September 20, 2016
September 15, 2016
August 24, 2016
August 18, 2016
THE STRUGGLE AGAINST THE VIOLENCE OF ERASURE:THE INVISIBILITY OF THE BLACK WOMAN BY VELI MBELE, 11 AUGUST, 2016
1. A very good friend of mine often says to me: ‘You see the problem with you Quenter is that, you have a very good memory and you refuse to forget’. Each time he says this, I usually don’t offer anything in the form of a tangible reply. Part of the reason for my nonchalance is informed by the realisation that remembering is sometimes an act of self-imposed torture- especially when you’re Black.
2. The ‘silent’ protest by our Black Sisters during that the official announcement of the election results, at the IEC results centre-plunged me into a deep reflection. I found myself pondering the question: what does this protest mean for the historical fight of the Black female body against all manner of violence?
3. In seeking to answer this question, I came to another realisation: in a profound way, this ‘silent’ protest reminded us about the loud power of erasure and how this can shape our responses to the various contexts of violence in a white supremacist-capitalist-patriarchal-anti-Black world.
3.1 Even I, who understood what the Czech novelist, Milan Kundera meant when he said: ‘The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting’, must admit that I had forgotten who sister Khwezi was. Sister Khwezi had become just another name. A statistic.
4. From the perspective of the politics of erasure and the hegemonies of discourse formation and structure, Sister Khwezi’s story reminded me of another tragic story of another Black woman, that occurred over 30 years ago.
5. The year was 1985, the day was the 20th July, it was my 9th birthday and the President was P.W.Botha.I was watching SABC news with my father, as he had made it a habit for us to watch the news or read the City Press together. On that day, one of the leading stories was that of a young Black lady,who was being violently kicked, punched and literally,physically brutalised.Later,she was set a light, while a crowd was singing,shouting and watching her burn to death.
6. These horrific scenes captivated me for a moment but eventually faded from my 9 year-old memory ( at least I thought so). Then much later, when I was a bit older and perhaps more curious, I learned that this horrific scenes where from a funeral and the name of the lady was Maki Sikhosana from Duduza. She was a COSAS activist who was falsely accused by her own Comrades of being impimpi( a sell-out ) and causing the death of several COSAS activists, days earlier.
7. It was later established by the TRC that she was falsely accused and that Joe Mamasela( the actual sell-out) and co, with the help of the security apparatus of the Botha regime-had carried out both the murders of these COSAS activists and engineered the false accusations against Maki.
8. During her testimony at the TRC,Maki’s sister, Evelina Moloko, had this to say about the circumstances around her sisters murder:
”There were certain rumours that they wanted to kill Maki…because she caused the death of certain youths who died due to being blown up by hand grenades. Now, those youths who were allegedly killed by hand grenades were three, and the whole three died next to my place… Now, when the hand grenades exploded we were all asleep and Maki was in the house also asleep … We were scared, we did not even look through the window because we thought whoever was shooting outside would also shoot at us if we peeped through the windows or we opened the doors. We ended up not knowing what had happened until the following morning at five…It seemed that it was common knowledge that Maki had a hand in the killing of those youths…I told (her) it was better for her to run away and she told me she was not going to run away because whatever they said she had done, she had not done, she was innocent…It was very hot and I made fire when I got home. Just when I was taking the ashes into the dustbin, three girls went past my place. They were shouting slogans and they were saying that they had burnt Maki…When you look at your sister’s body, you feel it in your own body. I approached her from the feet… but I could not see her face because there was a large rock on her face as well as her chest… I discovered that all her teeth were missing… She had a huge gap on her head, she was also injured and she was actually scorched by fire… Her legs were taken apart…Broken glass had been shoved into the young woman’s vagina.”‘
9. Forgetting, just like remembering is a process that usually happens naturally, but we also know that it can be induced. In a context that is defined by racism, patriarchy, capitalism, neoliberalism and anti-Blackness- it favours the oppressors when the oppressed either have poor memories or slavishly accept a situation wherein the oppressors seek to erase their memories or dictate what or how they must remember.
10. Whatever our perceptions of the Sisters who exhumed Khwezi’s name- one of the cardinal lessons we learn from their actions is that,as a captive people,just as there are consequences for remembering, there are also consequences for forgetting. For to forget is not just to cease to exist in memory, but also to cease to exist in the physical sense.
11.Essentially, it means to become invisible even when you physically exist. This is what our poor memories have done to Khwezi and Maki. And I am afraid, our poor memories are busy doing the same for Nqobile Nzuza, Kedibone Mmupule, Andries Tatane, Mike Tshele, Osiah Rahube, Lerato Seema, Jan Rivombo, Mgcineni Noki and many others.
July 14, 2016
July 12, 2016
I should begin with a few opening remarks which will, I hope, anchor my overall argument as it relates to Language and Transformation at Stellenbosch University. Firstly, in response to the emerging critique following the memorandum of grievances and demands which was handed to the vice chancellor, it will be difficult to address some apparently ‘significant’ concerns since they are informed, however unconsciously, by apartheid era epistemic procedures which have always served to construct taxonomic racial and cultural diagrams. One such concern, often highlighted by those eager to jettison the ethico-politcal dimension of our argument, has to do with what is seen as ostensibly a paradox: ‘there is an amorphous number of black people who are also Afrikaans speakers’, therefore your demands are inattentive to the needs of many black students at Stellenbosch. Far from being a neutral objection to our demand for language reform, this argument, if that is what it is, reflects a profound and hurtful blindness to white supremacy. That is to say, such a contention simply gestures towards an inability to develop a critical vocabulary that can capture the mutating forms of racism in our post-apartheid context. A contrastive analogy, fanciful as it might seem, would be the post-Marikana debates which took place in many middle class circles shortly after the 34 striking miners were massacred in 2012. The assertion in these circles (black and white alike) was that, because the miners died under the watch of a black government, at the instruction of black police commissioners, at the hands of mostly black police men and women, the massacre cannot possibly be a racial issue, and we should therefore not conceive of it as such (it was seldom framed in racial terms). The simplistic reason: because there were black people involved in the incident, the racial and racist dimension of the episode can be set aside. This logic is clearly flawed and conveniently disavows the social determinations of human life together with the specificities of our racial past. On a far less visceral level, the objection to our demand for language reform takes on the same illogical thought pattern: because an amorphous number of black people are involved in instrumentalising Afrikaans, the charge of racism against the university and its language policy can be set aside, and the debate conceived of in neutral linguistic terms. As if to suggest that if x amount of blacks participate in a system, their mere participation indicates an ‘open’ ‘non-racist’ space. Time limitations preclude my going into detail about this logical fallacy, suffice to say that just because there are black people who speak Afrikaans, an obvious fact not even worth noting, it does not mean that Language (Afrikaans language in particular) does not function as an exclusionary tool at Stellenbosch University.
Now, no right thinking person can deny that Stellenbosch is a space of deeply entrenched structural and institutional racism and patriarchy. So, the language question cannot be separated from the question of ethics, and ethics in turn cannot be conceived of outside of the process of developing democratic intuitions. When talking about the language issue, we – members of Open Stellenbosch – are driven by a will to social justice. To attend to this, we are working together to bring about critical change at Stellenbosch University, a change that can only be realised by addressing the language question. Open Stellenbosch is an anti-racist, anti-sexist, non-partisan movement that recognises our location in the belly of the beast of Neo-apartheid infrastructure.
I should begin by highlighting an obvious fact, that is, the idea that the post-apartheid present is mediated by historical discourse. If Language is itself the bearer of discourse, then it is also central to ideology. Language, both as a means of communication as well as a process of meaning making, can be and has been manipulated to subjugate black people in general. The typical conception of collective and individual power dynamics, a way of understanding ones existence as arising ex nihilo, creates a false history which further implies that ‘cultures’ and peoples are at different places on the timeline when, in truth, they are merely different. And one way the university has successfully managed to minoritise blacks is by presenting Afrikaans as ‘a developed academic language’, in contradistinction to Xhosa, for instance, an indigenous language still needing to be systematised, or invested with scientific and academic value. Apart from the absurd notion that systematising indigenous languages is an unquestioned good, this discursive strategy nevertheless works well for Afrikaner nationalists. Hence, I want to suggest that we commit ourselves to unlearning the naturalised and commonsensical ways of accounting for disenfranchised groups. To this extent, we must refute the notions of ‘diversity’ or ‘inclusivity’, in favour of comprehensive Transformation of the space sine the concept of ‘inclusivity’ relegates black people to mere appendages of a white, specifically Afrikaner dominant culture and mode of being. I’ll explain this further as it relates to language: The idea of diversity, of languges, of people, and of class and various other subject formations, belongs to the terrain of cultural studies within which the discourse of ‘minorities’ is located. The language policy, the discourse about diversity to which it gestures, may in fact be complicit with the minoritisation of cultures in, and people at, SU. By rethinking some of Homi Bhabha’s early formulations in postcolonial subject formation, I want to relocate culture within the diversifying processes and therefore highlight the benefit of historicising the discursive construction of social reality which is in turn reified in the form of the policy. I want, thus, to advance and develop the late twentieth century proposition that such historicism is only possible if one “relocate[s] the referential and institutional demands of such theoretical work in the field of cultural difference – not cultural diversity” (Bhabha’s italics, 32). If Transformation is a true objective of the institution, then this distinction between difference and diversity must be accentuated and accounted for in the language policy. It is important for my undertaking since ‘cultural diversity’ is concerned with epistemological objects and is therefore constituted by treating culture as “an object of imperial knowledge” (34). Hence, the usefulness of cultural difference within cultural studies (in contrast to cultural diversity) is that difference, in fact, lies in the very idea that the enunciation of cultural difference “problematizes the binary division of past and present, tradition and modernity” (35) and so forth, and therefore disrupts the very homogenising symbols that one will find in ‘cultural diversity’: the idea of a fixed and single ‘community’ or a stable system of reference. . I am suggesting here that we move our attention elsewhere in search for an opportunity to rethink our understanding of Transformation more generally, so that we think of it as has having to do less with notions of inclusivity or any comparable compensatory gesture, but Transformation as beginning with the work un learning our epistemological procedures, and doing the ethical act of giving up our privilege (white, male, heterosexual and any other positions of domination) in order to create the enabling conditions for a spontaneous abrupt kind of newness in the space. Such a newness is characterised by co-ownership of the space.
As far as language, then, black people do not want to be taken in by the narrative of inclusivity, because such a narrative, by the very definition of the term ‘inclusive’ reaffirms the position of white power by establishing a minority/ majority dichotomy which itself is a distortion of reality in South Africa. Once we see Transformation functioning to as undo this insidious myth, ‘inclusivity’ (as well as the resultant fallacies of it; multilingualism etc.) falls away and the space is cleared for the emergence of true reconciliatory work. I mention this, however inchoate, because it seems to me that the university has consistently talked about transformation in quantitative terms that have been negligent of the material realities and lived experiences of black people at Stellenbosch
Now, taking the language policy as a point of departure, we are fighting for substantive and comprehensive Transformation which is attuned to the lived experiences of black people, a political category which for us is not only a matter of pigmentation, but also includes those people who have a shared experience of discrimination and dehumanisation in this space. We challenge the privileging of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, not simply on the grounds that it is necessary if we are to bear the full fruit of ‘inclusivity’, but on the grounds that it belies the university’s own vision statement. In addition, the university is largely funded by a post-apartheid and democratic South African state which means that it is thus intended – inherently – to be a public space. It follows that such a space should be one to which all students should feel able to lay equal claim. We have noted how the privileging of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction translates itself to a privileging beyond the classroom. It extends into the social fabric of our residences and other shared spaces, wherein black people are consequently marginalised and maligned
It is interesting too that management’s response to our movement has thus far been predictable: defend Afrikaans as the language of instruction by insisting on ‘multilingualism’ and repeating that the use of Afrikaans as a primary medium of instruction is constitutionally valid. Ironically, the University Council, the Vice Chancellor and Vice Rector, who are supposedly key overseers of transformation, have failed to recognise that the achievement of equality is one of the founding values of the Constitution. The right to equality is entrenched in section 9 of the Constitution. This right is elaborated on in the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA).
We have noted that the problem with the University’s current approach to Transformation has to do with a deliberate equivocation of key terminology, a convenient mistake on the part of management. For instance, their uncritical understanding of ‘racism’ is taken to mean different things at different times. This equivocation works well for those who do not recognise the need to account for the injustices of the past. Such people will often claim that any differentiation on the basis of race should be deemed ‘racist’. Related to that, what is also often conflated is the distinction between direct and indirect discrimination. Indirect discrimination can, and often does, amount to unfair discrimination. Indirect discrimination as exemplified by the language policy, includes any discrimination which is framed in terms of ostensibly neutral criteria, but that none the less has the effect of marginalising a particular group. In a landmark case on indirect discrimination is the Constitutional Court, the decision in City Council of Pretoria v Walker, was properly summed up Langa DP in noting that he problem with cases of indirect discrimination is that “there is almost always some purpose other than a discriminatory purpose involved in the conduct or action to which objection is taken”. As far as Stellenbosch University is concerned, that purpose is said to be the ‘protection’ of the language rights of the Afrikaans minority. The calculated actions of the university amount to the protection, not of Afrikaans culture, but of the white Afrikaans culture. Staff demographics are the most striking and measurable indication of this, but they are by no accounts the only indication.
From its inception, Open Stellenbosch has impressed on the student body the simple message that we wish to hear their stories. “I remember sitting in a lecture once, when a student raised her hand to clarify something with the lecturer in English.” So begins one of the hundreds of stories that have been sent to Open Stellenbosch. What the student describes next is a several minute long monologue in which the girl was personally attacked for having even dared to ask the question: “You people come to our university, and then expect us to change!?”
The stories that are the most revealing are often more subtle. One student recalls that way his lecturer, while following the language policy, would none the less make all of his jokes in Afrikaans. Jokes told in this way are not funny – they are a sign of the systematic exclusion of black students and, through that exclusion, a way of securing white Afrikaner culture which was founded and since kept in place through symbolic, systemic and physical violence in the present.
June 28, 2016
June 23, 2016
June 13, 2016
June 10, 2016
first published here: http://blackopinion.co.za/2016/06/10/take-battle-spaces-privilege/
June 9, 2016
We are an independent collective of students who have come together with the aim of subverting white supremacy and institutional racism at UCT. This movement was catalysed by Chumani Maxwele’s radical protest action against the statue of Cecil John Rhodes on Monday the 9th of March. This has brought to the surface the existing and justified rage of black students in the white supremacist space which is cultivated and maintained by UCT, despite its rhetoric of ‘transformation’. In our belief, the experiences seeking to be addressed by this movement are not unique to an elite institution such as UCT, but rather reflect broader dynamics of a racist society that has remained unchanged since the end of formal apartheid.
This movement is not just about the removal of a statue. The statue has great symbolic power – it is a glorifying monument to a man who was undeniably a racist, imperialist, colonialist, and misogynist. It stands at the centre of what supposedly is the ‘greatest university in Africa’. This presence, which represents South Africa’s history of dispossession and exploitation of black people, is an act of violence against black students, workers and staff. The statue is therefore the perfect embodiment of black alienation and disempowerment at the hands of UCT’s institutional culture, and was the natural starting point of this movement. The removal of the statue will not be the end of this movement, but rather the beginning of the decolonisation of the university.
CENTERING BLACK PAIN
At the root of this struggle is the dehumanisation of black people at UCT. This dehumanisation is a violence exacted only against black people by a system that privileges whiteness. Our definition of black includes all racially oppressed people of colour. We adopt this political identity not to disregard the huge differences that exist between us, but precisely to interrogate them, identify their roots in the divide-and-conquer tactics of white supremacy, and act in unity to bring about our collective liberation. It is therefore crucial that this movement flows from the black voices and black pain that have been continuously ignored and silenced.
We want to state that we adopt an unequivocally intersectional approach to our struggle against racism. An intersectional approach takes into account that we, as black people, experience different forms of oppressions. Our understanding of race is informed by recognising other forms of oppressions such as gender, sexuality, disability, and class, so that no one should have to choose between their struggles.
With regard to white involvement, we refer to Biko:
“What I have tried to show is that in South Africa, political power has always rested with white society. Not only have the whites been guilty of being on the offensive but, by some skilful manoeuvres, they have managed to control the responses of the blacks to the provocation. Not only have they kicked the black but they have also told him how to react to the kick. For a long time the black has been listening with patience to the advice he has been receiving on how best to respond to the kick. With painful slowness he is now beginning to show signs that it is his right and duty to respond to the kick in the way he sees fit.”
We support the White Privilege Project and encourage white students to engage with that. They can contribute through conscientising their own community on campus. We also welcome their participation in radical action as a sign of solidarity, so long as that participation takes place on our terms.
ON ‘REVERSE RACISM’
In line with our positions, we reject the policing of the responses of black students to their violent experiences. We want to add that we feel that the Constitution’s conception of racism is fundamentally racist because it presupposes that racism is a universal experience, thus normalising the suffering of those who actually experience racism.
“A derivation from the word ‘race’ is ‘racism’. The mere definition of the word race does not amount to racism. Racism is a set of attitudes and social mores which devalue one race in order to empower another, as well as the material power to deploy those values in the devaluation or destruction of the lives of the devalued race. Therefore those at the receiving end of racism cannot be racists. They may develop counter values which despise racists, but precisely because of racism, they lack the material power to implement those values” – Yvette Abrahams, UWC Women and Gender Studies Department.
The Constitution’s conception of racism has systematically been used to deter irrepressible urges by black South Africans to challenge racism and violence. An example of this was the Human Rights Commission ruling against the Forum for Black Journalists, when white journalists were banned from the organisation in February 2008 and this was declared unconstitutional and racist. An examination of South Africa’s political history reveals the necessity for black people to organise to the exclusion of white people in the fight against racism.
It is laughable that UCT has a building named after Biko, when Biko himself said “Those who know, define racism as discrimination by a group against another for the purposes of subjugation or maintaining subjugation. In other words one cannot be racist unless he has the power to subjugate. What blacks are doing is merely to respond to a situation in which they find themselves the objects of white racism. We are in the position in which we are because of our skin. We are collectively segregated against – what can be more logical than for us to respond as a group?”
We have noted that the UCT SRC has supported this movement, and we welcome their solidarity and appreciate the strong stance they have taken. However, we are wary of the contradictions inherent in the SRC taking up such a cause. Given that they are a structure specifically designed to work with management, having them lead puts this movement in a compromised position in which we would have to negotiate with management on their terms. To be clear, we see SRC involvement and support as crucial in this movement, but believe leadership and direction must come from students themselves. Any attempt by the SRC to co-opt the movement will thus be rejected.
ENGAGEMENT WITH MANAGEMENT
We find the way in which UCT management has ‘engaged’ with this movement to be disingenuous. At no point have we been engaged directly by management. Management has responded to various media houses and has made attempts to isolate individuals from within the movement to divide us. Black outsourced workers are used to deal with protests, despite their own exploitation at the hands of the same institution, whilst management keeps itself unseen. Their releasing of statements reflects the way in which the university prioritises pacifying public opinion and defending its public image over the interests of its own black students. Our expectation is that management makes a genuine attempt at meeting with us, on our terms, which involves the removal of investigations that frame us as criminals. Meaningful engagement cannot happen if one party is under duress.
We also find it infuriating that management is attempting to open up a process of debate through their ‘Have Your Say’ campaign. Alumni have been emailed and asked for input, and notice boards have been put up near the statue to allow for comment from the broader student body. This is not meaningful engagement of black students by management, and in fact shows a complete disregard for the black experience. Management is making clear that they are not interested in alleviating black pain unless the move to do so is validated by white voices. It is absurd that white people should have any say in whether the statue should stay or not, because they can never truly empathise with the profound violence exerted on the psyche of black students. Our pain and anger is at the centre of why the statue is being questioned, so this pain and anger must be responded to in a way that only we can define. It must be highlighted that the push for dialogue around the statue reflects the disturbing normalisation of colonisation and white supremacy at UCT. That the presence of Rhodes is seen as debatable shows that management does not take seriously the terrible violence against black people historically and presently. Finally, it is revealing that while black protestors are threatened with and are facing investigations, the racist backlash from white students has been met with silence by the university.
OBJECTIVES OF THE MOVEMENT
Our immediate demands are that we receive a date for the removal of the statue from campus grounds, and that the university investigation of student protesters be withdrawn. We find it unacceptable that management has presented a date on which council will discuss the statue; we reject the notion that the university has any decision to make here. Our position is clear and will not be hampered by bureaucratic processes which management hides behind. Our pain should be the only factor taken into consideration, and therefore the statue’s removal from UCT must be a non-negotiable, inevitable outcome.
Our long-term goals include:
1. The removal of statues and plaques commemorating racists; The renaming of buildings from names of racist or average white people to black historical figures; The re-evaluation of artworks which exoticise Africa, poverty, and the black experience and are predominantly done by white artists; The recognition of suppressed black history relevant to the institution such as slave graves on campus, and black people who have contributed to the development of the university.
2. The implementation of an Afro-centric curriculum. By this we mean treating African discourses as the point of departure and only examining Western traditions in so far as they are relevant to our own experience; Financial and research support of black academics and staff; Radically changing the representation of black lecturers across faculties; Revising the limitations on access to senior positions for black academics.
3. An admissions policy which explicitly includes race and which prioritises black applicants; Improved academic support programs; A meaningful interrogation of why black students are most often at the brunt of academic exclusion; The development of an improved financial aid system; Improved facilities which deal with sexual assault, as well as facilities which help black students deal with the psychological trauma as a result of racism.
4. The end of victimisation and intimidation of workers; Challenging the system of outsourcing which diminishes UCT’s accountability towards workers and gives rise to worker vulnerability; The implementation of support structures for workers similar to those offered to students for sexual assault and mental health, as well as access to services dealing with labour, family and housing issues.
The Rhodes Must Fall Student Movement
Posted 22nd March 2015 by Clifford Ncube
I struggle to “talk” from the wound’s gash and pull the pieces of my life back together. The struggle has always been inner. Nothing happens in the “real” world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.
June 3, 2016
May 24, 2016
May 23, 2016
I am anxious, actually i am angry, livid. My soul is losing this battle.
My body is still fighting but for how long? My mind is with my body. But i need my soul ahhh, are the people of matsheni going to be evicted? How am i and my people going to live? Life is expensive for a black person?
Ahhh no! Food is expensive for a black soul, ohhh i have no soul. I am being dehumanized but the constitutional pillar which is the south African human rights commission is dehumanizing me, they told me “we can’t help you”…
We are going to surrender our souls to crime now, my mind is objecting to this, my body is rich the sun or encroaching it private position – because it is boiling.
I know i am a human, i tried living like one, the law “human right” said i am not human enough to work at the matsheni premises. I am not the “human” who must work there, i must pay rent for working that my father’s land – mind you i am from umngungundlovu district, at msunduzi municipality which has a national and global norm of a gigantic animal which is not only a companion, but a family that we can’t abandon by law we have to be poor (if the law see it optimal that we leave the black market)
and it’s a fact, the only reasonable conclusion to rid ourselves from the oppressive majors of poverty is by violating the haves.
The haves are the black working middle class or the minimum earning black race, we can’t reach to whites they are far from us, so we take from the opulent blacks around us by force, we are dehumanized so we expect no human behaviour from this unhurtung human, the means to rid ourselves of poverty are violent and vicious.
Fanon says; violence is man recreating himself, so how we re-create ourselves is displaced as andile mngxitama emphatically states. So we are not recreating if we not waging that war to whites who are dehumanizing us.. We just as Willie lynch said this (making of a slave) will refuel it self, it will regenerate it self.
We are on our own – as biko had envisaged.