Identity Double-Speak: The Case of Davidsonville Primary School What does the ongoing Davidsonville School claimed racial experiences tell us about where we are in our journey of giving content to the dream of a non-racial society for South Africa? A non racial society clearly articulated in Section 1(b) that commits to such society.
Maybe I should in the beginning make it bold that I hold no brief to speak on behalf of anyone other than myself therefore what is contained constitute my own surmising.
The race issue as a lived experience refuses to let go and manifests in jolts in the Gauteng education context. It is also an increasing polarized context that simply cannot assist us going forward in our question for non racial identity as our constitution articulates it. Today we awake to the news that the MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi, a celebrated and very visible member of the executive of the Gauteng government has again shut the Davidsonville, Roodepoort Primary. The brief historical background to this second coming of school closure stems from an earlier similar action in April when the community accused the Principal Ms. Nomathemba Molefe of fraud, corruption and mismanagement of funds.
Key to this claim which was refuted through a forensic test, is the fact that the community in question carries the denotation Coloured for a identity of their human agency. The school is now closed allegedly due to another claim of racism. It is reported that the School Management Team is virtually collapsed because there has until now not been any duly constituted SMT, meeting. It is reported that currently black HOD’s attend the SMT’s but Coloured HOD’s are boycotting these meetings rendering the SMT dysfunctional and inoperable. A functional School Management Team is crucial for the schools academic success if the intentions of basic education, a constitutional right pupils share.
We learn the school in its finishing of its annual curriculum is at least 3 months behind. Some of the acts reported to occur and reduced to racist behaviour claims community members to be influencing the learners to make inappropriate accusatory remarks in screams and shouts at the principal. It is further said that the community is up in arms and will be staging a march to even have black police officers removed from the station. Not only is the community considered racist but even 14 teachers have been served with letters of disciplinary procedures for their involvement in the destabilizing of the school. According to an unconfirmed report the claims of racism comfortably leveled by the MEC against the community cannot be substantiated for their claim is they want competent educators not race based educators. The claim of the community, learners and HOD’s and Teachers defined as Coloured as relayed against the principal appears to be as stated that of fraud, corruption mismanagement which is dovetailed with the common ‘pay back the money claim”.
Let us pause in unpacking the claims. Close examination of these claims leveled against the principal sounds so familiar and common in South Africa. It has been the collective experience of the South African society that in democracy it has become so easy to level claims of these (fraud, corruption and mismanagement) against people the apartheid ascribed the denotation black (African). From my understanding an independent forensic audit cleared the principal of all wrong doings and therefore that paved the way for her reinstatement as a cleared administrator of the school. The claim thus says less of the crime on the part of the Principal but of an attitude and belief system that confirms a legitimate racist claim.
It is here that South Africa in development of non-racial society evidences a manifestation of clear race discrimination coached in claims of accusations against a particular group or people denoted as black from the apartheid identifiers of identity. This is not new, neither is it dissimilar for we have seen how these claims are made without relent – when it really is an accusation laced in racism.
It is my submission as advanced on several platforms the challenge for identity will increasingly manifest because the 1994 State is yet to define its client. With client we refer to its people in identity configured and reconstructed context away from the apartheid definitions for identity. The 1910 Segregation State and 1948 Apartheid State defined its clientele until the 1913 Land Act attests and Act 30 of 1950(c) defines people as Coloured. When we advance that it is incumbent on the State to identify its client, we no asking for the state to define people for the state to afford a open engagement on the subject of identity in a non racial context. To have the ideal of non racial identity stand as enshrined in the constitution warrants an opportunity for the people of South Africa to engage in defining themselves free from the apartheid identifiers.
What we currently have is at least what I will call identity-double speak, we have a State that claims to work for a non racial society but addresses the very people of its society in ontological sense along the very contaminated race identifiers. It appears the real debate is therefore located in the double-speak as a lived experience in racial sense and within racialised language. Furthermore this doublespeak of the State enables some racist elements in society (like Currow and Davidsonville) whose agenda it is to maintain these racialised apartheid talk. It is my assertion that the positions are hardening and the right wing regardless to where it manifests are being entrenched in this season aided by this very ambivalence immanent in identity- doublespeak.
The twist in the tail is this, if the State embraces and endorses racial classification it cannot argue for a non racial identity neither can it claim it. If it is adamant to claim a non-racial identity notion it is obligated to take South Africa into its confidence on when and why it believes the time for such is possible. Equally the State must indicate when it anticipates the moment of non-racial identity will take effect. Not only is the State obliged to articulate an unambiguous stance but it also is equally compelled to identify the evaluation criteria for the arrival at a non-racial identity.
This at best suggests the State is in identity crises when it is suppose to lead South Africa into the ideal of a non-racial identity. Perhaps at another level what we see in the Davidsonville Primary and Currow Schools is but symptomatic of the States’ identity crisis in regard to its clients, therefore leaving opportunity for those who have a clearly opposite agenda of racialising South Africa to come to reassert themselves and gain traction.
Having focussed on the state, I am now compelled to turn my attention to the face of the state, the MEC, Panyaza Lesufi in presenting some unsolicited advice:
- MEC, Can we categorically state the community name as Davidsonville, people take pride in their areas of location irrespective as to how these under apartheid like all other communities for example SOWETO came about. We must therefore attempt respecting the community to be Davidsonville instead of giving the city area name of Roodepoort. Is the community name deliberately not mentioned as Davidsonville and replaced by a greater Roodepoort?
- Perhaps one of the clear distinctions the current MEC must emphasize is that a small group of community members are driving this instead of a blanket claim covering the entire community. It is important for the MEC to articulate the community is not racist but elements of the community could be. Winning back this community for the aims of the education may prove challenging if the community is painted as racist.
- The fact that normal learning cannot take place is naturally a cause for great concern and such is duly appreciated by the Gauteng Education Department, yet the presence of this recurring problem suggests something bigger than a school principal dislike is at play. Something plausibly bigger than even education is potentiality manifesting.
- The critical question to ask, is there any reason to believe that the subject of identity has muscled itself into the school community. If its true we may assert that the identity-double-speak conversation is responsible for the loss of 3 months of learning, suggesting even if this subject is resolved by tomorrow, the backlog remains a full term of learning that must be regained. (this undeniably constitutes a crisis)
- I want to suggest this is a much bigger conversation beyond Davidsonville and the local school. It is important that this issue is considered for escalation to the appropriate higher level. The MEC perhaps is to register that this anomalous situation is bigger than just a mere education related issue thus rendering it unfair for the MEC to handle this alone.
- MEC Lesufi perhaps feeds into the cycle of the latent cause of this confusing situation thus compromises the ability of the state to deliver learning as is his function, when he volunteers as interviewed by Tebogo Monama and captured in the Saturday Star the following information: “actually I have reliable information that that they want to march to the police station to kick out black policemen there and say they will be taking over their jobs”. This may or may not be the case. It is rather unfortunate that the MEC of Education pronounces on this matter, for it may well confirm the perception that he views the whole community of Davidsonville as racist. That would be unfortunate.
- Perhaps my unsolicited caution to the MEC is not to run the risk of gradually painting himself into a corner of an-us-and-them scenario in which he is not able to deliver education to the Davidsonville as is his mandate.
- I have heard the MEC’s slogan in paraphrased sense ‘forward with non racialism, backwards never, no one will stop us’ yet the language we use when we speak of ‘black’, ‘white’ and ‘Coloured’ denotations for a politically free human agency are necessarily race informed and race based if not racist. How than do we make this claim of a non racial society stand when we engage in what i call Identity- Doublespeak which polarizes instead of unites?
A continuance along this trajectory can only harden positions and that does not help the cause of the learners who may very well be pure pawns in this racialised talk and battle for control.
Lastly, the sterling work done by the MEC on many fronts in particular the digital footprint of transforming education at a fundamental level, runs the risk of being made undone through the perpetual challenges around this unidentified issue of identity as exemplified in both Davidsonville and Currow schools.
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine