Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stop this Zilliness!

The ANC on Wednesday rebuked the ANC Youth League for what it termed a "deeply embarrassing" attack on DA leader Zille after she accused President Jacob Zuma of putting his three wives at risk of contracting HIV… Zille was quoted in the press on Tuesday as saying: "Zuma is a self-confessed womaniser with deeply sexist views, who put all his wives at risk by having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman." (Mail & Guardian,

I am also deeply embarrassed that grown ups and those in the process of growing up are using labels and stereotypes at a time when our country should all unite and be proud of the way we democratically changed guard and the political landscape through peaceful elections.  I am ashamed that some leaders just can’t seem to grasp the importance of magnanimity and self-control at a time when racialism is on the increase. Who would have imagined that 15 years since Madiba promised “Never Again…!” leaders would say things like:

Malema: “Zille is a white madam.”

Zille: “Malema is an inkwenkwe“ (uncircumsized boy).

Malema: “Zille is a racist little girl.”

Zille: “Zuma is a self confessed womanizer.”

Zille: “Stop Zuma!”

Mantashe: “Zille is now enemy number one.”

The list of insults doesn’t stop here.  What kind of nonsense is this?  It is absolutely pathetic! Tit for tat. You curse me, I curse you back. Not even kids stoop so low.  I add my voice to fellow South Africans (well done Azapo!) who voice their outrage at such despicable behaviour and demand an end to this nonsense.

HRC media officer Vincent Moaga is absolutely correct: "The country does not need this right now."

What is needed right now are serious and grown up leaders and committed citizens who help one another to “walk together” – not apart or behind – as the Dinokeng Scenarios point out (  The way to do that is not to dish out insults, but to dialogue and listen and nurse respect and tolerance.  In that way the legacies of our past, such as racism, disrespect, sexism, inequality, destructive disengagement, and apartness become relics which traces can only be found in the apartheid museum.

I congratulate President Jacob Zuma for showing leadership in working towards unity.  I am not proud about some aspects of his life – hey, who is perfect?—but I am proud that he is displaying the kind of attitude that has the potential to bring us closer. At least he is showing magnanimity in victory and in the face of hostility. Zille should know that she will have to work with Zuma.  Respect will go a lot further than shooting from below the hip.  Ask Pieter Mulder and look at the possibilities for new mindsets.

Zuma is good for the country insofar as co-existence and relationship building is concerned. If it were not for Zuma’s leadership, social intelligence and conciliation efforts, KwaZulu Natal and possibly the whole country could have erupted into protracted violent conflict prior to our 1994 elections.  When I visited Burundi, people say that of all the mediators in Burundi Jacob Zuma stands out as probably the best.  LĂ©onidas Nijimbere, a Burundian who writes about the Burundian peace process, confirms this in a Berghof publication: “The former vice president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma,is the kind of facilitator needed for difficult moments. He combines wisdom, calm, and patience: those human qualities needed to convince the most stubborn minds. By telling anecdotes he manipulated the feelings of the participants, thereby suggesting the real solutions to the problems at stake. Each party thought it had received most comprehension, as he was able to show compassion with everyone. Under his facilitation we achieved the various ceasefire agreements in 2002 and 2003.” (

I am writing this piece as I sit in Sierra Leone where I work with the Political Parties Registration Committee.  It is a constitutional commission set up to mediate in conflicts within or between political parties, amongst other things. This committee has literally saved the country during the 2007 national elections from relapsing into elements of civil war. 

Sierra Leone, ravaged by 10 years of civil war, and still very poor, is ahead of South Africa in the way it deals with party political conflict.  Maybe the Sierra Leoneans should not have asked for a South African to help them doing their conflict prevention work better.  Maybe the South Africans should have asked the Sierra Leoneans to come and help us.  Yes, maybe the South African leaders should sit at the feet of their African brothers and sisters who know first hand the devastation caused by insults and violence.  At least they know how to continue the journey towards reconciliation.