by Hannes Wessels
Looking on as the EFF (Economic Freedom Front) men and women in red run amuck, vandalising over 400 Clicks stores around the country with impunity, causing millions of Rands worth of damage, all sorts of questions and harsh reminders jump out at me about how we got here and why we’re in such a mess.
The latest sorry saga starts with an advert that appears to be suggesting that ‘fine and flat’, white hair is more desirable than black hair. Just who wants ‘fine, flat’ hair so badly is missed on me, but this has touched off a political firestorm, rampant wrecking mobs and a major retailer is reeling from the fallout. One EFF leader in the Eastern Cape has now called for the burning down of a hospital because it contains a Clicks store. Out of all the ensuing, blatantly criminal behaviour that has happened country-wide, the only person I have seen arrested is an elderly white lady in a Port Elizabeth shopping mall who produced a pistol when she felt threatened on being surrounded by one of the mobs in red.
All this against a backdrop of R500 billion designated for Covid-relief going missing, a disastrous drop in the country’s GDP, millions of people on the breadline, crime on the rise, hospitals collapsing, dysfunctional schools, a judiciary looking increasingly unreliable and law enforcement agencies becoming more and more ineffectual.
The first question I ask is when is advertising not about something we might want but may not necessarily have and may never have? Should adverts trumpeting the joys of having hair upon heads, whether tight and curly or flat and straight then give bald people the right to go and trash a Clicks store. Should I be angry when I see an advertisement for a Range Rover and know I will never own one, but most of the ANC hierarchy can, despite never having done a day’s work in their lives. And what about slimming solutions; should these not cause outrage among the obese who might ask what is wrong with weighing in at over 300 lbs?
The fact is, it is no secret that many black women, for reasons known only to themselves, do want flatter, straighter hair and they spend enormous sums of money on acquiring this look. The former, US First Lady Michelle Obama is one of these women. Is it now the fault of white people everywhere that some people of different ethnicities, want to look like them? If it is their fault, as appears to be the widely held view, then what are they to do about it? How now do they eliminate the ‘whiteness’ that appears to be so problematic? They certainly cannot renounce their natural look and identity and try another because that will bring howls of outrage involving charges of ‘cultural appropriation’.
My daughter, studying in London, has recently been berated by a black fellow-student for wearing a bead-bracelet purchased from a local lady in Kenya; God help her if she were to try any harder to look ‘African’. The blame game knows no bounds in this country. Let us not forget an ANC MP blamed whites for dams that were not filling in the Eastern Cape because white racists during the apartheid era had built them too big. We also have on record a minister blaming whites for blighting the country with ‘cold fronts’. And an MP who believes lightening specifically targets blacks, so not even God (who I assume is white) appears innocent of being a racist.
Julius Malema, the man who triggered the violent furore when he put out a tweet rallying his troops: “Fellow fighters and ground forces; ATTACK!!” He went on: “If they want war give it to them including any landlord of any mall who refuses you entrance.”
Mr. Malema seems to have no problem with double standards. Here he claims to have a problem with the perception of some that there is something superior in white Western culture that is being exploited by the ‘white-monopoly-capitalists’. But this is the same man who seems to spend vast amounts of money (where he gets it from is not known to me) on the best watches, shoes, cars and fashion brands, all of which are made by white people in that dreadful place known as Europe where most of Africa is trying to break into. Why we see so little of him in more traditional, ethnic attire, is a question he needs to answer because as a political figure of consequence, in the way he conducts his personal life, he appears to be sending all the wrong signals if he’s genuinely interested in the noble concept of ‘black pride’. If we lived on a level playing field when it came to trading insults, Mr. Malema would have a very tough time defending himself against charges of ‘cultural appropriation’.
And while the accepted wisdom is that this whole alleged outrage was orchestrated by ‘white supremacists’ lording themselves over their black compatriots, it appears this is far from the truth. The CEO of the company is an Indian, highly placed employees in the corporate’s management and marketing departments are black, and the actual advertisement came from an agency with significant input from black staff members, but this will not be made widely known in the interests of legitimising the actions and targets of the belligerents.
What is also clear is that Clicks has, over the years, made a massive effort to right the alleged wrongs of the segregated past by actioning a range of initiatives aimed at empowering and enriching black employees and share-holders while following, ironically, a business stratagem that is biased against whites. But the lesson to be learned here is that your best is invariably not good enough in the dangerous process of trying to be fair while making amends for past mistakes. When the political extremists sense an opportunity to make mayhem and attract publicity, facts and good intentions amount to nowt.
Old habits die hard; Piet Retief also tried to do what he thought was right and honourable in the quest to achieve racial harmony based on fair play and look what happened to him. Unlike the Clicks management hierarchy, he and his people did not live long enough to fall upon their knees and plead to be forgiven for having done nothing wrong.