This is a book of desire denied, of what the pain of that impotence drives people to do, and how it makes them unwilling contortionists and even co-conspirators in their oppression. From ‘The Transformation of Harry’: “And there we all were; in an uncertain country, ourselves uncertain. A land with a sly heart; and ourselves ready to be deceived.” For if colonialism was any one thing it was denial: denial of land, denial of African culture, denial of any form of psychic nourishment—including hope—denial of black existence itself. And neocolonialism is the denial that any of that is still happening. First published in 1978, The House of Hunger speaks, or rather shouts, forward from its own time to 2017. Perhaps the most painful parts of the book to read are those that show how little has changed in thirty-nine years. For if colonialism was any one thing it was denial: denial of land, denial of African culture, denial of any form of psychic nourishment—including hope—denial of black existence itself. And neocolonialism is the denial that any of that is still happening.
Blame it on Nkosizana Zuma. I was going to write something on the Constitutional Court judgment delivered earlier this week on the Constitutionality of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA), until I heard the performance of our foreign minister on the After Eight Debate on SAFM.
The interview was upsetting for several reasons.
First, the fact that Nkosazana Zuma was given a full hour on one of the flagship programmes of His Master’s Voice just three days before the start of the Polokwane conference, confirms that the SABC is outrageously biased in favour of the Thabo Mbeki camp in the succession race. Nkosazana is, after all, Mbeki’s preferred successor and the reason why gender equality has featured so prominently in everything the Mbeki camp has so far thrown out there.
Second, I was depressed and saddened to think that this uncharismatic, plodding, woman with a penchant for lecturing her interviewer and the callers and condescending to them, was really the preferred choice for President of the Mbeki camp (in other words, of President Mbeki). Surely there are far better, more intelligent, charming woman out there with the ability to show at least a little bit of understanding of common humanity than this boring party hack? She sounds a bit like a less intellectually agile version of President Mbeki, come to think. What about Pumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka or Lindiwe Sisulu or even that fraudster Baleka Mbete?
Third, it is deeply depressing to see how the very important issue of gender equality has been politicised by President Thabo Mbeki and his supporters in an effort to achieve narrow political gains. It seems that nothing is sacred to them and they will politicise anything to win an argument or a battle: they will politicise AIDS even if it means that many will die and they will politicise gender even if it will set back the cause of woman for decades. Mrs. Zuma kept on repeating that she was fighting for woman’s rights and pointing to previous decisions of the ANC bodies that “there should be a woman in the Presidency” to bolster the case for her ticket with Mbeki.
This sounded laudable but rings slightly hollow. Two questions came to mind immediately.
If these people are so concerned about woman’s rights and really want a woman in the Presidency, why did they nominate President Thabo Mbeki for a third term? Surely, a true gender activist would have said that it is time to nominate a woman as President of the ANC and would have declined nomination as President (as Mbeki has decidedly not done) in favour of a woman candidate. Is it really a victory for gender equality by sending a signal that the woman must be second best and can only become the Deputy President of the party? To me it seems like an insult to woman.
Another related issue also raised by a caller seems to uncover the absolute opportunism of the Mbeki crowd. Here they were touting the previous decisions of the various ANC bodies and suggesting that those who were now not wanting Mrs Zuma as Deputy President were somehow disregarding previous decisions of the ANC. But only a few months ago the ANC Policy Conference adopted a resolution that the President of the ANC should preferably also be the President of the country, something that President Mbeki has decided to ignore. For him and his supporters now to attack the other side for not stickeing to Policy Conference resolutions smacks of the most hilarious chutzpa. Have they no shame?
Then there is the manufactured outrage by the pro-Mbeki NEC and repeated by Nkosazana Zuma about Zwelenzima Vavi’s remarks that the biggest womanisers are now claiming to be for woman’s rights. Vavi was of course referring to President Thabo Mbeki himself, who has long been rumored to be a womaniser of note. Surely, he was saying that a married man who sleeps with many woman because of his position of power in the ANC and then turns around and point fingers at Jacob Zuma, is a hypocrite of the most breathtaking kind.
Now, President Mbeki might have been a paragon of virtue over the past 30 years and might not have slept with every third wife of a comrade as rumoured, and if this is untrue the ru mour should be confronted and denied. (But not by Essops Fables because after Andrew Feinstein’s book, Minister Pahad has lost even the smidgen of credibility he might have had before.)
But, the NEC did not address this issue and failed to challenge the assumption underlying Vavi’s statement. They can then surely not say with a straight face that it is sexist to argue that a womaniser who abuses his power to sleep with woman and cheat on his wife has little credibility on gender issues. Just like Jacob Zuma cannot be said to have any credibility on gender issues after the outrageous things he said in his rape trial, so a powerful man who abuses his power to womanise cannot have any credibility.
What a sad and sorry state we are in. Where are the woman (and men) to stand up to both Mbeki and Zuma? Where are they? Hiding away like they hid away when Mbeki went mad on HIV and when the time came to suppress the arms deal investigation. Fat chance those men and woman in the ANC will ever be described as principled and courageous – definitely not by me. From now on I will just call them politicians.BACK TO TOP