News / Opinion

Austil Mathebula
3 minute read
10 Apr 2017
5:24 pm

I couldn’t find Zuma’s ‘baboon poster’ but I did spot his race card

Austil Mathebula

The president has clearly run out of ideas.

Some of the hundreds of South African Communist Party members and supporters hold anti-Zuma banners and posters during the late Anti Apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada's memorial service at the Johannesburg CIty Hall on April 1, 2017 in Johannesburg. Picture: Jacques Nelles

While addressing supporters during the 24th commemoration event of anti-apartheid activist Chris Hani in Boksburg on Monday, President Jacob Zuma criticised People’s March protesters for allegedly displaying racist posters and placards during their marches last week.

Yes, racism is everywhere. It’s in the workplace, at church, shebeens, sporting fields, etc, and it probably could have been on display during the anti-Zuma marches which saw a colourful tapestry of South Africans, locally and internationally, calling on the president to step down through protest.

So let me say this unequivocally – I accept that South Africa is still filled with racism, and we are in serious need of radical economic transformation, which could help lessen the race problem. Socioeconomic transformation is needed because South Africa is such an unequal society, and poverty affects largely the previously disadvantaged – black people and black women most of all. And this needs to change.

Being a passionate loather of racism, when I heard Zuma’s allegation, I employed all my investigative skills, but I couldn’t find even one poster among the thousands that were photographed on Friday calling black people “baboons”, as Zuma alleges.

The said racist poster or posters could have been there, but I couldn’t find one. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. Any white person walking around with such a poster was unlikely to have been welcome, even by other white marchers, and black protesters seeing such a message would have reacted with great anger and probably thrown the poster carrier in a rubbish bin, along with the poster, where both would have deserved to be.

So maybe someone was that stupid, but it’s doubtful. South Africans are known for shaming racism whenever it rears its ugly head. We are experts in spotting racism, overt or covert; and again, trust me, the country’s twitterati would have torn apart the owner of such a racist poster should they have dared to display racist sentiments during marches meant to be for the people, by the people.

They’d have made sure the guilty party was already fired from work and on their way to being fined by the courts.

Because we come from such a racist past, we do everything we can to uproot such hateful people.

Maybe Zuma and David Mahlobo have access to spy satellites to examine posters the rest of us missed? I’m not sure I believe it.

Zuma was probably just hoping he could use racism to dismiss the basis of all these marches, which are not about his race but about his ability, or lack thereof, to lead. Next time around, he may be better advised to just pay a brave white person willing to pose with a poster expressing racism at a multiracial march, but I guess they didn’t think so far this time.

Unlike Bell Pottinger, President Zuma, my horrible PR advice comes free.

For the Number 1 citizen of the country to use such a card to attempt to discredit credible protest action is deplorable. The marches were genuine and Zuma must not lie by trying to make it about race. What we all saw, clear as day, was black and white people taking to the streets to protest against corruption and state capture.

Any engagement worth anything from the president must come in the form of addressing these issues, not playing the race card.

Senior content producer Austil Mathebula

Senior content producer Austil Mathebula