Tribalism and racism: two sides of the same coin

Ngizwe Mchunu

People like Ngizwe Mchunu are dangerous because their influence extends quickly, says the writer. Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspapers.

Published Jan 16, 2024


Thembile Ndabeni

Politicians can engage in politics but they must also learn to condemn what is wrong, especially fundamental issues like tribalism and racism.

Instead of doing that, they become opportunistic and protective by explaining or justifying them to get the support of the perpetrators. It is worse to be supporting not just a controversial person but a person who is a danger to society. Yet such people are expecting to be elected president of a country one day.

Testifying before the SA Human Rights Commission about the July 2021 unrest, President Cyril Ramaphosa said tribalism utterances were made against him: “iVenda alime kancane thina bantu bangempela sisalungisa izindaba zethu (The Venda must wait a bit while we, real people, fix our issues)” and “Thina angeke sibuswe nge Venda (We won’t be ruled by a Venda)”.

(News 24, April 1, 2022). EFF leader Julius Malema interfered. With an opportunistic attitude, he played it down and blamed Ramaphosa for the unrest, turning him into a perpetrator. As much as he, like every other person, has a right to express an opinion, it did not affect him directly.

Worse is the way he became involved.

He saw it as a great opportunity to consolidate and carry forward his agenda of supporting the unrest and winning over people in large numbers for his party, especially the likes of Ngizwe Mchunu.

To want to garner support by justifying or deceiving the nation about tribalism is too much; and dangerous.

Now, Ngizwe is doing what was done to Ramaphosa. As a result, “daggers” have been sharpened but the shields are not clearly visible. In this battle, Ngizwe has lost and suffered because of Malema and the EFF. He lost a vehicle sponsorship from JAC Motors after his tribalistic comments in November. He said Malema would not launch the EFF manifesto in KwaZulu-Natal.

“Julius Malema will not, on February 10, enter Moses Mabhida Stadium.”

On what it meant to lose a vehicle sponsorship, he said: “You can’t soil my plate of food while I am still eating.

He will do so only when I am dead.” If the situation remains as it is or escalates, there will be sour results. People like Ngizwe are dangerous because their influence extends quickly. People must be careful about Ngizwe presenting himself as a victim who is being “attacked” for being a proud Zulu rather than “Malema who is not”.

No one will “touch” him for performing his culture but not tribalism. It becomes dangerous when someone presents themselves as a die-hard of his culture but has an ulterior motive.

We do not need another form of Gatsha Buthelezi. He deliberately changed Inkatha from a cultural movement into a tribalist political party to use it as a shield to pursue and further his tribalist agenda. They are distorting the history of the Zulus, of warriors, against colonialism and the victory at the Battle of Isandlwana against the British, and not against their own.

If Ngizwe is not stopped now from instigating people along tribal lines, the country will return to the evil past of no-go areas. That would affect elections and there will be no free political activity among Zulu-speaking people who will be expected to vote for only that party. This will suit certain people who do not have a problem with tribalism but are “clever” by not coming out.

What goes on the right must also go on the left, and vice versa. Any leader condoning, justifying or turning a blind eye to tribalism and racism does not deserve to lead the country.

Tribalism and racism are not made right because it is applied to your enemy or any other person for that matter. Some speak about a non-racial society, yet they turn a blind eye to racism because the perpetrators have the same skin colour as them. What they often forget is that they and their party are up there because of the victims/survivors they failed to defend.

Besides Ngizwe’s response having the potential of creating no-go areas, Malema and the EFF’s downplaying of the abuse Ramaphosa suffered is more serious. This should serve as a lesson to politicians that what goes around comes around.

Ndabeni is a writer, researcher and commentator. He holds a Master’s degree in South African politics and political economy from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Cape Times