In a twar on Saturday occasioned by a debate about EFF leader Julius Malema flying business class, award-winning writer Zakes Mda dismissed Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama as a “failed politician”.
Mngxitama then responded with a long letter in response in which he calls Mda an “overrated dim-witted man of letters”, and even denied being a politician, despite leading a party that had contested national and provincial elections.
Mda had earlier defended Malema’s choice to fly business class, contending that one need not be poor, or act poor, oneself, to help the poor. He said the well-off should work to uplift the poor to their level of prosperity.
This, however, saw him being attacked by, among others, the BLF’s deputy leader Zanele Lwana.
Others said Mda was causing the revolutionary Thomas Sankara to turn in his grave, but Mda was having none of that. He also pointed out that Karl Marx had himself not been a “pauper”.
When Mngxitama called him a dimwit, Mda mocked Mngxitama in turn by reminding him of his onetime promotion of the discredited pyramid investment scheme MMM.
Mngxitama, however, defended even this, claiming it was Mda who didn’t know “how the system of money and success functions in a capitalist order”.
When Mda was asked to answer questions from Mngxitama about poverty, including about “who made the poor poor” Mda called them “primary school questions”.
He also took issue with being accused of promoting “charity”.
Mda let rip at Mngxitama, whose party failed to win a seat in the last elections and who were subsequently deregistered by the IEC.
“Before Andile craps on the heads of those who have made a success of their lives, he should rather slay the green-eyed monster and learn from them. At the moment everything he touches turns into mud.
“Not only is he a failed politician. He is a total failure in all aspects of life. He even failed at the MMM pyramid scheme. And now he failed to win even a single seat in parliament. What a disaster your leader is,” he told Lwana. “Oh yes, you become ad hominem with me, I return that in kind.”
When some joked that he had been too harsh with Mngxitama, he conceded, “Okay, I agree. With this Andile Mngxitama thing I brought an AK47 to kill a mosquito. Kodwa ingakudina lantwana. Inomdintsi nezothe. In future I’ll practice very hard the art of suffering fools gladly.”
“Prof Mda’s responses actually prove my point that he is indeed in the woods when it comes to understanding the sources of some of the social ills that he often comments on in his works and in public. Now I’m convinced that Prof Mda writes faster than he reads. Maybe he should go slower and study the structure of power and its consequences on the poor a bit more. Furthermore, he needs to remember his own work.
“He always makes a gaffe and then says, ‘oh well I wrote about that 20 years ago’. Clearly because he has no ethical or lets just say ideological framework that guides his work, he writes like an innocent journalist chasing deadlines and headlines. I’m not sure if these fundamental weaknesses can be cured since the good Prof has attained success without having to worry about such petty questions as to why things are the way they are.”
Mngxitama said he had already, a few years ago, during the “Time of Writers” in Durban expressed his criticism of Mda’s “lack of perspective in his work”.
“Prof Mda doesn’t address himself to any of the questions I have posed. He instead does exactly what he accuses me of. He goes ad hominem on me by calling me a failed politician. As if that’s not enough, he also throws one of the favourite under-the-belt choice insults by my rather ignorant but loud political adversaries, that my forays into MMM was an attempt to be ‘successful’. His notion of success is making lots of money by selling your soul to the oppressor and then turning around and saying you are helping the poor.
“The current running in between myself and Prof Mda is occasioned by his defence of Julius Malema’s hypocrisy of living like a millionaire when he claims to fight for the poor and be guided by Marxist Leninist Fanonian ideological perspectives. Prof Mda says one doesn’t need to be poor to help the poor. In the context of the corruption that our politicians are engulfed in – including collapsing the banks of the poor (like the VBS bank), and members of parliament (MPs) being in the pockets of the President who in turn has been found to have used his ‘success’ to buy the ANC Nasrec conference as indicated by the #RamaphosaLeaks – I thought that Prof Mda is not only ignorant, but also his defence of ‘success’ and gluttony is rather callous and infuriating.
“Our society is generally bereft of leaders with the necessary ethical ideals and revolutionary conduct. In this context Mda chooses to defend the gluttony of our politicians who make a ‘success’ of their lives through looting the poor and selling their souls to the highest bidder. Prof Mda advises me to join these successful politicians instead of castigating them for their hypocrisy. He calls them successful and me a failure.
“Prof Mda is correct in one way. I’m indeed a failure if success means selling my soul to the oppressors and exploiters of black people so that I may fly first class and be clad in Louis Vuitton and Gucci from toe to head. But to reiterate, I share this failure as a politician with my ideological inspiration, Thomas Sankara, who failed dismally as a politician. In fact Sankara’s understanding that success means bringing about social change that would free the people from poverty, led to his assassination. He was assassinated by a politician who was so successful that he was in power for 27 years and had amassed fortunes for himself while the people starved in Burkina Faso. Yes I’m a failure like the 64% of black people in this country who find themselves in poverty created by the oppressors who have made our politicians successful.”
He then denied that he was a politician.
“In fact I detest politicians. Politicians steal from the poor to become ‘successful’. That explains why the oppressor gave politicians millions of rands to bewitch the poor with marketing, and other tricks of mass deception, to vote for their oppression. My job, an admittedly impossible one, is to try and dislodge the system that breeds poverty. The lords of poverty are not going to make it easy and, yes, thus far progress has been slow but there is progress nonetheless. The road is indeed tortuous.”
He said he would not be for sale to the likes of “Robin Renwick, and Johann Rupert” and even “Adriano Mazzotti”.
(Compiled by Charles Cilliers)