Monday, November 19, 2012

Percy Mabandu: Anything but African will do for us in SA

City Press
Percy Mabandu: Dashiki Dialogues
November 19, 2012.

I contend that South African darkies are generally a xenophobic and self-hating lot. Bear with me, this is a sad realisation on my part.

It had to take an event connected to former state president ­Nelson Mandela for me to arrive at this unfortunate conclusion.

Ironically, it came wrapped up in the name of a man who, by the way, has been a symbol of all that made us an inclusive rainbow nation.

It came to me last week as the new Madiba banknotes came into circulation across the nation.

See article on new notes at IOL (Credit)
 I observed all sorts of responses as South Africans from all walks of life declared their impressions and dissatisfactions with the new money.

I listened with amazement as shoppers complained that the new notes were ugly and looked, as they put it, “like it was from some African country”.

I remember being taken aback by the above statement. Aren’t we some African country? I wondered why it was undesirable to look like “some African country”.

I guess it wouldn’t have been a problem if it looked like it was from the US, Asia or a European country.

Anything but African, ­anything but what we are will do.

This objection to the notes’ ­Africanness is not an isolated thing in the SouthAfrican psyche, though, especially among the wounded lot of black ­people.

It is similar to how darkies are able to insult each other with ­references to their skin.

The verdict being passed by a darkie on another darkie makes it less socially controversial, though I think it should be more controversial.

The same thing can explain why the so-called xenophobic attacks of 2008 tended to be concentrated in areas characterised not only by high levels of poverty, bad municipal service delivery and incompetent community leadership that failed to follow up on the warning signs of these outbursts, but were specifically committed against African immigrants by local Africans.

The poor in Pretoria West were not chasing ­foreigners away, meanwhile, the destitute in Atteridgeville were burning Mozambicans.

If the new banknotes were being disparaged for not being inclusive, like I read one blogger saying, for a more inclusive spread, I would understand.

They argued that perhaps it would have been fair to feature some kind of struggle big five, ­including Madiba himself, Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Robert Sobukwe, for instance.

This could have gone a long way to give other struggle icons a space under the rainbow.

The move would have transcended what is looking like a Madiba brand overkill and the old leader’s cultish deification.

Only the popular complaints aren’t going there, they are an ­anti-African dialogue draped in a self-hating ­dashiki.  (Follow me on Twitter @Percy_Mabandu)

Comment: It is true that many black South Africans are self-hating (it is a by product of racism). 

That aside, I posted this story because it reminds me of an incident that happened today on a farm where I was buying grass (not the kind you smoke but the kind that becomes a lawn) and having it loaded onto my bakkie (pick-up truck).

The foreman was a particularly friendly man who helped me load near a ton of grass for a garden renovation project I have been working on for the moms.

He just happened to be black and spoke Afrikaans to me which is very common in the Northern Cape.

When I got to paying him I pulled out a new Mandela note and he looked at it and smiled shaking his head.

"Know what a white man who loaded grass today said when he handed me a Mandela note," he asked me in Afrikaans.

I shook my head and before I could say anything he said: "He asked me if I new why the paper felt thicker than all the other money we had before and when I said I did not know he said it was because of Mandela's thick lips."  (Thick lips in Afrikaans is 'dik lippe')

There we stood.  Two grown men two decades into the post-apartheid era.  Both of us absolutely disgusted that anyone, especially a white man, would say such a racist thing and think it was funny.

And we are not free.


Ps.  Before I sign off here let me assure my folks in the US (where most readers of this blog reside) that it is quite common to hear black folk refer to themselves as darkies.  It does not carry the same racist connotations as it does stateside or in Britain for that matter.


Pstonie said...

The new notes are ugly though. They look like those pamphlets they hand out that advertise penis enlargement one side and abortion the other.

Ridwan said...

Hi Pstonie:

I have not seen those pamphlets - just the photo copy ones they put on your windshield at the mall.

I agree with the author that there needs to be a greater diversity of who is featured on the notes.

The single focus on Mandela feels very over done.


Pstonie said...

And the fact that he was a terrorist, then later a puppet to global powers, that are now destabilising the very same government for their own profit.

Of course, they tell it like he's the shit. He's even on the evergreen list with einstein, princess di and madonna. The merchandising after his death will be much worse.