On Friday 5 June, Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as president of the African National Congress (ANC), spoke at the virtual launch of the ANC’s ‘Black Friday’ campaign.
The campaign was to show solidarity with African-Americans over the killing of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white policeman in the United States.
It was entirely different from the speeches he gives in his capacity as our president. Ramaphosa’s demeanour was cold and suggested he was bored, yet the speech was emotional, repetitive, historically shallow, selective, and racist.
Ramaphosa’s theme was the great cruelty which Africans, Native Americans and Aborigines were subjected to by European colonialists. ‘Our forebears’ were slaves and suffered great cruelty by Europeans for profit. Millions were enslaved so that powerful colonial countries could take what did not belong to them.
In this, Ramaphosa was referring only to Western European empires and colonisers and not the global phenomenon; the victims of slavery and indenture by African or Asian empires was not mentioned.
Ramaphosa effectively said that the atrocities perpetrated were the result of ‘entitlement and superiority’ of whites. He said that this sense of entitlement enabled Europeans to cast aside the inalienable rights of the Aborigines of Australia, native North Americans, the Maori of New Zealand, the Inuit, and many others in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The trampling of ‘inalienable’ rights by other colonialists in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East was not mentioned.
Ramaphosa reminded us that it was ‘this entitlement’ that enabled Apartheid. Race remains a defining feature of many societies, he said. Clearly, first and foremost is that of South Africa.
Ramaphosa then expressed the hoary shibboleth which is used to ensure that the ANC never takes responsibility for the past 12 ruinous years: ‘South Africa is defined by racial inequality. Even after 26 years the economy is still in the hands of the few, predominantly white people, while the poor and unemployed are overwhelmingly black.’
Until the end of former president Thabo Mbeki’s reign, the ANC had significantly improved the lives of black people: houses were built, people were reasonably educated, health facilities improved, unemployment fell as employment rose substantially.
It is these phenomena that have contributed to the growing inequality that Ramaphosa so abhors: the inequality due to the growth of the black middle class on the one hand, and the deteriorating living conditions of poor blacks from former president Jacob Zuma’s reign to date.
Ramaphosa never explains what is meant by ‘the economy largely remains in the hands of whites’ nor what this allegation actually does to the detriment of blacks. How does 7% of the population immiserate the other 93% exactly? Does it mean that in the last 12 years the ANC hasn’t been able to improve the lot of the poor majority because it is being held back, somehow, by 7% of the population? This poisonous trope is stated often and can only be intended to divide.
He says that in education, healthcare and life expectancy, there is a huge difference in quality of life between black and white South Africans, and that the chasm persists. Presumably, for Ramaphosa, this is the fault of the whites, not the ANC.
He repeats that the legacy of inequality, poverty and displacement of blacks is due to white supremacy. Extraordinarily, he then says that this is ‘the natural order of things’ that requires constant and consistent exposure. It requires critique on an ongoing basis … ‘it is this that we need to fathom and that we need to condemn on an ongoing basis. We need to oppose it on a constant basis’.
He says that this legacy ‘encourages’ white South Africans to believe they have licence to call black people ‘monkeys’ and ‘other animals’; that it ‘enables black academics to be overlooked in our institutions of higher learning’ and ‘enables labour tenants to be evicted from their land’.
These are utterly racist expressions; attributing the behaviour of the few to the many. Ramaphosa, however, goes on: he says that white supremacy ‘also enters the home field as well, that encourages men to abuse their wives’. This once again, according to Ramaphosa, speaks to ‘the natural order of things that needs to be challenged and to be broken.’
So we are left to understand that white supremacy is genetic and needs to be ‘broken’. The process of ‘breaking’ white supremacy cannot be interpreted as a benign process.
Racism, he says, permeates institutions, communities and society. Examples are not provided.
According to Ramaphosa, racism persists in atrocities against peoples across world, and he gives as examples events impinging on Rwandans, Bosnians, the Rohingya, the Palestinians and the Sahrawi. These conflicts are not generally about racism. They are tribal and religious. Ramaphosa makes no mention of China’s ethnic cleansing of the Tibetans and Uighurs.
The unjustified killing of 13 people during the lockdown was not a crisis of race: it was a result of poor law enforcement and is symptomatic of weak political leadership. Ramaphosa incorrectly conflates the killing of George Floyd with the killing of Collins Khosa and 12 others.
The killing of Floyd may not actually have been racially motivated, but it doesn’t matter. Justifiable and unjustifiable outrage has taken the issue way beyond that concern. What we do know was that Floyd had been jailed five times, and it was his behaviour which caused a store owner to call the police, with tragic consequences.
Ramaphosa speaks at length about how badly women are treated. One of Floyd’s episodes of incarceration was for storming a house to rob it with four other men. While his colleagues ransacked the house, Floyd kept guard over a woman, who was heavily pregnant, by pushing a gun into her belly.
Ramaphosa expresses deep regret over the death of Collins Khoza and others, but only after public outrage and the Floyd protests created the necessary pressure. Remember his comments, as late as the end of May, that the 13 people killed here by the army and police had been a result of excessive ‘enthusiasm’.
By his own admission, he failed. He said at the beginning of the lockdown that he ‘specifically’ spoke to the security forces and said: ‘go amongst our people with love in your hearts and do not treat South Africans as the enemy.’ That doesn’t sound plausible.
Ramaphosa says he wants to promote a deeper understanding and knowledge of other people’s histories and cultures so that we learn to appreciate where all of us come from. That can’t really be true, because if it was, he wouldn’t sweepingly accuse whites of colonialism and racism. To wit: `We must stand firm against daily acts of racism and micro-aggressions directed against black men, black women, black children in the workplace in the streets, in places of learning and society.’ Ramaphosa’s tone is replete with self-pity – victimhood as an excuse for bad governance.
We have warned before that Ramaphosa is not what he seems. Ramaphosa is the president of the ANC first and foremost, long before he’s the president of South Africa.
Previous articles on the subject:
- https://www.biznews.com/thought-leaders/2016/04/14/sara-gon-cyril-ramaphosa-friend-or-foe ;
- https://dailyfriend.co.za/2019/06/25/cyril-ramaphosa-is-a-socialist/; and