Malema and the Myth of Whiteness: An Eastern Cape Case-Study

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The fascist myth of “whiteness” (and other variations) has been used over and over again by Julius Malema to gain media attention. Dabbling in this myth has ensured headlines, but has also exposed a fatal flaw in Malema’s politics. Fundamentally, he and his followers lack the imagination and backbone needed to deal with the real problems facing the Eastern Cape voter. We’re not fooled.

As far as Julius Malema is concerned, “whiteness” is such a terrible, oppressive system in the Eastern Cape, the only way to deal with it is to remove white men from democratically-elected leadership. Or, to put it more, precisely:

“We are cutting the throat of whiteness!”

Malema, March 2018

But does “whiteness” exist in real life? Or is “whiteness” just some made-up, mythical nonsense to score political points and get media attention? My answer: we only have to look at the current state of education in the Eastern Cape to see how “whiteness” is a completely made-up idea that has zero relation to reality.

For years now, the EC has been plagued with overcrowded classes, textbook shortages, poor facilities in the form of mud huts and decaying school buildings. The charity, Equal Education, recently conducted a survey of the province’s schools to test how well they complied with the governments basic standards.

The results were shocking. Most schools didn’t have running water, and in one case nearly 300 students had to share a single toilet. Electricity was erratic, often only supplying the admin blocks, but not classrooms.

Yet, many of these schools weren’t even on a waiting list for upgrades!

It is thus no surprise that the Eastern Cape consistently places last in matric pass rates – but it is the African National Congress (ANC)-affiliated teacher union, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) that has continually created massive blocks to actions that would remedy these problems.

For instance, according to the education budget, in theory, there should roughly be about one teacher for every 28 students. Yet the province is plagued by ghost teachers and supposed temporary teachers that eat up the staffing budgets of schools – which is why in reality, you will be hard pressed to find schools that even approach classes that small.

Now, of course, pearl-clutching supporters of Malema from the depths of Houghton will simply argue that this is just a legacy of Apartheid, and that Sadtu is a revolutionary movement that only seeks to liberate the masses from the terrible clutches of “whiteness”. Yet, every time (very rarely!) the province plucks up enough courage to carry out an HR audit, it is hit by go-slows and outright violent strikes, courtesy of Sadtu. In fact, the last time the provincial government tried to carry out an audit, administrators had to take along a police escort to protect themselves against Sadtu protestors.

Likewise, when leaders have publicly stood up to Sadtu, things have not gone well. Education department head, Modidima Mannya, for instance, had announced he would tackle the problem of teacher allocation and other HR issues. He didn’t last long, and was quickly forced to resign after Sadtu pressure. According to a Sadtu spokesperson at the time, this was done to “save education in the province”. Naturally, the ANC didn’t even attempt to support Mannya.

Of course, our pearl-clutching apologists would lament that “white supremacy” has ensured that the province is poorly-funded and has created a system loaded against “the black child”. Again this is just a variant of the “whiteness” myth. Financial mismanagement has led to even former model C schools struggling with overcrowded classes due to teacher post funding problems.

The tragedy is that the money does exist to make the necessary improvements to education in the province, yet, routinely, the education budget is under-spent by massive amounts, in some years, by the tune of R530 million. The fact is, the province is resourced enough to make serious and lasting improvements to the standard of education. However, thanks to Sadtu interference, the chances of this happening are slim to none. As Equal Education noted, the ANC/Sadtu-dominated Eastern Cape education system “plans to fail.”

The bottom line is that “whiteness” is just a myth. But it is a dangerous myth, because it allows political opportunists like Malema to dabble in fascism. It means they don’t have to demonstrate real political courage and face down the ANC affiliate, Sadtu. Instead, they take the easy route: they use inflammatory racist conspiracy theories like the “whiteness” myth, to disguise their lack of backbone to deal with the real problem at hand. Expect more fascist nonsense like this as 2019 nears.

This article is dedicated to all the hard working teachers and students of the Eastern Cape.

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