FIKILE-NTSIKELELO MOYA: Zindzi's tweets, much ado about little


I have to confess, I was underwhelmed when I read the so-called controversial Zindzi Mandela tweets.

“Dear apartheid apologist, your time is over…#TheLandIsOurs…” Other tweets went on to say what has been said many times before.

At worst, Mandela is guilty of using language and a platform unsuited for a diplomat. I cannot imagine anyone feeling aggrieved that the “apartheid apologists” time is over. Apartheid was a horrible system, correctly described by the United Nations Organisation as a crime against humanity.

Why should their time not be over? Is there anyone out there still willing to defend apartheid?

With regards to land, most reasonable South Africans have by and large moved from finding the debate around land an uncomfortable one. There is a general agreement that we need land reform, even if there is no agreement as to how this reform should be undertaken and how things must look like at the end.

Land dispossession is, or should by now, be such common course. The 1913 and 1936 Land Acts as well as many documented historical battles and stories of how land moved from being under the control of the natives to the recently arrived, are a dime-a-dozen.

In fact, denial of the history of racism and land dispossession should be akin to being a member of the flat earth society.

I am convinced that the majority of South Africans want to live in peace with their fellow South Africans and to see a prosperous country. To get to where we are capable of being, we must navigate our messy history and come to terms with the fact that we have some cleaning up to do.

The sooner it becomes normal to say South Africa has a history of racism and land dispossession (and of sexism and homophobia, among other things), the better we can all face up to the challenges. It is often said that once you recognise your own flaws, others cannot use them against you.

Talking about racism and land dispossession is one such flaw in our collective history. It can only be divisive if we do not acknowledge it as part of our past we need to fix.

On the flipside, it can be a force of greater and more sustainable unity if it is seen as a project that all of us, not some of us, can contribute to making us a successful nation.

The less we mainstream the unfortunate elements of our history, the more they are going to be used by those who sincerely need to divide us a nation.

Just like that drunk uncle prone to revealing the family’s darkest secrets at the most inappropriate time, Mandela’s tweets can only make us uncomfortable if the subjects she raises are the ones we pretend do not exist.

So let us get over ourselves. If you really want to debate the issues, let us talk about how we normalise our society given our fractious past. To say we must not talk about that past, is to shut the conversation down even before it starts.

Those who want Mandela fired from her post as South Africa's ambassador to Denmark may or may not succeed, but whatever the outcome, the issues raised in her tweets will survive whatever her fate, and will only be divisive if we are not united in addressing them.

Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an independent journalist and former editor of The Mercury and The Witness.