Opinionista Ghaleb Cachalia 26 June 2018

The EFF’s disingenuous attempt to secure a seat for a proto-racist and fascist ‘vanguard’ at the table of power

The EFF spent thousands of words in a vain attempt to ‘prove’ that South African Indians made a form of common cause with the white oppressor against Africans during apartheid. The intellectual and emotional inaccuracies recorded in its rant cannot go unchallenged.

Dali Mpofu begins his attempt “to set the record straight” in a long article (Daily Maverick, 21/06/18), by accusing most previous commentators on the EFF’s most recent racial diatribe of “laziness and dishonesty”.

He seeks not to “walk on eggshells” as he dispels the notion of “a dawn of a rainbow nation” in 1994 and asserts that the EFF is correct in saying “South Africans of Indian descent think of indigenous Africans as less human and less capable”.

He continues, “in the realm of collective mob who have taken issue with the EFF” … “an African child cannot criticise overly dominant minorities unless they are running away from corruption or some sort of wrongdoing”.

He begins by questioning whether Indians should be classified as an historically disadvantaged group, and goes on to argue that “the extent of economic exclusion and unemployment among the Indian population is far lower than that of the African and coloured population”, and in particular, the African working class, which has “suffered and continues to suffer excessive levels of oppression and exploitation”.

This class constitutes “the core of the motive forces for radical change”, and Mpofu and his Economic Freedom Fighters seek to emancipate them from economic subjugation and oppression – as enunciated in the EFF’s founding manifesto.

Let’s be clear, this pseudo Marxist-Leninist mumbo jumbo of inner class stratification is simply a justification of the primacy of one group’s claim, on the basis of race, to hegemony and pole position in the division of the spoils of affirmative action.

Indeed, when Mpofu goes on to say, to his interlocutors, that they assume “the issues we raise are momentary issues, induced by some imaginary fear of SARS”, he is correct, and they are right. But the primary pecuniary claim is not a matter to be conflated, although money-related, with the allegations and charges of tax evasion laid against Julius Malema and others in the EFF. One is a claim to be first in line for selective affirmation, the other is a putative defence against charges the Gucci Brigade are facing in court.

Mpofu defines racism as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior”. No argument here. What he fails to grasp is both the presence and absence of racism among all South Africans. To isolate and target one group is deliberate scapegoating and reminiscent of indefensible actions that have plagued the world repeatedly.

He goes on to say that “colonialism and apartheid institutionalised racist exclusion and oppression and went to the extent of enacting racist laws”. No argument here, either. And yes, the legislators introduced a measure of stratification, to divide and rule in the age-old way.

Fast-forward to the post-1994 era, and Mpofu’s assertion that “there is still wage differentiation in SA based on race, wherein Africans, even at professional level are paid less than their white and Indian counterparts”.

Some facts: In a recent study by Chris Bair and Bryden Morton (August 2017, and quoted in Moneyweb) they make use of a database of approximately 300,000 rows of data from the formal employment market in South Africa and have performed a two-tier analysis of income disparities, both within and across race and gender groups.

In the A, B and C Paterson bands (the lower bands) they show the most pronounced instances of white people earning more than their fellow race groups – for example, coloured people within the A band earned (on average) 67% of what white people earned.

There is a normalisation of median salaries in the D band before the statistics change.

Within the E band it can be seen that the white race group earns below the black, coloured and Indian race groups.

A normalisation once again takes place at the F band and the salaries are considered to be “equal” in remuneration tolerances.

The study also shows the Gini Coefficient of each race group and gender.

These figures indicate that although there are slight fluctuations between the various groups in terms of gini coefficient (black 0.39, coloured 0.42, Indian 0.38, white 0.36, female 0.39 and male 0.38), there appears to be a fairly consistent distribution of income within these groups. This means that, when analysing the employed population, the inequality is across groups rather than within groups.

Perhaps Mpofu should be more mindful of statistical analysis than data-free invective and sloganeering.

Notwithstanding the type of analysis evinced above, he rails against “the historical collective economic subjugation of Africans as hewers of wood, and drawers of water (which) reproduces racism even when Africans are not literally hewing wood and drawing water”.

Connecting a series of errant and unworthy dots, he then launches an attack on Ismail Momoniat, a National Treasury official, describing him as a neoliberal whose policy disposition “served to prevent black participation in mainstream economic ownership and control”.

Momoniat, he asserts, “is a reactionary functionary who does not accept that state procurement should be progressively used to facilitate economic inclusion of those closed out by apartheid, despite the ruling party’s commitments to use procurement as a mechanism for economic inclusion”. He says this is the justifiable “calling out of racism” of those like Momoniat.

He argues that the EFF’s “objection to Momoniat is fundamentally an ideological objection, which additionally accepts that he marginalised Africans in the process of determining and shaping policy for inclusive growth and collective development”. The EFF called Momoniat “un-African” and Floyd Shivambu objected to the presence of Momoniat over other African Treasury officials.

Again, as stated above, this is nothing more than pseudo Marxist-Leninist mumbo jumbo that uses inner class stratification to justify the primacy of one group’s claim, on the basis of race. This may be idiotic, but what is repugnant is the use of race vilification against an individual and a group to make an unsupportable assertion.

Mpofu argues, quite unhistorically, that “Indians were brought to South Africa during the indigenous Africans Wars of resistance, and there is no record that they fought on the side of Africans”.

He posits, “under colonial and apartheid South Africa, the Indian community was never isolated nor marginalised by Africans, they isolated themselves and bargained for a space above that of the indigenous Africans…. In their resistance to white oppression, the Indian community historically sought to be treated like the white dominators of the economy, political and social life”.

To validate a “superiority complex among Indians” that has historical roots, Mpofu says, “one does not need to go further than Gandhi, the celebrated doyen of Indian liberation in South Africa and India. Gandhi stayed in South Africa between 1893 and 1914. Despite the many hagiographies written about his outstanding contribution in the struggle against apartheid, the essence of Gandhi’s struggle in South Africa was primarily for the exclusive protection of the Indian community in South Africa. Gandhi’s loyalty was not to total liberation of all Africans of different descents, it was for the protection and liberation of Indians, and, it must be said, to the exclusion of Africans.”

This ahistorical nonsense needs to be put right. Gandhi had his flaws – he admitted to all of these in his autobiography and in his collected writings, spanning some 80 volumes. He evolved throughout his life. His critics are stuck in 1894.

They quoted Gandhi as saying: “A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir,” and contended that these were racist comments.

What is overlooked is that these were early days of a man who initially sought redress – misguidedly, at the time, and he certainly realised that later on – within the bounds of the Empire. Also, know that the word kaffir was ubiquitous then and in use by Africans themselves in communication with the offices of empire.

Understand, as well, that the comparative development of the Zulu nation (to whom he referred) at the time was subsidiary on a number of objective parameters. This is a matter that can be resolved by objective analysis. Throughout history, the development of people, regardless of race, has been uneven. Objective circumstances were responsible for this, and to ascribe stigma to these fluctuations in the development of people, which allowed them to be conquered by superior technology, is foolhardy.

In the example of Gandhi, we must remember that people evolve and, moreover, Gandhi later inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. He was in large measure responsible for breaking the back of the British Empire in India, which set in motion the domino effect that dismantled British colonialism across the globe.

Mpofu jumps from Gandhi to granting a grudging credit to the Doctors pact of Xuma and Naicker, “which somewhere brought collaboration in the struggle against apartheid and collaborated with the African National Congress under Dr AB Xuma’s presidency”. He points out, with scant historical background or understanding, that “the separate identity of the Indian Congresses existed”.

He fails to understand the massive and demographically disproportionate contribution of the Indian people through the congresses they formed (a legacy of Gandhi) to the joint struggle of the Indian and African peoples against racial injustice. The passive resistance movements of the 1940 and 1950s that morphed into the Defiance Campaign laid the basis for mass opposition to apartheid.

I should know: my father, Yusuf Cachalia, and Walter Sisulu were joint secretaries of the Action Committee of the Defiance Campaign in the 1950s.

Moreover, official documents of the ANC state, “the alliance between the ANC and other organisations… evolved and changed in a constant process of search and renewal… this alliance was the political opposition in South Africa, offering the only real alternative policy to that of the white supremacists, and indeed the only realistic alternative government. It stirred the masses from political apathy and fatalism, awakening consciousness not only of the need for radical change, but also awareness of the shape, direction and the possibility of change.

Through hard work and sacrifice it created a solid and unshakeable foundation among those social forces whose mission it is to accomplish the South African revolution. That was the imperishable contribution of the Congress Alliance – as we called it – to our struggle in the ‘50s.”

At the ANC’s Mogorogoro Conference in 1969, the organisation took the long-overdue decision to integrate “all revolutionaries – irrespective of colour and nationality into the external mission of the ANC”.

It spoke of a “moral value” where members of the same movement faced with the same problems, “striving for the same objectives of building a national organisation in which each revolutionary is a potential organiser in any community with direct benefit to the entire movement, and where he runs an equal risk of maximum penalty if captured by the enemy”.

The document goes on to say that “in such a situation all revolutionaries and activists are of equal worth, and equally entitled to participate in discussions and decisions affecting the prosecution of a cause for which they have offered their entire lives as individuals”.

Mpofu would do well to read history instead of simplistically eulogising the Youth League of the ANC. In doing so, in the context of the newfound Marxist-Leninism and racial nationalism of the EFF, he displays an ideological conflation on the issue of race (as in Africanist championing) and a class-oriented approach as evinced by the Communist Party.

The ideologies that conflicted historically were Communism and African nationalism as espoused by the Africanists in the Youth League. This ideological conflict was manifest between 1949, which marked the adoption of the Programme of Action, and 1955 when the Freedom Charter was adopted.

In the 1950s, a section of the Africanists in the ANCYL began to embrace a more moderate and multiracial ideological line.

Mandela testified that he initially supported the resolution which called for the expulsion of the Communists from the ANC but, after having worked with them, he changed his views. Indeed, he infamously tried to haul my father off a stage where he was addressing a crowd. They subsequently became firm friends and comrades.

The co-operation of the ANC with organisations such as the South African Indian Congress (SAIC), Communist Party (SACP), the South African Coloured People’s Organisation (Sacpo), and the Transvaal Council of the Non-European Trade Unions (TCNETU) in the June 26 Day-of-Protest prompted the formation of the Congress Alliance. Segregation and separation of the races made for independent organisational imperatives and laws sought to prevent multiracial parties.

So when Mpofu argues that to blur ethnic, class and even gender distinction during the struggle for political freedom is the sole preserve of fools and denialists, he demonstrates a poor reading of history.

According to Mpofu: “The EFF exists to change and not to preserve the status quo in which Africans, and African women in particular, are at the bottom of the social pile.”

In doing so he and his comrades in the EFF resort regularly to racially divisive invective and scapegoating of minorities.

While the crucible of past struggle crystallised common approaches that laid the basis for the reconciliation Mandela embraced post 1994, Mpofu seeks to rekindle the flame underneath that very crucible aimed at the ostensible affirmation of Africans. The way he and the EFF does so amounts, in no uncertain terms, to racism.

According to Mpofu, “Indians believe that their interests are tied to continued white privilege to the exclusion of the black majority and Africans in particular. This is actually understandable given that, to the previously favoured, equality with Africans means losing their artificial and racist privileges.”

He concludes that Indian voting patterns, post 1994, “reveal Indians have communicated very loudly that they would prefer to have as president the likes of Tony Leon and Helen Zille than ‘kaffirs’ like Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, to borrow from the language of Mahatma Gandhi”.

This characterisation of opposition parties like the DA as white, despite their overwhelmingly black membership, is disingenuous. His invective against Indians is appalling. His attempt to pit Indians and DA supporters against the the reconciliatory and inclusive spirit of Mandela would be laughable if it were not so reprehensible.

The simple fact is the EFF and Mpofu are scraping the barrel of divisive race-based ideas and invective to secure a seat for a proto-racist and fascist “vanguard” at the table of power.

It’s often the case that the extreme left and the extreme right find common cause. They do so, clothed in red overalls that hide a multitude of sartorial garments of the Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci kind – the haute couture of racial nationalism.

The question is, who is fooling whom? DA

Ghaleb Cachalia is a DA MP


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