By Andile Mngxitama
The world renowned literary giant, Professor Zakes Mda, took time out of his typewriter to throw a few insults my way on Twitter in response to my short irritation with his perennial lack of grasp of the larger questions of freedom and oppression.
Prof Mda’s responses actually prove my point that he is indeed in the woods when it comes to understanding the sources of some of the social ills that he often comments on in his works and in public. Now I’m convinced that Prof Mda writes faster than he reads. Maybe he should go slower and study the structure of power and its consequences on the poor, a bit more. Furthermore, he needs to remember his own work. He always makes a gaffe and then says, “oh well I wrote about that 20 years ago”. Clearly because he has no ethical or lets just say ideological framework that guides his work, he writes like an innocent journalist chasing deadlines and headlines. I’m not sure if these fundamental weaknesses can be cured since the good Prof has attained success without having to worry about such petty questions as to why things are, the way they are.
I have already, a few years ago, during the “Time of the Writer” in Durban expressed my criticism of Prof Mda’s lack of perspective in his work. I was then commenting on his book, “Black Diamond”. Here again by focusing on the “black diamond” as unethical, he uninvitedly provided an alibi for white capital’s systematic corruption of the black diamonds whose conduct of gluttony he now approves of. This is the problem of the lack theory that makes the Professor a flip flopper.
Prof Mda doesn’t address himself to any of the questions I have posed. He instead does exactly what he accuses me of. He goes ad hominem on me by calling me a failed politician. As if that’s not enough, he also throws one of the favourite under the belt choice insults of my rather ignorant but loud political adversaries, that my forays into MMM were an attempt to be “successful”. His notion of success is making lots of money by selling your soul to the oppressor and then turning around and saying you are helping the poor.
The current running in between myself and Prof Mda is occasioned by his defence of Julius Malema’s hypocrisy of living like a millionaire when he claims to fight for the poor and be guided by Marxist Leninist Fanonian ideological perspectives. Prof Mda says one doesn’t need to be poor to help the poor. In the context of the corruption that our politicians are engulfed in – including collapsing the banks of the poor (like VBS), and members of parliament (MPs) being in the pockets of the President who in turn has been found to have used his “success” to buy the ANC Nasrec conference as indicated by the #RamaphosaLeaks – I thought that Prof Mda is not only ignorant, but also his defence of “success” and gluttony is rather callous and infuriating.
Our society is generally bereft of leaders with the necessary ethical ideals and revolutionary conduct. In this context Mda chooses to defend the gluttony of our politicians who make a “success” of their lives through looting the poor and selling their souls to the highest bidder. Prof Mda advises me to join these successful politicians instead of castigating them for their hypocrisy. He calls them successful and me a failure.
Prof Mda is correct in one way. I’m indeed a failure if success means selling my soul to the oppressors and exploiters of black people so that I may fly first class and be clad in Louis Vuitton and Gucci from toe to head. But to reiterate, I share this failure as a politician with my ideological inspiration, Thomas Sankara, who failed dismally as a politician. In fact Sankara’s understanding that success means bringing about social change that would free the people from poverty, led to his assassination. He was assassinated by a politician who was so successful that he was in power for twenty seven years and had amassed fortunes for himself while the people starved in Burkina Faso. Yes, I’m a failure like the 64% of black people in this country who find themselves in poverty created by the oppressors who have made our politicians successful.
Prof Mda is wrong to say that I’m a politician. No, I’m not one. In fact I detest politicians. Politicians steal from the poor to become “successful”. That explains why the oppressor gave politicians millions of rands to bewitch the poor with marketing, and other tricks of mass deception, to vote for their oppression. My job, an admittedly impossible one, is to try and dislodge the system that breeds poverty. The lords of poverty are not going to make it easy and yes, thus far progress has been slow but there is progress nonetheless. The road is indeed tortuous.
The insult of my association with the “failed” MMM, betrays Prof Mda’s lack of awareness of how the system of money and success functions in a capitalist order. This is unfortunate in the sense that one has now to make peace with the truth that Prof Mda doesn’t understand the world he comments and writes about.
It also shows that the good man of letters doesn’t read that much or, if he does, he really is not doing so well with comprehension. I will not say much more on the issue of MMM, save to share a write up I had done on my motives in this respect. No Prof Mda, my engagement with MMM was not about trying to get wealthy to afford a first class life. For that I could have gone to prostrate myself before Robin Renwick, and Johann Rupert. Better still, I could have ingratiated myself with the likes of Adriano Mazzotti. There was also the VBS looting spree. If all had failed I could have, like others did, gone to Cyril Ramaphosa and begged for his compassion that he would have given in good cash. My motives were more quixotic than base self-interest. Not all of us are for sale, Sir.
I hope on reflection that Prof Mda can seen that in his defence of the gluttony of politicians, who steal or surrender their souls to the creators of poverty, he has done us all more harm than good.
The questions that I posed in my sharp polemic remain unanswered by the good professor. He calls them high school questions and he is right. They are basic and his own understanding of the social order that he writes and comments on, shows that he jumped an important stage which proves that he is an overrated dim witted man of letters. In conclusion I still ask:
i. Who made the poor, poor?
ii. Who gave money to the leaders not to be poor when they represent the poor?
iii. You think that taking a stand to end poverty is an act of charity and doing a favour for the poor?
If we dont understand the root causes we can’t address the problems. It’s time for all of us to go back to school, especially Prof Zakes Mda.
Yes I’m a failure, like Achebe’s Okonkwo, because the beautiful ones are not yet born.
Andile Mngxitama is the President of Black First Land First (BLF), a radical black consciousness movement
View Zakes Mda’s tweets below: