black lives matter zakhele Mbhele

DA Shadow Minster for Small Business Development Zahele Mbele. Photo: twitter/ZakheleMbele

Black Lives Matter: DA defends movement with ‘save the rhinos’ analogy

During a robust debate on Black Lives Matter in Parliament, the DA said that much must change before we truly recognise black people’s plight

black lives matter zakhele Mbhele

DA Shadow Minster for Small Business Development Zahele Mbele. Photo: twitter/ZakheleMbele

You’d be hard-tasked to construct a more articulate argument in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement’s legitimacy than Democratic Alliance (DA) Zakhele Mbhele did during a Parliamentary debate on the movement on Tuesday 18 August: 

“It should go without saying, as a principled stance in a human rights-centred society that all lives do matter,” he stated frankly.

“That being established, it should also not be a matter of intellectual difficulty to understand that, in the same way, that “Save the Rhinos” does not mean that other animals do not matter but is drawing attention to a specific challenge concerning ecological conservation, so it is that the Black Lives Matter movement is about highlighting the longstanding, chronic and systemic abuses perpetrated specifically against African-American communities in the United States.”

When he finished making sure that everyone was clear on his logic, he explained that for such a movement’s vision – for the plight of black people to be recognised and provided reform – to be actualised in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) can’t remain in control.

BLM ideology ‘cannot simply be imported into unique SA context’ 

Mbhele, who is the DA’s Shadow Minister of Small Business Development, said the only way that the movement, which he acknowledged “arose in a uniquely American context where black people are a demographic minority”, requires that South African’s deeply consider how it translates to our society. He said that we shouldn’t simply “import it wholesale without critical engagement”.  

“The discourse and premise of BLM does not neatly translate to the South African context where we have a black African majority and where – while we suffered the inhumanity of colonialism and apartheid – it was not of the nature and severity of the African American experience.”

He then asked whether people consider the lives of all black people to matter, questioning whether black LGBTQI+ lives, or the lives of people living in rural communities, factor into people’s thinking.

“We must interrogate whether, when we say black lives matter, are we talking about all black lives? Are we including black LGBT lives, for example, that are the target of homophobic and transphobic victimisation and violence? 

“Are we including black rural lives that are vulnerable to farm attacks and other violent crimes as a result of the under-resourced, under-staffed, under-trained, and under-equipped police service in rural areas?” 

Mbhele went on to say that in order to begin accommodating the vision of the movement into a South African context, the importance of the lives of those who are made vulnerable by social problems need to be considered.

“Are we including the lives of the chronically unemployed, who we know are overwhelmingly black, and are in desperate need of economic opportunities that have been destroyed for years by corruption, growth-killing policies, poor service delivery, and mismanagement in our bloated and incapable state?”

Corruption, healthcare deficiencies and education gap remain obstacles

Corruption, healthcare deficiencies and a lack of quality education must be eradicated long before it can be said that South Africans really can profess to the belief that black lives matter, he said.

“As long as corruption steals food parcels and social welfare grants from the intended beneficiaries, it cannot meaningfully be said that black lives matter,” he said. 

“As long as police brutality is perpetrated against black bodies, it cannot meaningfully be said that black matters.”

In this case, he believes that the ruling party is out of its depths. 

“The simple truth is that the only way to dismantle the structural vulnerability and state of victimhood to which the majority of black people in South Africa are subject, is by implementing good governance to build a capable state with no corruption or mismanagement, improved service delivery and growth and development that results in shared prosperity.”

“ANC governments have fallen far short of the mark, while DA governments are consistently top performers by most indicators of governance and delivery.”

Cachalia: ‘ANC and EFF jumping on BLM bandwagon’ 

Mbhele’s colleague – DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises Ghaleb Cachalia – took a more brutal view of the ANC’s and the Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF’s) backing of the BLM movement.

“While global events of late have refocused attention on race, issues fueled by events that trigger crises of one kind or another – that have a kernel of truth embedded in their focus and that has in its genesis a case and a concern that is pertinent and merits attention – have often been hijacked, aggressively funded and sloganized beyond their noble original purpose and intent,” she said. 

She is of the opinion that the ANC and the EFF’s only objective when jumping on the BLM bandwagon is to use it as a tool to implement some it’s more radical economic policy visions. 

“We must be vigilant but also be alive to the efforts by the ANC and the EFF to echo the documented goals of the International Black Lives Matter movement to call, as the cornerstone of their demands, for the curtailing of property rights, the cutting of military budgets in half, the defunding of the police, the disbanding of private schools, the abolition of private hospitals, the creation of government-funded sacred sites for black worship and extra tax rebates depending on how black you are,” she said. 

EFF slam BLM detractors

Earlier during the Parliamentary debate, the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu had clapped back at people with views such as Cachalia’s, who ‘feel there is a racist element’ behind BLM.

“Those who speak and work against white supremacy, the nonsense of white privilege, and those calling out racist manifestations, are not racist,” he said. 

“Racism is the continued police brutality against black people in many parts of the world. Racism is the massive inequalities that exist between white and black citizens.”

To conclude an afternoon of generally (and refreshingly) well-articulated debate, Cachalia said the following: 

“It is apposite in closing to recall Nietzsche’s warning that we must “beware that when fighting monsters, you do not become a monster…for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes at you.