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MMC’s ‘joke’ hits ethnic nerve

Published Jun 26, 2015


Pretoria - City council member Tiyiselani Babane was spitting fire during the ordinary sitting at the Sammy Marks chamber on Thursday morning, at the use of a Shangaan phrase considered to be derogatory.

The phrase, Mashangane wors, was used by human settlement MMC Joshua Ngonyama during a council debate. An offended Babane referred the matter to the council’s rules and ethics committee.

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“If you ever refer to my ethnic group again, I will walk up to you… and it will be not be nice,” Babane said.

He later told the Pretoria News that Ngonyama had been disrespectful and that it was not the first time he had directed those words towards him in the council.

The incident happened during a debate on a proposed amendment by the DA to the report on a loan the city intended to apply for, which Speaker Morakane Mosupyoe-Letsholo had to put up for a vote.

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Ngonyama, often among the jokers in the house, said he would give Babane a Mashangane wors so he could vote with them.

Depending on the speaker, audience and context, the phrase is considered derogatory by some members of the Tsonga community. It is believed that the phrase may also mean “a real Shangaan person”, but this again depends on the context.

In response to Babane, the MMC said: “We grew up eating Mashangane wors. It was nice, we liked it.

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“My mother is Shangaan and we used to buy Mashangane wors, put polony and atchar with it and make a spathlo, a popular South African township burger. I grew up eating it.”

Another ANC council member said he was also Shangaan and urged Babane not to take it in a bad way and interpret the phrase as meaning that he was inferior.

Mosupyoe-Letsholo said she sympathised with the Cope councillor, but said he should take the matter lightly and let it pass.

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“When I was in primary school in Atteridgeville my teacher, who was also Shangaan, used the phrase and we embraced it. He used to say that the Shangaans were the leaders of all the nations.

“It is how you react to it that statement, councillor Babane and I am not undermining you, but I think you should let it slide. I’m pleading with you,” she said.

But Babane, against whom a complaint was raised for wearing a Cope-branded scarf in the council, insisted the speaker refer the matter to the rules and ethics committee, which she duly agreed to do.

Pretoria News

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