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Pride in Prejudice – On Human Rights Day, be mindful of extremist views heading for SA’s Parliament

Pride in Prejudice – On Human Rights Day, be mindful of extremist views heading for SA’s Parliament
Illustrative image: Gayton McKenzie, leader of the Patriotic Alliance. (Photo by Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi) | Al Jama-ah leader Ganief Hendricks. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

As South Africa marks Human Rights Day on 21 March, it is important to remember that several parties that espouse immoral and unconstitutional views based on sometimes extreme prejudice may be able to grow their support in our upcoming elections. Sexists and homophobes could soon be able to speak freely and without fear in Parliament. Despite the fact that the Constitution protects the human rights of all South Africans, some of those rights may look much wobblier in the near future.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that in democracies everywhere, there are people who will espouse prejudice simply to win votes. The US has a long history of racist invective in its politics that continues to this day; Margaret Thatcher’s government flirted with homophobia; in India, the current Prime Minister signals he believes Muslim people are less than full citizens; and in Israel the far-right politicians claim some people are “human animals”.

Our society is no different. And there is some evidence now that despite the absence of rational appeal, some leaders may now be using this to grow their support

For example, Al Jama-ah leader Ganief Hendricks has behaved in contradictory and disturbing ways.

During the launch of his election manifesto, he said that “Women mustn’t work; they must chill out and relax at home; the men must work for them”.

When asked on SAfm whether his election promise of full employment involved jobs for women and men, or just for men, he explained “these jobs would be for every citizen in South Africa, for every voter”. 

But then he went on to say: 

“You see, we embrace the concept of fatherhood, of Chief Albert Luthuli, and also the Islamic values that men are responsible to look after women and, at the same time, women are allowed to be entrepreneurs, to build empires and so on. And they don’t have to contribute to their own basic needs. That’s the responsibility of men. And, if you’re not married, it’s the responsibility of their fathers and their brothers.”

When asked if this meant that women who do work are in the wrong, he said: 

“If they do, it’s like a concession. They’re not forced to stay at home, but the onus is on the whole concept of fatherhood … They have the option to take responsibility for themselves; it’s very noble of them to do so; it’s very generous of them; it must be appreciated; it helps with nation-building. In fact, we need more women leaders. But we mustn’t move away from fatherhood.”

It is hard to know what to make of this, except that it is clear that Hendricks believes men and women must be treated differently. 

And when it was put to him that women and men must be treated equally, and that the Constitution demands this, his response was to say “To hell with the Constitution”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024

This is not the only example of this attitude.

In the hours before President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address, Hendricks had given an interview to this reporter on Newzroom Afrika. During that conversation, Hendricks was asked about the fact that while his political party has claimed (wrongly and immorally) that gay and lesbian people are “fighting a jihad within themselves”, the most public member of his party, Joburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda, has publicly disagreed with that policy.

During his answer, Hendricks referred to LGBTQI people as “the alphabet people”. It was put to him that this phrase was offensive, and he should retract it.

Hendricks immediately agreed, said he did not know it was offensive, and withdrew it.

Only to use the phrase again during his manifesto speech (from 28:00 onward) several weeks later, when he said, “I know about gender rights and the alphabet people. They are human beings, they’ve got human rights, we don’t have a quarrel with them. But Al Jama-ah wants to push fatherhood.”

It would seem amazing that someone can both use a slur against a group of people and claim to have no argument with them in the same breath.

But this person, partly because of the proportional representation system we use, may well be back in Parliament. And may be crucial to any future winning coalition.

He is not the only one.

It is also likely that the Patriotic Alliance (PA) will finally win some representation in Parliament as well, despite the sometimes contradictory decisions of its leadership.

Speaking at the Daily Maverick Gathering last week, PA leader Gayton McKenzie said that his solution to dealing with unemployment was to force undocumented foreign nationals to leave the country. He said everyone should carry papers on them at all times to show they were here legally.

Speaking as moderator, this journalist asked aloud what these papers that would allow people to be in a particular place should be called. At least one member of the audience shouted back “Dompas”.

The PA has also shown how it will change its mind in councils.

In Joburg, it worked with the ANC, then entered into a coalition with the DA, and then voted against the DA to work with the ANC again.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, in the period from 2016 to 2021, it played a major role in the instability there, as it used its one seat it had in that council to move from side to side.

In Beaufort West, the decisions of the PA have ensured that there have been five mayors in just three years.

And, McKenzie has justified his party’s strong support for Israel, despite the evidence from the United Nations that Israel’s actions are causing children to starve to death.

He told Daily Maverick’s The Gathering that in Gaza “There is no genocide happening there. If I’m the president of this country, and let’s say Lesotho comes here and they take hostages and they take children, then I will bomb Lesotho. And if they want peace, then they must return the children.”

While it could be argued that it is important to hear the voices of all constituencies in Parliament, there must surely be arguments against this.

For example, can it really be that a woman has to hear a member of her Parliament claiming that she should not work, and must be cared for by a man (as was the case during apartheid). Or to insist that broadcasters must carry the speeches of someone who regularly uses homophobic speech when they speak live in Parliament.

(For that matter, can someone please advise President Cyril Ramaphosa to never again lapse into immaturity and use the word ‘fokkol’ in Parliament. Does he not realise a broadcaster could have to justify not being sanctioned for taking his comments live…)

And there is the fact that when such comments are made in Parliament, or by people who are in Parliament, they are given more legitimacy. This then emboldens others to campaign to people’s prejudices as well.

As a result, more people then jump on the bandwagon, giving such public prejudice more momentum. This, in turn, can lead to more violence against particular groups, as prejudice almost becomes respectable.

Of course, this can be stopped. If people who espouse this prejudice, or who make wild comments lose support, this process will not gather such momentum.

But the fact is, we are no different from other countries and, for some politicians, pandering to prejudice works. Which means that this element of our politics will always be with us.

And, as a result, no celebration of Human Rights Day can be complete without remembering how important it is to continue to fight for the right to be free of prejudice. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Pet Bug says:

    Obviously McKenzie and the PA know where their bread is best buttered and going for it, there’s lots of money in those plush chamber seats.
    And that is their own bread buttered – not the country’s and certainly the not their voters.

    On Israel hammering Gaza, Grootes does the main media journo gig;
    of course McKenzie is absolutely right that any country has the right to defend itself against attack and hostage taking.

    Like what, establish a pearl-clutching inquiry with a follow up commission how to bury the murdered and a road map to negotiate with terrorists how best to get the hostages freed…?
    That’s just naïve or worse, dishonest.

    I would too have expected from this reporter a deeper understanding of how the UN functions, its ingrained political biases and how its personnel is chosen and employed. Not a good yard stick for much.

    Otherwise, yes, I would agree that a minimum threshold % of votes is required for parties to be allocated seats in any representative parliament or council.

    Not every nutter needs to be represented; if they want to get over the threshold, they’ll have to fine-tune their messaging (and policies if so inclined) so that more voters vote for them.

    And we need to ban any fascist or socialist parties outright.
    Follow (West) Germany post 1950s on this ban, it has worked very well for them to eliminate crazies.
    We might very well need this restriction urgently.

  • Denise Smit says:

    It is interesting that English people often use Afrikaans swear words easier and think it is not offensive to use them. Fokkol actually means fuck all, fok = fuck and kak is shit. If you swear in another language , it sounds less like swearing I suppose

  • Thinker and Doer says:

    It is a great shame that some of these parties have been able to benefit from the machinations in some of the coalitions in municipalities, with dire consequences for service delivery, as highlighted with the circus in Johannesburg, and the current mayor. They are serious parties, they are not interested in promoting good governance, they are opportunists, enabled by the other larger scale opportunists who use them as puppets.

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