Stijn van der Kasteel (mahnmut) wrote in talk_politics,
Stijn van der Kasteel

What a fallout!

Want a spicy scandal? Oh my, South Africa is never short of those! There was a post here a long time ago about Helen Zille, the emblematic opposition leader, former mayor of Cape Town, and now premier of the Western Cape province. Frankly, I think Cape Town is in many respects one of Teh Bestest cities in Teh Werlds, OMGZ. But...
"DA leader Helen Zille has become the target of much criticism on Twitter after referring to musician Simphiwe Dana as a "professional black" in a heated debate over racism."

For the record, Simphiwe Dana's music is gorgeoustastic. And, though I'm supposed to be a political opponent to Ms Zille (being an ANCYL member, and all that...), I cannot twist my soul and deny that I do find many of her policies smart and pragmatic, and quite useful for her city and her province, and the country as a whole. One more thing, I think it's never good to have practically a one-party state like we've had for almost two decades now (ANC virtually pwning the whole political process, and all that). So, even though I should ideologically differ fundamentally from DA, I think their recent policy to open up more and move beyond their previously whites-only image, has earned them some deserved inroads into the black and coloured community (yep, those are terms that we do use here). And that's a good thing overall. We need more dissent and diversity, not less.

That said, it's true that racism has never really died in this place (like in many others by the way; but here in South Africa as you know it's related to a lot of historic and social baggage). So the situation with this scandal is as follows. Musician Simphiwe Dana is calling out politician Helen Zille on her insensitive remarks on Twitter in what she believes was a denial of the existence of racism in Cape Town (and elsewhere), coupled with a unnecessarily abrasive attitude. While I see the point of some people saying that in a city that's much more racially diverse than the rest of the country (CT has by far the most non-black population in the country), that'd inevitably bring a proportionately bigger share of racial grudges and injustices along with it, I agree that Zille shouldn't have dismissed those claims in the way she did, and should have addressed them in a more mature way. Being the pragmatic and level-headed technocrat that she claims she is.

The whole situation caused a huge shitstorm over the social networks, as you might've expected. So, I'm just gonna drop it all here, and let you make whatever you want out of it...

- Singer/model Lindiwe Suttle says that "There is racism in Cape Town".
-- Tweeterers (sic?) create the #CapeTownIsRacist tag.
- Suttle says: No matter how famous / rich you are, you're still a 2nd class citizen if you're black in CT.
- Zille responds: What complete nonsense! / This is a baseless assertion.
- marangdream: LOLWUT? Did you just say Nonsense? What an appropriate response.
- Zille: They didn't say they *feel* racism, they said Cape Town *is* racist. I respect feelings but not blanket accusations.
- Dana: Are you disputing / denying that Cape Town is racist? Is this because some of your friends are black?
- someone: I once met Dana in Cape Town.
- Zille: Sorry? I thought she had left CT, claiming it's racist?
- Dana: Yes I did. Are you disputing that CT is racist!? It's embarrassing that as a leader you'd deny people their experiences. Try living in a black skin for once. You have the power to change things, use it!
- Zille: You're a highly respected black professional. DON'T TRY TO BE A PROFESSIONAL BLACK. It demeans you. (WOW...)
- someone: How do you define "professional black"!?
- Zille: People who base their life and purpose around their colour".
- someone: Define "professional white".
- Zille: Someone who's self-obsessed and claims victimhood because they're white.
-- Tweeterers create the #professionalblack tag.
- WildWildWonga: What Zille said was pretty racist. She has just made Dana's point.
- LTqha: Only Zille can get away with demeaning blacks and still get the black votes.
- kuhle83: So, 17 years after the Holocaust, would you be calling people "professional Jews"!?
- Dana: So, Zille is gonna teach me how to be an acceptable black. I'm ever so grateful!
-- Capetonians create the #CapeTownIsAwesome tag in response to the #CapeTownIsRacist tag.

The flamewar has been still going on as we speak.

And a side opinion on the matter which I very much share:
"Cape Town does have a higher proportion of whites and coloureds than the other metros. And if racists are everywhere, we could well have more of them here than, for example, in Johannesburg. The facts of this matter could easily be established via a proper survey of attitudes and behaviours across the country, if we cared to do so. But in the meanwhile, it’s undeniably the case that Cape Town is perceived as being racist, and this perception is a problem in itself, regardless of the truth of the allegations. Moreover, my opinion is that this perception is grounded in reality. But whether it’s mere perception or not, we’re not going to fix it by being offended, or insulting those who make such claims. As Sipho Hlongwane Tweeted moments ago, “CPT and JHB are often equally prejudiced. Only one city is honest & confronts this”."

For the record, I'm in Johannesburg. But this is in no way a bash-the-Mother-City attempt. Yet, I do share the sentiment that Capetonians could be a bit more honest about these issues. I acknowledge that this may not be as easy as we'd like in a more racially homogeneous place like Joburg, let alone kwaZulu-Natal. But they could at least try.
Tags: africa, internet, racism, scandal
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