I remember as a kid thinking that old saying, “Better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt,” was worth taking to heart.
ANC MP Mduduzi Manana would have done well to do the same.
His statement last night on his most recent run-in with the law, amid allegations that he’d pushed his domestic worker down the stairs and been all-round awful towards her, was not only evidence of foolishness, it betrayed more about the man than he’d probably have liked us to know.
For one thing, he didn’t deny that he’d assaulted the Zimbabwean woman, Christine Wiro, which to my mind is as good as an admission. He merely hid behind the fact that the matter is “sub judice”, which isn’t even a real thing in South Africa (since we don’t have a jury system).
In any case, the matter isn’t currently before any court and probably never will be – despite Manana’s announcement of “instructions to his lawyers” – because Wiro withdrew her charges against him yesterday after reports that Manana had paid her off.
I wonder if senior ANC members are given special training in how to play the victim, or have they just learnt it by following the example of those who’ve led the way before them?
Either way, Manana isn’t doing it very well. Maybe he wasn’t paying attention.
Possibly the most absurd aspect of his statement last night was his attempt to characterise his behaviour towards Wiro as being in her best interests. In my experience, this is the typical approach of the abuser.
“I’m doing this for your own good … I don’t want to be like this, but you make me like this …” and so on…
Abusers have been shifting the blame for their own bad behaviour on to their victims as far back as the stone age – where such abusers probably belong, anyway.
In Manana’s case, he tried to cloak his irritation at Wiro letting guests into his house without his knowledge or permission as a concern that, if she just let any old person in, she might get raped.
I know South Africa suffers from a lot of violent crime, but I doubt Manana had been losing a great deal of sleep over whether Wiro might fall victim to the whims of some passing rapist in Fourways.
No, she merely irritated him by not doing what he wanted, and he got upset with her.
I’m quite happy to accept that Wiro may have been a bad employee, and that she may have had a disrespectful attitude towards her boss. Maybe she even was a thief, as Manana implies.
None of that, though, can excuse any abusive behaviour towards her.
And yes, Manana couldn’t stop himself from implying that Wiro had nicked his camera and some crystal classes (how larney can we be, darling).
What a cliche this is of domestic worker-boss-relationship dynamics, which for such a long time we’ve come to associate with the “white madam” or “white baas” and the “maid”. But Manana’s, and many other modern instances of class dynamics, are a reminder that the tension in these relationships often supersedes race and, at heart, is about power.
Manana had power, and still has power, over Wiro. He abused that power, and, I’d say, continues to abuse it.
Black women in this country are often terribly downtrodden, and when you add in the fact that Wiro is a migrant worker from Zimbabwe, it strips her of even more power.
She initially claimed that Manana had threatened to have her deported, and it made me think of other Zimbabweans I know, who are pushed around willy-nilly in this country. Recently, one Zimbabwean family I know was evicted in less than 24 hours from a flat they were renting (and were not behind in payments for) in Yeoville, which of course is against the law. But they didn’t go to the cops because they don’t believe the legal system in this country has any interest in protecting their rights.
Manana had the tables turned on him, briefly, when Wiro did indeed go to the police to lay charges. For a passing moment there, the power dynamics shifted, and he was the one in trouble.
But predictably, money and influence have kept him out of the firing line.
For him to then also imply in his statement that he’s in effect the victim of a conspiracy, or that Wiro is exploiting his conviction as a woman beater, is beyond pathetic.
Mduduzi, my man, no one is plotting against you. You’re simply not important enough for anyone to waste their time on trying to destroy you, unless there’s something special about you none of us has heard about. The only reason I even know you exist is because you kicked some women last year after one of them pointed out that you look a bit gay.
Prior to that, I vaguely remember reading about how you substance-abused yourself on Bioplus.
Not yet done last night, Manana finished his statement by alleging that Wiro had attempted to extort R100 000 out of him to withdraw the case. We all know the more likely story is that he merely offered her the money to shut her up.
Full of righteous indignation, a bruised and battered Manana would now like us to believe he’ll be the one pursuing charges against the very same person we were all initially led to believe was his victim.
But no, to really be a victim in this country, you need to be a man who’s conspired against on all sides and oh so concerned about the welfare of women. Even though, some might say, Manana escaped with pretty light punishment after we were first introduced to him as a man who viciously assaults ladies in nightclubs.
Mdu, Mdu, Mdu. How stupid do you think we are? We saw that footage of you and your buddies beating the living daylights out of those poor women in Cubana. It’s going to take a lot of trips to a lot of schools with you handing out a lot of free sanitary pads before we can forget those horrifying images.
And in the meantime, let’s see how your little court case against Wiro goes, hmmm?