28th Mar2012


by admin

When I started reading Freakonomics, the prescribed textbook for my 3rd year B.Com Finance student friend, I was a bit skeptical. As skeptical as I am of much else her course has to offer. I am a Humanities graduate. And as I read, “Morality (I read: Humanities), it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work- whereas economics represents how it actually does work” (p. 11). I felt my skin curl and geared up possible defenses for the Human Sciences.

And there it was in the next sentence: “Economics is above all a science of measurement” (p. 11). I then heard Dr Mehita Iqani’s voice in my head declaring: “Let’s not forget, science is a constructed concept”. So I continued reading sceptically, debating each argument with a humanitarian counter-argument. What could this American economist have to offer to an African Humanities scholar, to African Economics? I am no economist, but I know the US dollar currently costs me R8… something. So surely our economics are to be understood differently to theirs. And then…

I just don’t know very much about the field of economics. I’m not good at math, I don’t know a lot of econometrics, and I also don’t know how to do theory. If you ask me about whether deflation’s good or bad, if you ask me about taxes- I mean, it would be total fakery if I said I knew anything about any of those things (p. viiii).

This is what a “John Bates Clarke Medal, and a stack of (other) awards-winning, Harvard undergrad, MIT PhD Economist” was saying. So I kept reading.

This isn’t a book about economics; it is a book about freakonomics. “Yes, this approach employs the best analytical tools that economics has to offer, but it also allows us to follow whatever freakish curiosities may occur to us. Thus our invented field of study: Freakonomics” (p. 12).

A field of study that I later discovered explores not only economics, but a range of other “freakish curiosities” such as humanity in general: “How humans get what they want” (p. 5). Or are these one and the same thing? Any Marxists in the room? Unlike philosopher-turned-founder of classical economics, Adam Smith, Steven D. Levitt is economist-turned-founder-of-classical philosophy erm… freakonomics. His is a lesson about cheating, corruption and crime: ‘the hidden side of everything’ as the title of the introduction reads [by the way the DA is surging up Jacob Zuma’s past sins now that Malema is kind of out of the picture]. Anyway, the basic premise of arguments made is as follows: “Experts use their informational advantage to serve their own agenda” (p. 12).

Not to repeat previous standings, the book utilizes economics’ measurement tools to analyze and explain ‘well, more interesting topics’. Among these riveting topics are: “What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? How is the Ku Klux Klan like a group of real estate agents? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? Where have all the criminals gone? What makes a perfect parent? Would a Roshanda by any other name smell as sweet?”.

Needless to say the book juxtaposes unorthodox similes. For example it correlates the unanticipated drop in crime rates in the US in the 1990s to Norma McCorvey’s (Jane Roe) abortion case in the 1970s. An observation no other ‘expert’ noted. The book also argues that although spending a lot of money on election campaigns may increase a candidate’s chances of winning (by say 1 percent), “the amount of money spent by the candidates hardly matters at all” (p. 9).

In Freakonomics, Steven D Levitt – in collaboration with Stephen J. Dubner – created a masterpiece: funny, witty and finally thought-provoking. The reader is left with a brand new outlook on life and a constant urge to ‘assume nothing and question everything’.

Matshidiso Omega Moagi holds a BA in Media Studies and Industrial Sociology from the University of the Witwatersrand. She graduated from Wits in 2011.


27th Oct2011

Buyable freedom

by admin

As I’m sure is the case in other localities, back home in KZN when stories involving local public figures make national headlines, they are sure to flood our front pages for as long as can be. The big stories in July, when I was last there, were suspended Hibiscus Coast Municipality (HCM) health director and convicted drug trafficker Sheryl Cwele and businesswoman and convicted fraudster Shawn Mpisane (also dubbed ‘Durban queen of bling’). And so for weeks on end, each and every daily and weekly newspaper (in the south coast at least) featured some kind of follow-up story on the two. Every newest detail, however little, was recorded. Even where there wasn’t anything new, that was reported too. By the end of the vacation I was ready to dub some of the publications the ‘Sheryl Cwele Official Journal’.

Nevertheless this constant influx of follow-ups on un-jail-able criminals (as it soon became apparent to me at least) probed a more critical look at our criminal justice system. Perhaps there is more to the LegalWise advertisement where a scenario of two complainants (erm what’s the legal term for it again?) who were involved in a car accident is presented and the question who would win the court case is asked. The answer follows shortly: “The one with the better lawyer”. I don’t know much about criminal law but if media representations of life situations are anything to go by, I suppose the LegalWise advertisement joined in and summarised the justice for dummies handbook: justice depends on the thickness of your bank balance.

Why else is Dewani still on the streets while Tongo’s R15,000 that Dewani offered him to murder his wife could not save him from a sentence? (I was supposed to put in an ‘allegedly there somewhere, wasn’t I?).

For those of you who don’t live in KZN, Sheryl Cwele is our former Health Director at the Hibiscus Coast Municipality (unlike others who have reported on her story I will not add that she is [or was: can’t keep up anymore] married to State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele: useless info). Anyway, she was convicted and sentenced for drug dealing. After the judgement, she was suspended from her municipal job with full pay. Then she was suspended without pay and when she threatened ’legal action’ (note the irony) her salary was reinstated. Then it was taken away again until the municipality finally gathered enough balls to fire her. Nevertheless she is now “out on bail appealing her sentence”. I believe that is the legal phrase for it. I prefer she is enjoying the freedom that her money can still afford. Her co-accused Frank Nabolisa unfortunately does not own such means so he’s in jail.

Mizz Queen of Bling on the other hand paid R50,000 for her freedom. Only a small portion of the R4.2 million in total that she has cheated off the taxman. Again, her poor bookkeeper who was allegedly told by Mpisane that his job was to “save her money and not give it away to SARS” is in jail. In case you don’t trust the credibility of my justice for dummies handbook above, note the following quote:

By possessing the property of buying everything, by possessing the property of appropriating all objects, money is thus the object of eminent possession. The universality of its property is the omnipotence of its being. It is therefore regarded as an omnipotent being. Money is the procurer between man’s need and the object, between his life and his means of life. But that which mediates my life for me, also mediates the existence of other people for me. For me it is the other person.

These are the words of the great Karl Marx. Slap in the masked face of “money can’t buy you everything”, is it not? OK, maybe that’s a little unfair. Perhaps some of the best things in life really are free. Take writing (and reading bleh) this article for instance, it’s (almost) freeJ. However, many things, including freedom itself, as my piece aims to demonstrate, come at a very high price tag. Let me seal my offering with one last quote.

Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness – its deterrent power – is nullified by money. I, according to my individual characteristics, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame. I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and hence its possessor. Money is the supreme good; therefore its possessor is good. Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed honest. I am brainless, but money is the real brain of all things and how then should its possessor be brainless? Besides, he can buy clever people for himself, and is he who power over the clever not more clever than the clever? Do not I, who thanks to money am capable of all that the human heart longs for, possess all human capacities? Does not my money, therefore, transform all my incapacities into their contrary?

Matshidiso Omega Moagi


28th Sep2011

As I take the next step…

by admin

As I’m sure is the case for most of my colleagues about to fold over their undergraduate years, an unfamiliar word dominating my thoughts lately is employment and well in a phrase, growing up. This past weekend I learnt that an old high school friend had bought her first car. Another had gotten engaged and still another gave birth. And so the list that makes up South African Statistics went. All the while I prayed I wouldn’t be part of the 24% of unemployed South Africans come next year. The Stats SA labour force report (February 2011) did little to raise my spirits. As the story goes, the bulk of the 4.1 million unemployed in the country are young: check, black: check, female: check again.

Nevertheless, my friend who recently bought her first self-satisfying automobile falls under the same category so here goes one for representation. Well she also just (last year) completed her undergraduate B.Com Finance degree and the devil on my shoulder whispers: ‘told you to choose a more capitalist-friendly degree’. Thank God for the Sunday school teaching: ‘the devil is a liar’.

Hence I’ve been scanning through the classifieds section of every news publication in every medium I could get hold of for a good eight months now. The final year-undergrad experience has been much like the final months of matric for me. It’s that jumping off a plane and hoping there’s a parachute-kind-of-feeling. As it turns out, society designed an ideal path for me: go to school, university, get a job and get your family out of poverty. As I go through life, I am constantly reminded of the path.

However the paradox of the tale is that right next to this staunchly engraved idea of a path, the daily, lived experiences of members in the said categories (black, young, female and working class etc) stealthy remind me that the ideal is one filled with many fallacies. Even though the unspoken truth is that capitalism is strategically structured in a way that ensures that the poor remain poor and the rich get richer, we are still encouraged and assured that if we work hard enough we should obtain an advanced level of wealth which is in essence what we should desire. The working class, young, black woman’s life is the juxtaposition between what she is most likely to become but hopefully will not and what she is most likely not to become but is supposed to strive for. In the words of Karl Marx: “Political Economy regards the proletarian … like a horse, he must receive enough to enable him to work. It does not consider him, during the time when he is not working, as a human being. It leaves this to criminal law, doctors, religion, statistical tables, politics, and the beadle.”

Matshidiso Omega Moagi


17th Aug2011

I miss JayZet

by admin

Two years in office and our used-to-be popular president Jacob Zuma is constantly subjected to criticism from his political counterparts in the media. While former president Thabo Mbeki’s brother, Moeletsi Mbeki, can be forgiven for his ‘disrespectful and disingenuous’ remarks as per ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu, Zuma did after all usurp (I mean democratically attain) his brother’s throne and well that is bound to sting a little. Similar remarks are, if nothing else, shocking when coming from COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and ANCYL president Julius Malema. This is the same man that publicly announced that he would ‘kill for Zuma’ 3 years ago.

Back then Malema and many of the people (the undifferentiated masses) were affectionately calling him JayZet and/or Msholozi, rooting for him to become our next president. His trademark Zulu dance exhilarated us and we enthusiastically chanted along to Awuleth’ umshini wam (bring me my machine gun) after his lead. See, controversial ‘struggle hymns’ are definitely no stranger to the post-apartheid political scene. My friend said the only reason that one didn’t make it to the constitutional court, Juju, is because it connoted black-on-black violence and well AfriForum did not care (words I never said).

Back to JayZet, even when he faced corruption allegations, believing in our hearts of hearts that it was all a political conspiracy, we followed the trial religiously sternly awaiting his acquittal and exoneration. And as anticipated he was eventually acquitted. All twelve charges against him, including corruption, money-laundering, racketeering and fraud were dropped. That acquittal, the one before it of the rape trial and his inauguration were all met with jubilant celebrations by his ardent supporters. “After all the things people have done to him, he will prove people wrong”, Ms Kau (a supporter) was reported to have said.

His inauguration was viewed as a blessing, “When it rains before a big event, there is a Zulu saying: ‘Ilamagu Livumile’ which means, the ancestors have given their blessing”, Nankhithe Mampheele was saying. Moreover, as COSATU and all the many other ANC delegates had hoped when backing him at the 52nd ANC annual conference in Polokwane in 2007, Mr. Zuma’s leadership would lead to the democratic redistribution of the country’s wealth to benefit the poor masses, as was envisioned by the Freedom Charter and the Reconstruction and Development Programmed (RDP).

The replacement of Mr. Thabo Mbeki by JayZet was meant to reverse the 22 million under poverty and the 6 million unemployed. Brutal capitalist neoliberal policies have blatantly exploited and suppressed the working class all over the world and South Africa is no exception. Millions of people have been retrenched, been cut off from basic services, evicted and generally impoverished due to privatization, cost recovery and fiscal austerity and the neoliberal restructuring of GEAR.

Closer to home, outsourced supercare workers were subjected to gross exploitation (and even racism) and retrenchments in the private sector. And of course, who’s not feeling the pinch of the yearly tuition fees hike due to commercialization? However all that was supposed to be rectified by the charismatic “people’s leader”. He was our guy. He gave poor people hope. All of us were hoping as Nkompela Xolile that, “He knows the people of this country, those who live in the rural areas and he will help them”.

However GEAR continued and intensified under the Zuma administration. These days he is Mr President Jacob Zuma tweeting marketing campaigns for his daughters’ DSTV comedy show in a nice suit, ambivalent on dictatorship regimes, expanding the family (business) and his nephew’s belly along with it, whose state charged Daryl Peense with assault for spilling his drink on him in last year’s Durban July. What happened to the Zulu boy whose trademark Mshini wam was our cell phone’s ringtone interchangeably with Izingane Zoma’s Msholozi? What happened to Jayzet?

Maybe he never existed. Perhaps, like most other conceptions by the ruling class, the populist pro-poor character was but a fraudulent ideology imposed on the working class (yes I am a Marxist). Or he’s just been muted (or reformed) to suit office. Apparently even Trevor Manuel was a hardcore Marxist back in his day.

Nevertheless all the successes of the ANC-Zuma administration are not to be denied. Neither is the influence of the global setting to the ANC’s adoption of neoliberal policies back in ‘94 and even today. However seeing that these policies are not working (for the majority at least) isn’t it about time for a revision, or dare I say, revolution? Do excuse the radical overtones contained in this article, the point of my piece is this: I miss JayzetJ.

Matshidiso Omega Moagi

27th Jun2011

The ET (extra-terrestrial) gatekeepers of new media

by admin

As you will have noticed, exPress imPress has been busy with exams so our posts have not been as frequent recently. But in between exams, Matshidiso Omega Moagi has found time to reflect on the emancipatory nature of the internet. Is it really a technology of freedom?

For a long time I unashamedly professed that I owed much of my emancipated self to new media. Critical as I am (or try to be) of commercial trademarks, when it came to blogs, social networks, online publications and all sorts of online representations of the social realm, my conscious Witsie self just could not resist the sting. My sole quarrel with this innovative ‘futuristic genie’ (I believed) was the injustice of the digital divide. As much else under capitalism, the poor and (therefore) marginalised were robbed of yet another great freedom and human right. The fact that only 10% of the South African population in 2008/9 had internet access is just not fair. It is not fair that a 45 million people, in Africa’s most developed and advanced country, don’t get to enjoy the euphoric body rush manifested in the energetic typing of one’s fingers and reflected in the final curve of a smile (or more) on one’s face as we attentively consume –erm– use (we are not consumers, we are users) the contents presented on that glowing computer screen.

Ok, so the above description is an exaggerated personal experience. Nevertheless though, other media technologies are still yet to match the freedoms allowed for by new media. New media is TV, radio and print combined and beyond. It is efficient. It is effective. As I’m sure most students will agree, scrolling down through Google books beats grappling with heavy library books with that old fatiguing, never mind nauseating, smell any-day. Socially awkward beings like me get to revive their inner beasts on social networks. Moreover otherwisely unpublished, unbiased ‘real’ voices all over the world find refuge in a citizen-journalism-like way during historical political (chaotic) moments, as Naledi illustrated in “Talkin’ bout a social networking revolution” (forgive me if this was not your point). Who would have known about the Illuminati had it not been for new media? And of course there’s just no denying the emancipator role played by the (anonymity allowing) “comment” section of many online publications. Right?

Wrong. On many occasions I have enthusiastically added my valuable contribution to these sections only to find them mysteriously disappear a few minutes later. Even Facebook sometimes slams me with a “you are not permitted to do that” when I attempt to post innocent jokes on my friends’ walls. Alright, I’ll admit, sometimes some of my jokes are a little on the politically incorrect lane and perhaps some of my comments are really just uncalled for irreverent ribaldries. But isn’t new media suppose to be the liberal platform where even the Kuli Roberts of this world get to share their sensitive, politically incorrect jokes and not get fired for it?

Personal grievances aside, a new trend online is censoring or ‘filtering’ of information for users. I am not referring to ‘social stability’ tactics in China. It is true that websites and blogs are not shut down when they go against nation-building agendas. Tokelo was certainly not jailed for his article on Schabir Shaik’s ‘medical parole’, despite its apparent ‘challenge to political authority’. However two people searching the same topic, say China, will (without the interference of the Chinese government) receive different results, depending on ‘who they are’ (i.e. where they are searching from, what the search history of their computer displays etc.). This is called the personalisation of search results and it is for the same reasons that some of your friends’ status updates have mysteriously disappeared from your Facebook newsfeed.

Speaking at the annual TED conference, Eli Pariser called this phenomenon the ‘invisible algorithmic editing of the web’. As he warned, the human gatekeepers of traditional media have been replaced by ‘robotic’ instantaneous ones ready to snatch up any information that is supposedly not relevant to you personally. Exclusivity (differentiating it from myspace and other prior social networks) is said to be one of the main reasons for Facebook’s phenomenal success. However I don’t know about everyone else, but this ‘filter bubble’ trend, as Pariser puts it, has kind of burst my new media mascot balloon.

25th May2011

Reviewing ‘Khumbul’ekhaya’

by admin

Matshidiso Omega Moagi reviews the play Khumbul’ekhaya which was part of the recent WALE festival at the University of the Witwatersrand.

If you are too far from your roots you can only live in branches: Khumbul’ekhaya (remember home).

“Let me take you back to a place where it all began… when the silences meant more than what was said. These ears cried tears that noone could hear. Wake me up when I can’t sleep knowing who I am. This name I carry on my right knee has a limp. That is why I can’t stay left. I left home and took a right… now I have nothing left. I was instead trapped in a place that was not connected to its roots, and I drowned in a shallow pool of birth… that is where I was born. Wherever I lay my hat, is my home. I have collected too much dirt… I need to wash my hands. It’s time to go home”.

An excerpt from the play Khumbul’ekhaya’s description page.

With it being Friday the 13th and everything, the play Khumbul’ekhaya experienced some technical issues with sound. As the stage manager/lighting and sound director, Gamelihle Bovana, apologetically humoured: “The ‘gods’ of technology are not with us tonight, so ladies and gentlemen I apologise…”. And so we had to listen to the musical background of the play through the laptop speakers which was not very ideal. However as soon as the lights came on and the first actor/dancer started his choreography, all was forgiven and the powerful journey began.

For all those who missed it, allow me to offer my somewhat metaphysical impression of what lay on the Khumbul’ekhaya table. The play was about going back to your roots, hence the title “remember home”. Without going into a literature lesson (which I am atrociously unqualified for), I think it is important to here mention that all the characters in the play were nameless. This is a literary technique normally used in naturalism literature to divert focal emphasis of the text to its plot and broader meaning rather than particular characters and storylines. It achieves a kind of detachment from its authors (producers) and, at the same time, a link to the consumers (readers and audiences) as active participants in meaning creation. The characters then become you and me rather than merely named characters (say Macbeth and Banquo in Macbeth). And I think the strategic use of this particular technique in the play was instrumental in the authentication and validation of the play’s morale to its audience, myself included (beyond all my other personal reasons why I could easily relate to the play of course).

Anyway, delivered through an artistic fusion of dance, song and poetry, it was the story of lost souls who have become disenchanted with their present lives. Disconnected from their roots (homes) they were looking for home but couldn’t seem to find it. “Home?… Do you know where my home is?… Home?”, the frustrated-looking actresses kept questioning as they moved across the stage. It began with a heart-gripping monologue from a male actor. He choreographed an enigmatic expression of someone ardently fighting an external pull towards his right leg (from seemingly his past, his roots) while at the same time grappling with what his present life presented him. A short while later he uttered the first words of the play: “What is in a name?”.

And from that moment on, the audience was invited into a questioning of their existence or rather presence in their adopted world as (I think) was argued by the play. Throughout the play, the performers expressed intense frustration and confusion. With each scene the perpetual hauling from one’s roots kept getting louder and louder though the actors seemed to be moving further and further away from it. Until eventually they could not ignore it anymore. “Wake me up when I can no longer sleep knowing who I am”, a character was reiterated in one of the final monologues in the play. However, unfortunately they had been away for so long that they forgot where home was and now that they were looking for it they couldn’t find it in their new worlds.

More than being a personal story about remembering home in the physical sense, the play also critiqued the overriding colonial role in this move of Africans away from their roots. As the play’s description on the WALE page reads: “Born in a place that was never home”. The play illuminated the pivotal role the colonial order played in dismembering Africans from their roots. Even though there were a few ‘fun’ moments for chuckles here and there. the overall atmosphere in the room was very poignant. And as the performers bowed in thank you mode, I was not the only one, sniffing and wiping tears from my eyes ndikhumbula ekhaya (remembering/missing home).

13th May2011

He who lives in a glass house should not throw stones

by admin

In January 2010, the ANCYL filed a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) against the DA-led municipality in Cape Town for the installation of open toilets for Makhaza residents. And for months to come, the ANC would use the incident as the why-you-should-not-vote-for-the DA-card! ANCYL President Julius Malema was on the forefront of the court proceedings on the matter and attended the judgement last month that “declared the provision of unenclosed toilets at the settlement to be a violation of the residents’ constitutional rights to dignity”. Shortly thereafter, he urged residents to stop voting for the DA and vote ANC.  “Down with Helen Zille! Away with Helen Zille! Viva ANC, Viva! Spread the message. We are here today to bring down Helen Zille. Convince everybody here to vote for the ANC”, Malema said.

Now who are the people to vote for when the same ANC provides the same infamous “open toilets”? On Saturday, Times Live reported that an ANC-led municipality in the Free State has been providing “open toilets” for residents from as far back as 2003. Moreover the toilets’ conditions have been deteriorating since then and the ANC municipality has done nothing about it. The municipality’s acting technical services manager Mike Lelaka admitted that they had only started enclosing some of the toilets last year and blamed delays on lack of funding. “Everything is dependent on funding, but we have approached the departments of water affairs and human settlements. We are still awaiting a response from them”, Lelaka said.

Meanwhile these Free State residents are subjected to (by an ANC- led municipality) the same violations of their constitutional right to human dignity that an ANC-led investigation uncovered. What was that saying about living in a glass house? The authenticity of the ANC’s objection to violations of people’s human rights is now questionable. Two deductions can be made from this scenario. One would be that politicians are all really on the same side and the ANC are hypocrites. The other would be that the national ANC “is not aware”, as national spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said, of what happens at local level which itself questions the party’s competence.

Could this similarity in government be an indication of broader similarities in the two opposing parties’ governance? South Africa is a multiparty democracy. There are more parties to vote for other than the DA and the ANC. Citizens should make sure that they are adequately informed about all the parties available before casting their vote. If this country’s democracy has any chance of moving forward then pre-election discourses in the media and elsewhere need to start reflecting the multiparty democracy embedded in our beautiful constitution.

Matshidiso Omega Moagi

15th Apr2011

Religion (mis)used as the opium of the masses in politics?

by admin

Local government elections are around the corner and yes, it is that time again where election buzz dominates our media. I have been bitten by the bug myself. However I am concerned about the undemocratic and unscrupulous (I think) tendencies in political campaigns of likening political affiliations to religious ones. What is it with politicians and using religious connotations in political campaigns? I will admit, my opinion on the matter is majorly biased by the fact that I am a God-fearing Christian myself (emphasis on God-fearing). However, if the Times Live responses to such use of religion – by our president in particular – are anything to go by, then the hypothesis that there is widespread mutual dislike for these tendencies is arguably plausible. So I suppose it is safe to say that I am not the only one who is puzzled by the President’s, Christian Democratic Party’s (CDP) and most recently Bheki Cele’s linkage of religious activity to political activity.

Most of us are familiar with President Jacob Zuma’s comments earlier this year to an Eastern Cape public suggesting that “a vote for the ANC was a vote for Qamata (God)”. The CDP recently retaliated to the comments but also ended up contradicting its main argument: “God is not a political tool” in its own use of ‘God’ as a ‘political tool’. Their interpolations of course are less blatant and more reverse-psychology-like. The CDP urged the public to vote not for the ANC with its (liberal democratic) legislation such as that of “abortion, gambling and other secular legislation (which) contravenes the Bible” and “make sure that the party they voted for upheld the principles of the church”. Without explicitly stating it as President Jacob Zuma did, the CDP clearly uses the same campaign tactic. Am I the only one who sees the relations between “…the Christian rather is God’s tool, and that includes his responsibility when making his cross on the ballot paper”, a comment from CDP leader Theunis Botha and the President’s comment above?

The use of religion in politics conflicts with the democratic principles which our country is supposed to be abiding by. More than unlawfully misleading followers of a particular religion these campaigns in turn alienate those of another religion. “Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion”, states our Bill of Rights. I would like to suggest that a prevalent use of religious manipulation in political campaigns is an infringement of this right. The presence of political plurality and diversity in our country is well noted and appreciated here. However, when political actors suggest that certain political notions are more in line with particular religious beliefs than others, and vice versa, then the very logic of that diversity argument is questioned.

Violations of democratic rights aside, there is something morally wrong with this misuse of religion. This is adequately illuminated upon in the President’s strategic use of the word ‘Qamata’ (instead of just God) when addressing the Eastern Cape public. The (for lack of a better term) marketing strategy in his argument is now brought to the forefront. I never studied economics in high school or university but I think I recall coming across amateurish-or-not references to topics on target markets at some point in my academic career. My point here is that President Jacob Zuma was clearly aware of his target market in the Eastern Cape and decided to use the term ‘Qamata’, which has specific connotations to the Xhosa people as the Most High in both religious and cultural terms.

I will not go so far as to suggest that the President did not believe his own speech and was using it merely as a marketing tool. However I did pick up a dumbing-down element in his statement. It was Karl Marx who argued that religion was “the opium of the masses”. I think this misuse of religion suggests an agreement with the argument. And that is what puzzles me the most about this phenomenon. Call me backward, I did mention that I am a God-fearing person so maybe I am addressing the issue with a great deal more sensitivity than most people. However there is something profane about the careless or (arguably) sarcastic use of God’s name and relations to it.

Without insinuating political affiliations in this blog (there really are not any), I would like to end by quoting Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille’s account on the matter: “Indeed, this is an act of shameless political and religious blackmail – the sort of political skulduggery that may be the norm in autocracies, but that should be anathema to our constitutional democracy”.

Matshidiso Omega Moagi

31st Mar2011

Are we heading toward a society of many Martin Sudgens?

by admin

Donavan van Lill (source: Independent Newspapers)

Two weeks ago, I read the story Racist ‘jibes’ led to murder in The Star and it left me in complete ambivalence. Like any other ‘normal’ law-abiding citizen, I was obviously shocked by the gruesomeness of the murder. However, I was even more astounded – in a diametrically opposite direction – by the story behind it. Basically, the allegations were that a white man, Martin Sugden, had murdered his (also white) personal trainer and ‘friend’ Donavan van Lill because of van Lill’s racist behaviour. It was interesting to me that van Lill was South African. If anything, the story was just another – though evidently more violent – illustration of the reality of racism in this country. Moreover, the seriousness of the issue has been illuminated because many are completely oblivious to it and/or have accepted it as the normalcy.

Racial discrimination is the daily lived experience of many South Africans. As we go through our daily lives we are confronted with various social roles which the media and other social institutions define and then instil in us. These specific social identity roles come to define us and inform how we live our lives and further, how we relate to each other. The fact that I am a young woman, a university student and most importantly, a black person carries very specific meanings. Of these roles none is quite as sensitive as the race category.

Race is a historical concept defined in, amongst other things, lived experiences. More than the coarseness of my hair and the tan of my skin I am black because I speak, dress, and ‘behave’ in a certain way and live in a specific place. A white friend once told me (after I had said “No“ when she asked me whether or not it was noisy in my commune): “Do not lie. Black people are always noisy”. I decided not to retaliate, partly because I have accepted that situations like these are part of the black person’s daily lived experience.

All the while though, I harboured inside me a similar anger to that of Sugden and many others who experience racial discrimination on a daily basis. I am in no way condoning the murder of van Lill. My argument is against the passive acceptance or oblivious attitude toward racism. Perhaps South Africans have – to some degree – moved forward from the previous Apartheid scenario. Indeed theoretically in laws and institutions we have. However, in the consciousness of people and their daily lived experiences we have not.

Moreover, there is a tendency to associate progress with whiteness and/or Westernization. A black person moving out of the township, getting educated and starting to ‘live like a white person’ is the customary trend. This is indicative of a continuation of black people’s self-negation. It illustrates that black people are not comfortable with their indigenous cultures and view white culture as superior. I am not saying that being successful and living an economically better life means that you have abandoned the struggle. My quarrel is more cultural. It is with the idea that if you look (in terms of hair, clothes etc), speak and ‘behave’ (in terms of your social habits and the connotations there inferred) in an ‘as white as possible’ manner then you are evidently better.

The mere insertion of black people into the white community was precisely what Biko was fighting against. Black consciousness is a necessary step that has been omitted in this country’s progress toward non-racialism. Yes, a fight for change in physical circumstances is necessary. But what results – after that change has taken place – is not really progress if it is a homogeneous culture premised on predominantly white values. And that I believe is the lesson to be learnt from the Donavan van Lill – Martin Sugden story. Both parties are ‘white’, living relatively ‘white lifestyles’. However evidently they have very different consciousnesses. Martin Sugden only had a relationship with a black woman. How much more anger is there in the black person himself toward racial discrimination?

Matshidiso Omega Moagi

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