Friday, August 14, 2009

Zuma Is Said To Oppose A Dialog On Race

In the past few days the African National Congress' Youth League (ANCYL) leader, Julius Malema (pictured), criticized the racial make-up of President Zuma's cabinet.

In particular, Malema pointed fingers at "minorities" who have been appointed to the National Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank.

Malema argued that Africans, not coloureds/whites/Indians, should be deployed into key economic posts so as to prove that Africans can run an economy.

As it stands now, according to Malema, Africans are relegated to posts that deal with South Africa's safety and security.

Julius Malema is a curious character. He is routinely criticized for being rash and for being a loudmouth. On many occasions, his intelligence has been questioned and his personal character called into question.

President Zuma has used Malema to climb up the presidential ladder. In the months preceding the sacking of former President Mbeki, Malema openly attacked Mbeki and called him names while stumping for a Zuma presidency.

In these contexts, it is hardly surprising that Zuma has not been more forceful in replying to Malema.

Instead, the president is reported to have said that Malema is young and still learning.


Malema is in his late twenties, is he not? He is hardly some kid just off the suburbian block and he knows how to play race politics.

I think Zuma is dodged the issue(s) when he responded that:
"We have never looked at things in terms of race and ethnicity but, rather, in terms of people being South Africans, ... "


Race is embedded in South African life at all levels and the notion that one can just wish it away with problematic notions of nonracialism is pie in the sky politics.

Ignoring Malema and refusing to open a dialog on postapartheid race relations and racism just makes the problem worse.

Malema is a jackass but he and others who think like him are hardly a small faction.

Inside of the ANC Malema is a known commodity and his prominence speaks to his influence and support.

Zuma should have been bold enough and daring enough to repudiate Malema's drivel with the contempt it deserves. And, he should have opened the public space for a constructive dialog on race and racism.

As it stands now, the troublesome notion that race can be diplomatically e-raced only makes matters worse.


No comments: