Category Archives: ANC

That’ll do SA… That’ll do…

Barack+Obama+_+Mandela+MemorialBlah, blah, blah, Mandela, blah, blah, blah, world mourning, blah blah blah. Yes, we’ve all heard about it by now so there’s no need to recap any of the finer details, but hell, what a show we gave the world to send off our ‘old man’. Bob Mugabe and Tony Blair in the same stadium, America and Cuba reconciling 50 years after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, some imaginative sign language from a dude in a snappy suit, and a self-confessed porn addict (or so the doctor says, and we always know to trust the doctor) to sing in Obama (there’s some lovely joke in there somewhere but I’ll have to mull it over). But I think my favourite part of the entire Mandela Memorial was Uncle Cyril stepping up to that mic, interrupting the Indian prime minister and telling the people of South Africa to behave. And as with any small child with a dodgy uncle, most of the crowd fled the scene. The more rebellious however, stayed.
We (yes, I’m laying claim to being the voice of all South Africans) wish they hadn’t. As if it wasn’t mortifying enough being told off in Zulu for being horrible little skebengas in front of the world, we were told off again by Pappy Tutu, who, by the end of it, was so outraged that he went off on a rant in Afrikaans. Oh what lovely irony. A boisterous crowd of mostly black South Africans told off in the language of their white oppressor at the memorial of Nelson Mandela. Seriously?! Really?! Verwoerd couldn’t have written a better script himself.
Well done South Africa, well done.

PS You think next time someone important in South Africa dies (no doctor, Rattray wasn’t important) could we please do without the stadium thing, and rather let the crowds be crowds on the street and the dignitaries be obnoxious in a private room with cameras judging them, rather than them judging us as a nation? Imagine how much more fun and self-righteous we could’ve been about Obama’s selfie if we hadn’t stuffed up so many other things? OMG! I just realised. We didn’t stuff up anything. It was all a cover-up to make the American president look less like an angry teenager who forgot to get out of bed on time… We really are a giving nation.

ANC: Stop Short-Term Thinking, Start Long-Term Planning

Last Friday, the Mail and Guardian reported that the ANC has tabled plans to force all tertiary graduates to enter into state internships after completing their studies. This isn’t exactly news. I wrote a post not so long ago about these plans, but I thought I’d spend a little more time explaining why this can’t work, and try to offer a more analytical critique, instead of just passing snide remarks.

One of the first things that I try to tell any student when they first start writing argumentative essays is that they should refrain from making sweeping assumptions.  For example, don’t claim that all South Africans have Blackberries. It might be true that all your friends have Blackberries, or that everyone you know uses a Blackberry, but that doesn’t constitute the entire population, so instead, you should say that many South Africans own Blackberries. This prevents you from being wrong and provides a buffer that acknowledges you understand the actual statistics of the cell phone industry in South Africa. Unfortunately, the ANC appear to making this mistake by assuming that all tertiary education is the same.  By declaring that all gradutes would be required to enter into state internships presumes that all degrees and diplomas offer students a specific type of training that can be translated directly into the workplace. Sadly, this is far from reality, especially when dealing with the humanities.

While doctors, lawyers, engineers and accountants could slide quite easily into various internships (they already do to a certain degree), it becomes more of a challenge for those of us who did not study a professional ‘trade’. Personally, I did a degree specialising in Media, English and Ethics – yes, I can hear you all screaming journalist – but none of these subjects actually aimed to teach practical skills, especially English and Ethics. The aim of these subjects, for the most part, was to teach one to think, analyse and comment on various issues. Even Media, which so many assume is orientated around television and print journalism, has closer relations to Cultural Studies and Philosophy than it does to media training. So in reality, I learnt how to discuss the implications (both good and bad) of Lady Gaga’s dress-sense in relation to society’s representations of feminity. Employable, right?

You have to remember that the humanities were designed, hundreds of years ago, as a field for society’s elite. It was for those upperclass aristocrats – usually women – who didn’t have to work and just wanted to help supplement their conversational abilities in the arts and foreign languages. It was never meant as a way to train employees.

Now, ignoring my last point, and assuming that my BA had equipped me for the communications world in a way that the ANC believes it could, there are another two major problems with their plan.  Firstly, there are thousands of university graduates each year, add on another few thousand for diplomas, and even more for correspondence courses. I’m led to believe that UNISA has over 9 000 communications graduates each year. Technically, it’s a flooded field and there are only so many communications jobs out there, especially in state-run communications. Blade Nzimande, however, argues that internships would function as compulsory community service for graduates, and once completed, interns would be ‘absorbed into that service within the public sector’. It’s a noble proposition, if not disturbingly naive, to say the least. Here’s the problem: we currently don’t have enough jobs, so how does the ANC propose to create thousands of internships around the country, that would then result in permenant employment? If they can do this, then why haven’t they been able to solve the current employment problems?

Secondly, it seems unlikely, for the same reasons, that the government would be able to fund such internships. Granted, medical interns and legal article clerks don’t earn enormous salaries, but they don’t work for free either. In addition, medical graduates are also re-located and often live in flats, hostels, or digs, partly, if not wholly, funded by their employers. So again I ask, how does the ANC propose to put this into practice? Where will they get the extra funds, and where will all these displaced graduates live? In essence, how do they propose that these community servants live once assigned a post? It seems to me that this plan has no real foresight, and absolutely no long-term consideration.

All this points to the unfortunate truth, and one which few people wish to acknowledge – an over-priced piece of paper does not ensure a good employee, good, solid experience does. That’s really where all this stems from, I believe. Employers want recruits that know how to function in the business environment, tertiary education does not necessarily do this, and the government sees internships as a way to deal with this issue. Years ago, if you wanted to become a lawyer, you would work as an ‘apprentice’ of sorts, learn on the job, and finally wrote an exam which tested to see if you were equipped to be admitted. Instead of university training, you were guided by a mentor and practising legal instructor.  A University degree was more about highlighting your financial status and still had to be supplemented by practical training before you could be admitted. Today, while a degree is essential, you still have to complete your articles before you can be admitted.

Unfortunately, society has become so concerned with status that many have forgotten that experience is just as, if not more important, than having a tertiary qualification. This is part of the reason, I’m sure, that the ANC believe that this is the solution.  However, the problem doesn’t lie entirely with misconceptions about degrees.  Mostly, it lies in the quality of our high school qualifications.  Overall, they have become redundant and a tertiary certificate/diploma/degree is needed to help  prove that we are literate, then alone trained in a specific field. Perhaps if we raised the quality of our high school education, and didn’t consider 30% a pass, more employers would be open to hiring high school graduates and give them on-the-job training, rather than relying on ill-equipped mediocrity.

Bottom line though, tertiary education should not be seen as a inequitable right. Basic education is. Universities are places that should harness the collective intelligence of the creme-de-la-creme of society’s academically gifted. If we don’t acknowledge this, we will fail to appreciate those who are gifted in other areas, like farming or carpentry. Academics is not meant for everyone, just like playing for the Springboks is not possible for everyone. I can write, so this is perfect for me, but ask me to build a house and I’m a complete imbecile, just like many students appear because this is not meant for them. So instead of trying to fix the problem after the fact, perhaps the ANC should try to add value to apprenticeships, high school education and leave internships to those who will actually benefit society, like doctors, not experts in Lady Gaga.

A Rose By Any Other Name…

Looking at the rose alongside this sentence, it’s difficult to imagine that this post is not about love and romance. But why? Do you see any hearts? Any couples? Chocolates? Champagne? So then why would you draw that conclusion?

In fact, when I first saw this image I thought the rose was placed by a long-lost lover on tomb. But why? How could I know that without any evidence? There’s no tomb, coffin, or anything else that would explain my interpretation.  The reality is that it all boils down to social norms and expectations. Thanks to Hallmark, and the industry that is Valentine’s Day, we often see images of roses and romance together. And a single rose, placed on a white topped tomb is often depicted in bad love stories, as the protagonist mourns the death of their one true love (only for a new true love to appear soon after).

So if that’s the case, if all images are merely interpreted via our own expectations and social contexts, then surely I cannot hold the photographer responsible for my own projections. It’s most likely that he/she/it was trying to channel a romantic feel in this picture because they too carry the same rose connotations in their head as I (we) do, but we can’t be sure. Maybe the photographer was attempting to show his victory in garden warfare, and took a picture of his first victim. The only thing that is certain is that the interpretation rests with the receiver, and is shaped by social norms and expectations.

Saying this, we can now move on to the main point of this post: Brett Murray’s controversial ‘Spear’ portrait of President Jacob Zuma (I’ve included it for good measure).

Zuma said that after seeing the image for the first time he felt “shocked, personally offended and violated”. This he argued was because the image showed him as “a philanderer, womaniser and one with no respect”. Others have come out saying that the portrait is racist because it’s a stereotype that black men have large penises, while others have said that this infringes on the president’s dignity and privacy. I’m not going to waste my time arguing about race and size because I guarantee you that had Murray drawn Zuma with a tiny penis people would have said that it was racist because he had emasculated Zuma. The two issues that I’m interested in pertain to Zuma’s interpretation and his privacy.
Like I already argued, society has an accepted understanding regarding the connotations associated with almost everything. Generally, a man’s penis depicts his masculinity, and the larger he is, the more powerful and masculine he is thought to be. In ancient Rome and Greece, most statues of great leaders were naked to show off the beauty of the human body, as well as to show off their masculine perfection. And gods were most often the most well-endowed to demonstrate their power and superiority. So then, why is it that Zuma, and so many others, believe that the portrait is commenting on his morality and and lack of respect? Because, unfortunately, it’s what we already associate with him.
He is an open polygamist with a number of illegitimate children, he was acquitted of rape, and has continually proven himself to be a fundamental patriarch. Those are things we know about him, so those are the ideas that we will project onto any image of him – especially ones which have sexual connotations. So if that’s what you see in the image, it has nothing to do with Murray’s intentions (he claims the portrait was depicting a man guided by patriarchy, not sex); instead, it tells more about your individual viewpoint regarding Zuma. The fact that the president sees such negativity in the piece seems to suggest that he himself is somewhat sensitive about what has been written about him in the press and is now projecting that insecurity in his response to the painting.  I could be wrong, but when you have people like Zapiro continually drawing parallels to your leadership choices and rape, it seems only natural that Zuma might feel somewhat sensitive about his sexual exploits.
However, I think the bigger issue here is that so many have claimed that Murray’s painting is an invasion of privacy and as such, should be taken down. Now I’m no expert here, but I’m sure that to invade someone’s privacy, you would have had to have gained entry to something private. And I don’t think anyone believes that Murray drew the honourable first member from real-life experience, or from a stolen photograph. If he’d been spying on Zuma in the shower, or stolen a medical file to get the proportions right, then I would be quite happy to accept that he had breached the president’s privacy. Let’s be realistic here. Zuma is a man, and like all men, he has a penis. We all know it’s there, so it’s not like Murray stumbled across some profound state secret. He may be stepping on the president’s dignity, but invading his privacy?
If the ANC were really worried about Zuma’s reputation, they’d just leave the issue alone. Without their intervention the painting would have remained an anecdote for a small number of liberal art-going rich snobs in a DA stronghold, by an artist nobody would remember. But because of the fuss, threats of censorship and questions of free speech, they have managed to propel the painting to fame, success and Internet stardom. Congrats! You’ve succeeded in emasculating him all on your own. Maybe Juju should think about becoming Murray’s patron.

Why I Should Lead the World (Or At Least SA)

It’s absolutely disgraceful, it’s been almost two weeks since my last post. I blame my obsession with catching that darn bunny. One day,  I will trap that fluffy bastard and have chocolate eggs all year round. But fluffy things aside, something that did occur to me while I’ve been away. I’ve come up with a solution to end poverty, and ultimately put South Africa in the driving seat as a world power.

Before you judge my megalomania, hear me out. South Africa has about 50 million people, most of whom live in poverty and the rest of us face poverty with the constant hike in petrol, food, electricity and anything else the government has forgotten to tax. The ANC however, has just spent R400 million on centenary celebrations. Now here’s my plan. Don’t spend R400 million on a party, rather split the money with your people (the ANC is supposed to be the people’s party after all). That would mean that every South African would receive R8 million (do the math, it works). R8 million!! You could buy a house for that amount, and a car, and still have money left to invest overseas and live off the interest.

And you can’t tell me that providing financial equality would just make the rand more worthless. Actually, it would make it more powerful because the rest of the world would still be stuck using normal prices, which means that we would be importing goods for the same price. We would just have to stop the greedy from over-inflating everything, but that shouldn’t be too hard, our government likes passing new laws.

Yes, I know it’s brilliant. It’s why I should be in power – but then again, if I was, I’d be getting R8 million a year anyway, with perks. Hmmm…. this is tricky. Let me think some more and get back to you.

This Has Nothing to do With Politics

By now, most in South Africa have heard about Helen Zille’s ‘unpatriotic’, ‘racist’ and ‘liberally arrogant’ refugee tweet. And responses like the ones below, made me think that she must have really put her foot in her mouth. Surely, a politician who is canvassing for votes in an attempt to oust the ANC wouldn’t intentionally alienate the majority of South Africans by making a racist statement? That just seems like bad politicking.

The problem was, that when I went to have a look at what was actually said (something I don’t think many people did, judging by the reactions), I couldn’t help but think that people’s responses, while enormously oversensitive, were the product of a system which cements their status as a victim. Look, in no way am I saying that Zille should have said what she said, nor do I support her; in all honesty, I think it was strategic politicking to create public reaction against the ANC, but the problem is that so many of the responses which were posted on Twitter were emotionally reactionary rather than critically rational.

I’ve included the remarks made by Zille above, and if we compare what was actually said to the reactions posted above, there are a number of major issues.  Firstly, I battle to understand how the word refugee is related to race in any way. Yes, there have been instances of individuals fleeing based on racial persecution (Sudan, Rwanda), but refugees are also associated with individuals who flee war-torn and politically turbulent situations (Syria, Libya, Tunisia), as well as religious persecution. My great grandparents, for instance, had to flee Russia to avoid being persecuted for being Jewish. So the fact that many South Africans felt that Zille was making a racist claim, speaks more, I believe, about their own insecurities than her being an insensitive racist git. I can imagine what people are calling me now that I’ve said that, but I think it’s something to think about; especially if you consider that so many people were made to feel so unwelcome during apartheid.  Added to which, Zille does not state which race group these ‘refugees’ belong to. It’s the interpretation of the masses which has labelled them according to skin colour.

Secondly, if you look at the response above, in which Zille is accused of labelling Xhosa-speaking South Africans as refugees, you again find a massive misinterpretation. In fact, the person who made this claim is guilty of stereotyping – not everyone in the Eastern Cape is Xhosa-speaking. Overall, it has been through the interpretations of the public that have taken her socially insensitive tweet and turned it into a racially insensitive one.

Finally, and I think that this is the most pertinent point. She is not referring to all people in the Eastern Cape by any means, nor to any one race group. She has specifically labelled school children as education refugees, thus pointing to, what she believes, bad educational structures in the Eastern Cape. In reality, this is just a political ploy to highlight her beliefs that the Eastern Cape is failing under the rulership of the ANC. This is emphasised in later tweets in which she states that if the province were under the rule of the DA then things would be better.

Now this is neither here nor there. I doubt the DA could come in like a fairy and poof the problems of the province away with their magic fairy dust. The problems in the Eastern Cape are deep-seated and tied to many other things besides the ANC. Apart from what many believe, not everything can be blamed on the ANC; they are attempting to fix years of unevenness and broken infrastructure. But the bottom line is this, not everything can be based on race either, and South Africans who constantly harp on the issue are just helping to reinforce the imaginary power that different races possess. Race is a social construction. It’s up to the people to change and alter their perceptions regarding race instead of supporting and reinforcing past ideologies. So next time Zille tries to push the buttons of her opposition, surely it would be more beneficial to question her political motives and ask for proof of her statements instead of jumping on the race issue?

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