May 12, 2015 § 1 Comment
*originally appeared on the Mail & Guardian: 01 May 2014
Unfortunately many see Mmusi Maimane as a puppet; there are people behind his rise, and those people are not black.
South Africa still lives with its past. It is ever present and confronts us in every way. We are unable to shake it even when we desperately want to and we are still going to vote along racial lines.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has been trying to destroy this voting pattern by putting black faces at the forefront of its election campaigns. One of its tactics has been to portray its premier candidate for Gauteng Mmusi Maimane as a Barack Obama-type figure.
There is a very clear, calculated reason for this: to attract young, black, middle class voters and the born-frees all the parties have been trying to secure. Unfortunately, only 33.6% of born-frees are registered to vote – compared to 60% of those in their 20s and 90% of people older than 30. This means one million born-frees are not interested and have not at all been inspired, even by the Obamafication of Maimane.
Of course it is a huge problem for all political parties, not just the DA, which has banked on them because, as their logic went, since the born-frees have no experience of the struggle, they won’t feel compelled to vote for the ANC. It seems they were wrong.
The born-frees don’t feel compelled to vote for anyone. The excitement deficit our leaders have generated is demonstrated by the lack of these young ones’ interest in voting.
US President Obama’s strongest supporters in 2008 were first-time voters, and this was the same strategy the DA attempted. The difference for the country’s Democrats then was that Obama actually generated excitement because of who he was and his story. People don’t know Maimane. He came out of nowhere for them. He is manufactured in their eyes. Obama introduced himself in 2004 to the American public and ran for president for two years so that by the time elections came, they knew who he was and what he stood for.
DA party leader Helen Zille knows that black South Africans are suspicious of the DA, not necessarily because they believe she is racist and will bring back apartheid, but they just don’t feel they would be a priority under DA rule.
The DA has done a remarkable job in making Maimane seem like he is, in fact, the leader of the party. He is on almost every DA poster one sees in Gauteng, for example, and there are a few posters peppered with Zille just to remind you she is still in charge. Even though she says the party is not about racialising politics in South Africa, the DA is practicing racial politics. The thinking is that Maimane is black and will therefore appeal more to black voters than Zille will, so the party put him on TV and posters so that the voter can see the DA isn’t a white party.
Unfortunately, many people see Maimane as something of a puppet, that there are powers behind the operation that are not black. So they are suspicious about the agenda of the people behind him. His emergence has been far too sudden for people to trust him.
He is perhaps being groomed as the next party leader after Zille. It is becoming more clear: the DA needs a black leader in order to get an even greater share of the vote. But will the DA membership allow such a thing to happen?
What the DA has done a lot more successfully than the ANC, is to come across as deracialised by making some of its black leaders prominent. In the past, the ANC had many prominent white leaders who were right at the heart of the movement. Not only white, but coloured and Indian too. We don’t see that as much any more, which seems to indicate there is an emergence of racial polarisation in the ANC, which needs to be addressed urgently. The ANC was the most racially mixed party of any in South Africa for a long time. Yes, there are still many people of other races in the ANC, but they are not prominent and are kept as workhorses. The ANC needs to be very deliberate in getting these leaders some airtime.
In this election, too, we will see people vote along racial lines, despite all the work the DA has done. The party has the right idea but it was badly executed.
February 19, 2013 § Leave a comment
Ali was right. Obama was elected after Bush. The ship was sinking, and they got Obama.
March 29, 2010 § 1 Comment
Spartans prided themselves in never using more than six words when one would do. This is why they would have been brilliant on Twitter. Each tweet has a maximum of 140 characters. This explains why Moammar Gadaffi is not on Twitter. You have to use as few words as possible when expressing, explaining and replying. You’d probably be killed for making a speech. It is the one place where less is truly more. Except of course those, according to Mail&Guardian columnist Chris Roper, who insist on doing this at the end of their sentences!!!!!!!!!
In the movie 300, the Spartans are completely misrepresented as a people who talk a whole lot more than they did. The monologues, the long inspirational speeches by Spartan King Leonidas before launching his pre-emptive defence against the Persian “god-king” Xerxes were counter-revolutionary. Had the Spartans been alive today in their true and original form, their movie critics would have assaulted it with verbal minimalism.
The people of Sparta were from a region called Laconia; as a result Athenians started calling anyone who spoke concisely as laconic. That is how we got the word laconic in the English language today. Although I shouldn’t really say “we” as English is my 5th language (I’m cheating because Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele and Swati are cousins, but don’t tell anyone).
The year was 4BC. In case you don’t know what BC stands for, it doesn’t stand for Before Coke, it’s Before Christ. Anyway, after the warring Spartans won the battle of Thebes, the victorious general sent a message to his boss, we don’t know who the boss was, maybe their version of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we will never know. As I was saying, the general sent a message, “Thebes is taken”. That seems concise to you right? Wrong! This is why you wouldn’t have survived there. The general receives a terse five-word lecture, “Taken would have been sufficient”. Ouch.
Sparta was always at war, later that very same century they were at war with Macedonia. This story happens to be my favourite one. The Macedonian army gathered outside the city state of Sparta, the leader of the Macedonian army, Philip II, father of Alexander the Great (you may never have heard of his lesser known brother, Alexander the Insignificant) sent a message to the city’s leaders: “You are advised to submit immediately. If I enter Laconia, I shall raze it to the ground.” What did the Spartans say? What would you have said? Cursing is not allowed, too easy. They sent the greatest one-word comeback of all time, ALL TIME! To add sulphur to injury, it was a two-letter-word reply: “If.”
(I sent a message a few moments ago on twitter asking people on Twitter to give me a shorter headline for my blog and Mel Bala, one of my favourites on Twitter said, “oh, please be sure to mention “Helen of Troy!” Ok, Mel. Mentioned.)
Another man known for his few words was American president Calvin Coolidge, he was even known as “Silent Cal”. I don’t know how he could have won an election in this day and age in which many words matter. Maybe if he ran against Obama today his taciturn style against the president’s wordy one he would have stood his own. A female guest at the White House whispered on Coolidge’s ear and said, “You must talk to me Mr President. I made a bet that I could get more than two words out of you”. The president replied, “You lose”.
So good people on Twitter, can we express ourselves more concisely than the people of the region of Laconia? Obviously, this blog is far too long considering the subject matter. Should have been a paragraph.
Follow me on Twitter but I won’t lead you anywhere
July 4, 2009 § 1 Comment
I am convinced this is her bid to drum up her base ahead of the 2012 elections. Effectively she’ll have a 2-year head start before the primaries. Think about it, who are her possible challengers? Bobby Jindal is no match for her. My hair is more charismatic than that guy. Newt Ginrich is past his sell by date. There is that young congressman though, I forget his name is, maybe him. Oh yes, his name is Eric Cantor. I think that he might be her main challenger if he decides to run. But then again, I don’t know what I’m talking about.
I also think that she wants to make sure that she can blame whatever failures there are on the new governor when she runs for the Republican Primaries and eventually the presidency. She will claim that she ran the state well when she was governor. She is taking a page off Obama’s book. He was senator for two years when he started running. Her resignation comes 2 years into her term.
I suspect that she will leave everyone in the dust. There is no doubt in my mind that she will raise a lot of money. More so than any of her challengers. Perhaps she will play the victim card. That might work for her. Think about it, it could be a narrative of a woman who was victimized by the press when she was running with John McCain. She was governor of a state that the negative press finally hounded her out of office. These are my very foolish and brief thoughts on the Sarah Palin saga.
October 28, 2008 § 1 Comment
By Khaya Dlanga, October 28 2008
… barring some unforeseen event or the Republicans doing what they know what to do best every four years – stealing an election. It’s easy to use the typical and lazy argument that black people support Obama simply because he is black. Naturally, blacks will be proud of him, just like women would have been of Hillary Clinton had she won the nomination instead of Obama. As were Catholics when JFK beat Nixon.
To claim that his skin colour is the only reason black people want him to be president is an insult. That statement assumes that blacks are an unthinking herd that is only governed and motivated by colour. Besides, this simplistic view omits the fact that 88% of black voters voted for John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore got a whopping 90% in 2000. Blacks vote Democrat idiot! If they recall, before the Democratic primaries black people all over America were saying that Obama was not black enough. Of course now he is too black.
I like what Chris Rock says about people who say America can’t have a black president, “Why not? We just had a retarded one.” My second favourite quote about Obama’s candidacy is from comedian and talk show host, Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s Real Time (I watch the programme on the “internets”). He said, “Don’t lie and say you won’t vote for Obama; it’s because he’s smarter than you. That’s why you won’t vote for him. That’s why you voted for Bush twice!”
He will be the first American president in eight years I can say without doubt is smarter than I am. It doesn’t take a lot to be smarter than me. And I hope I can say the same thing about South Africa’s next president.
Obama overcame every single hurdle that has been put before him; sometimes they were not just mere hurdles, they were like the Great Wall of China. Let’s start with his name. Here is a man who has the “misfortune” of having his middle name as “Hussein” in the United States of all places. And he decided to run for president too with that name. As if that wasn’t bad enough, his surname sounds like Osama and his name is Barack. All very “un-American sounding.” Television reporters have often made the mistake of referring to him as “Democratic nominee Barack Osama” on live television. He had to overcome that. He has been accused of being Muslim. I suspect that being called a Muslim is code for terrorist in some parts of the US.
Of course had he been Muslim there should have been nothing wrong with that either. During his hard fought primaries against Hillary Clinton there was a poll that showed that 13% of Americans thought that he was Muslim and a whopping 80% of those said they wouldn’t vote for a Muslim.
When General Collin Powell, (former Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State) a Republican, broke ranks with his own party to endorse Barack Obama, a Democrat, he tackled the Muslim issue in a fashion that I hadn’t heard any major political figure address. He said that he was disturbed by what was permitted to be said by the Republicans. The lazy and anti-intellectual wing of the Republican Party said that Powell endorsed Obama because he is also black. (Interestingly, the ANC has been displaying some anti-intellectual signs of late.)
Powell gave the example of an elderly lady who said at a McCain rally during a Q&A session, “Well, you know that Obama is a Muslim?” McCain grabbed the microphone from the lady and said, “No ma’am, he’s an American.”
Powell said, “The correct answer is he is not a Muslim, he is a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim kid believing that he/she can be president?” Then he went on to admonish senior members of his party, the Republicans, for implying that Obama is a Muslim and might be associated with terrorists.
He went on to talk about a photo assay about soldiers that had died in Iraq. He mentioned a picture he saw of a mother in a cemetery; she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. The headstone had her son’s name and awards. “At the very top of the tombstone was not a Cross, or the Star of David, it had a Crescent and a Star of Islamic faith … he was an American.” No one has said that there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim and an American at the same time as Collin Powell. No one has refuted the silent bigotry that being Muslim is un-American with the same eloquence and intellectual fluidity as Collin Powell.
Then there is Reverend Jeremiah Wright who almost single-handedly sank Obama’s hopes. His sermons after 9/11 when he railed against America, which essentially said that America got what it deserved. “God bless America,” he said. “No, God damn America.” Suddenly Hillary saw a glimmer of hope; maybe she stood a chance after all. Instead of addressing the crisis in a typical politician’s manner – managing and spinning the crisis, he did the opposite. He decided to tackle the issue of race in the United States head on and spoke to Americans as if they were adults in his great speech, what I believe to be his greatest speech, “A more perfect union.” He survived that because he spoke about race in a way that had never been done before; he addressed white fears and black fears all at once.
Then there was Hillary Clinton. People forget how tough Obama is. They look at him and see the nice guy with an easy flashy smile; the ladies see a guy they’d introduce to their mothers. Obama is one tough SOB. This is the guy that defeated the most powerful political machine in American history. Hillary Clinton. I’m sorry, that should be a plural: the Clintons.
It is a miracle that he has gone this far. He is a black man, with a father from Africa. He has a Muslim middle name. His surname rhymes with Osama. His preacher almost sank his presidential aspirations. He can’t show emotion, because if he does then he will be seen as the typical, angry black man. He has little experience. He didn’t just run against one Clinton, he ran against two, and one a popular former president. The Republicans paint him as one who palls around with terrorists. The list is endless.
Barack Obama has destiny written all over him. He is one of those rare individuals whose mark of destiny is hard to miss. He knows it. We know it. He knows we know it. But we should not mark him as a great man yet. Because destiny must be fulfilled, for before it is, it is mere potential. And potential is nothing without results.
Because of his self-awareness, he is humble enough to poke fun at the Messianic expectations that have been set on him. Just two weeks ago at the Al Smith dinner (he was the first Catholic to run for the presidency of the United States) where both candidates were invited to poke fun at one another, Obama said of himself, “Contrary to the rumours you may have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton, sent here by my father Jo Ell to save the planet earth.” There was much laughter after this.
What a breath of fresh air he will be, God willing.
first published on http://www.thoughtleader.co.za on October 28 2008