Speelman lives up to his surname to play a dangerous brand of racist and tribal politics in a time of solidarity


By: Attie van Nel

Being connected by DNA, heritage and destiny to those Bronville “drunkards”, I wish to assure the Mayor that the lockdown regulations saw to it that the Coloureds who are responding to his demeaning characterisation are, at least momentarily, all sober.

I believe our collective disgust at the sheer multiplicity of breaches committed by this clearly unfit public representative and inept first citizen, has the potential to distract us from learning from this incident all that there is to learn. Meaningful learning is a function of sober analysis – pun intended – that seeks a vantage point that is informed by commissions and omissions, the latter sometimes, as I believe in this matter, are more grave than the commission of the multiple breaches of the constitution, statutes and the oath of office by the Mayor. In other words, we should not confine ourselves to a narrow interrogation of the Mayor’s deplorable conduct only, but examine his confidence behind his utterances and the failure of a plethora of role-players who have, conveniently but not unsurprisingly, not arrived on the proverbial scene of the crime yet.

For starters, the Mayor transgressed the letter and the spirit of the legislation conferring authority for command of our armed forces. How he was able to urge them to “not hesitate” when they arrive for patrols in Bronville, defies logic. Not hesitate to do what? He fits the characteristics for what the EFF defines as a constitutional delinquent. What was probably intended as a courtesy welcoming ceremony of sorts, became the platform for violating the unambiguous instruction of the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces – President Ramaphosa – to conduct this mission within the confines of the law.

Yet, inexplicably, the Presidency as yet hasn’t issued a repudiation of the Mayor’s urging of the soldiers to break the law.

Equally strange, is the silence of the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Mapisa Nqakula and the Chief of the SANDF in distancing themselves from the Mayor’s reckless remarks that could very well cause loss of limb or, worse, lives. Don’t they fear public unrest?

Thirdly, this incident plays itself out in the political backyard of the Secretary General of the ANC, Ace Magashule. Regardless of your view of his suitability for the position, he is consistent in directing that conference resolutions get implemented, including those dealing with organisational renewal and the stringent accountability for those cadres deployed to drive those resolutions. No statement, no condemnation.

Four, the Provincial Secretary of the ANC is ideally suited to give effect to his oversight of deployed cadres, more so in the absence of the ability of Council to convene urgently to discuss an appropriate institutional response to the Mayor’s conduct, including having brought the Council into disrepute. No statement. Not even an interim press statement promising a swift investigation and appropriate censure, which, just as a footnote, cannot be anything less than dismissal.

Five, the opposition parties are certainly taking their time to consider if a statement is warranted. Granted, the Democratic Alliance knows it has to be dead quiet after it not only condoned Hellen Zille’s colonialism tweets, but promoted her subsequent to that and mobilised its funders and right wing remnant to oust Musi Maimane for daring to distance the party from those ahistorical and revisionist sentiments. Only Dennis Bloem of COPE and Marlon Daniels of the Patriotic Alliance are sufficiently offended to have added their voices to condemning the Mayor’s conduct and undertook to initiate processes that will guarantee decisive consequences for the Mayor.

Which makes for interesting reading. Only Hein April, an ANC MP and Coloured, has responded with the urgency that the situation required. Does it therefore only fall to Coloureds to condemn racism towards them? Certainly, in relation to women abuse, men are expected of to lend their voices and considerable influence on the worthy struggle of defeating women abuse. Similarly, what country are we building in which racism towards Coloured people can only be condemned by Coloured politicians? Have patronage and ambition procured the consciousness of prominent Coloured religious, business and societal leaders so successfully that their silence can be guaranteed?

In this context, is it farfetched for me to infer that the Mayor’s confidence in his conduct, and his accompanying refusal to tender his resignation, could be informed by what he undoubtedly understood the (non) response would be? I mean, who would be disturbed when its merely drunkard “Boesmans” who are the target, despite, interestingly enough, Bronville having voted ANC in the 2016 elections.

What is the full bouquet of learning that the situation offers South Africans in general and Coloureds in particular? I suspect Mayor Speelman may have, inadvertently, facilitated a long-overdue debate on the iceberg – and not the tip – that is perceptions towards the role of Coloureds in the struggle, their representation in layers of decision-taking in the public and private sectors and all attendant issues to our status as First Nation descendants.
It may have happened in the Free State, but which province can genuinely claim that its transformative practices are characterised by parity and that Coloured communities are meaningful beneficiaries of redress?

Attie van Nel is an Entrepreneur, Social Justice Activist and is based in Johannesburg.