ‘treachery’ to his ‘people’s’(read black) cause for betterment. Insults like ‘sell out’; ‘coconut’; and ‘oreo’ have been used to describe Maimane and other young black people like DA’s youth leaders Mbali Ntuli and Makashuke Gana who’ve found resonance in the unashamedly market friendlier policies of the official opposition party. Perhaps the most unfortunate of the young blacks to whom the DA is a political home is its spokesperson, Lindiwe Mazibuko. She, you’d remember, took offence when the minister of higher education, Blade Nzimande, used the word “darkie” in parliament earlier in the year during a heated debate on credibility of last year’s matric pass rate. The minister fired back by saying people like Mazibuko find “darkie” offensive because they weren’t raised in the township and perhaps are out of ‘touch’ with its lexicon. Nzimande was rather presumptuous in his conclusion that being raised in the township means that one automatically embraces the term “darkie”.
Gugu Ndima, the Young Communist League’s spokesperson, in an opinion piece “The new generation of darkies is coming”, wrote:” The word darkie is used in kwaito songs, hip-hop lyrics, local house tracks, dialogue in drama series and soapies (probably on SABC 1 and 2, which cater for the working class and the poor) – in short, in a constituency the DA alienates in the Western Cape! So one can only conclude that the well-polished Lindiwe Mazibuko has minimised her exposure to such a derogatory life and hence the word seems alien and foreign, even derogatory, to her.” Is Ndima suggesting that one’s embrace of the term “darkie” is indicative of one’s sensitivity to the economic plight of compatriots who are located at the periphery of the spoils of the new dispensation? I sure hope the mayor of Viljoenskroom, Mantebu Mokgosi, didn’t take kindly to the word “darkie” because if she did, how did she explain the more than 100 open toilets in Moqhaka? The questioning of the blackness of those blacks who choose to join traditional white parties is the laziest avenue of politicking to take. Maybe Mazibuko and company are a different kind of black. A kind of black of the post 1994 South Africa, a kind of black that was schooled in multiracial surroundings and went to our own Ivy League university such as University of Cape Town; Pretoria, Stellenbosch and Witwatersrand and now live in affluent residensia that are found in various parts of Republic. But is that a crime? Who, if given an opportunity, would refuse private schooling, healthcare other amenities that the private sector offers because they want to show that they are ‘loyal’ cadres who are ‘in tune’ with the pulse of the working class? Even our own ‘revolutionary’ politicians probably prefer private healthcare for the family as opposed to that of the public system. I have never known anyone who says that their family settled in the ghettos of South Africa out of choice. Black settled in the township because the township was structural designed to keep them away from the economic hubs of the country where the best schools; clinics and general services are situated. So, the idea of wanting to ridicule other black people for not growing up in areas that have rat infestation problems, places whose sewerage systems are overwhelmed by the waste, places were floods are a permanent feature of the rainy season and fire consumed homes are a reminder of lack of proper electrical installations, is quite pathetic when one applies their mind to the indignity that often characterizes the township experience. This, however, isn’t to say that to live in the township is always misery personified but that doesn’t make it Hollywood either. When Maimane was quizzed by the Mail and Guardian’s Many Russouw about the perception of his ‘selling out’ he is reported to have said:” I was asked by my friend if I’m not selling out. I told him those who sell out are those whose allocations of budgets, in terms of service delivery, [are]misspent. That’s money that is meant for the poor and used for other things — that’s what’s selling out.”
Democracy by its very nature allows for the existence of a plurality of perspectives on how to best negotiate the route to individual and collective development. The likes of Mazibuko and Ntuli ought to be engaged on their political leans and not have their racial identity. To ask how, as black people, they could be advocates of neo liberal policies is to suggest that blacks are left winged by nature. I’d like to think that the black capitalists within the broad church that is the governing party would refute such suggestions. It would be more worthwhile for those not swayed by market friendly policies of the DA, which are also a feature of the African National Congress’s policies, to invest their energies in finding better ways of making South Africa a conducive environment for all her people to lead dignified lives. In a country where blacks are the most populous, it’s natural for parties like the DA to want to attract black people because people still largely vote for people who look and, at times, speak like them. As to whether the DA can transform itself into a fully fledged multiracial and class party is yet to be seen. Perhaps that’s what has those of blacker than thou dispositions worried. The wisdom of Martin Luther King JR reminds us that “the unity of freedom has never relied on the unity of opinion.”