Davidsonville: Perhaps, Identity-Doublespeak, not ‘Coloureds’ to blame!

Davidsonville: Perhaps, Identity-Doublespeak, not ‘Coloureds’ to blame!

Neville Alexander in arguably his last work poignantly reminds us “But societies and the global village have changed so radically that to continue to analyse and describe things as though we still living in 1848 or 1948 or even 1984 is to be woefully blind and self defeating”. (Neville permit me to add things and people)

The Roodepoort Primary School impasse is not a unique challenge but it is symptomatic of what we dealing with because we as a collective refused to deal with the thorny subject of political identity over the last 21 years.

Ebrahim Harvey in his City Press article bemoans the fact that it is 21 years into a non-racial democracy. It is exactly here that I wish to start arguing, this non-racial reality so easily advanced by all and sunder is never unpacked. Does non racial imply a doing away with race? Or does it mean we still have races? Is racism possible where there is no acknowledgment of race?

Perhaps it is as I have coined it the Democratic State engaging in “identity-doublespeak”. We not asking what a non-racial democracy means at experiential level, particularly since we in 2015 still use apartheid identity markers for our collective human agencies. No one is asking the 1994 Democratic State why it’s holding on to these denotations.

Let me also in the beginning condemn any racial slurs and attacks from any side veiled or bold, because that simply does not belong in our non – racial society.

Harvey commits the same error so many do to subject the Roodepoort Primary School situation in isolation to the intolerance of ‘Coloureds’. They accuse ‘Coloureds’ for not wanting an ‘African’ (Black) principal. Yet whilst this may or may not be the case, to pretend communities are no longer stratified as previously apartheid defined whilst we hold on to racial classifications for identity constitutes a major contradiction.

The second error committed by most who comment on this Roodepoort Primary School saga is the conscious denial of the community, which is known as Davidsonville. The denial of this geographic location is a central problem for it articulates a mind that says it is not Davidsonville its Roodepoort. When we let Davidsonville stand for what it is as a community maybe our approach will alter and we may find solutions. People take pride regardless to how their communities were formed. SOWETO for example will never become Johannesburg South; it has an intrinsic value that the people of Soweto attached to that transcends its apartheid description. Can we allow Davidsonville as a community to be afforded the same respect?

The third error committed is on the part of the MEC Panyaza Lesufi. In an earlier note I had to caution the MEC that he cannot call the Davidsonville community racist, but identify rather elements in the community. The MEC furthermore is on record for having expressed his confirmed opinion on the ‘Coloureds’ of Davidsonville who intent to remove ‘Black’ officers currently operational at the police station. I had to caution the MEC that he should have left this to the MEC of Safety and Security to pronounce because his utterances on safety and security matter as MEC for Education further racially polarizes this unfortunate situation.

Another mistruth advanced is that only ‘Coloured’ parents refuse their children to go to the designated Lefureng – Protea School. This sophism fuels the belief that it is the ‘Coloured’ community who proves troublesome, when ‘African’ parents were interviewed on SABC who for no dissimilar reasons expressed their displeasure with the closing of the school and the bussing of pupils to others schools.

I concur with Harvey that the Department has to answer questions on the process for the appointment of the principal. The department equally must explain why an acting principal was not considered fit for the job irrespective of his/ her racial identity The department must explain why the process for appointment is claimed as flawed and not according to standard procedure. This may prove the legitimacy of a the impasse.

What is perhaps lost in the translation is the subject of political identity in a non-racial post apartheid society.

It is my submission that we cannot expect to hold on to the apartheid racial classifications for our collective human agencies (black, white, coloured and indian) and expect this dream of a non-racial reality. All these terms are necessarily racist and entrenches the praxis of racism.

Race as a formal construct is not thousands of years old, but was captured when Immanuel Kant produced his German ‘rassen’ articles in 1785. Kant had much opposition when he categorized people in this race classification strata in which the ‘white’ colour proves superior, yet Kant’s stance found friends until we in 2015 undeniably believe in race for identity. It is important to note that by the end of 1945 Eugenics was long declared defunct and race as scientific notion proven non- existent.

Our problem is the Democratic State of 1994, has yet to lead in affording people space and time to engage on the issue of political identity.

The 1910 Segregation State identified its ‘client’ until the 1913 Native Land Act spoke. The 1948 Apartheid State equally identified its ‘client’ until Act 30, of 1950 Section (c) declared people that always existed ‘Coloured’.

The Democratic State of 1994 is not expected to do exactly what its previous States did, but has the responsibility to break with the markers of (black, white, coloured and indian) for identities. In my assessment the 1994 State ought to have leaned on the 1955 Freedom Charter, which proved unambiguous when it articulates ‘ THE PEOPLE’.

The 1994 Democratic State talks about non-racial reality yet it addresses, serves and continues to identify its people with the outdated apartheid markers for identity. Whilst one may speculate the reason for the Democratic state holding on to these apartheid racial classifications as a means to measure or track progress, I contend when we afford an opportunity to frankly engage the subject of political identity as afforded by the State we will develop the vocabulary to reconfigure identities and find new expressions.

Our Constitution speaks in Section 1 B of this non- racial reality. The African National Congress as the leading party prognosticates non-racialism, but its in praxis a lived experience of multi-racialism, which unequivocally acknowledges race for identity.

This identity-double-speak is not escaping even the DA as official opposition. Its Vision 2029 states ‘we see a non-racial south Africa where all races are recognised’.

Thus, Davidsonville and the Roodepoort school impasse is perhaps the fulcrum of our identity challenge and symptomatic of a much bigger and brewing reality that is being stirred and education is not the epicenter for it manifests in other areas.

For as long as we engage in this identity – double- speak in refusal of engaging on the pertinent subject of political identity in South Africa we will have the incidents and unfortunate occasions of Davidsonville.

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine
Political Commentator & Writer

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Identity Double- Speak: The Case of the Davidsonville Primary School !

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:

  1. 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?
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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)
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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

Commentator