By Mondli Makhanya
Quiz question: How many times can you use the words “colonial”, “whiteness” and “racist” in one statement?
Answer: Many, many, many times. In fact, as many times as you can. Especially if you have nothing substantive and sensible to argue.
This is what a group of 20 senior advocates, some of them prominent silks, did this week.
Writing in response to a scathing opinion piece by News24 editor Adriaan Basson on Advocate Dali Mpofu’s appalling behaviour at last week’s Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the advocates were not sparing in their use of those epithets.
But that was about as much as they could do in the embarrassingly shallow statement that could have easily been attributed to Andile Mngxitama or some other two-pence rabble-rouser.
Before we unpack the puerile and juvenile statement, it is necessary to deal with the advocates’ assertion that they “consider the article an irresponsible attack on a legal practitioner performing his constitutional duties. The JSC performs a constitutional duty and it is in that context that we must view his contribution.”
That is what the cantankerous chief from Ulundi would call BALDERDASH. In capital letters.What Mpofu did last week was the furthest thing from “performing his constitutional duties”.
He went to the JSC session with the express intention of undermining a constitutional body and turning a constitutional process into a sham. As he has done in past judicial interviews, he, together with his fellow wreckers, turned the process of selecting the country’s next chief justice into a total mess.
They belittled the (black) male candidates and insulted the standing of the sole female candidate (a formidable judge) by treating her like a delicate violet who has little brainpower.
Now to the dross that the advocates churned out in defence of “our own brother and senior colleague”.
They accused Basson of pouring on Mpofu “gratuitous insults typical of the colonial and barbaric attitude of whiteness towards Africans in general and, more recently, African professionals in particular”.
This is the same crowd that stood by while Mpofu’s EFF colleague and fellow JSC desecrator Julius Malema told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s description of black judges as house Negroes was not an insult but fair comment. The same crowd that did not flinch when Mpofu effectively labelled Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo a sexual predator.
This crowd saw Basson’s unflattering description of Mpofu as being drawn from racial undertones that he “inherits from his colonial racist heritage that settled on our shores to rape, to plunder, to exploit, to maim and to colonise”.
This, they said, was because he saw blacks in the same way “the colonial forefathers saw an African – an immoral, depraved and irrational being whose race is so inferior it deserves the master’s sharp tongue and reprimands”.
Basson has “colonial logic”, “employs the old device made popular by whiteness when insulting us”, has “a natural instinct to dislike African people” betrayed a “racist attitude”, and belongs to the group of whites that “reserves their attacks for African professionals because they arrogate to themselves the role of superior to Africans, whom they see as sub-human”.
There was a lot more drivel, with colonialism and racism and whiteness bandied in generous doses. The readers of the statement were told that “the challenges facing South Africa today are a network of whiteness propagated through the mainstream media, which transcends ideology, parties and political interests”.
“In many ways, it even transcends race, insofar as some of its allies are people who are on the periphery of whiteness, but through assimilation into its culture have become adept at mimicking its disdain towards blackness, its grammar and superior tone, and have therefore become its useful idiots,” the wise men and women propounded.
Then there was a call to arms
“We must expose the mindset that inspires these insults and state categorically that we will not tolerate them because they are what Africans have endured for centuries since white settlers set their oppressive, thieving, murderous and exploitative foot on our shores.”
Progressive structures should join the Wise 20 in “defending ourselves against this racist onslaught” and warding off the “wrath and organised persecution by an army of journalists and commentators as they consistently pour scorn on all of us”.
The real gem came towards the end
“This racist campaign and political vendetta against Mpofu and other senior African advocates is unhelpful for our country. It detracts from the real mission of creating a truly free society for Africans in the land of their birth,” said the committee of the wise.
“..unhelpful for our country…” So what Mpofu did last week was very helpful for our country? And “…detracts from the real mission of creating a truly free society for Africans in their land of their birth…”The big worry is that the people who attached their signatures to this statement, which was obviously written by a deeply embittered individual within their ranks, are some of the leading minds in the legal profession and our society.
None of them could find it within themselves to rebuke the repulsive abuse of power and villainous conduct of Mpofu and the other wreckers, yet they endorse the dung masquerading as a principled stance against racism.
It is a sad day when you cannot distinguish the language and logic of silks from that of vagabonds.
–Mondli Makhanya is the Editor-In-Chief of City Press