How not to play the race card Mr Miyeni

Aug 01, 11 How not to play the race card Mr Miyeni

Eric Miyeni is best known as an urban intellectual, and like all South Africans, is entitled to his opinions, but as a writer, is this the best that he can do? No. We’ve read better from him before. Miyeni has published a piece on Ferial Haffajee, the editor of the City Press, as a response to the article on the source of Malema’s wealth. In his article he launches a lazy attack on Ms Haffajee and the City Press, alluding to the News of the World hacks, speculating without making a direct attack grounded in any fact. He begins with a reference to the 1980s and necklacing. How are we as the public supposed to interpret this? Is he implicitly threatening Ms Haffajee, suggesting that the recent article would have earned her a death by kangaroo court, with a burning tyre around her neck? Or is it merely a careless insult, part of a carelessly written article?

Mr Miyeni goes further and brings race into his argument. Launching an attack on Haffajee’s professionalism, he says that:

Who the devil is she anyway if not a black snake in the grass, deployed by white capital to sow discord among blacks?

This is not the only racial comment that he makes. Nor is it the only dangerous assumption that he makes regarding Ms Haffajee. Has Ms Haffajee ever stated that she hates the ANC? Not to my knowledge. Yet Mr Miyeni alludes to her “hatred of the ANC” in his piece. This is dangerous writing, and dangerous thinking.

One should NEVER equate criticism with hatred. Such sensitivity smacks of fascist thinking. Fascist because equating criticism of something with hatred of it is tantamount to blind loyalty, which reminds me of fascist regimes such as Italy under Mussolini and (dare I say it) the German Socialist Workers’ Party under Hitler.

Another statement that sickens me:

The Haffajees of this racist world are not digging up any dirt on DA officials. Instead, they sickeningly presume that white fortune is legitimately earned until proven otherwise and that it’s the opposite for black success.

Miyeni once again conveniently presumes that the “Haffajees” are not investigating DA officials. Would he care to corroborate this, one of his many speculations and assumptions that he has written in this article? Moreover he alludes to divisions between white and black business

I will, however, give Mr Miyeni credit for questioning the identity of the mystery businessman:

Who’s this mystery businessman that apparently paid R200 000 into Malema’s family trust? Which government tender did Malema grant him and how?

This I can appreciate. These are valid questions to ask, and is one of the few sentences not drenched in racial overtones. I believe that he could have written a superior piece focusing on this alone, and perhaps discussing his own opinions of black and white business. But no, he goes for the cheap shots and plays the race card rather clumsily.

Miyeni is right in saying that Malema is no government official. However, while Mr Malema may not hold public office, he is a public figure, the constitutional court made this ruling against his appeal on the 23 July, when he tried to prevent the City Press from publishing the article.  Let us assume that, as Miyeni hypothesises, perhaps Mr Malema has a trust fund and that it is funded by businessmen. Whereas Mr Miyeni’s response to this hypothesis is a casual “what the hell is wrong with that?” my own response to such a hypothesis is one of alarm. Has Mr Miyeni not heard of Kenya, or read Michaela Wrong’s book, “It’s Our Turn To Eat”, detailing the graft and corruption that is rife in Kenya?

I am not accusing Mr Malema of corruption, but if Mr Miyeni’s hypotheses were true, then my concern stems from the possibility that such an accepting attitude of this could lead to tolerating more blatant acts of disregard for governance, anti-corruption, and overall leadership. I am concerned that as a public figure, as a young leader, Mr Malema should be above suspicion. However he is not. He is a leader of the youth wing of a party that made a significant contribution to ensuring that I and my sisters needn’t be oppressed the way that my grandparents and parents were. He should lead by example.

Moreover, to imply that Ms Haffajee is “most likely to be the kind that wakes up in the morning, sees their black faces in the mirror only to feel a wave of self-hatred rising up to nauseate them” is racist in and of itself! On what grounds does Mr Miyeni base this opinion of Ms Haffajee? His statements border on libel, and I would not be surprised if there are repercussions for his actions.

I am reminded of Kuli Roberts’ article on Coloured stereotypes, which was also full of sweeping statements and lacking in appropriate context. As an individual who is coloured, I found her article to be a negative reinforcement of stereotypes, and in bad taste. Likewise, as an individual and young writer, I find Miyeni’s piece to be an example of how not to write, in bad taste, and disappointing.

 Photo by escapedfromwisconsin

  • Ebs

    Well & balanced criticism… The line that separates Criticism from Hatred…

  • John

    “Lazy Attack” sums it up very nicely. Miyeni’s article simply echoed the same ad hominen rubbish spouted by ever so many ANCYL spokespeople. In a sense he’s merely playing his role as their “independent” commentator.