South Africa

Right of Reply: JJ Tabane, your vituperative pen spares none but yourself

By Daily Maverick 8 February 2018

JJ Tabane, read before you write. You are not the pre-ordained platinum voice among voices. By CLYDE N.S. RAMALAINE.

JJ Tabane, thank you for your attempt at a reply to my opinion piece on the retired Bishop Storey’s “Dear Cyril” letter. As I indicated to you before, the highest honour any worthy writer can have is to have his work responded to.

Week after week in your “Let’s Talk Frankly” pieces, you accord yourself a unique right to insult, berate and character assassinate people at times with gross strokes of patronising by calling them a friend, all in the name of press freedom which you call frank talk. Your vituperative pen spares none but yourself and those you strategically consider necessary for an economic future.

It is a right that you in the superlative have appropriated, because you are Mr Tabane. Perhaps you must alter it to “I TALK” because you afford no one else the opportunity to engage your monologue. You spit this acridity daily on those you want to silence out of your deep-seated intolerance for other voices.

Perhaps I must first deal with your sophism of a claim that only the Sunday Independent was willing to carry my opinion pieces. If you had afforded yourself space and time you would know I have been active in political commentary in a variety of newspapers since 2010. Clearly you have not done your homework and, as usual, shoot from that obdurate hip without affording yourself time to first read – a cardinal prerequisite for anyone who attempts to pen an opinion. Google among other search engines have made it easy for the laziest among us not to embarrass ourselves. You use adjectives such as “pathetic” with ease for you have not yet appreciated what these words mean.

Sir, do not be aggrieved with the Sunday Independent for not placing your pieces, just continue writing, there are many mainstream media agencies who equally never place my work. Don’t blackmail or badger their staff for placing other voices or preferring others instead of your self-claimed platinum voice. Let go of all forms of entitlement, we are in a contested space and the SA media agencies carry narratives that they associate with. Be grateful there are those who will carry your views, it is not your inalienable right to be heard on their platforms.

For the record I am not a journalist, and have no appetite to be one, I leave that for the professionals. Equally, I am I theologian and social scientist and an ordinary thinking South African. Afford me equal space as I afford you yours as a journalist. We certainly can live together in the same space called South Africa with diametrically opposite views; that is the beauty of democracy.

Unfortunately for you, Mr Tabane, I did not “supposedly” graduate from the University of the Western Cape, I am a proud alumnus of the Faculty of Theology of UWC, the intellectual home of the left, also affectionately known for some us as “Bush”. I therefore need no lecture on the liberation struggle and its dynamics, the same I participated in since the age of 16; again, please do your homework.

By now you know I am a doctoral candidate in political science, who earned a Masters in Systematic Theology Cum Laude from North West University with a Dissertation, “Black Identity and Experience in Black Theology A Critical Assessment”. I implore you again, always do your homework first. Needless to note there are not too many Systematic Theologians in SA and as with all things there are even fewer black systematic theologians. I therefore in humility regard myself privileged to be part of that crop.

On my career as a theologian, on October 16, 2016, after 24 years of pastoring, and after much contemplation in sensing a new dimension of ministry and calling birthed, I with much trepidation delivered my last homily as a pastor of a local assembly entitled “A time for everything under the sun”. I stepped away from pastoring to pursue my doctoral studies in political sciences, writing and life coaching passions. I still stand in invited pulpits, continue to counsel many among those politicians, clergy, business and all that makes up society. In addition I run my small consulting business outfit as a means for an income.

I unfortunately cannot respond to your reply on my Bishop Storey piece since you butchered your own attempt with your obsession to drag an unrelated ANC election campaign into a crystal-clear subject matter. You called it pathetic when a renowned liberation struggle veteran, theologian and scholar Dr Allan Boesak, in an email calls it, “Now THAT was an excellent response, well done!!! Thank you.” Many others are of the same mind.

As with your recent Professor Sipho Seepe response, whom you could not resist mentioning in your charade of blanket attack: You completely missed the entire issue in your over-eagerness of trying to bid for a spokesman job for ANC president Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa knows I did not support his campaign, he also knows why I consciously preferred Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for this position, that is no secret. I have no need to buy anyone’s face, because I am afforded the choice of a candidate to endorse in an election season.

Mr Tabane, unlike me you have not always voted ANC, you left to join COPE and when that ended in four years of court battles and personality politics you returned to the ANC. Hence, you must be seen to defend an ANC President, Ramaphosa, out of your raw hatred for President Jacob Zuma. I don’t have such a need, I vote ANC while I both challenge and defend its leaderships. The ANC is sure of my vote, unlike yours.

Your claim of my apparent disdain of Ramaphosa sounds the same as some who worshipped former President Mbeki, calling me an Mbeki hater and Zuma lover, until they realised Mbeki wrote to none of them, when he penned two personal notes to me in 2010 as we exchanged ideas. Go do your homework.

Deputy President Ramaphosa was nowhere attacked in my Storey article, if you read it you would have known I defended him, then again you can’t see that because you have this need to respond to the world and everyone as if you are the pre-ordained voice in the public space. Sometimes silence is good, do some more research, it harms no one to read more and say less.

We fought hard and long for our freedom to have public opinion. It will certainly not be taken away by a singular journalist obsessed to want to silence all because he in this season considers his views as frank talk when his inherent intolerance of other contradicting voices is glaringly obvious.

I have been a lifelong activist, and long ago determined to participate in creating the alternate narrative to what mainstream serves us daily, for me it was a conscious decision, not an accidental choice.

Sir, in the words of Steve Biko, I write what I like, and I do not write to impress you or seek your or anyone’s approval. Enjoy your audience. I enjoy those who engage me on content.

My reply which was carried by City Press and Sunday Independent stands for what it is with no retraction or any apology. When retired Bishop Storey penned his letter he, as a South African member of the clergy, could not remotely have expected it was the final word on the subject or for all of us to sing like you with his chorus.

The record shows we have his letter and my response, that is what the true readers will engage and adjudicate, not this soap opera fig-leaf of self-serving unnecessary Ramaphosa defence. I implore you to read both his letter and my response again, maybe then you will realise you are off on your own tangent. You have a challenge with me calling out the hypocrisy of a cohort of clergy who only know to accuse politicians when they absolve themselves of equal moral degradation.

In South Africa you are seemingly serious clergy or intellectual if you can attack President Zuma. I don’t buy that hogwash.

I leave your reply for what it is and let the readers decide between Storey’s letter, my response and your dirt-paw marks on a canvas. I unfortunately have reading to do and will not be able to respond to your follow-up; knowing you, you will come back and enjoy that monologue, after all you are Mr Let’s Talk Frankly…

My offer to have coffee still stands. DM

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine is a Political Commentator and Writer, and chairperson of the TMoSA Foundation (Thinking Masses of South Africa)

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