Michael Jackson on brutality against black bodies

May 29, 2020 § Leave a comment

The killing of George Flyod made me think of Michael Jackson’s often under appreciated protest songs. Seeing the video of Madonna’s son dancing to his They Don’t Care About Us this week and the reaction it got made me realise that most people have never really paid attention to the song. The message behind it got lost in the internet commotion that followed. I will attempt to dissect the song (and others). He sang these songs 25 and 29 years ago yet the same things keep happening.

Two versions of the music video were shot. One was shot in Brazil, that’s the most famous one shot in the Favelas. The lesser well-known one is the prison version. That’s the one I want to tackle first. I will focus on three of his videos and the lyrics.

The first version of Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Care About Us was banned by MTV USA and VH1 (seen below)). In fact, MTV USA showed it once and never again because of the “lyrics and violent imagery”. In reality, America did not like the fact that he was putting the country on blast.

“I am a victim of police brutality” he sings. Some imagery in the Prison version of the video shows actual footage of black people being brutally beaten by cops. The video was in releases in1995. It was not the first time one of his videos or a portion was banned. Back in 1991, the second portion of Black or White was also banned. The media simply dismissed the videos as stunts without digging deeper because that was the easy and convenient thing to do at the time.

In the prison version of They Don’t Care About Us, Michael Jackson is in prison, he plays a prisoner in a dinning hall with other prisoners. At some point, he is all by himself in chains as images of violence against people reflect on the walls of the prison cell he is in.

When They Don’t Care About Us became controversial, he issued a statement saying the context had been misinterpreted either unintentionally or deliberately. When you watch the prison video on YouTube you will find that it begins with a disclaimer. The disclaimer demonstrates the lengths to which people of colour have to go through when discussing issues of race because discussing racial inequality is often perceived as controversial and in itself RACIST! What we also know is that it is an attempt to shut the conversation down. Because if you shut it down there is no need for self-examination nor one to explore one’s privilege.

Michael added this disclaimer to the video after it was banned. It’s like when you discuss racism and then someone says you’re being racist for discussing racism. Then you have to explain that talking about racism doesn’t mean that one hates white people, it simply means one hates the system of racism. It’s a constant battle people of colour face.

In my view, the song is about the state of blackness in America. There is no running away from that when you read and listen to the lyrics. I suspect that he, along with Spike Lee who directed the videos, realised that if the the video only showed the brutalisation and imprisonment of black people, it would be banned, so they added other images of injustices across the world: even though the lyrics were really about systematic injustices against black people in America. Meaning they attempted to water it down. Even then, it was still banned.

The lyrics are unmistakably about how black people are treated in the United States.

The song begins like this:

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
Situation, aggravation
Everybody allegation
In the suite, on the news
Everybody dog food
Bang bang, shot dead
Everybody’s gone mad

Later he becomes more explicit (I have highlighted some words for emphasis):

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
Trepidation, speculation
Everybody allegation
In the suite, on the news
Everybody dog food
Black man, black mail
Throw your brother in jail

He speaks of the state of fear and constant trepidation the black man lives under. He could be shot, killed and arrested at any time. Yet, paradoxically, the system in turn claims to be in fear and lives in trepidation of the black man which is why it in turn justifies the imprisonment, and killing of the black man in the hands of authorities.

The fear of the black man is in the suite, meaning in the most senior boardrooms of corporate America and the news help perpetuate the idea that the black man is dangerous. For a long time, when a black man was shot by the cops, the news media would show images of a thug, never that of a smiling loving family man, or a graduate, but always a thug who deserved to be feared and probably deserved to get shot. The news media was complicit and Michael was also letting it know.

Back to the song. Then he asks America:

Tell me what has become of my rights
Am I invisible because you ignore me?
Your proclamation promised me free liberty, now
I’m tired of bein’ the victim of shame
They’re throwing me in a class with a bad name
I can’t believe this is the land from which I came
You know I do really hate to say it
The government don’t want to see

Am I invisible because you ignore me? Maybe if I start breaking things you will see me because when I speak nicely no one hears. The wording, Your proclamation promised me free liberty, now is interesting. He doesn’t say, “Our” but chooses to say, “Your.” As a person of colour, he does not feel included in these proclamations of free liberty. They are not his because people like him are treated differently which is why he “can’t believe this is the land from which I came.” He came from this land but it’s proclamations of liberty, justice, fairness and equality do not apply to him as a person of colour.

To the untrained eye, it is easy to say ‘but Michael Jackson was one of the most famous and one of the richest people on earth, therefore he was protected from racism.’

No black person, no matter how rich, famous or educated is protected from racism. The racism you experience simply shifts form.

As Chris Rock so eloquently put it, “There ain’t a white man in this room who would change places with me, none of you, none of you would change places with me.” And then he paused, and dropped this, “And I’m rich.”

President Barack Obama wrote on Friday the 29th of May about George Flyod. He shared an email he received from a friend of his and identified as a “middle-aged African American businessman.”

“Dude I gotta tell you the George Floyd incident in Minnesota hurt,” the e-mail began. “I cried when I saw that video. It broke me down. The ‘knee on the neck’ is a metaphor for how the system so cavalierly holds black folks down, ignoring the cries for help. People don’t care. Truly tragic.”

That email was shared by a black man who was the most powerful man in the world. No black person is sheltered from racism. Even one as powerful as Barack Obama talks about the burden of the black person in the new documentary, The Last Dance, “Any African American in this society that sees significant success has an added burden. And a lot of times America is very quick to embrace a Michael Jordan an Oprah Winfrey or a Barack Obama so long as it’s understood that you don’t get too controversial around issues of social justice.”

Let me take us back a bit. When Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall Album was released in 1979, it was the biggest selling and most critically album of the year. It won a single Grammy. Later that year he asked his manager to call up Rolling Stone Magazine so that he could be on the cover. They came back and said he was “too ethnic” and couldn’t be on the cover. This was code for black. Then he said he’d make a album so great they would’t be able to ignore. He made Thriller. It became the biggest selling album of all time soon after it was released. Even then, they tried to ignore him as seen by MTV trying to shut him out of the channel.

He wanted his music video to be on MTV but they wouldn’t because they weren’t playing black artists on the channel. He decided to make the bet music video ever made at the time. Nothing of its kind had been seen before. Even then, MTV refused to play Thriller. Sony had also refused to pay for the making of a music video for Thriller because they knew that MTV wouldn’t play it. So Michael paid for the video himself. After seeing the finished product, Sony’s president called up MTV and threatened to pull all of its white artists from the channel if they didn’t play Thriller.

They relented and played Thriller and it would become the most requested video of all time. So much so that MTV ended up playing it every 30 minutes.

The press wrote stories about him bleaching his skin because he wanted to be white. In the meantime, he suffered from a skin condition that destroys melanin. The same skin condition Canadian Super model Winnie Harlow has. In a twisted way, the story had undertones. ‘The most famous person in the world who also happens to be black is so ashamed of his colour that he aspires to be white’ all while laughing at him. We were all meant to laugh at him. And the world joined in. Everyone laughed at him.

For a long time, even though he needed the media, he never trusted it, which is why his first interview in 14 years was with Oprah Winfrey. That interview would become the most-watched interview of all time. He believed that if a black person interviewed him, they would be fair to him.

So, Michael already knew and felt the sting of America’s racism, which is why he says in They Don’t Care About Us, “Your proclamation promised me free liberty.” So where is this liberty of yours?

In a line from the song he says, “I’m tired of being a victim of hate,” at some point, we see actual footage of members of the KKK burning crosses. He reminded America of the parts of itself it does not want to admit.

Earlier on, I mentioned Black or White. The original film is 11 minutes long. The only part most people know is the upfront section because the second half of the video was banned. The video below is the full version. Let me give you my take on it.

When the music video premiered, it was watched by an audience of 500 million people. The largest audience ever to watch a music video on TV. The year was 1991.

The 4 minute part of the video towards the end generated controversy because of the anger, violent and sexualised Jackson. At the beginning, we see a lovely white neighborhood with a kid playing loud music in his room. The dad goes upstairs and tells him to tone it down angrily.

The father slams the door shut and the Michael Jackson poster pinned on the door comes smashing down. It was symbolic of how white parents couldn’t understand their children’s fascination with black heroes and their desire to see them fall. In his personal life, he had seen how the press constantly hounded him with false stories. To be fair, how he responded did him no favours either.

The kid, played by Culkin, grabs a giant speaker, plays the guitar and the dad shoots up through the roof in his chair like a rocket taking off and lands in the middle of black natives in Africa. The horror!

The first time Michael appears in the video is Africa. Beginning in Africa was deliberate, acknowledging his black and African heritage. The first part of the video is all happy and dancing with cultures all over the world.

He gives the audience the happy dancing black man who has to hide his rage to be accepted in a white controlled narrative. He sets up the audience and it comes along with him to such an extent that they miss the hard message in the song. They have no idea what’s coming.

Fast forward to the banned part. He is angry. Alone. He is the dancing Black Panther. A black superhero. There was an overwhelming negative response to the second portion of the video.

Armond White, a music critic noted, “The imperatives set before Jackson… are to be an artist, and individual, and a black person. That’s one obligation more than Elvis or the Beatles had to deal with. And being black is more complicated than other goals.”

At the end of the unbanned part of the video, a black panther walks out of a studio unnoticed and onto the street. It morphs into Michael. The first half shows a utopia where everyone is getting along. The lyrics say “It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white.”

They miss the angry message here:

I am tired of this devil
I am tired of this stuff
I am tired of this business
Sew when the going gets rough
I ain’t scared of your brother
I ain’t scared of no sheets
I ain’t scared of nobody
Girl, when the going gets mean

Yet he also says, “Sew when the going gets rough“. Here, he says that when things go tough, there is a tendency for some to retreat and sew their KKK sheets instead of facing the actual structural challenges we face as a society. “I ain’t scared of no sheets.” Here, he is singing about the KKK.

He also goes on to say, “Don’t tell me you agree with me when I saw you kicking dirt in my eyes.”

This part is about those people who sit comfortably at the table of polite racism. That subtle form of racism every black person knows.

So when Michael turns into a black panther, that immediately made people think about the Black Panther movement in the U.S. He was suddenly an angry black man something to be feared. This was before his legal troubles.

Michael said of the second portion of the video, “I want to do a dance number where I can let out my frustration about injustice and prejudice and racism and bigotry.” The video was released in November 1991.

In March of the same year, a video of police officers brutally beating a black man in LA was all over the news. 24 hours news channels were still new. CNN played the video of the police brutally beating Rodney King over and over again. Finally what black people were experiencing on a daily basis was captured in the news.

LA went up in flames. Black people were protesting because that was how they had been treated all along, and this time it was caught on camera. “America, this is what you do to us.” Michael Jackson, not just most famous black person, but the most famous person in the world was standing on a car, dancing aggressively, smashing windows. The video of an angry Michael Jackson, smashing windows and a car soon after what was known as the LA Riots was too much. Not long after, the allegations against him surfaced.

The Black Panther Dance portion was no coincidence.

The final song I want to look into is Scream where he sings with his sister, Janet.

Pay attention to the Lyrics:

“Oh, my God, can’t believe what I saw as I turned on the TV this evening
I was disgusted by all the injustice, all the injustice”

[News Man:]
“A man has been brutally beaten to death by police after being wrongly identified as a robbery suspect. The man was an 18 year old black male…

With such collusions don’t it make you wanna scream?

Michael is convinced in this song that there is collusion against people of colour. His frustration is not at individuals because no one sits in a group and decides to collude against black people. The whole system is built that way. He is so frustrated that he just wants to scream because it is all just so overwhelming and makes one feel powerless.

Your bash abusin’ victimize within the scheme

You try to cope with every lie they scrutinize

Oh, brother, please have mercy
‘Cause I just can’t take it

Stop pressurin’ me
Just stop pressurin’ me
Stop pressurin’ me
Make me wanna scream

This is what we are seeing with people of colour all over the world after the killing of George Flyod in full view of the public. People of colour are screaming because they feel unheard and unsafe.

Sometimes we miss the messages Michael Jackson had in his music. He protested a lot more than people realised and more pro black than he is given credit for. There is no doubt that he would have been violently angered in his own way. I just didn’t want us to miss the message in his music because of Madonna’s tweet.

White people must hold each other accountable for racism

August 22, 2018 § 19 Comments

Adam Catzavelos is yet another example of blatant racism and complete disregard of the majority of people who are in the country he makes money and lives in. Below is his free and overly comfortable use of the the K-word.


Truth is there is no increase in incidents of racism. There has been an increase in cellphones and people with data. Racism is now brought to us by data. In the case of Adam, he must have felt very comfortable to send this video to someone he thought shared his views. One of the white people this video was sent to leaked it. I am guessing they were shocked by what they heard.

For the majority of their lives, racists have got away with their behaviour. Year in and year out. They have been rewarded by friends who agree with them.

Or if they do not agree, have remained silent, and as such racists continue to be emboldened about how right they are, and thus feel entitled to continue being racist.

Here is the problem, other white people who themselves might not be racist, have given consent through silence. And as Thomas More said in A Man for all Seasons, “Silence gives consent”.

It is the responsibility of every white person who purports to support the idea of non-racialism to police white racists. Why? Because those of us who have to encounter racism, are not there when racist ideas are incubated and allowed to grow. They grow in the privacy of whiteness.

Why is it that it almost exclusively takes a black person to report racism? The truth is, racists, do operate in a vacuum. They are given the impression that they have numerous people who agree with them because silence has given them consent.

When I moved to Johannesburg in 2006, the company I worked for put me up at B&B for a month until I found my place. I met middle-aged American white women who had been travelling the world. What they told me was how amazed they were by how readily racist they found white South Africans to be.

They said when white South Africans would tell them that if they happened to hit a black person while driving, they should keep driving because these ‘monkeys will kill you’. They were shocked and traumatised by the fact that perfect strangers assumed that they shared these racist views.

Later, I worked on an anti-racist advertising campaign and interviewed a white researcher who worked at the Institute for Race Relations in South Africa. What he told me was that white South Africans are the only people in the world who will openly express their racist attitudes to another white stranger, assuming that they too shared the same views.

I wrote an article a few years ago about a white friend of mine who had moved from Germany to South Africa to study; she told me that she was shocked by how racist Cape Town was. And how other white people assumed she shared their racist views too, just because she is white.

It’s your responsibility, not ours.

When the schools were opened to black people, I was the only black child in my class in primary school. I was in the classroom as the other kids. Our teacher could not be in class for that lesson for some reason. The class was well-behaved, as well-behaved as primary school kids can be without adult supervision.

One of the kids attempted to provoke me. I kept ignoring him. I had also recently read Alan Paton’s Cry The Beloved Country, a book my mother had forced me to read, and I couldn’t put down once I started reading.

Seeing that I was unmoved by his provocations, he took Tipp-Ex and painted a single white brush stroke on my black arm and said: “You think you’re white now hey?”

Again I ignored him. The other children in the class looked on, unsure what to do. I continued working, or pretending to be working while doing all I could to control what I could feel was going to be an uncontrollable outburst if I did not contain it. I was aware of my environment.

I was the only black kid. If I reacted physically, it would be the white class vs the black child.

He pointed again and said: “Look, he thinks he’s white!” gesturing to the other white kids. I ignored him. Then he said: “You think you’re white? Rub that off, kaffir!” It was at that point that I jumped and lunged towards him, I don’t know what happened, but I was held back and told not do anything to him.

I attempted to wrangle myself out of the many grips of white hands that held me back, hands with mouths that had said nothing the whole time I was being provoked. At this point, I was crying out of pure lonely black anger in a white class.

At one point, I felt my hand being grabbed by one of the boys, with tears streaming down my face (no Coldplay). He marched me out of the class and said: “Let’s go to Mr Prentis’ office.” That was the principal.

We walked out of the class. He had my hand the whole time, marching me, and I was following him, weak, angry and tired. I don’t even think I knew where I was being led.

I couldn’t believe that I was the one now who was in trouble. The young white hand gripped my black hand, and the white mouth said: “We are going to report him.” Then he walked right past Mr Prentis’ secretary and knocked on his door, and before a response could be made, he opened the door and pushed me in. The young white kid was Darren Lentz.

Mr Prentis looked puzzled, and his face immediately became sympathetic after seeing my teary-eyed face. He concluded the meeting he was having immediately and ushered me into his office. He asked me what was wrong. I responded between sobs – you know the sobs children make – between quickened and uncontrollable gasps for air while crying and wiping away tears. I told him that I had been called a kaffir. And I told him the boy’s name.

To hell with silent morality.

He immediately shouted: “Darren, go get that boy now!” Darren went to the class. They arrived together. Mr Prentis then said to the boy: “What did you call Khayalethu?”

“I didn’t call him anything, sir,” he said while looking down. Mr Prentis then looked at him again and said: “Are you telling me that Khayalethu is a liar?”

He responded and said, “No sir.”

Then Prentis looked at him and said: “Do you know what Portuguese are called when people want to demean them?”

He nodded.

“Would you like it if I asked Khayalethu to call you that?”

He shook his head; now he too was holding back tears.

After giving a lecture on racism, Mr Prentis looked at the both of us and told the boy to shake my hand. We extended hands and shook them. After that, we became good friends throughout primary school.

The point I am making with this story is that it took another white kid to stand up against racism. Not just silently, he did something about it there and then. He was not a silent moralist. Silent morality that does not act out nor speak out against injustice cancels itself out. To hell with silent morality in the face of injustice.

Mr Prentis could have easily said: “Well, let boys be boys. He meant nothing by it; it was just a joke. Take it, easy man.” But instead, he reminded him that he too could be demeaned unjustly.

The end of racism is in the hands of white people. These racists are allowed to spew their hate in front of other white people at first, who allow them to fester their hatred.

White people, hold each other accountable when it comes to racism.

This text first appeared in an article I wrote for News24 in 2016. The Darren story also appears in my new book, These Things Really Do Happen to Me, available from 1st September 2018. Times change, racism doesn’t.


The Land Issue and Some sympathy for black fathers

June 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

Originally appeared on News24 2015-07-15

We cannot deny that one of the great crimes apartheid did to South Africa was robbing its black children of fathers and fathers of fatherhood. The ripples of the destruction apartheid created in black families began long ago when the then ruling racist elite devised the Land Act, which was designed to prevent blacks from owning any land. The whole plan was to make sure that blacks could not work for themselves. White capital needed labour. Since blacks could not work for themselves because their land was taken, they had to find a way to feed themselves and their families. They had to find places of work, and those places of work were not near their homes. And so it was that the destruction of the black family was legislated.

Winburg magistrate RN Harley told the commission as it was deliberating: “With increasing stocks and herds, the native has become less inclined to be a servant and more inclined to be the semi-independent nomad.. while the farmer has difficulty in obtaining servants… This system has instilled into the native the belief that he has an equal right with the whites to hire and purchase land.”

The consequences of the Land Act were felt by black people everywhere as it had been intended. As early as the late 1800s, land was taken away from blacks because white farmers had no labour. Men had to leave their families in far-flung places like the Eastern Cape, KZN and various places in their large numbers to big cities to make a living. But they were paid so little and hardly had any leave days in order to go see their families. They were lucky to go home twice a year for a week at a time at most. So some men had one family in Johannesburg and another where they came from.

Black women (who’s contribution in the struggle is greatly suppressed), held families together when their husbands were not sending money home. They were forced to go work in kitchens for white madams because they could not let their children starve. In some instances they stayed with their madams, which meant that they too were unable to see their children for long periods. Their children ended up staying with grandparents. People who thought that they were done raising children but had to start all over again because families were separated from their parents because of apartheid. Black people were able to be reasonably prosperous even though they were still oppressed in the 1800s.

Allow me to quote a column I wrote some time back on the subject: “Historian Colin Bundy documented that as early as 1832, the Xhosa in the Ciskei and Transkei started noting how Europeans were spreading throughout the country. The Xhosa wanted to have their own stake of wealth before the Europeans took it. Bundy quotes a Moravian missionary in the Transkei who wrote, ‘They look… to get money from the labour of their hands, and purchase clothes, spades, ploughs, wagons and other useful articles’.”

They started buying land and began farming it. A magistrate in Mzimkhulu described “the growing desire on the part of the natives to become proprietors of land – they have purchased 38 000 acres.”

Within three years, 8 000 Xhosa farmers in the area had bought 90 000 acres of land, according to a book by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson called Why Nations Fail. The black farmers began to be rather prosperous, as recorded in a letter by a Methodist missionary, WJ Davis. He wrote that he had collected £46 in cash “for the Lancashire Cotton Relief Fund”, from Xhosa farmers in 1869. Black farmers in South Africa were doing so well that they were donating money to poor workers in England.

The black farmers became so successful that they drove down prices and became such a threat to white farmers that between 1890 and 1913 land was taken away from them through various legislative moves that were designed to prevent them from successfully competing with white farmers and also to prevent them from owning land, but to instead became labourers for the white man. In other words, they were legislated out of prosperity and into poverty.

My father, like my grandfather, had to leave his village in the Eastern Cape to go work in Johannesburg. My grandfather resisted apartheid, becoming a banned a person exiled in Lesotho then being expelled by that government on behest of the apartheid government. As a letter written by the then minister of Home Affairs of Lesotho, as rewritten by my grandmother, because the original she had kept was in tatters:

Order made under the Proclamation 46 of 1907

Whereas in terms of section 4 of Proclamation 46 of 1907 as amended, it has been shown to my satisfaction that the presence of Paulos Dlanga in Lesotho constitutes a danger to the peace, order and good governance of Lesotho. I, Sekhonyana Maseribane, Minister for Home Affairs, make order as follows:

That Paulos Dlanga is to be apprehended and removed from Lesotho to a place without its limits and –
That this order of Removal be affected within 24 hours of service of this Order.

Signed, this 28th day of December, 1966 Minister of Home Affairs

He was arrested and tortured and suffered greatly until he too died young at the tender age of 44.
My father was but a boy when his father died. My father also hardly knew his own father because he was away working and hiding from the authorities as he was seen as an undesirable. My father also died at a tender age of 26. I have a single memory of him. He had me in his arms against his chest. I remember being in my mother’s arms when she passed me over to my dad. That’s the memory. My father holding me in his arms, my bum resting on his arm against the side of his chest. He was speaking to my mother, his wife. A wife he had left for Johannesburg to work but instead vanished in it’s vast greedy belly. My mother left us with her grandparents while she went to work in a completely opposite direction. Her husband had stopped looking after her, so she had to look after her children herself, but she had to look after them by not being there. A great deal of pain for her. For the longest time I believed that I was not attached to that memory of my fahter, but the older I get, the more important it has become to me. (Quick shameless plug) In my book, To Quote Myself, I wrote about how I unattached to it I am. How quickly things change.

Like some people, I have perpetuated the negative lashing of black fathers without even attempting to view the historical context of blackness in South Africa. I have gone straight for the jugular and condemned them. Not to say that they are incapable of seeing that the way some of them have been and are is excusable in anyway. We still need to heal and attempt to mend the family unit that apartheid tried to destroy for over a 100 years. It is also not lost on me that some internet commenters will be very determined to misunderstand this column and say that I am blaming bad fathering solely on apartheid.

Perhaps if there is a parading shift in how we respond to those fathers who are absent, there could be a way to get them back to a better place. It is possible that many of our fathers don’t know how to be fathers because they themselves didn’t see their fathers much. Why, you may ask, must they be understood when they abandon their own? I don’t know. I don’t have an answer.

Our fathers more often than not love us more than they can tell or show us. Sometimes they may be overwhelmed by the responsibility and seem to flee from it because they don’t know how to be the men they know they should be. I don’t believe that any man looks forward to abandoning their offspring.

I think that sometimes they vanish because they are ashamed by the fact that they didn’t take care of us. The less they see us the less guilty they feel, therefore, they stay away. Seeing the children they never see probably compounds an unimaginable guilt in them. I think it is important to love our fathers regardless of their failings. Because in the end, we do turn out okay.

The yoke of apartheid reached and still reaches far and deep. To deny its effects on the black family would be fooling ourselves. Yet our understanding of the system that has attempted to destroy the black family does not mean we should overly understanding of those fathers who refuse to play their part.

Sometimes, simply by welcoming and loving them, we encourage them to become better fathers. And that in turn releases us from the burden and poison that is bitterness.

Dear ANC leaders, sidikiwe ngoku, if Zuma will not move, Zuma must be moved.

April 4, 2016 § 17 Comments


I am a supporter of the party but not a card carrying member.

In the past few days, I have encountered a few ANC (African National Congress) NEC (National Executive Committee) leaders and the first time I have seen any of them, I have said to each one of them, without even greeting, “Why aren’t you guys doing the right thing?” They all laughed, perhaps at the brazen nature of the question, or they did not expect that I would ask the question even though they must have known I was thinking it. I don’t know. I only ran into five of them on different occasions since the decision by the ConCourt. So, what I am about to say must not be seen as if I am saying a sample of five represents the majority of the NEC.

The response from all of them was the same. One said, “We know what the right thing is, but we can’t just act on emotion. Politics is about numbers. We have to make sure that we have the numbers. Without them we can’t do much.” Of course he is right. Numbers got Zuma the presidency, it will be numbers that get him out of it.

Those of you who know what the right thing to do is, speak to those who are on the fence and convince them to come on your side and remove president Jacob Zuma from his position as country president. Even as ANC president. The longer you delay, the less faith the people will have in you and your leadership and whether you have the balls to lead. This will result in people either not voting, deserting the party all together or joining other parties because you would have lost all trust and respect. The very survival of this great organisation needs you. You have reached a point of no return. You are at a crossroads. If Zuma will not move, Zuma must be moved.

Local government elections are coming up soon. To make it clear, if Zuma is still president, the ANC is going to experience a greater decline than it anticipated. Of course it won’t lose the elections, but it will be in for a shock. In January 2014, I wrote an article called, I criticise the ANC but I Will Vote for it. In the column I wrote the following:

“One of the big issues the ANC faces is that many people are unhappy with the leader of the party and not necessarily the party itself.

I have had to separate the party from the person who leads it.

There is a perception that the ANC looks out for the interests of individuals first, namely president Jacob Zuma, rather than those of the country. This has to change. Judging by what has happened in the recent past, the question potential ANC voters are asking is: can the ANC be trusted to put the country first?

The ANC is capable of changing as history has demonstrated. Nelson Mandela and his generation orchestrated the removal of then ANC president, Alfred Bitini Xuma, for not helping the movement with the urgency needed at the time. Xuma’s apologetic stance would have cost the ANC support as the sentiment on the ground was that it was time for more militant tactics in the fight against apartheid. The leadership of the day responded to the mood.

One of my favourite tv series is The West Wing. In the show, Senator Arnold Vinick is running for president, and is played by Alan Alda. At one point, while he polishes his shoes, he is listening to a much younger man who works at the White House. The young man is irritated by the senator’s apparent lack of trust for thinking the White House has a secret agenda.

The senator says to the young man: “The founding fathers didn’t base a government on trust. They could have designed a government based on trust and our ability to govern fairly but they knew that power corrupts. So they invented checks and balances. It was genius. The founding fathers did not want me to trust you, they did not want you to trust me.””

The checks and balances were the Public Protector who was insulted and ignored. Then the ConCourt ruling made it absolutely clear that the PP was absolutely right.

In 2014, I said I have had to separate the party from the person who leads it. I now can longer bring myself to do so.

This time, I would not just criticise the ANC, I would not vote at all. There are many people who will withhold their votes in the local government elections precisely because of the ANC’s continued need to protect the president. Party leaders, we are the ones who need to be protected from him. Protect the party.

I have said before that the ANC needs to change before it is forced to. It was never a perfect organisation, the ANC is not beyond repair. The truth is we have people who are in leadership positions within the ANC who are contributing heavily to the weakening of the party, all in the interest of self-preservation, not the preservation and growth of the ANC. Yet the ANC continues to harbour and protect the very people who are eating away at it. It must be saved from them. And one of those people is the person of the president.

We desperately need you to rise up and do what it right. I am asking you to save the ANC. What will you say to your children and grandchildren when they ask you as a former NEC member, “Where were you when the ANC destroyed itself?” How will you answer? The beginning of the destruction or reconstruction of the ANC is in your hands. If you let Zuma destroy it by prolonging his stay, in the not too distant future, the ANC will only be something we read about in history books. And history will not forgive you for it. We keep seeing people’s fathers and mothers defending something that should not and should never have been defended. We have lost respect for people we once respected. Regain our respect and admiration. It’s not easy to do the right thing. It is precisely for this reason you must do it. Because it is hard. Leadership is not easy.

Let me quote something I wrote when I wrote about the ANC document called Through The Eye of a Needle talking about leadership in the ANC.

One of the points the document makes is this and I quote, “Those in leadership positions should unite and guide the movement to be at the head of the process of change. They should lead the movement in its mission to organise and inspire the masses to be their own liberators. They should lead the task of governance with diligence. And, together, they should reflect continuity of a revolutionary tradition and renewal which sustains the movement in the long-term.”

From the one paragraph we can already see the many flaws in our leadership:

The people have not been inspired to be their own liberators; the state has made sure that the people are dependent on it. Thus, the party remains as their liberator and shackles them to itself.

Some areas of government have been led well and the task of governance has been done diligently, unfortunately there is less than desired.

The sustainability of the movement at this rate is questionable.

Point 35 of the document says, “A leader should constantly seek to improve his capacity to serve the people”. Unfortunately, many of our leaders are interested less in improving their capacity to serve, and more in increasing their chances to lead again. There is a big difference between the two.

Point 37 of the document then goes on to say, “A leader should lead by example. He should be above reproach in his political and social conduct – as defined by our revolutionary morality.

Through force of example, he should act as a role model to ANC members and non-members alike. Leading a life that reflects commitment to the strategic goals of the national democratic revolution includes not only being free of corrupt practices; it also means actively fighting against corruption.”

Having looked at all the points presented on the ANC document it is clear that the ANC does not apply this rigour when selecting leaders. This document might as well be burned, for no one follows its guidelines.

In my estimation, the document was written to ensure that not just anyone could become a leader because they think they can lead the movement; they should lead because they have ticked all the boxes. Being an ANC leader was meant to be difficult, not easy – for leadership is not easy.

The title of the document is taken from the Book of Matthew chapter 19 verse 24 in the Bible. A rich young ruler asks Jesus what he needs to do to get to heaven. Jesus tells him what to give up. The young man leaves because he is not prepared to give these things up, then Jesus says to the crowd, “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

The needle Jesus was speaking of is not the same as the one you think of. The “eye of a needle” Jesus spoke of was a gate in Jerusalem, which only opened after the main gate to the city was closed at night. A camel could only pass through a smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed and had to almost crawl to enter. Therefore, a leader should be willing to let go of his baggage in order to be worthy of leading the ANC.

In an earlier verse Jesus says, “Not everyone can accept this word.”

Sacrifice Zuma to save the ANC, don’t sacrifice the ANC to save Zuma. I implore you.

Telling black people how to tell their stories is a way of gate-keeping storytelling

March 29, 2016 § 5 Comments

At the beginning of 2016, I had to write a new section for the second edition of my book. In March 2016, Rod MacKenzie wrote what I thought were some good points here and there and some fair criticisms. Yet there is thinly veiled racism that he can’t even pick up in his commentary. It was polite racism. Which is the worst kind.

In the foreword of my second edition (below), I wrote the following, “Does that mean we shouldn’t tell our stories because the style and manner in which we tell them does not meet certain criteria imposed on us by a system not of  own creation? If that is the case, we will never create enough storytellers because gatekeepers will always have rules telling us why black experiences cannot be told.”

I wrote that long before Rod MacKenzie wrote his piece, Can a White Man Tell Khaya Dlang How To Write a Memoir?

He also asks why my book was publishable. He also goes on to say, “Is it simply because Khaya is “black” and therefore more marketable?” I wonder if we listen to Rob because he is a white male, therefore, has a voice that occupies a space that should be and deserves to be listened to. And why in heaven’s name is the word black in inverted commas when he refers to my race? What was this chap implying?

As a black writer, my book was extremely unmarketable. It was precisely because I am a black writer telling his own black experience that I am not marketable. It is miraculous that it made it on the bestseller list to begin with. But guess what? It was the only book on that list by a living black writer. That is disgusting. We are in a majority black country yet there was only one book on the list. Just one. And worse, it was dead last on that list. I felt like the Some of My Best Friends Are Black of books. Look how generous and nice we are, we allowed a black, oops, a black person in the club.

Rod MacKenzie must tell us how that makes me or any black writer more marketable. I am very curious. The black writer is the least marketable in this country. The system is stacked against them. If black writers were more marketable, why aren’t they on bestseller lists? Why are there so few published? Rob forgets his privilege. But then, it is so normal to him that he does need to recognise it. There are many talented black writers who would wipe me off the face off the planet but are locked out of the system, by the system, because it does not want to have black stories told. If these stories are told, we will know who we are. They don’t want us to know who we are (sorry DJ Khaled).  Rob hides behind a veil of privilege that presumes to dictate what stories should be told, by who, how and when they should be told. Asizuva ngawe Rob. And I am not going to translate that either.

I have often seen people who write about their lives accused of name-dropping. It is as if people have to pretend that they don’t or have never met well-known people. Yet the names of people unknown to the critic, even though mentioned much more frequently, get no such attention from the critic. This reminds me of a time when I went to visit my village of Dutyini and posted some 20 odd pics on social networks while I was there. The following week I travelled to a foreign country and posted three pictures. Some commented saying I was showing off when I posted while in a foreign country.

So I asked why it was that posting pictures of my village was not showing off just the previous week, yet pictures of a foreign country was? What if for me my village is a way of showing off? That showed me a warped sense of self that we often have of ourselves. This is precisely the reason we need to tell our own stories in our own manner. Too many of our stories have been told by people unlike us, people who are not us. Their versions tell us that we ought to be ashamed of where we come from, yet showing that which is Western is somehow superior and is classified as showing off. This is exactly why we have to tell our own story and how we want to tell them. Masingaqhelwa kakubi apha.

Below is the foreword I wrote for the second edition of my book in January 2016

To Quote Myself_Front Cover(RGB)

The publication of the first edition of this book came with a few surprises for me. A few weeks after its release, it had the dubious status of being the most stolen book in bookshops across the country. It got so bad that copies were kept behind the counter in many stores. People could only get it when they requested it.

I was actually thrilled that it was being stolen (dear reader, don’t view this as encouragement) because it meant that people were actually reading it. Hopefully. I had not thought that anyone would buy it, apart from my mother, a few relatives and a few supportive friends. Even then, I secretly believed that they would read the first few words and then close the book and never open it again.

Another thing I did not expect was the bestseller status it achieved and that the first print run would be sold out so quickly. I remember being happy but not that excited about making it into the bestseller list because it was the only title at the time by a living black writer. Why was that the case?

Are black writers given enough opportunity to write and publish their voices? When their stories are published are they given the support they deserve in bookshops or are they relegated to the back of the store where no one can find them? Can the people who decide what books will be published relate to stories that are written by black writers, or do they reject them because they cannot relate even though they would resonate with a black audience? Are black readers buying black writers? Are white buyers of South African literature supporting local black literature as much as they support white writers?

It is not right that we live in a majority black country and yet we don’t find the stories of more black people on shelves. And when we do find them, they are not always written by black hands, in their own way, their own style and in their own voice. Now, a lot of us black people were not able to get certain levels of education; we had to teach ourselves. Does that mean we shouldn’t tell our stories because the style and manner in which we tell them does not meet certain criteria imposed on them by a system not of their own creation? If that is the case, we will never create enough storytellers because gatekeepers will always have rules telling them why black experiences cannot be told.

As Africans we have been storytellers for millennia. Nobody can tell me that we can’t tell stories. We have to tell our own stories otherwise our era will be defined by other voices.

It is also important to note that my story is not the story of all black people. This is my experience that I happened to go through. Even though it is mine, there are thousands of people like me who went through what I went through and who can identify with what is written in the pages of this book.

I did not expect how many people told me that their parents took the book from them and refused to give it back once they were done reading it. I imagine many people’s parents could relate to the life I describe at the beginning. The rural life. As I say in the pages of this book, when I read about Nelson Mandela’s village life in Long Walk to Freedom, I realised that my own village life was no different from the kind of life he had lived some 60 years before.

After reading the book, my mother called me in shock at how much I remembered from my childhood. What got me the most was the reaction of my uncle, Mvume Dandala, former Bishop of the Methodist Church in southern Africa. His mother and my grandfather are siblings. He thanked me for writing about where we both come from and for writing so accurately about events and people we both knew. For him, most importantly, was how I had given tribute to my mother. The one person most readers want to talk to me about after they have finished the book is my mother.

I had driven down to Mvume’s brother’s funeral in Dutyini in 2015 when Mvume spoke to me about the book. He had suffered a stroke. He was lying in bed and he held my hand as he spoke to me at length.

At one point he mentioned a time when he came to see me while I lived in Cape Town when he was there for a visit as a Bishop. I heard the pain in his voice as he said that he remembered how happy I was when he handed me R50 all those years ago. He was pained because he felt that he should have known what I was going through when I lived in Cape Town.

I told him that there was no way he could have known because I hid what I was going through from everyone.

‘I could not understand the inexplicable happiness you had when I gave it to you. You were so happy. So very happy. It was like the most important thing you had ever been given. I thought you were just being a happy child because you have always been a happy child. But when I read your book, I realised why you were so happy.’

Behind the smile I had given him, I was hiding the fact that I was recently homeless and I desperately needed this unexpected R50 he was giving to me. I remember that after he had given me the R50, he prayed for me.

Late in 2015 my former pastor in Cape Town, Stephen van Rhyn, called me to apologise for not picking up that I was going through a difficult time. He felt that, as my pastor, it was his responsibility to be able to see what people in his church were going through because the church could have helped me.

Again, I shared that I did not want people to know my shame and I didn’t want to feel like I was a burden. Instead, I preferred to hide in plain sight. A smile and a laugh can hide a lot. My smile and my laugh hid a lot in those days. Two days before the launch of the first edition of this book, I bought a smoothie, sat down and took my first sip. I got the greatest brain freeze known to humankind. At that precise moment my heart started beating fast.

I thought that my body was shocked from the sudden brain freeze. The brain freeze ended but my heart continued racing. Ten minutes later it had not stopped. I drove from Morningside to Sandton City, thinking that if I walked around a bit there my heart would calm down. It didn’t. I ended up sitting down at Stuttafords where a lady by the name of Laura, who was working at the Tom Ford counter, asked me if I was okay. She gave me a chair to sit on and called the mall’s paramedics. In the meantime, I downloaded an app to check the pace and rhythm of my pulse. It was erratic. My heart was beating at 143 beats a minute

with no pattern. It beat fast and then slow and then fast.
By now I was getting worried and I called my friend and personal

physician, Dr Tshidi Gule. I explained to her what was happening. She dropped everything and came to see me in Sandton. When Dr Gule arrived she called one of the top cardiologists in the country, Dr Motara. We sent him the read- ing of my heartbeat from the app. He wanted to see me the very next morning, even though he had initially said he wouldn’t have time until the following week. He also prescribed some medication, which brought my heartbeat back to normal.

I joked with my girlfriend that if I died two days before my book launch I was pretty sure the book would be a runaway success because people would feel pity and buy it. I laughed. Alone.

‘That’s not funny.’ Silence followed by the coldest side-eye.

When I saw Dr Motara the next day, he conducted extensive tests and couldn’t find any reason for my heart beating the way it was. His conclusion was that there was some misfiring of the electricity into the heart and my life was not in danger, but he cautioned me not to strain myself.

Looking back, I realise that the idea of pouring my life story out in the book had freaked me out completely. I was scared of the publisher’s threats regarding deadlines, but nothing put the fear of God in me more than the impending launch. I could not ask my publisher to unpublish the book – plus I had spent the advance. The lesson I learnt is that writing about my life has been the most dangerous thing I have ever done.

Even though To Quote Myself is my second book, after In My Arrogant Opinion, I came to realise that it is impossible not to be nervous about what people will think about your writing. It is inevitable that people will read the book from different perspectives. Some will read it purely because they want a story of someone they can relate to, another will look at it from an academic point of view, and still others will see it as just another book written from the perspective of a man.

Whatever the case may be, and whatever the shortcomings of the book, this is my story. To write about yourself is to expose your insecurities, to stand naked in front of the world – or, at least, in front of a tiny bit of the world. I thought no one would turn up at the book launch and, worse still, that no one would buy the book.

To my surprise, it was both bought and stolen. And for this, I thank you.

The ANC forgot its own rules when it elected Zuma

March 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

*Originally appeared on the Mail & Guardian, 17 May 2012

By Khaya Dlanga


One of the worst things one could do right now is question the leadership of the ANC.

It isn’t the most prudent thing one can do and it isn’t encouraged. Of course you will hear those in the ANC say it is, but we know it is not. When one does so, one is often attacked and comments like “Polokwane-griever” and “enemy of the national democratic revolution” abound.

But I will do such a thing because, as my main man Drake puts it, “YOLO! You only live once.” So YOLO you ninjas!

We have a very insecure ANC leadership at the moment and nothing weakens a movement more rapidly than weakness at the top. Everything said that might be constructive – said without being sycophantic – is seen as an attack and a broadside. The laager mentality sets in and imaginary enemies are set out. Those who criticise for want of a better ANC are bullied into silence through the loud bully pulpit of the powerful. To quote the man who would be the Yoda of the ANC, Nelson Mandela, “It is a grave error for any leader to be oversensitive in the face of criticism.”

I know he wouldn’t be sensitive over being called a Yoda, for example.

Again, those who dare speak out, often speak of the hunger that follows their outspokenness. Of how business opportunities dry up.

Other people in the private sector who might agree with the sentiments become complicit in encouraging the weak leadership by stepping in to claim those business opportunities as they allow their morality to be guided by nothing other than the pursuit of money. Bravery in private but cowardice in public should be neither encouraged nor praised.

We know that there are many in the ANC who lament the transformation the organisation has undergone. No one is happy with the ANC, with the exception of those who worship at the altar of the tender. There are many who want to be happy with the ANC but are not given room to say how the ANC could be turned into a better place because there are too many big but fragile egos.

There was a time when we were proud of the ANC. Yes, today we are still proud. But our pride always points to the past, never the present. The present pains and disappoints us and leaves us in despair. Yet in our despair we always leave room for hope because we know that the organisation can do better. We cannot and will not allow it to be broken in our lifetime.

We can’t dishonour those who came before. What shall we say when we see them in the afterlife? Will we be ashamed or will we be proud? Will they say, “Well done, good and faithful servants of the movement,” or will they say, “Away from us!”?

Of course there is no leadership in the world that can be proud of everything it has done. Even the great saints of the ANC such as Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu have regrets – but these are dwarfed by their achievements.

In its 2001 document, Through the Eye of a Needle, the ANC outlines the attributes that will help identify a true leader. Unfortunately, it would appear as though those guiding principles have been ignored, as has been demonstrated by the so-called “Anyone But Zuma” movement.

One of the points the document makes is this and I quote, “Those in leadership positions should unite and guide the movement to be at the head of the process of change. They should lead the movement in its mission to organise and inspire the masses to be their own liberators. They should lead the task of governance with diligence. And, together, they should reflect continuity of a revolutionary tradition and renewal which sustains the movement in the long-term.”

From the one paragraph we can already see the many flaws in our leadership:

  • The people have not been inspired to be their own liberators; the state has made sure that the people are dependent on it. Thus, the party remains as their liberator and shackles them to itself.
  • Some areas of government have been led well and the task of governance has been done diligently, unfortunately there is less than desired.
  • The sustainability of the movement at this rate is questionable.

Point 35 of the document says, “A leader should constantly seek to improve his capacity to serve the people”. Unfortunately, many of our leaders are interested less in improving their capacity to serve, and more in increasing their chances to lead again. There is a big difference between the two.

Point 37 of the document then goes on to say, “A leader should lead by example. He should be above reproach in his political and social conduct – as defined by our revolutionary morality.

Through force of example, he should act as a role model to ANC members and non-members alike. Leading a life that reflects commitment to the strategic goals of the national democratic revolution includes not only being free of corrupt practices; it also means actively fighting against corruption.”

Having looked at all the points presented on the ANC document it is clear that the ANC does not apply this rigour when selecting leaders. This document might as well be burned, for no one follows its guidelines.

In my estimation, the document was written to ensure that not just anyone could become a leader because they think they can lead the movement; they should lead because they have ticked all the boxes. Being an ANC leader was meant to be difficult, not easy – for leadership is not easy.

The title of the document is taken from the Book of Matthew chapter 19 verse 24 in the Bible. A rich young ruler asks Jesus what he needs to do to get to heaven. Jesus tells him what to give up. The young man leaves because he is not prepared to give these things up, then Jesus says to the crowd, “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

The needle Jesus was speaking of is not the same as the one you think of. The “eye of a needle” Jesus spoke of was a gate in Jerusalem, which only opened after the main gate to the city was closed at night. A camel could only pass through a smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed and had to almost crawl to enter. Therefore, a leader should be willing to let go of his baggage in order to be worthy of leading the ANC.

In an earlier verse Jesus says, “Not everyone can accept this word.”

Well, we know.

No one is looking out for black talent in the workplace

October 6, 2015 § 3 Comments

Originally appeared on the Mail & Guardian 05 Nov 2014

By Khaya Dlanga


I have been hearing some disturbing news over the past week about what is happening in some industries to deserving black talent.

There is a false notion that black talent feels entitled to seniority at a fast pace. I don’t believe this is true. Those who are great at what they do know that it takes time to hone their skills to be at the top of their game. They don’t expect to get into a company today and be chief executive tomorrow. They just want a fair chance.

But how do you get a fair chance where nothing is really fair?

We hear and read in the media that black people are getting all the jobs. This is not true. Of the 18-million black people who are of working age, only 10-million are employed. Of the 2.1-million white people of employable age, less than 200 000 are unemployed. This equation does not suggest black people are getting all the jobs.

There is the false idea that affirmative action is about kicking people out of jobs. The way I see it, it’s about creating an expanding economy. Giving a black person a job does not mean getting rid of a white person.

This perception is further exacerbated by the ads people see in the newspapers asking for affirmative action candidates. What people fail to grasp is the reason for affirmative action legislation in the first place, which is that some companies had to be forced to look for, find and hire black talent.

In the past they simply refused and said there were no qualified black people. Yet many people who begin their jobs are not qualified for it anyway, they learn on the job and become qualified while doing it. On-the-job training is one of the best tools available.

As a black person in corporate South Africa, you have to prove that you are good enough before your presence is acknowledged. Black people are presumed to be inept until they prove otherwise.

White people, on the other hand, are presumed capable before performing any task. Black people have to prove they are up to the task before they are given the task.

Black people have to be given opportunities too and not have to work twice as hard to simply be given half the chance of a white person. Someone who does not experience this and does not live it will view this as black entitlement.

We know that the working environment is not purely based on merit; the abilities of many black people have not been recognised within the corporations they work.

I recently heard of a disturbing story of a black person who works for a reputable firm in the financial sector. A senior individual was going to vacate the position; the process took almost two years.

It was a given that the person who would logically fill the post was a black female who had been with the firm for some time and had been performing some of the tasks. During the two years, she prepared for the position. Yet, when the time came, she was passed over and the job was given to someone who was her junior – and white.

A staff member in the HR department questioned this decision. The head of the HR department simply responded by saying the order to pass over the black woman for a junior white person came from above and there was nothing he could do.

Now this is the dilemma black people face.

There are so few black people in management and with decision-making powers that they can hardly make an impact on the lives of those who are starting out in their organisation and who need people to look out for them.

It is difficult to make it in your career when there is no one looking out for you, no matter how talented you are. Talent and hard work alone will not get you far – you need to find favour. Without it, the road to the top is slow or nonexistent. I am fortunate that I now have a senior executive who takes an interest in and plays an active role in my growth.

I heard of another case where an intern went to a financial institution where the directors talked about how they had produced the most black people who had qualified.

The intern then asked a question: “If you have produced so many black people who have qualified in this sector, how come there isn’t a single black person in senior management?”

He was told that his question was ridiculous. When his internship ended, he did not get paid.

Two months later, he called to find out what the matter was and they said there was a problem with his tax number. When he asked why they hadn’t called him to find out, they didn’t have an answer. He asked if the reason he wasn’t getting paid was because of his question. The conversation ended quickly.

He was paid that very day – and they hadn’t even asked him for his tax number.

It looks like there is a fine balance that people have to maintain – between being outspoken and the danger of losing employment as a result of being outspoken.

The Gospel According to Twitter

October 5, 2015 § 1 Comment

*Originally appeared on the Mail & Guardian 31 Jan 2013, so some references will obviously be outdated.


There came a time when the people of Twitter were no longer a marginalised community. There were more than half a billion of them. And the people were looking for a code to live by, a code they could of course break with impunity. For, the people asked, what is the point of having rules if you cannot disregard them? It is written: “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial.”

  1. In the beginning, Twitter created avatars in its own image, the image of an egg, and hashtagged #Favourite
  2. Come unto Twitter, all ye who are weary and burdened by Facebook and it shall give you rest.
  3. Blessed is he who always has 3G.
  4. Thou shalt not steal tweets and pass them off as your own on Facebook.
  5. He who starts twars shall not see Twitter paradise.
  6. Verily I say onto you, to block another is to pinch the tithing of the internets.
  7. Woe unto them who follow others, yet protect their tweets, for it is written (see points eight and nine):
  8. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.
  9. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.
  10. Behold, tweeps, I say unto you, that if ye mute, ye shall profit nothing.
  11. Rich is he who asks not for a follow back.
  12. Seek ye first to build with thy tweets and all these followers shall be added unto you.
  13. Blessed are the retweeters for they shall inherit the internet.
  14. Tweet unto others as you would have them tweet unto you.
  15. Be as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove, for Twitter giveth and Twitter taketh away.
  16. When I was a Facebooker, I updated my status like a Facebooker, I thought as a Facebooker; but when I became a tweep, I put away those childish things.
  17. For I know the tweets I have for you, sayeth thy handle, tweets of peace and not of evil.
  18. Verily I say unto you, there is a special place with no 3G signal for them who put up avatars of themselves that make them look unrealistically better than they do in real life.
  19. As far as the east is from the west I say unto typo Nazis, you shall not see joy in tweets.
  20. Verily I say unto you, woe unto them who subtweet, they shall feel the wrath of frozen BBs and GSM signal.
  21. Woe unto them who only Instagram pictures of their food.
  22. Woe unto them who have had the same avatar for the last three years, and woe unto them who never show their faces.
  23. Though I read through a valley of subtweets, I will fear no subtweeter, for thy tweeps are with me and thy tweets they protect and comfort me.
  24. There is a tweet for everything, and a tweet for every activity under the heavens:
    • a time to LOL and a time to tweet: -_-;
    • a time to DM and a time to subtweet:
    • a time to tweet your friend: “Check DM now!” and a time to twitpic.
    • a time to tweet about that time you spent R24 000 at the club, and time run out of BIS.
  25. Thou shalt not twitlonger, it is 140 characters for a reason,
  26. Thou shalt not OMG in vain.
  27. Thou shalt actually be laughing when thy tweeteth, “LOL” or “LMAO”.
  28. Woe unto false prophets who anoint people twelebs
  29. I say this to you this very day, you will accidentally tweet a lewd DM and then deny it and claim you have been hacked before the cock crows three times.
  30. Love thy tweep

And the Lord sayeth, “Dear Christians, I have a sense of humour, so chill on this column.” Oh, how I wish Jesus would tweet that.



South African languages under threat, English is dangerously dominant

September 1, 2015 § 1 Comment

*first published 2011-02-15 12:43

Our official languages are only official on paper. The Constitution. It is time we became honest about this. One is almost inclined to say that that part of the Constitution was written to make us feel good about ourselves and congratulate one another on how tolerant we are as a nation because we were able to accommodate all 11 official languages. It is just make up. It was done to make us look good. English is South Africa’s official language whether we like to admit it or not.  This is good and bad.

When white schools were opened to black kids in the early 90s, black parents sent their kids to white schools, not just for a superior education, but more importantly, so that they could learn to speak great English; so that they could get great jobs, not just in South Africa but anywhere else in the world. It went so far that some parents in the various townships barred their children from speaking their mother tongues but English at home.

It became the hip thing to do. Black parents would ask their young children to bring Coke with Choice Assorted to visitors so that they could speak English. In reality what they were doing was just showing off how well their little black child can speak the white man’s language.

Ironically, it was a British weekly magazine that wrote an article detailing the slow decline of South African languages just a few weeks ago. Yes, even Afrikaans, in case you were wondering.

The great, conservative and informative British publication, The Economist, published an article with the headline “South African languages, Tongues under threat” with the sub heading, “English is dangerously dominant.” Yes. The Economist said that English is dangerously dominant in South Africa. So dangerous in fact that it is eating away at Xhosa, Zulu, Tswana, Ndebele, Afrikaans and numerous other South African languages.

I am not unaware of the irony of writing this in English. This is obviously a clear demonstration of the powers that we have given the language in this country. I must confess, I am far more proficient in English than I am in my own language, whether it be reading or writing. I have not read a single Xhosa novel in my life, yet I have read so many English novels I have lost count.

The colonisers may have left, but they certainly colonised our tongues. At least back when the colonisers had guns, we resisted them. We fought. People died. This time we participate in the colonisation of the tongue. We encourage it.

I was fortunate enough to be in a group of 20 people invited to share our views on the African continent with Thabo Mbeki. One of the people there whispered to me and said, “The colonisers haven’t left, they just changed complexion.” That cut me deep. It’s true.

There is painful truth behind those words. We laugh at those who can’t pronounce English words properly.

What are we to do to prevent a spectacular demise of our languages? If we are not careful, our languages are going to end up like Latin, only studied by people who enjoy languages. They will become extinct. This undervaluing of our languages needs to end. It demeans us as a people and robs the world of rich culture. With our languages gone, the understanding of our cultures will also go.

I am not saying English must end. We must speak it. It is the economic language of the world. To call for it to be abolished would be foolish. It ought to be compulsory for every single child to learn English first language and another South African language, first language.

Is it too late though to save our languages? Many are not learning South African languages in schools. We have come to believe that there is no financial value in learning our languages, consequently, the incentive to push them in our schools and universities diminishes with each passing year.

Even if black parents’ kids go to English language instruction schools, they must only speak a South African language to them at home. Yet the parents have a dilemma, make sure that their children are not left behind, they assume that they need to speak English to their kids at home too.

We should be less inclined to applaud someone who only speaks English fluently but doesn’t speak an African language with equal eloquence. There should be no pride in only being able to speak English well while you can’t speak your mother tongue well. I have seen some people speak with pride almost when they say they are not very proficient in their mother tongues. Shameful.

We need to be proud of our languages. It is the only way we will be able to preserve them. Not only should we preserve them, they ought to thrive. Peoples from other nations should want to speak them too. How about we start trying to export them too?

Let the French, the Germans, the Chinese want to learn to speak Xhosa or Zulu. How we do that I don’t know. Someone else must come up with the how. Ndiqhibile, ndiyekeni ndihlale phantsi.

Cape Town’s Secret White Club

January 21, 2015 § 2 Comments

*this column originally appeared on Cape Times when I still wrote for the publication. The reaction to it online and the comments which followed were disturbing and amusing all at once.

A few months ago I wrote about Cape Town’s professional unfriendliness towards black people. I stated that most black people don’t want to work in Cape Town because they come up against the white ceiling that they cannot go through, which is why any self-respecting aspiring black professional will leave Cape Town for blacker pastures in Joburg.

For there lies opportunity for them. I left the Cape because of the visible ceiling.

I had an interesting conversation with a German friend of mine who has been in Cape Town for the past six months or so.

Before that, she spent four months in Joburg.

First, she gave me the biggest shock of my life when she said she preferred Joburg to Cape Town.

Almost choking on my drink, I turned to her and said: “What? Did you say you prefer Johannesburg to Cape Town but in actual fact you meant you prefer Cape Town to Johannesburg?”

It made no sense that she didn’t like Cape Town. The city is beautiful, and she’s German, she’s supposed to like Cape Town, like the many German tourists who fall in love with the city and never leave.

Even after she assured me that she meant that she would choose Joburg over Cape Town any day, I waited for her to tell me that she was joking.

She gave me a compelling argument. She said she found Cape Town racist.

She said white Capetonians looked at one another as if they were members of a secret club. The White People’s Club.

Strangers made racially biased remarks to her, assuming that she will agree with her simply because she is white. It is something she said she had never experienced anywhere before.

One of the examples she gave me was an experience she had last week while she was shopping at a supermarket.

There was a trainee at the till. The trainee was obviously slow. The trainee explained that he was still new and figuring things out.

But the man in front in the queue turned and looked at my friend and then said: “These people are so slow and stupid and lazy. This can’t be that hard.”

My friend said she got that a lot in Cape Town.

That they are all part of the club where white people can just say things about black people and expect everyone to agree.

If this is the case, then what is it about Capetonians that they think they can get away with that kind of behaviour?

Obviously this is not everyone. All my friend was saying was that if she encountered this kind of behaviour so regularly, it could only mean that a lot of the time people say these things without being aware that they are being racist.

Am I saying Capetonians are racist?

Not at all, but I am saying that Cape Town needs to engage in proper soul-searching before denouncing what my German friend noticed. Outsiders tend to see things in a different light because they are not emotionally invested in the country. I appreciated her perspective on the Mother City because it created a mind shift.

In Joburg, she said, she never felt that she was looked at as if she belonged to this exclusive white club. She finds Joburg more accepting and more patient in letting others grow.

And, oh, one more thing: she said Cape Town was like a fishing village.

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