In response to Eusebius McKaiser’s Open Letter to Ferial Haffajee


– So much for one dimensional analysis –
I read with interest today Dr. McKaiser’s meandering reprimand of Haffajee in the New Age, on her decision to let the spear down.

McKaiser in emotional blackmail tone makes a number of assumptions to support his view that the letting down of the spear on the part of Haffajee was wrong because it held no ramifications for what he terms the national interest.

He claims the letting down of the spear “is (narrowly) in the interest of Jacob Zuma, his family, his supporters, some in the African National Congress who feel insulted, and members of the public who feel the same”. It is not difficult to deduce from this myopic categorisation of McKaiser that he seeks to reduce those offended to an almost insignificant group that warrants no attention if not ignorance. He is overtaken and pre-occupied to argue that because there are some in the ANC who may hold a different view, that in itself justifies the existence of the painting and therefore a denial of the right to dignity advanced.

From where the classical attempt to define those offended in an almost arbitrarily empirical sense when that is not possible? There exists no empirical evidence to detail how many South Africans are for or against the painting in whatever form as it relates to the aspects of ‘freedom of expression’ or ‘right to dignity’, hence chartering that route proves a cul-de-sac. Hence the categorisation of those who are and remain offended is a senseless exercise if the intention was to show them as minority deserving of ignorance.

Secondly in his desire to confirm a divided ANC he hashed together things that do not belong together defying logic. He uses the national Minister of Arts  and Culture Paul Mashatile’s interview as the evidence of an opposing view  and not another view and what he terms a “more measured tone” as the correct approach to the subject. This by itself is again a cheap-shot informed by one dimensional analysis, Paul Mashatile is the Minister of Arts and Culture and not the ANC spokesman. The interview is conducted with him as minister and not as an ANC member he therefore responds in that capacity.  Also anyone who has ever seen or listened to Paul Mashatile before will attest he is naturally soft-spoken one who seldom shows emotion, how this is used to validate an opposing view only McKaiser knows. McKaiser concedes Mashatile himself found the portrait offensive. An aspect he (McKaiser) deliberately seeks not to engage.

To further lend credence to his desired conclusive view of a divided ANC he uses Pallo Jordan’s interview on Interface to bolster his one sided defence of artists’ right of expression. Needless to say he obliterated the very point he is seeking to make when he adds on Jordan “even while explaining that sensitivity is important on the part of artists”. Again McKaiser does not get this, because once you bring sensitivity into the equation one is asking for context, suggesting these rights do not exist as absolutes at expense of each other in space.

McKaiser clearly tackles the issue of the complaint on the part of those who were offended from a tunnel vision mind. For the record the issue of freedom of expression was never in contention, rejected, challenged or argued against, it was always and remains consistently acknowledged. It is simply sophistic to attempt to argue as if those offended were calling for the denial of freedom of expression.  It appears he suffers of selective amnesia, when it suits to corroborate his  analysis. The case brought before the court as led by Advocate Malindi in its prologue acknowledged and affirms such right, whilst it argues for a conjoined responsibility to prove sensitive for ones dignity a right also in constitutional embrace.
Any reasonable person can see that clearly from both Mashatile and Jordan unless one wears McKaiser shades. We may not be able to see the end of the case with the current developments, but following Justice Claasen on the first day of the hearing, it became clear the challenge was not the rights of dignity or the freedom of expression but a means as to how to practicalise a potential ruling to outlaw the painting when the same has become viral and it is assumed is all over.

He does to Jordan in typical liberalist mind what is being done of a Mandela by some who insist on separating him as saint from an evil ANC.  A practice Mandela is on record for condemning. Jordan is separated as a brilliant intellectual in an abyss of no intelligence currently in the ANC, the myth parading from the pens of our ‘analysts’. Some do have a need to prove their intellectual standing by showing an association with those who are celebrated by all.

McKaiser argues, “by climbing down on this issue – and following the sentiments of editors like Peter Bruce- you actually do all of us, including black South Africans, a huge disservice”. This again constitutes a gross assumption on the part of Mckaiser.  He clearly does not appreciate the collective role all has to play to prove cohesive in building and tearing down. Assumption because he believes the enforcing of the right of expression by artists stands sacrosanct to the right of dignity for those whom he cite a disservice is done by letting the spear down.

Haffajee has conceded in her editorial and apology to Zuma’s daughter that she has come to see the pain, perhaps when she herself was on the receiving end of such pain. McKaiser may still learn that we are rather dismissive of others informed by where we stand, the towers from where we project, the positions we hold and yet when we in pain, we want others to be sensitive to us.

To McKaiser we say the right of freedom of expression does not exist in a vacuum but lives and must find meaning in the collective spirit of ubuntu the backdrop of the constitution of South Africa with its chequered history. Interpreting it any other way is necessarily doing a disservice to the very right you seek to defend as sacrosanct.  Saths Cooper talks of this what I shall call unshackling we still need, because though we are politically free we are not psychologically free from the scars of yesterday, and to act as if we are is to disregard the road we have trudged, the sacrifices made and the price paid.

He accuses Blade Nzimande who spoke in his capacity as Secretary General of the SACP and Gwede Mantashe as Secretary General of the ANC  of bullying and angry responses. (His silence on Zwelinzima Vavi of COSATU another member if the Tripartite Alliance  also as Secretary General condemning the spear is deafening). Perhaps it pokes holes in his theory of those offended constituting only a section of ANC members who are fans of a Zuma.

It is not difficult to read the latent anger aimed at Zuma and the ANC in this open letter which one still is not sure what it is, for it goes from a patronising salutation of Haffajee, to disdain for Zuma, a dividing of the ANC into sections, confusing Mashatile’s views, cheap praise singing of Pallo Jordan to a cum-existential lecture on the need for art (as European science I suppose) to be taught to black kids, concluding with what blacks can handle. The latter perhaps the desperately needed re-civilization of the natives this time in art for they clearly lack the capacity to grasp art.

In conclusion, he says “bad art, like bad politicians are allowed to exist. That’s the point of a democracy” our learned friend omitted to mention another constituency, bad analysis and analysts, also allowed to exist as prove of this celebrated democracy.
Maybe our learned friend should have decided what he wanted to deal with because this conflated “open letter to Ferial Haffajee”, perhaps in my view suffered whiplash in a crash overtaken by a need to prove Zuma as deserving of whatever comes to him, the one psyche of an irrational mind.

Clyde N. Ramalaine
Social Commentator

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City Press’ Haffajee with egg on the face, was it necessary?

– Lessons need to be learned –
The spear is down as confirmed by the City Press editor Ferial Haffajee. It becomes important to dissect the statement and interviews Haffajee offers as her reasons for letting what I shall call her beloved spear down.

Perhaps this must have been the biggest story Haffajee ran as City Press editor, if public sentiment is the barometer and one can understand her sentiments in proving defiant with an interpreted blanket constitutional franchise of “freedom of expression”. This note was preceded by a open letter which I unfortunately could not get to the editor in time, the same which now is irrelevant in such I pleaded for a consciousness on her part for the pain outside the narrowly defined enemy -ANC dictum and sphere.

Firstly, Haffajee made this her personal stand for the defence of such freedom of expression claim. She admitted that against advice of some in her media enclave she insisted to go ahead. We must not forget Haffajee in the previous weeks City Press gave her reasons or justification for posting the painting on the City Press’ website. Amongst those mention she boldly claimed, the president is “no paragon of morality” by interpretation making him therefore cannon fodder and the correct target for such abuse.

Haffajee says she has finally understood that the pain this portrait ensembles. She in her “apology” to Zuma’s daughter expresses her deep regret for what she sees as satire and yet pain for the Zuma family. She talks about understanding the agony of children picking on one at school and how negatively lasting in effect these can be.

Haffajee is supposedly shocked that the response or the public outcry was so real. My question when the City Press was politely asked for the same reasons that now constitute her change  to remove the painting why she as editor dig in  her heels and proved disinterested, this preceded the court case?

Haffajee  claims today that in particular the tweet from a “Patrice Motsepe” hurt her deep. She says this because they know each other from university days. It is the callous association drawn by a “Patrice Motsepe” who tweeted that convinced her of the truth of the national pain.

The pain that Haffajee shares is real, no different to the pain of many who tried to say to her don’t go down this road. If Haffajee is in pain, perhaps it was necessary for it is personal pain that often helps one appreciates the agony of others. We prove easily dismissive of others from the places we stand, the positions we hold, the power we claim, the coloured lenses through which we look, yet when we are in pain we expect others to be sensitive and understanding.

However the claim of pain emanating from such “Patrice Motsepe” tweet as sincere as it may appear communicates many more angles in a schizophrenic mosaic of what informs reason or decision for Haffajee. Let me also in the beginning condemn the ‘motsepe’ tweet because it was just as low and demeaning as the very painting we condemn. I shall not venture into the fact that some will hold hogwash has a proclivity to  attract hogwash.

Let us first strip Motsepe from his wealth, is Motsepe’s social standing the reasons for him being taken serious  by her?  Would she have been this accommodating for there could be other friends from the same university who voiced a similar position of disgust, are these mentioned by Haffajee or are they not worth mention because they do not have the same wealth or status?

Secondly it is now common news that Haffajee never verified if the “Patrice Motsepe” who tweeted as the correct person but assumed it was him to the extent that she reacted based on such and was in agony immediately as she pensively reflected on what could have so deeply affected a university friend.

Question would she as a good journalist and editor have verified the veracity and found the “Motsepe” a pseudo, would she have taken the spear down? Your guess is as good as mine.

Haffajee wanted an audience with the ANC and SACP,  I fail to understand this unless I understand this from a pure business interest or even a self-serving one. What would a meeting clear when the battle lines have been drawn with legal stands?

The ANC has made it clear it wanted the spear down, because it was diminishing the dignity of its president and leader who happens to be also the President of South Africa. It asked through its attorneys formally that the City Press respect its request, which along with the Goodman Gallery she point blank refused. What is the obsession with engaging the ANC when they already made it clear this is not a negotiated issue?  Did Haffajee hope to come back with a negotiated settlement? What did she hope for?

Haffajee says she made the decision informed by fear and care because of death threats received. I cannot verify nor challenge this claim, yet her  attitude does not inspire necessarily truth at this point.

Lastly how much of business interest weighed on her decision to prove soluble when she has put up a “fight” when there was none needed.

Is the threat of government not giving City Press  an opportunity to earn revenue featuring anywhere in this equation for ultimately as editor Haffajee only works for a company and does not own the City Press, suggesting she could like all other employees be fired if shareholders are not happy?

Is it possible that as we write this note that Haffajee became the ‘moemish’ of the week for having potentially misled some who are blinded in hate for the ANC leadership by promising them to prove a tough cookie, equally because the ANC got her to honour what she initially refused to do?  Or is she the moemish for not verifying the fake “patrice motsepe” Perhaps confirming the claims of journalist not doing their homework before resorting to respond?  Is she the moemish for trying to play victim in pain when she was the lead drum majorette  ignoring the pain of others.

The editor must have egg dripping of her face and must have learnt a few cardinal lessons which may help her approach similar future things differently.

I thought of some lessons learnt for a Haffajee from this uncalled for two weeks of pain of paraded estrogen.

1. As a journalist listen to the people, the people was trying to get your attention but you were on your own errand and spree.

2. Do not force-feed us the public a diet we do not want in the name of freedom of expression. We have published in City Press before and respect the newspaper, but don’t assume.

3. Don’t let names of so called important people dictate and cloud your decision making. If Zuma’s views and mind do not dictate to you, don’t let Motsepe’s dictate to you.

4. If government do not dictate don’t allow business to dictate to you or your newspaper, if you want to be the paragon of fairness.

5. Don’t underestimate the will of the people who democratically voted this ANC into power.

6.  Own up to  your role as a public person to build this democracy to galvanize our nationhood and to defend our values of ubuntu, as that which informs the actual spirit of the constitution which does not have an existence devoid of a context, our chequered collective history.

7.  If you celebrate and defend freedom of expression as a right you equally have an obligation to respect and defend someone’s dignity to the hilt.

8. You have never portrayed the worst of serial rapists with such gusto, why your obsession with a politician who was voted into power by the masses as representing South Africa. Not even the infamous DSK of French politics is portrayed in this fashion.

9. Respect the many cultural expressions of South Africa live with the reality and accept this president was never found guilty of rape, has unlike most of us more than one matrimonial partner, sinned in raising a child outside wedlock for which he apologised, the common story of the “civilized” globe. Accept and afford that Zuma   is a human being no different to you or me with challenges the same our history attests.

10. Taking the spear down, is one half of the toughest  mile of your career- it stands naked without a irrevocable apology to the many in South Africa who are South Africans ANC members or not because not all of us are ANC members but we condemn your attitude.

In the end we forgive you because you are human, and humans err, and can be overtaken by our ego’s at times. Human beings know the importance of forgiving for life simply will not make sense without it. It remains inhumane not to forgive.

True Africans understand this for they paid the price to have this constitution in which we all claim our rights at times indifferently and in a less sensitive manner. Their blood watered the tree of freedom, their backs bore the scars of the abuse, yet they have forgiven the perpetrators who often want to act as if was their right to be forgiven.

Clyde N. Ramalaine
Social commentator

The ‘Spear Painting’ deservedly got painted !

The ‘Spear – painting’ deservedly got painted!

Amidst public outcry, court-cases, and protest march

Silly claims of innocence, with no harm intended

 

Two men, one ‘black’ and one ‘white’

Decided this abuse will not see this night

 

Two men, one  ‘young’ one ‘old’

Found this image simply cold

 

Two men, armed with paint red and black

The one a brush, the other only his hand

Guts they did not lack

 

Two men, representing our humanity

Two men possibly representing different class

Yet one in their pursuit

One in their conviction

Totally one in their action

 

Their arrest marred in controversy

The only time these became colour-coded ‘black and white’

For the ‘black’ manhandled,

Head-butted even, choked

Wrestled to the ground, with support

When he offered no resistance

 

The ‘white’  left standing, interviewed

As some wanted to rationally engage

Only much later decently cable-tied

 

Today the ‘painting’ deservedly got painted

Today,  I celebrate them for they are heroes

Heroes for they understood,

The depravity of a sick mind

The heartlessness of a claimed superiority

The abuse of a constitutional franchise of freedom of expression

 

Two men, who both in humanity,

Relived the shame of Cuvier’s dissecting of Mother Saartjie Baartman

An abnormal obsession Cuvier had with Baartman’s womanhood

Now depicted in Murray’s tasteless, racist depiction of Zuma

Today Brett Murray got deservedly painted!!

 

By : Clyde N. S. Ramalaine

May 22, 2012 ( 12h24) Copyright observed

Making sense of Bizos’ claim on an apparent Mandela sadness and dissappointment !


– Are we as South Africans not open for blackmail by some who played a role and today feel entitled to dictate? Are we taking ‘struggle heroes’ too serious?

Listening to an interview of the debates on the status of the RSA constitution as conducted by Robin Kurnow of CNN with Adv. George Bizos, one cannot help but wonder if some people claim an inalienable right to know Nelson Mandela’s thoughts. Equally what is good for SA as a whole, only because they played a role?

Bizos claims that Nelson R. Mandela is a very sad man.  Mandela according to Bizos is disappointed. Bizos fails to tell us the source of Mandela’s sadness or disappointment. We know Bizos as a jurist and individual is public about his views on the constitutional and judicial review debate. The same which we respect, yet these must not naturally be conflated as Mandela’s views. It appears that Bizos is still held captive for serving at one stage as one of a number of attorneys of Mandela.

If it is that former president Mandela is ‘sad’ and ‘disappointed’ – in what exactly is this sadness located, if indeed he is disappointed in what is this rooted?   I ask these questions not of former President Mandela but from those who claim to speak either officially or unofficially on his behalf.  I believe that Nelson  Mandela  as a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC has access to the existing leadership to share such ‘sadness’ or ‘disappointment’. Nelson Mandela has always conducted himself with such keen respect for the Movement that made him, his respect for such Movement as shared in his recorded work speaks volumes.

Bizos’  reminded us of the words of  the scholar Manning Marable in his book on Malcolm X: A life of reinvention – who reminds us studiously “the great temptation for the biographer of an iconic figure is to portray him or her as a virtual saint, without the normal contradictions and blemishes that all human beings have”.

Nelson R. Mandela is on record for disassociating himself from this sainthood claim that some continues to invoke upon him at the expense of the ANC.  The Mandela we know is a human being like all of us. As a member of the ANC he also understood the dialectical tension between  dreaming of change and  leading the charge for transformation, the same an ANC led administration since 1994 is making progress on with its equal success and failures.

It is my observation that there is a concerted, meticulously crafted myth in SA propagated that seeks to separate Nelson Mandela from the ANC. This flawed separation pits him in ‘sainthood’ as diametrically the opposite of  an ‘evil’ ANC organisation.  In this separation there is a further need to see the dawn of democracy as a Nelson Mandela project that which he in magic wand fashion dreamt up and magically was able to deliver.
The debate on the constitution cannot be a closed-ended one in which  there are proverbial holy cows. It cannot be a debate in which some parts of the arms of state remain naturally above question and others necessarily the subject of suspicion. The debate on our constitution cannot be hushed into silence only because some for unholy reasons want to regard the constitution as sacrosanct. The debate asks from all of us to rise above pettiness and a  parading fear based pre-occupation rhetoric.

Our constitution as powerful, historical and tone-setting initiative and document  remains our hope and dream therefore a work in progress. Yet it equally asks of us to interpret and reinterpret constantly the nature of relations of the arms of state to give meaning and definition to its values and creeds. Such checks and balances  – dialectical tension in the abundance of caution demands of neither of  the arms of state to be hijacked by agendas that ill-serve the ideals of the hope of equality and the demand for transformation as a non negotiable.

If our democracy is under threat it is under threat from those who claim a right to maintain the status quo in class definition, economic disparity and land ownership definition as it depicts in 2012. This attempt to use  the very constitution to counter the transformation agenda  warrants condemnation. This maintenance of status quo as propagated by the self-appointed custodians of democracy is in defence of an Apartheid era, our collective history of suppression where democracy was a swear word.

For the record the attainment of freedom for all South Africans  is and remains an ANC led process in which its leaders its people and those who believed in such vision from across all spheres were willing to lay down their lives.  This organisation and its leaders must receive the credit and equal condemnation if it fails to deliver the democracy for which they were entrusted.

The debate on the constitution remains a healthy one, one in which we as South Africans must engage with an open mind and not out of fear. We need not approach this debate from the cheap vested corners, nor is this a naturally deduced  attack on the judiciary, which has become shaped by the myopic “majority-gevaar” prism, in typical ‘swart –gevaar’ tactics of yesterday.

If democracy rules in SA it must respect the will of the people and we need not fear majority rule as the innate enemy of such democracy. From where a belief that democracy is only safeguarded by an opposition? From where the one sided conviction that we are fed in SA that the opposition holds the key and true prove of our democracy?

The defence of the SA constitution is not the arrogated right of a few who act as if they are the ordained gatekeepers and founders of the South African dream, but all of us. Asking questions and reviewing  our constitution and its relevance for the transformation agenda must not be misconstrued in a heretical sense as diametrically opposed to the intentions of democracy but a normal outflow as we chart our common way towards the dream of equality.

An equality which for many sectors of our society exemplified in rural hinterlands, peri-urban communities and former townships remains a demand that must be answered. Our defence of the SA constitution must not be out of self interest and in  disregard of the prevailing disparity of economic definition of the majority of the people of South Africa or service delivery failures. This constitution must deal with and answer why South Africa remains geographically owned by a minority. It must ask why the SA economy has remained an apartheid based economy in which a handful of permitted Africans share. It must ask what the tension between those who own and those who do not own mean. It must fundamentally ask what the  rights of individuals mean in the bigger scheme of our historical background and how this relates to where we heading.

One may be forgiven to think the defence of the constitution is not at all times and honest pursuit by some for these believe those who hold political power as trusted by the masses necessarily constitute the enemy of the very constitution. An illogic that finds meaning in opposition rhetoric politics.

For the record no individual including  George Bizos is the founder of our democracy, hence no one should be allowed to act as such founder, be he /she a  politician, jurist,  priest, academic, business baron, analyst, former political prisoner, former exile, former inzile,  student, journalist, owner of media house or member of an opposition formation.

It is my view that we afford some people in our society too much respect and power that they uniquely feel entitled to dictate, even  blackmail us in the name of our heroes. These act as arbiters of where we are in the course of the transformation agenda and share their views as the gospel because we afford them such space. This again has nothing to do with the enshrined freedom of speech right, but deals with the psyche of some who arrogate a right above others to dictate.

Saying this does not in the least negate the right of a Bizos or anyone to share his/her views, nor to question the role he/she  played at a time historically, and even in a later epoch. However we must prove cautious to delink the so called ‘prima-donna’ status or ‘exaggerated role’ some have played for it blinds us to critique, question and challenge them in this epoch. It shuts us up to say, you wrong because we are constantly reminded what so and so did, in a specific epoch and we are to eternally prove conscious and indebted to this ‘exaggerated’ roles played.

History has shown these like all of us can be wrong in their assumptions, these like all of us are open to a change of heart. These like all of us  are open to influences and sentiments (negative not excluded). These no different to all of us are not free from the entrapments of the ego of arrogated power, the same Lord Aton warned against a long time ago. We must pause and accept that  not everything that proceeds from the mouths or pens of our ‘icons’ or ‘struggle heroes’ is the gospel. The question of struggle heroes remains a highly contested arena, but that is a debate for another day.

If Nelson Mandela is today  sad, and disappointed as stated by Bizos on the subject of the constitution which is under attack we must ask who is the official spokesman to share that with the world? Is he quoted verbatim, or is he used to blackmail those who lead today?

If Mandela is sad and disappointed is it because he never expected a debate or assessment of the judiciary and the constitution on the road we had traversed in democratic pursuit? Perhaps the Mandela  name that has enriched many is at times used to blackmail South Africans such blackmail is rooted in a foreign  agenda.