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Nzimande’s ‘white people’s lies’ shows anti-black prejudice

By Aidan Prinsloo

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande had said the Nkandla furore was the result of “white people’s lies”. Many were quick to point out how he was scapegoating white South Africans for his president’s own shortcomings, and some noted that Thuli Madonsela is hardly pale.

But I think we have missed out something crucial about Nzimande’s statement. Although what he says appears to be a direct attack on white South Africans, it actually reveals some very belittling attitudes that Nzimande has towards black South Africans. Consider that the main proponent of the public attention on Nkandla is the public protector, Madonsela. Consider also that all of the news providers reporting on Nkandla employ black editors and writers, many of who penned the main articles on Nkandla.

If we are to believe Nzimande, then we have to believe that each and every one of these people is somehow an “agent” for a collective, Illuminati-like body of “white people”. Ignore, for a second, if you will, the implications about white South Africans, and just focus on how Nzimande’s statement reflects on his beliefs about black people.

How is it that sincere public servants and reporters could get themselves labelled as “agents” (even implicitly, as in the case of Nzimande’s comments)? It seems that the main thing is that they would have to take an unorthodox standpoint in politics. Madonsela’s “mistake” was that she implicated some of the country’s top leadership in her damning report.

Now, one might argue, that the EFF is doing much the same. Leaders such as Julius Malema are highly critical of the ANC, the government and the presidency. And yet, Nzimande wouldn’t dare call the EFF “agents”. He knows all too well that they represent the discontented poor of the country. Instead, the ANC’s tactic has been to try to appeal to the poor black demographic in South Africa.

But with Madonsela and the news providers, Nzimande is being faced with a new type of black person (“new” that is, for South Africa), one who is somehow distanced (in Nzimande’s mind) from the black people who fought the struggle. Here is a black civil society that writes newspapers, is critical of the government and (perhaps even) walks the dog on Saturday afternoons in the park!

Here is a group of people who do not fit the old demographic groups the ANC is used to working with. What makes civil society so scary is that it tends to not be loyal to anyone. Civil society tends to loudly, publically criticise those in power. (Incidentally, it is the loud, public commentary that makes civil society an integral part of any functional democracy). For the ANC top-brass, the loyalty of the black civil society can no longer be guaranteed: these people will do what they please. And so, Nzimande has fled to the nearest thing in his outdated dictionary — to equate these people with agents for a white regime.

His message is clear: If you don’t act like a demographic we can predict, then you must have somehow lost your “blackness” or “Africanness” — we can only attribute your freedom to criticise as you please to other, “white” people. In Nzimande’s mind, if you’re not in the ANC’s pocket, you’re not black, and you don’t actually make your own decisions.

And this is the scariest thing implied by Nzimande’s “white people’s lies” statement. Of course, Nzimande realises that Madonsela wrote the report and that black journalists are reporting on Nkandla. But he cannot believe that they are doing so out of their own free will. He cannot grant his opponents the simple right to be black and to disagree with him. His only recourse is to rob them of their free will and claim that they are somehow the slaves of some vague, evil power. And this reveals that he doesn’t respect black people enough to allow for the fact that they will not act as he wishes.

Aidan Prinsloo is obtaining his master’s degree in philosophy at Rhodes University. He lives and works in Grahamstown.

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    • Sydney Butler

      Aidan, while I agree with your assessment in general, there is one point I think does not follow logically. Just because Blade states these sentiments does not mean he holds these beliefs, it could also indicate that these are simply the beliefs he wishes to plant within the electorate in line with populist methodology. While both may be true I find the latter possibility more likely.

    • Paul Whelan

      The ‘scariest thing’ about Mr Nzimande’s remark is not that by inference it insults black people, scary though that undoubtedly is, but that Mr Nzimande is entrusted with responsibility for the education of the young.

    • Charles Marshall

      Thank you for this article. It is so easy to play the race card in this country.

    • Heinrich

      Aidan. You are being too analytical. You are undermining the power base of the ANC and the SACP. Everybody knows that white is the only agent keeping the ANC / SACP / Cosatu a lie anc alive.

    • proactive

      If one wants to unlearn the bit of basic logic taught and obtained in our higher institutions- lead by incumbent JZ apostle, the honorable cadre Minister, Communist Party Secretary, ex Azaso & “the booer’s prosecutor”- one just needs to inhale his Masterly potpourri of Industrial Psychology, Marxist teachings and latest speeches! Or query the mysteries of the gone missing 500k donation treasure.

      It is telling that Higher Education is led the last 5 years by the most unsuitable educator- while talent blossoms in the Free State! Would’ t the University of KwaZulu- Natal or Tongaat Hulett Sugar Ltd. rather offer him a job again- please?

    • ian shaw

      In today’s press conference, Zuma said that the Nkandla affair was ignored by the voting masses since it was trumpeted only by “more clever” people, i.e. more educated ones. His remarks reinforce the author’s statements in this article.

    • @nateiv_sa

      I’d liken Blade’s incongruous sentiments with the expression, bolt out of the clear blue sky, but…it’s basically their brand.

      As you hinted somewhere in your article, it’s an ANC political rhetoric: off-handedly dismiss facts with some recycled hyperbolic regurgitation – just accuse whites for our failures…it works wonders.

      A proud black S. African

    • alan

      Blade’s crude racist rhetoric is one part of the strategy and Zuma’s approach is the other. Blacks who are disloyal are described by Zuma as the “clever ones”. He used the phrase again recently describing those who question Nkandla. To give Zuma his due this is a master stroke. He uses it to great effect when addressing working class people to undermine unity with the middle class “clevers” – as if middle class people are the only critics of corruption. With the single word “clevers” he positions himself as a “man of the people”, promotes unthinking loyalty AND shuts up potential critics. Sure it’s been done before by other “leaders” but a brilliant move nonetheless.

    • Derek

      I don’t take seriously anything the caviar communist says. He knows on which side his bread is buttered.

    • Bonginkosi

      Dear Aidan

      I wish to refer you to the SACP website ( and go to Umsebenzi Online, Vol 13, No 13, to an article titled”ANC Lives, ANC Leads: The poverty and political bankruptcy of RSA opposition and its media cheerleaders”. You can also search for this piece at Politicsweb. This constitutes the substance of my argument on this question of ‘amanga abelungu’, which is much more substantial than the crude translation by English medium media. Mainstream media chose to ignore this piece and instead, as they always do, deliberately crudified what I said at University of Zululand. I welcome debate, but not on the basis of a media decoy. Do yourself a favour by reading this piece and then you are free to respond to it. The substance of my argument is that large sections of our media today still follow the same script of media under apartheid. That there are black editors now is immaterial, the script is the same, that of white owned, anti-ANC and anti-communist media!

      I hope you find the above in order


      Dr BE Nzimande, MP

    • Rory Short

      A good point, Blade’s ideas have long passed their ‘sell by date’. He is obviously having trouble seeing fellow South Africans just as people like himself. Instead their demographic, as narrowly defined by himself, is what counts more than anything else and if their behaviour does not fit that demographic then he places them in another, convenient for him, demographic.

    • Kwane

      I concur with the writer, because those were the exact same thoughts when i first heard of blade’s diatribe. blade owes black people an apology.

    • http://nil Gillian Katz van der Heijden

      So what’s new and true in politics.

    • benzo

      @Gillian: “So what’s new and true in politics.”

      Well said.
      From the comments: any explanation, perception or whatever is possible and becomes more correct after a number of drinkies with the mates.

    • Patrick

      Dear Clive I do believe you meant “…and walks THEIR dog on Saturday afternoons in the park!”