Why I didn’t march or chant #zumamustfall

Here’s how I feel about the poop that’s hit the fan in our country over the last week or so:

  • Jacob Zuma is not fit to be president. This is something that has become clear over time. There is too much smoke for there not to be a fire. He has made rash decisions and has derided legitimate criticism of his leadership. This is nothing new.
  • The ANC needs to have the courage to back the right people and to celebrate integrity. They need to get a backbone.

But, I didn’t join the #zumamustfall march today. Many of my friends did. They are good people who love this country and I celebrate their willingness to stand up and be counted. This is not an indictment on them and others who want the best f0r all South Africans. I decided to stay at home. These are my reasons:

  • The #zumamustfall bandwagon has perpetuated a political discourse that troubles me. Subtle and, at times, overt racism has trumped good intentions. Zuma’s ability to lead this country, while questionable, does not give us the liberty to spout racist rhetoric. I’ve heard people commenting on black people’s inability to lead this country; that whites would do it better. This suggestion repulses me. I’ve heard it said that “Zuma and his cronies are a nothing more than a bunch of apes”. This kind of hate speech revolts me. More and more, I have been challenged with my own prejudice which has been perpetuated by my privilege. I felt very strongly today that — while I believe Zuma is a flawed president and is damaging our incredible country — flying the #zumamustfall banner would align me with a dichotomy with which I am very uncomfortable. Nothing makes racism ok. While I’m at peace with the idea of Zuma going, I’m not at ease with feeding my prejudice or supporting racist rhetoric. This is something I’ve worked hard at (and continue to work on) beating down.
  • As a white, middle to upper class South African male, I have become increasingly aware of how little my quality of life has changed in the last 30 years. The privilege I enjoyed under Apartheid South Africa as a child is not very different to the privilege my children now relish. When I look at what I have and how my life has taken shape, I realise how relatively easily this has come to fruition. Many South Africans live in desperation every day as a direct result of Apartheid’s legacy and our current leadership’s corruption and poor governance. Their plight is as unchanged as my privilege. I have been deeply challenged this week by the fact that I haven’t marched before; for them, my fellow South Africans — struggling South Africans. As Zuma threw caution to the wind last week it was is if my privilege was under direct attack; maybe for the first time in a long while. I would, thus, have felt like a hypocrite; marching now, shouting loudly and making my distaste public when I have been particularly silent (for too long) about the desperate plight of other South Africans.

Not to march was my choice and this is my wrestling; and, it has been far from easy. I will not assume that this needs to be everyone’s wrestling but I do believe that nation building needs to be founded on humility and not derision and divisive rhetoric.