What Lindiwe Mazibuko Represents

By Mandisi Majavu · 20 Oct 2011

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Picture: Democratic Alliance
Picture: Democratic Alliance

An article by a Mail & Guardian journalist accurately described Lindiwe Mazibuko, the Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson, as “a new kind of South African politician.” I do not, however, subscribe to the view that Mazibuko is a new breed of South African politician simply because she watches Black Adder reruns to relax or because she enjoys drinking cabernet sauvignon at the “hip Societi Bistro.” 

What makes Mazibuko a new generation of black politician is that she’s is a strong African woman who aspires to join the leadership of a white project that is fundamentally designed to maintain the legacy of whiteness in this country. 

The DA represents the legacy of white liberalism in South Africa. Theirs is the liberalism of a special type. RW Johnson traces the lineage of this tradition from the Progressive Reform Party and the Progressive Federal Party, all the way up to the Democratic Party.

According to RW Johnson, this is the type of liberalism that, ever since its emergence, has historically had as its “chief motive power” the “ability to attract and harness the abilities of the better educated and talented young Anglophone whites.” In simple English, this is a political tradition that has always been white in composition and outlook. In fact, according to historians, it was not until the late 1980s that blacks were allowed to join the Progressive Party, for instance. 

It is not surprising that colonial patriarchs likes RW Johnson, who is prone to making racist rants, pride themselves for being part of this tradition. Last year, The London Review of Books (LRB) had to remove one of RW Johnson’s offensive racist nonsense from its website. The LRB apologized explaining that it “does not condone racism…”

The history of white liberals in South Africa is shameful. For example, Ronald Roberts points out that “those for whom Helen Suzman remains a ‘liberal’ must, for example, suppress the fact that never once during her long career did she ever advocate the elementary liberal principle of universal franchise, unlike Alan Paton, whose Liberal Party dissented from Suzman’s Progressives on this fundamental point during the 1960s.” 

Yet, this is the political project that Mazibuko wants to be part of. Some of her detractors inaccurately call her a ‘coconut’. She’s no “tea girl” either. Mazibuko is a smart African woman who wholeheartedly and sincerely believes that the DA values diversity. Its obvious she thinks that the DA is committed to bridging the gap between the poor and the rich in this country. She has to believe this. Otherwise she would experience a debilitating cognitive dissonance.

The simple truth is that Mazibuko is a political actor playing a certain role in a certain institution. Given our history, her skin colour gives her credibility and therefore makes her effective in carrying out her tasks. That makes her intimidating to many in government and to others in society as a whole. I am more than convinced that she does not have a white master to tell her what to think and say. I believe her when she says that she can articulate the DA's vision and future. After all if she could not do this, she would not be where she is right now.

It is worth keeping in mind that for her honours thesis, Mazibuko chose to research the DA. During the course of her research, she discovered that her values were consisted with the DA’s politics. Mazibuko comes from a school of thought that subscribes to a notion of ‘colour-blindness’, and this school of thought is fixated on pushing the fashionable post-racial liberalism into the national discourse. Post-racial liberalism does not attribute social challenges faced by blacks to racism, but instead rationalizes inequality by referring to the logic of the markets and the economy. Colour-blindness enables these post-racial liberals to deny racism even when presented with statistics that show that whites continue to employ each other in post-apartheid South Africa.  

According to Mazibuko, race analysis appeals “to the most wounded parts of the South African people’s psyche – the anger, shame, denial, and deficit of self-esteem, which apartheid has bequeathed to us. It is the path of easy villains, lack of empathy and understanding, and the peddling of fear and loathing and resentment.”

Indeed, post-racial liberalism is characterized by this sort of psychobabble, which tends to be dressed up in fancy language and cute sentence constructions, but in the final analysis is out of touch with reality and thus defies logical analysis. The reality is that South Africa is one of the most racially unequal societies in the world; whites dominate management positions in South Africa, and white people continue to be appointed and promoted in empowering positions in the workplace while blacks are constantly overlooked.

American thinkers who have been working in the area of inequality and race far longer than we have in South Africa argue that colour-blind policies are not a solution to social disparities that are rooted in institutionalized racism. The solution lies in overcoming our colonial legacy and in getting rid of racist institutions.

This is not the kind of politics that Mazibuko subscribes to. But then again, if her politics were not what they are now, she would not have gone as far as she has in the DA power hierarchy.

In running for the party’s parliamentary leadership position, Mazibuko has gone out of her way to reassure those whites who still doubt her true allegiances by agreeing to have two men who are trusted bearers of the DA legacy in the Western Cape, as her handlers. Her Orwellian way of explaining her decision is amusing, if not revealing. As if she had a choice in the matter, she says that she decided to put together a “team of running mates” in Wilmot James and Watty Watson in order to make a “rounded leadership team.” The truth of the matter is that although Mazibuko may truly believe in the fiction of colour-blindness, most of the whites in the DA do not believe their own propaganda. This is why many blacks experience Cape Town, the stronghold of the DA, as a hostile space. 

That is not Mazibuko’s experience however. Mazibuko is a different kind of black. She is the kind that fits in nicely in white social hierarchies. One of her identifying markers that sets her apart from ordinary black South Africans, mainstream media repeatedly tell us, is that Mazibuko is well-spoken, meaning that she speaks English in a way that excites white South Africa. White South Africa finds that appealing for, presumably, they see a part of themselves in Mazibuko.

To white South Africa, Mazibuko’s achievements serve as proof that institutional racism is a thing of the past. Through her English accent alone she is able to access the power that goes with being perceived as intelligent and competent. She’s been granted that social power, which is synonymous with whiteness and in return, Mazibuko vociferously defends white interests in a country where 79 percent of the population is black. She does this despite the fact that a DA government would roll back some of the social gains that poor black people have fought for in this country.

**Editor's Note: This article has been corrected. It had previously erroniously identified Wilmot James of the Democratic Alliance as white.

Majavu is the Book Reviews Editor of Interface: A Journal For and About Social Movements. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

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19 Oct

Achievement in Post-racial Liberalism

Achievement amongst proponents of these ideas (post-racial liberalism), is essentially to concede to the western cultural institution as a superior value-system for South Africa, Africa and the world. Its just another form of social darwinism. It essentially holds that Africans cannot benefit from their inherent humanity, because of the lack of intellectual heritage, i.e. the hallmark of western cultural supremacy. It concedes that everything done in a western-cultural construct is inherently superior, because the foundations of western intellectual enterprise will not accommodate anything less than excellence. They often hold that non-westerners are never exploited, only unable to help themselves.

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19 Oct

Who Does Mazibuku Really Represent?

Majuvu, ai, ai ai. Have you asked Mazibuku who and what she represents, or do i pick up a tinsel of jealousy here ?

Your attempt to mix history with your own interpretation (fact vs fiction) leaves big gaping holes.

Whites employ whites still leaving blacks marganilized!

Common. The "mentoring" approach in SA has failed as Govt is trying to force and speed up change, experience and competence. None of it will work, its a slow natural process, solidly anchored in training and time - No quick fix this.

If blacks are really ready for the challenges of running a country, ask yourself, would I employ them, best man for the job?

If you say yes to that, you are completely disconnected and dishonest with yourself then. Ever thought why 80% of our Municipalities under black rule is crumbling, with most Govt Depts following close on their heels?

Treat causes Majuvu, not artificial symptoms. As long as an alcoholic stays in denial, hes not going anywhere fast. The problem with Black politicians and denialists is, that we do not have the luxury of time and nilly willy experimenting. While our country is being selfishly stripped / plundred of resources through tenderpreneurs, nepotism, unequaled to their tasks, corruption etc., etc.

Frivolous arguments such as yours will not contribute one iota to our countries solutions. I'll be ashamed if I am you.

Start with honesty, eagerness to be educated, self reliance, patience and a "we need each other" mentality, inclusive of all who genuinely want to try, including the Mazibuko's, Malema's etc.

Back to the drawing board while the clock ticks on ,Majavu!

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19 Oct

White Men

You say: "Mazibuko has gone out of her way to reassure those whites who still doubt her true allegiances by agreeing to have two white men as her handlers."
Wilmot James is not white.

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Craig De Montfort Braganca
27 Oct

Wilmot 'is' White

Wilmot might as well be white, he has no khoisan or black blood in him and around 12,5% Indian genetics. His father is English, his mother part Irish, part German and part Indian. For all intents he considers himself white as the Indian in him is probably negligible.

MandisiM Verified user
19 Oct

Mistake...but Argument Still Stands

It was a mistake to identify Wilmot James as a white person. That does not change the substance of my argument, however, which is that Wilmot James is a trusted bearer of the DA/white liberalism legacy in this country. You will remember that coloured people were allowed to participate in the Tricameral Parliament from 1984 onwards. Additionally, the Western Cape was a Coloured Labour Preference Area. Blacks; people like Mazibuko, are new in these circles. So, Wilmot James is there to reassure white fears, etc.

Mandisi Majavu

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19 Oct

Ad Hominem Attack is Racist and Tasteless

"The history of white liberals in South Africa is shameful."

Is that a fact?

Our constitutional project is clearly under siege.

The pan-Africanists, tribalists, nationalists and communists amongst us that drive the racist NDR are clearly vehemently opposed to any "colour-blindness" or non-racialism

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19 Oct

Intolerance Leads to Another Racist Blunder

You said:

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20 Oct

Racism is Alive and Well in Cape Town

Those who believe we live in a post racial society should spend a few days in a high school where the learners are both black and white. We do not live in a colour blind society. Even when kids have been at school together from an early age. I think language is one of the key barriers to non-racialism. All whites should have to learn an African language every single day from Grade 1. By the way, thanks for a thought provoking sound article.

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21 Oct

Articles need to be fact checked before publication

This article, and the Iceland article, contain major errors of fact. This undermines the credibility of SACSIS. Perhaps a fact checker should be employed.

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21 Oct

@ Veritas

The only factual inaccuracy in this article (incorrectly identifying Wilmot James as white) was corrected and we notified readers about the change two days ago when the article was published. Can you be more specific about what you have identified as problematic when you say that this article is "full of major errors of fact"?

As for the Iceland article, we are not its original publisher. It was reprinted from the Daily Kos (which is also stated on our website). And despite the comments about the article having factual errors, most notably that Iceland is not part of the EU (note that the country has applied for EU membership, and is already fully integrated into some EU agencies) - so its a question of how one wants to interpret the issue. In general, we feel that the article correctly represents the phenomenon of an inspirational people's revolution in Iceland. We feel confident that the majority of the 400,000 odd people that have read the article on our website, agree.

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21 Oct


Firstly, I was originally of the impression that this is a site that informs objectively and promotes fair debate on social and developmental issues.

Clearly this is not the case. How one can publish such a opinionated article as fact beats me. I have never read such utter rubbish. It is evident where the sentiments of the author lies.

But this is the trend of late. Opinions which challenge people's belief systems in a racially biased and steriotyped way.

When will we actually grow up and accept that no two people think the same. But clearly the author wishes to split opinion down racial lines. Clearly the author still thinks in colours than in numbers.

Part of democracy is being allowed to have conflicting and diverse opnions. In effect, we agree to disagree.

And to add injury to insult - Mandisi Majavu adopts the tone that his ramblings are fact. My man....its an opinion.... yours!!

Millions have there own - and many not still lost in ancient slave mentality.

I don't care much for the DA... it is my OPINION that no political party in this country is up to standard.

But its time for unbiased, objective crit, with solution finding debate to deal with more important issues at hand than political point scoring along racial lines - we now need debate and positive input towards being innovative in addressing our urgent social issues.

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Mike Thurgood
21 Oct

What Lindiwe Mazibuko Represents

I also can't escape from jealously being expressed in this article.

I'll just confine myself to one aspect - employment preference for whites by white employers. The fact is that there are many in the white minority with good qualifications , experience and, very importantly, the right work ethic.

Do I really have to reiterate all we hear and read about black run organisations, municipalities particularly, running into the abyss of helplessness, and running out of money because it has been uselessly and wastefully spent?

Am I saying that blacks don't have the capabilities to match whites? No, that is exactly what I am not saying. But for the terrible reactions against all that was established during the apartheid regime, the education system was good. Instead of extending that system, and making it suite black culture, Prof. Sibusisu Bengu set about destroying it, and in the process started 17 years of doldrums education, which has greatly disadvantaged the very blacks whom the ANC-run government was so anxious to up-lift.

Get that education and post eduction training working properly, and you will find out that white employers will be perfectly happy to employ blacks, without government restrictions needing to be imposed. But it will, most unfortunately, take about another 15 years to reach that stage, even if the government can be persuaded to greatly improve the education system.

As for Mazibuko's good English, perhaps the writer would like to listen to Zimbabweans, Kenyans or Ugandans, for example, speaking English much better than many South Africans. Now, I wonder why? Perhaps the writer has something secretly against the clearway that Minister Naledi Pandor speaks English?

I have no idea how well or ill the writer speaks my language: it would be very interesting to know.

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21 Oct

DA Member & Not Racist

I am a proud DA member, and yes I am white! I am not a racist and neither are any of my friends, many of whom belong to the DA and many of whom belong to the ANC.And believe me, when the DA does something that sticks in my craw I let them know in no uncertain terms!

As far as I am concerned as long as articles such as the one above keep on appearing, together with the likes of Julius Malema and the far right spewing vitriol at eachother we have no chance of truly becoming a rainbow nation.

I am so bloody sick of this race barrier in this country, as are many people of all colours, races and creeds and I am sure that all most of us want is to live in a crime-free, racist-free country where everyone has the same rights and can get work on merit.

We are all sick of the so-called leaders who stir up the uninformed who are no better off than they were 17 years ago, whilst their leaders revel in the lap of luxury. We are all sick and tired of an inept corrupt government. All we want is to live in peace!

So when a party (and I don't care under wha name they go or what their past is) tries to change anything they are not allowed to - when a youngster tries to do something good which could possibly bridge the gap between the races they get run down and spoken about as though they are idiots! I take my hat off to Lindiwe Mazibuko, as i think she has the right attitude and I will vote for her no matter what colour she is because I do not vote according to colour, I vote for somebody who I believe can make a difference in this country.

I was in high school in the 70s, and had no hand in apartheid except to vote in the referendum to end it yet I am still suffering for what my forefathers did!

All I can say is I hope and pray that something or someone steps up to be a TRUE leader of ALL the people of South Africa!

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24 Oct

Keep Denying White Privilege

its really funny how you people have failed to argue against the writer's views on the existence of white privilege and the fact that the DA role is to defend it.

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Red regards
31 Oct

Majavu on Race? See Critique Here

The writer whose input is headed, "Keep Denying White Privilege," may find something of interest on that issue at the discussion/comments of another Majavu piece, here: http://www.sacsis.org.za/site/article/765.1

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