On May 2, violence erupted between the neighbouring communities of Mitchell’s Plain and Siqalo in the Western Cape. We heard it’s a conflict between Coloureds and Africans, understood in apartheid descriptions of identity formulation of people and space. Race the ever-present reality of a South African society as always takes its central place in these moments. Perhaps its important to ask, who are these communities that gripped our attention for its racial slurs and violence until one death confirms the intensity of this moment.
These are Africans that share poverty and neglect
To argue those who persist in their racial slurs and naked expletives as mere hooligans and criminals because we are embarrassed by their race inflamed and violent behaviour is to fail to appreciate the communities of Mitchells Plain and Siqalo for who they are in identity, misidentification and socio-economic status. These are both African communities where Africans live and have always lived. Yes, I have used African as a common identity to define those who are on either side of this violence and race propelled hate. These are not Africans in the narrowness of what the apartheid state came to define. Neither are they Africans based on the democratic state’s appropriation of apartheid labels with degrees of suffering and has come to accept to mean in the exclusive sense.
These are Africans not what apartheid in arrogance and social engineered sophistication came to define as ‘Coloured’ by virtue of its Act 30 Section C of 1950 creating a trojan horse identity of Coloureds. Equally, not ‘Africans’ that Apartheid in the blackness of otherness of what it depicted for a superior false identity came to mean, defined as ‘African’ to serve the least as a citizen and in the lowest degree of humanity.
Until we consciously become critical to condemn the Democratic State for its blanket appropriation of these toxic race classifications (African Coloured, White and Indian) for a common humanity we must accept to see many more Mitchells Plain and Siqalo conflicts where Africans are at war trapped in apartheid race classifications.
We all know anytime you use Africa for more than geographic direction and space, you run yourself into a myriad of assumptions that may tie one up until you swallow in your assumptions. The right to an African identity cannot be the exclusive privilege of what apartheid defined in otherness and abuse, which the democratic state uncritically appropriated and hitherto refuses to allow public engaging on because it works for both agendas in different epochs. Mitchell’s Plain’s people are as African as those of Siqalo, and Siqalo’s people are as African as that of its neighbour Mitchell’s Plain. What tears these communities apart is perhaps the forced diet of blacks in general classification, a policy and daily narrative that confirms otherness.
Are there any roles to be attributed to the government understood in political parties be it in municipal, provincial and or National settings in this mayhem?
What is the role of the ruling DA party?
It would be misguided if not farcical to render the occurrence of Mitchell’s Plain and Siqalo into a straitjacket in self-explanatory claims of dashes in between black on black violence thus automatically absolving the government of the DA Led Western Cape Province and the City. The scorecard confirms under the DA, that the material conditions for the poor in the Western Cape and its Metro the City of Cape Town not forgetting the rural hinterlands where farmworkers eke out a living remain trapped in disservice of neglect. In fact, the daily claims are, the DA strives to keep the province and city in orientation, life and economic expansion as a colossal retirement village where the interest of the colonial and apartheid benefactors comfortably self-identify in whiteness of identity as paramount. The economic conditions of the poor are not central to the party that rules since its raison d’être remains to protect the exclusive upkeep, maintenance and protection of apartheid’s white community.
The DA must own up to its direct role in what transpired on that Wednesday night in question, its obsession with blackface politics where its only interest is to use Coloured votes and discard Coloured woman leadership as Helen Zille has shown with her first cabinet and now again is seen with the handling of the Patricia De Lille motion of no confidence, claims of corruption and ultimately a flawed expulsion, confirms the DA as not willing to work in the interest of the poor. The poor being coloured and African in this instance, are pit against each other in contested spaces of scarce resources and used as a means to a political end, when done easily discarded. The DA’s intention to replace De Lille with Bongikosi Madikizela is not just personal for De Lille but it’s rightly personalised and inculcated for those whom apartheid extended a denotation of Coloured for their collective and common humanity. The DA continues to draw lines of separation and confirms the otherness of Africans and Coloureds as useable tool and means to an end in what some have claimed divide and rule tactics. It is claimed the violence that occurred was meant to test the political base of De Lille since it is known she will be leaving and has considerable support from Coloureds.
Beside the litany of leadership flaws, failures to govern and gross miscalculations the DA has over time made of the Western Cape and its poor people, it in this season is facing more than what some deem reputational damage but is haemorrhaging a year before elections, because it has sought to ostracize the majority of people in Cape Town understood as Coloured. Mitchells’ Plain and Siqalo then must be understood in its political sense against the backdrop of a provincial and city government that has constantly sought to place the poor last and when it matters pit them against each other for its own narrow black face political interests. Its naked defence of white privilege when its leader Mmusi Maimane raised this as the epicentre of black poverty confirms a party that claims a façade of progressive liberalism but at its heart is conservative with extreme discomfort to entertaining commentary on white privilege.
What is the role of the ANC led Democratic era in this?
Some will easily render what happened in the Western Cape Metro where the DA controls both province and metro as a purely a DA problem. Again, this will be armchair analysis and a denial of the role, meaning and impact of the uncritically appropriated racial classification for SA citizenry on the part of the ANC led democratic era. It is no more hearsay or guessing, we are confronted with the challenge of the demon of race, as more than problematic in its manifestation in this epoch. While the ANC as leader of society continues to talk of a non-racialism it fails to give content to this misnomer. While endless analysis has been made on racism in its manifested forms, the ANC continues to condemn racism yet it in an evanescent sense perpetuates race as if it’s a benign construct that can exist devoid of its ism, because its fundamental focus as articulated in its national question talks about …blacks in general and Africans in particular…
The ANC as leader of society refuses to afford South Africans to self-identify it equal to apartheid finds economic value and essence from keeping South Africans misidentified in inexplicable constructs of African Coloured Indian and whites as if the ANC like apartheid’s National Party knew the difference between these groups. It refuses to have a commission brought about to engage identity as some of us have pleaded for an elongated period.
Our challenge is we afford the 1994 Democratic State to continue misidentifying us in the narrowness of a policy that is extrapolated from an uncontested national question constricted notion for South African identity articulation of the ANC. The same ANC who uncritically appropriated the classifications of apartheid identity constructionism albeit with intend of measuring progress. We must continue to ask in whose interest is the ongoing misidentification of South Africans in shades of Coloured, White, Indian and African sense of otherness.
These are communities defined by poverty where the contest for survival is real
Thus, condemning the perpetrators on both sides, whom I have consciously and defiantly afforded a right to be Africans, is the easy part; dealing with the intertwined challenges of identity, race, class in its historic and present senses remains the uphill battle we refuse to engage. We, unfortunately, do not have the luxury of time and space since the contest for the basics among those who are poor, those who remain trapped in race-based identities configuration, ultimately manifest in violence and death, because the contest is more real than the fig leaf embarrassment of the political and economic elites of SA,
When the poor, those trapped in a space of contestation for basic resources, claim being left behind, rightfully or in simplistic sense of claim, as forgotten and sees another (foreign) enter their space and derive an economic benefit from the very context of their poverty it is often framed – They take from us. It is not an exact science but a lived experience in which the margins of advancement are contested in a township. Let us also not forget those who come to the township from the deep rural villages come to share in its economy and equally find a place to eke out an existence for their personal and family’s survival.
It then appears logical to conclude that racial tensions among the poor in neighbouring African communities where resources remain scarce, unemployment very high, becomes an excellent tool for paralysis to contend with the social ills that confront the society. Gangsterism and service delivery challenges which can be combatted, not with the South African National Defence Force’s intervention as the DA proposed, is indirectly aided where poor communities are forced into conflict with each other in the daily contest of survival strangled by race as the fulcrum of the totality of their human agency.