Sunday, August 16, 2015

A ‘Politically Correct Fascist’ Responds To Mondli Makhanya’s BIC Column

Generally, I treat columns like Mondli Makahanya’s “Has SA Broken Its Funny Bone,” in today’s City Press (16 August 2015) with as much respect as I treat a News24 comments section.

What person chooses to engage with outdated, tone-deaf howlings? But chalking it up to having seen this on the front page of a national newspaper at 5am buying painkillers; I stumbled, bought the paper, and turned to that exact page.
Responding to the outrage to the Bic “Look Like A Girl/Act Like A Lady/Think Like A Man/Work Like A Boss” advert, Makhanya showed himself to be nothing more than yet another old man sorely out of touch and confused by current times and cultural norms.

As he explains, the debacle - or BicGATE as the internet has dubbed it - was fueled by “politcally correct fascists” who “while the rest of us are getting on with life, they are busy looking for opportunities to kill the joy.”

I could spend the rest of this blog explaining the myriad ways in which Makhanya’s wails of woe are wrong. But that would be a waste of my time. Firstly, and as always, Google is full and free, ready to educate him. But beyond that, in the column by Grethe Koen, printed just above his, there’s a very good explanation why this campaign was so wrong.

As one of these “politically correct fascists” I did however find his opinion that the inferiority of this ad rested solely on its bastardisation of the movie “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man” curious. One should note that “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man,” was pilloried for its misogynistic messaging. This, of course, is to say nothing of the fact that “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man,” was based off an equally pilloried book by Steve Harvey.

Facts Makhanya seems to know naught about.

Having read Makhanya’s columns and newspapers for decades now, I’m pretty certain that he believes there are ideas and notions that are beyond the pale. I believe he understands that even the response “it was a joke” doesn’t make those ideas and notions defensible. Despite no proof to back this up, Makhanya seems to read what BIC meant with the ad as a joke. I, and the many other “politcally correct facsists” who took to social media to express their objections to this advertisement didn’t. But whether it was meant as a joke or a serious (but ill-thought out) opinion by BIC is beside the point.

Makhanya writes that stereotypes “are the staple of jokes that we tell about and to each other.” He says, “they have been here since time immemorial and no social gathering is complete without them.”

 Before writing this, Makhanya opens his column with paragraphs of stereotypes.

I can’t speak for his social circle, but when me and my friends meet, we’re able to joke and laugh without referencing, money-grubbing Jews, duplicitous Xhosas, violent Zulus, Golf GTI loving and cunning Indians, or stupid and alcoholic Coloureds, to reel back some of his examples.

My friends and I don’t rely on these stereotypes to entertain ourselves. In fact, I’d say neither do “mentally healthy societies;” the very societies Makhanya believes are imperiled by “politcally correct facsists” such as me and my friends.

To be fair, it’s not Makhanya’s fault that he thinks ads that say women must be like men or look like girls to be successful are acceptable. That is down to society. That’s what him and the thousands of other South Africans who agree with him have been taught.

But, from gay people being unnatural to women being unfit for the workforce, history is littered with countless stereotypes that society at one time saw as normal, but it today rejects.

Where Makhanya failed is not realising that what he has always thought of as normal and acceptable may not be so. Because he failed to stop and interrogate his views, while listening to the complaints of others, Makhanya turned himself into a tone-deaf howling parody of a News24 comments section. Makhanya’s lack of introspection made him into just yet another old man sorely out of touch and confused by current times and cultural norms.

Instead of worrying that all this politically correct fascism will turn us into a “dull and dour people,” as he writes, I’d caution Makhanya to look at whether, just perhaps, maybe he’s the one who is dull and dour.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Y’know what’s totes LOLworthy? Blackface! -- Cape Town Fish Market

You know what is funny; someone feeling that they need to explain how air quotes work. You know what isn’t; blackface.

But I get ahead of myself.

Yesterday on Twitter I came across an ad from Cape Town Fish Market, a local chain of restaurants, selling the freshness of its fish.

The ad is described as follows on YouTube.

The Cape Town Fish Market is on a big drive to educate people about how fresh its fish is compared to that of some of its competitors, which is actually frozen. Because when the Cape Town Fish Market says fresh, it means fresh from the sea, not "fresh" from the freezer. We created this tongue-firmly-in-cheek TV ad to help people tell the difference between fresh and "fresh".

Seems like a fairly harmless, right? Well, if there’s one thing you can depend on, it’s South Africans being able to take entirely innocuous ideas and make them offensive, which, isn’t at all surprising.

In a series of vignettes the white actor in the ad plays a variety of characters. In a two second, “Wait, WHAT? Did they really go there, do that, and show that” moment, one of those vignettes of an “African Dictator,” as Cape Town Fish Market describes it.

While the agency which developed the ad, Lowe Cape Town, would probably disagree, I don’t think slathering a white man in greasepaint to have him play a corrupt black man is is funny.

In fact, I think it’s pretty unfunny.

To be exact, I think it’s pretty fucking offensive.

Now I could detail why it is, but I’m not interested in that. Also, if you need that explained to you I don’t really have time for you and I prescribe a daily dosage of Google, Wikipedia, and history lessons.

People far smarter and more experienced in SA’s marketing industry than me have time and again explained how the lack of diversity in our ad industry leads to these kind of horribly offensive and stereotypical ads.  I don’t know anything about Lowe Cape Town or Cape Town Fish Market’s marketing department but I’d guess that it was some replaying of that situation which led to this ad being greenlit.

When I, and at least three other accounts including the City Press’ brilliant Charl Blignaut, tweeted about this ad I wasn’t expecting any kind of response.

But Cape Town Fish Market saw fit to reach out to me.

Curious, I mailed them and received the following response from Cape Town Fish Market’s Marketing Department.

Dear Mvelase
Thank you so much for getting back to us!
We at Cape Town Fish Market would like to clarify the rationale behind our latest “Fresh” advertising campaign
There is considerable ambiguity in South Africa as to the precise meaning of fresh fish, so we wanted to make it clear that we believe that you cannot call something fresh if it’s been frozen beforehand
We wanted to educate customers about this in a fun and entertaining way by using the inverted commas device. This is a universal communication tool to indicate that what is being said is a distortion of the actual truth. It is left to the viewer’s imagination to determine what the distortion actually is.
We deliberately decided that our spokesman in the advert would play multiple characters – including an African dictator, a German doctor, an English plastic surgeon, a street walker and a nerd. This was done in order to amplify the humour and to make it obvious that we are parodying each scene.
We would like to apologize to anyone who may be offended by any of the characters portrayed in the advert and would like to make it clear that it is humour, rather than prejudice, that is intended.

When in these contexts I read or hear something like that pearl of a closing line “ is humour, rather than prejudice, that is intended,” I want to scream. Literally scream “YOUR HUMOUR IS PREJUDICE!” But because I’m getting really tired of harping on and on about this same subject I now normally just ignore these moments and add the speaker to my ever-growing list of “Idiots I’ve Met.”

Though I really ought to know better by now, in this situation I was shocked that having being made aware (by a number of people judging by the number of people who received the exact same tweet as me) that their ad was offensive, this major corporate, that probably like all corporates wants my, other black people, and other sensible minded people’s money thought a statement defending blackface was an awesome idea.

Apartheid fell more than two decades ago. We’ve been a democratic nation for almost two decades, but that email from Cape Town Fish Market was an unnecessary reality slap in the face that truly, yinde lendlela.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I promote the rape of my grandmother, my mother, my sisters, and my one-day daughter

I hold attitudes which promote the rape of my grandmother, my mother, my sisters, and my one-day daughter.

Every time whenever I hear of a rape, I think: “I wonder what time it was,” I tell somebody it’s okay to rape my grandmother if she’s out late at night.

Every time whenever I hear of a rape, I think: “I wonder where she was,” I tell somebody it was okay to rape my mother if she’s in the wrong place.

Every time whenever I hear of a rape, I think:” I wonder who she was with,” I tell somebody it’s okay to rape my sister if she’s with you.

Every time whenever I hear of a rape, I think, “I wonder what she was wearing,” I tell somebody it’s okay to rape my one-day daughter because she was wearing the wrong outfit.

I love my grandmother, my mother, my sister, and I will love my daughter. I don’t want them to be raped.

The facts don’t care about my love.

My grandmother, my mother, my sisters, and my one day daughter live in a country where their being raped is not just possible, but likely.

They live in a country where real men rape because they feel they have a right to women’s bodies.

They live in a country where one of the most respected and progressive minds can not only imply that a woman’s rape is her family’s fault, but also defend that implication when called out on it.

They live in a country which teaches its boys that they are deserving of anything they want, and its girls that it’s their responsibility that boys do not take from them what they don’t want to give.

They live in a country which I was raised to think that way; a way which promotes their rape.

They live in a country which killed Anene Booysens.

I’m scared for my grandmother, my mother, my sisters, and my one-day daughter.

I’m scared for my country.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nando's pisses me off

Zackie Achmat lowering the flags outside Parliament  
Amidst all the secrecy bill excitement and despair (mainly despair), an "enterprising" group of ad execs sat down and thought, "Now how can our brand, Nando's, gain some traction" off of this?".

I may be a lefty-liberal with a deep and enduring love of socialism, but my strong pragmatic streak leaves me actually being a supporter of capitalism. So that, in and of itself, would not bother me.

Sitting at my (current) day-job, Memeburn, I saw the outcome of that meeting of brand execs, Nandos' latest viral ad campaign. As we do, at Memeburn, I started writing a news article about it's release, generally about 300 words top. When I saw I'd reached  500 words and the terms "cheaps, crass and opportunistic" had been used to describe it, I realised there may be a slight issue.

Here's the article, me "flaming" Nando's, as a Twitter friend put it.

"Nando's unleashes anti-secrecy bill #BlackTuesday campaign"

Image taken by yours truly at the Right2Know protest outside parliament, the day the bill took its first step to becoming law after being approved by parliament.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I wrote a post for the Mail & Guardian's ThoughtLeader blog.

When Canadian police officer Michael Sanguinetti said “don’t dress like a slut”, he’d made a huge mistake. In fact he’d touched that rock the women who’d made their way up to the Union Buildings in 1956 had warned against.

Sanguinetti’s words, uttered a few months ago when giving university students safety tips, found me waking up this past Saturday morning to take part in the Cape Town leg of a global movement known as “Slutwalk”, a hot potato of a name I’ll soon get to.

The aims of Slutwalk are … this is where the issues arise.

Click here to read the rest.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

DA2.0: The DA I Wished For

25 June 1955, the Kliptown Conference was convened, from which the cornerstone of our constitution, The Freedom Charter, was debated and promulgated. Fast-forward some 56yrs, and it looks like yet again Kliptown will take another page in South Africa’s history books as the DA ostensibly launched their election manifesto for this year’s municipal elections. However, what happened there was far more than that.

Last Saturday, the DA unveiled itself as an entirely new party.

It was most certainly no longer the party of the much maligned 1999 “Fight Back,” campaign or the 2009 “Stop Zuma” drive; a party which had to rebut robust attacks from the ANC and press of being a “white,” and “negative,” party; essentially, a purely opposition party.

In it’s place what took the stage was a party clearly seeking to not be merely relegated to the seats of the opposition, a party hungry to win, and win as much as they can. To quote their slogan a party which “delivers for all.”

As impressed as I was, since Saturday I’ve been trying to understand the DA’s electoral strategy of focusing on service delivery with regards to capturing that undeniably integral black vote. For the black middle class, so-called Black Diamonds, it was obvious. The DA fairly believes that by highlighting what they have done in Cape Town – brought some sense and order to the city – they will capture that vote. However, I didn’t understand how they thought that would lead them to electoral success as the black middle class is not the majority of black South Africans, it is the black working class, and they, more than black South Africans as a whole, are the key to any meaningful electoral gain.

After countless hours listening to their speeches and analysis of the speeches; reading their documents, and analysis of those documents, following the DA twitterati on Twitter, it’s ironic then that all it took was for their 30sec ad spot, with a sweet Gogo telling how the DA has delivered for her, to make sense to me.

With that ad, what I saw was that the DA, could also gain success using this service delivery angle. The open toilet saga of course did nothing to dispel the prevailing image of the DA as a party concerned with dealing primarily with the concerns of their electorate, the suburbs. The truth is the DA has, and does also focus on delivering service and bettering the life of South Africa’s poor.

Everyone knows the phrase, “all politics is local,” and taken to it’s most extreme this can mean “am I fed? am I clothed? Do I have a roof over my head?” If the DA can prove that they can and deliver all these things, it wouldn’t be insane to believe the angry, dissatisfied at service delivery failure voter would turn to the DA.

Many times I’ve written it and said it; service delivery protests are a sign that our democracy is failing and not because of the ANC’s failure to deliver, but because the opposition – and by opposition I mean DA – does not speak to the needs of the average voter – and by average voter I mean black working class voter. Clearly though, with this campaign, they’re clearly trying to do that, and for that I applaud them.

But of course, there’s a ‘but.’

I’ve voted twice, ID in 2006 & COPE in 2009. Though at the time when asked, I would sidestep the question, I’ve never for a moment even considered voting for the DA. To put it bluntly, I believed that the DA was a party that sought to cater to the minority and had no interest in my interests, and with their actions to me reaffirming that, nothing they said would dissuade me of that.

It was only last month I wrote to a friend on Twitter, Zama, as we discussed the DA saying, “that the DA has failed to speak to my aspirations is a failure on their part, not mine.” As we lamented how “disappointed” we were in the ANC, Zama summed up how I felt when she said she’d rather not vote, than vote for the DA. She again perfectly captured how I felt when she said, “Ultimately a voter is a customer paying through their taxes…We choose a product that speaks to our needs.” I can’t speak for Zama, but personally looking over those tweets after Saturday, I didn’t feel that they applied to this new DA.

It then of course stands to reason to wonder; if as a “disappointed” supporter of the ANC’s agenda, faced with a DA that is no longer “a party purely for the minority” could I, or would I vote for them?


It’s not because I believe the DA is a “white party,” which since Saturday more than ever it clearly is not. However, the reason I still wouldn’t vote for the DA is because when everything is boiled down I fundamentally disagree with their core policies.

Yes, I want good governance, and am as angry as any other South African when every two seconds I hear of yet another example of ANC wastefulness, corruption & cronyism. However, I also don’t feel that the DA, with it’s emphasis on potholes, rubbish collection and the like speaks to my aspirations. To be fair, these being local elections, potholes, rubbish collection and the sorts are the issues that are being dealt with.

However, the DA has given us “The Cape Town Story.”

In the grandiose manner of all political manifestos, it states, (the story) began on the 1st of March 2006, a day “future generations will recognise” as being a “watershed” for South Africa, as it was “the first time since 1994, citizens removed an incumbent political party through the ballot box.” Moreover, in this document is found the essence of the DA: “The Open Opportunity Society for All.”

This vision, or philosophical orientation as the DA refers to is based on the idea that South Africans are “free and equal in rights,” that “each has the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them,” a ours is a society “in which every South African has the space to be whatever they wish to be.”

That, I disagree with fundamentally.

It’d be easy to say that this philosophical orientation directly opposes what Lindiwe Mazibuko who said, “we live in a decidedly unequal society,” but giving the DA allowance for electioneering grandstanding it is clear Mazibuko was espousing the DA’s view.

Even though the “philosophical orientation” of the DA does have the bluster of electioneering I’d argue that it speaks directly to their average existing voters whom I find do believe that to be the South African reality, however that is another matter for another day.

In essence, I believe the DA does recognise that South Africa is not an equal society but as Mazibuko said “we differ from the ANC on the method of addressing these imbalances.” Gareth Van Onselen, national head of the DA’s 2011 election communication, said as much to me in a discussion I had with him on Twitter.

However, as Van Onselen put it – to use a term The Cape Town Story, prefers when referring to ANC government but one Van Onselen didn’t – the current “regime’s” policy of democratic representivity is racist, not because it’s bigoted, but because it is “legislated discrimination.”

Van Onselen was also kind enough to provide me with a document on the DA’s policy on transformation and it reinforced what I believed. Though there may be questions and doubts I have about the policy itself, they do have one, and do recognise inequality is a problem in South Africa.

In my, and the opinion of others far smarter and more well read than I am, the structural inequalities in South Africa as a result of Apartheid are South Africa’s most pressing concern. As Prof. Sampie Terreblanche in his seminal, “A History of Inequality In South Africa,” concluded; real redress in South Africa has not occurred in South Africa nor will it with our current economic system; a system that came about from our negotiated settlement, the elite compromise, Professor Terreblanche terms it, a compromise that ceded political power to the black majority but left real economic power in the hands of white South Africa.

I agree with Prof. Terreblanche and believe our post-1994 economic system makes real redress impossible, both the DA and ANC recognise we need it. However, they have very different policies on how to get there.

Beyond that though, I question just how serious of an issue the DA sees it as.

If the Cape Town Story is to be seen as “a template for a truly free South Africa,” as its subtitle says, why is there no section on transformation? Why is it the only time that transformation is mentioned is in a quote from Helen Zille’s Budget Speech of 2008, where she disparaged transformation and then reframed it to mean providing, “excellent basic services to all?”

Just as I cannot like another lamb to the slaughter vote for the ANC even though I know they are in no way truly committed to dealing with cronyism, the root cause of why their policies do not work, I also cannot vote for the DA, a party which does not recognise the need for transformation to be South Africa’s primary concern.

It may feel like it, but it wasn’t too long ago when Moeletsi Mbeki said South Africa’s Tunisia Day would come in 2020. In a blog I wrote on that topic, in support of that, argued that South Africa could face a Tunisia Day if people do not feel that they have a credible opposition to vote for, a not so subtle swipe at the DA.

Electorally, as a strategy, I feel that the DA is on the right track. They are reaching out beyond the dappled sunshine leafy enclaves of South Africa’s suburbs into the townships of South Africa and that can only be good for democracy.

I wish I could say that I tweeted this, but there were two tweets, both sent as the DA2.0, the DA that I believe to be the DA I’d always been dreaming of was launched. One was from Gus Silber who wrote:

Though Sipho Hlongwane fairly questioned the DA’s use of struggle language, saying they “mixed like oil and water,” the launch as a whole recast the DA as a whole new party.

The second tweet was one at the time I felt, though funny, was somewhat cynical. In reply to my asking if it was just me who felt that the launch was the DA turning a corner, Liam Lynch said:

It’s sad to say, but that to me does sum up DA 2.0. It looks all shiny and new, but underneath that veneer, it’s the same old party that it always was.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The War On Libya & The Responsibility To Protect

The moment you realise that you’re agreeing with those who’ve angered you to a point where spittle forms at the corners of your mouth as you’ve disparaged them as ‘crazy,’ and ‘imbeciles,’ is disquieting to say the least.

As the war drums started ringing their ominous tattoo in the corridors of the United Nations last week, it was with a great sense of confusion I watched as everyone I always agree with commentators, friends & Twitterati alike, cheered for a No-Fly Zone to be instituted over Libya. To put it plainly, as the Left started sounding like the Neo-Con war-mongering right. And when those I most vehemently disagree with started to express the opinion I held, that military intervention in Libya is a bad idea, well then I was truly disturbed.

Of course, it didn’t take much scratching beneath the surface to see that any agreement I had with the likes of the ANCYL was nothing but superficial, I do not believe that the “imposition of a No-Fly-Zone in Libya is meant to impose the West's takeover of Libya, because of its Oil endowments.”

In fact, to say – which I must admit I did a lot of on Twitter thanks to the brutality of 140characters – that I am against the military incursion in Libya, is misrepresentation of my opinion. Anyone who cast my lot with those who felt that foreign intervention in any form was wrong could hardly be blamed after the number of times I tweeted opinions similar to that.

In fact, for those holding that opinion, there is centuries of precedent. Since the advent of the nation-state, a states sovereignty being supreme has been a central notion in international relations, with the United Nations even entrenching that notion in their charter.

Of course all are entitled to their opinions, and as such I’d say, if not outright immoral, that position is at least amoral.

Again, that’s not a new idea. In 1948, two years later, recognising this, the United Nations espoused the first condition under which a state’s sovereignty could be impinged upon with it’s Genocide Convention.

Of course, what Gaddafi has done and continues to do despite his second declaration of a ceasefire in Libya is not genocide. Despite this, the vicious & brutal repression of a people seeking freedom from under the thumb of a dictator with a suspect handle of his mental faculties is near on just as odious. However, I still have my objections, or to be more precise, concerns.

My concerns with the Libya intervention are entirely on a point of principle; namely that military interventions on the grounds of humanitarian intervention though a principle fully and properly developed, is not applied equally.

In 2000, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) was founded and in 2001 released a report with the paradigm-shifting notion that the issue of humanitarian intervention should not be framed as a question of a ‘right to intervene,’ but rather as a ‘responsibility to protect.’

The UN took notice of ICISS’s report with an outcomes document which stated nations had a responsibility to protect their nations from “genocide, war crimes, ethic cleansing and wars against humanity” and by failing to do so made it the responsibility of the international community to do so. This report was ratified by all member states of the UN. However, the point where the problem became apparent was that this ratification was not legally binding.

In yesterday’s debate on Libya before the House of Commons, David Cameron called the decision of the international community to intervene in Libya a “breakthrough” and set a “precedent” in that it was the first time the UN had intervened in a nation based on the responsibility to protect.

If only this were true.

When asked if the international community is not intervening in Yemen, why should they in Libya, Cameron replied that “just because you cannot take action everywhere that does not mean you should not act where you can,” going so far as to quote Sadie Smith when she characterised that as the “why should I tidy my bedroom when the world’s such a mess theory of foreign policy.”

Cameron is right, failure to act in Yemen – and it is a failure – does not preclude action in Libya. However, his reply ignored the elephant in the room. It’s not so much a question of if they can intervene in Yemen – or Cote d’Ivoire and Bahrain for that matter – but a matter of do they want to? For as long as the ICISS’s report is not legally binding, guiding the United Nations where and when they have a responsibility to protect, the ‘why,’ question will continue to dog this and any other action the United Nations decides to take based on a responsibility to protect.

I may not agree that “war is a continuation of diplomacy,” but I am not anti-war. At times war has it’s place and is needed, and as Niall Ferguson wrote, “Make no mistake. Whatever the wording of the United Nations Security Council resolution, the United States (and the other allies) is at war with the Libyan government.” Though I agree that this is a necessary and just war, I am amongst the many who have been trying to answer the ‘why’ question, not at all believing that it’s out of an altruistic wish to protect the citizens of Libya.

If we believe that Human Rights are universal to all people, regardless of borders, we cannot deny that the international community has a responsibility to protect in certain instances and this is one. I wish I could fully support the action in Libya, to be frank, Gaddafi is an evil madman and I desperately want to. However, the only way all questions regarding what the ‘true motives’ behind this and other humanitarian interventions will be ended is if the application of a responsibility to protect is uniform, and that will only happen once the ICISS recommendations are made legally binding.


For an in depth look at Humanitarian Intervention, ICISS and it’s report I recommend this Council of Foreign Relations paper: “The Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention.”

The images for this post are of the USS Stout, launching a Tomahawk Missile from the Mediterranean on the 19th of March and Obama receiving a secure briefing on the situation in Libya in Rio De Janeiro on the 20th.

They're taken from AFRICOM’s flickr photostream which I'd also reccomend.