Zindzi Mandela, And The Limits On Black Pain

Zenani and Zindzi Mandela in 2014.

Far from scrambling to silence the ambassador’s comments on land, the government should be wondering why it is allowing itself to be led by the most dishonest interlocutors on reconciliation, at the expense of legitimate expressions of anger at the black condition in South Africa.

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There is nothing, on the face of it, that is wrong with comments made on social media last week by Zindzi Mandela-Hlongwane, South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark. The department of international relations and cooperation was reportedly scrambling over the weekend to get into contact with Mandela over a series of tweets on land.

The nub of Mandela’s sentiments, that land was stolen by white settlers, is the entire basis of the African National Congress’s and the Economic Freedom Fighters’ push for an expropriation without compensation clause in the constitution. It is the entire basis for our country’s philosophy on race relations, reconciliation and restitution.

So we may develop and apply policy on the basis of understanding our history of colonial and apartheid dispossession, but to say so out loud is to break an unspoken rule of polite society.

This is hogwash of course, unless of course you are of the paranoid white ideology espoused by AfriForum and the Freedom Front Plus, two organisations which best represent that faction of South African society which has attempted to stand athwart the march of democratic progress in our country.

Yet this is precisely who has objected to Mandela’s comments (at an organisational level – feel free to dip into the cesspit that is Twitter if you want to find personal comments), and is evidently the source of articles about “objections”, and DIRCO’s scramble to rein her in. She may have breached the government’s social media policy for public servants, according to some media reports.

FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald couldn’t help blurting out his real objection. “Ms Mandela apparently does not see the irony of the fact that she is launching an attack on white people in her own country from a successful Eurocentric country by disparaging them as ‘land thieves and Apartheid apologists’ who are like ‘those uninvited visitors who don’t want to leave’,” he reportedly said.

The FF+ and AfriForum are calling for Mandela to be recalled as ambassador over the tweets. It would be an outrage for the government to give in to complaints by organisations that have proven repeatedly to be utterly discreditable on the issue of land, or the broader question of race relations. (In the case of AfriForum, the rebukes against its policies carry the imprimatur of the High Court.)

It is not clear why these voices should be given weight by government or the media over the support Mandela received, nor why she should be fed to these ravenous dogs for merely stating what is the basis of government policy anyway.  

It should go without saying that apartheid left deep wounds amongst black people, who mostly continue to vote for the ANC in hopes that government policy can help heal those wounds. If the 2019 national elections were a referendum on the land policy, then the results are in, and are not favourable to the FF+/AfriForum section of society.

If the government censors Mandela, the message it sends is that the limits of expressing black pain are to be set by the most dishonest among us. The filter by which valid expressions of black pain are to be judged is not freedom of speech, but the paranoia of the right wing. But we already know that’s already true, don’t we…

Featured image by GCIS