Columns 5.8.2016 01:45 pm

Hands off black people, Mantashe

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. Picture: Michel Bega

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. Picture: Michel Bega

Comrade Gwede, as you point your finger at others, never forget that three of your own fingers are pointing right back at you.

It’s quite condescending, if not borderline racism, for ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe to think the reason black people didn’t vote for his party was because of their being black. Mantashe claimed black South Africans had not fully appreciated the value of voting while he was talking to the media at the IEC’s results centre on Thursday. He said this in the face of the “liberation movement” losing votes in some key metros in the country.

Saying “black South Africans have not appreciated fully the value of voting” is a clear sign that he’s ignoring the actual reasons why some have given up on voting, if that’s even the case, considering that more people actually cast their ballots in this election than they did five years ago.

When will Mantashe start to understand that the black majority is the group continuing to suffer the most brutal effects of the apartheid government? They are not the culprits here. Does Mantashe honestly think shack dwellers in Kliptown and Alexandra are OK with voting continuously even if their living conditions do not change? I mean, whether the DA or ANC wins a municipality, who continues to suffer more because of poor governance? It’s no doubt always the black majority.

Hands off black people, comrade. It is largely the black youth that’s unemployed; it’s black people who have to share rivers with animals for drinking water; in the main, it is black schoolgirls who have to bunk school because they don’t have sanitary pads; it’s black youth that’s drowning in drugs while the police leadership is busy with unending commissions of inquiry and court cases – not against thieves, but themselves.

Was it not the University of Cape Town’s black students that Western Cape premier Helen Zille insultingly told should deregister if they were unhappy with exorbitant school fees or whatever else it was troubling them at the university? Comrade please – hands off black people because they have suffered a lot under apartheid and now under the underperforming ANC government.

It’s not the value of voting they are not appreciating – rather, it’s voting for leaders who barely deliver on their promises.

Of course, it would be grossly unfair to point at the wrongs without looking at the rights. The ANC has done a lot for South Africans. Like President Jacob Zuma usually says, the country is undoubtedly a better place today than it was before 1994. Some of us even have education because of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, something that would have only been a dream for most black people in the apartheid era. But it shouldn’t end there – people want, and deserve, more.

While it’s true that black people are afraid of the return of legalised racism or apartheid, that shouldn’t be the reason why they might avoid voting for opposition parties – regardless of the threats, it seems clear that there’s no chance of apartheid returning – because, with the amount of racism and racialised inequalities we still see, it seems apartheid has never left us. Mantashe must know that, as much as black people are afraid of the return of apartheid, they are even more afraid of living in poor conditions indefinitely.

The ANC must improve the lives of black people, Comrade Mantashe. It helps not you nor the ANC to criticise the race that suffers most in South Africa.

The ANC must realise it cannot hold on to the victories of the past forever, as there are newer battles to fight. Asking black people to “appreciate” the insufficient work of the ANC is no different to some religious text teaching that people must not worry about earthly riches, as theirs are in heaven, while those teaching this continue to accumulate wealth for themselves.


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