Let Andile Mngxitama speak his mind

MEDIA RELEASE BY PRETORIA PEN, RE ANDILE MNGXITAMA’S COMMENTS ON MAIL & GUARDIAN COLUMNIST JARED SACKS

PRETORIA PEN supports freedom of speech and expression and therefore sees nothing wrong with Andile Mngxitama’s castigation of Jared Sacks, including a threat to beat him up.

The following is the problematic phrase from Mngxitama’s Facebook page which has triggered the current polemic in the media: “I believe if there are any real bikoists out there, whenever we see that white little bastard called jared sacks we must beat the shit out of him.”

This phrase must be seen in context. First of all, Mngxitama is known for his polemical and sometimes controversial statements. He writes a column in the Mail & Guardian and has written regularly for City Press and The Sowetan, putting forward so-called “black consciousness” views. Many editors, organisers of conferences and so on, solicit Mngxitama’s views, knowing that he sometimes comes across as a “radical”.

On the issue of violence, Jared Sacks – against whom Mngxitama is reacting – is not entirely a pacifist either. In his opinion piece published in the Mail & Guardian, he states: “Would the Biko of 1977 have voted for Ramphele in 2013? Not a chance. Biko did not believe in black messiahs or managers in a neocolonial capitalist system. Quite the opposite: he genuinely believed in the black masses and in their ability to lead the revolution and collectively build a wholly new society. The mineworkers, shack-dwellers and farmworkers of this country stand diametrically opposed to everything Ramphele believes in.”

Indirectly, Sacks is also calling for violence in the form of a revolution against the “neocolonial capitalist system” led by the “black masses”. In fact, he is advocating nothing less than some kind of Maoist revolt in the style of the “Cultural Revolution”.

Mngxitama astutely reminds him that he is, in fact, not a member of the black masses. Neither may he, as a white, arrogate unto himself the function of privileged interpreter or exegete of Steve Biko’s black consciousness philosophy.

Within the context, “beating the shit out of him” could also be a metaphor, meaning: “defeating his pseudo-black posturing in an argument about what Steve Biko really said”.

Verashni Pillay, deputy editor of the Mail & Guardian online, admits that “it almost sounds like an invitation to a jolly bout of fisticuffs”, as opposed to Jared Sacks’s rather more sinister clarion call for revolution which, within a multiethnic society like South Africa’s, might spiral into mass violence and even genocide.

Until such time as Andile Mngxitama really assaults Jared Sacks, which is criminally punishable in South Africa, he should be allowed to speak his mind, also on radio where he is apparently being denied the opportunity to respond to his critics.

Issued by: Dr. Dan Roodt, President

PRETORIA PEN is a literary society.

Contact: president@pretoriapen.co.za