Thursday, June 19, 2014

South African lobby group gives broadcasting exec a wife

Walt's memory goes back a long way. He remembers clearly the events of 1994, when South Africa finally achieved "majority rule" -- read "black rule" -- after years of apartheid. There were people, in those days, who said black Africans were not ready to govern their country. They were not yet "fully evolved", it was said, meaning that they had only recently climbed down out of the trees. People who said such things were called "racists".

But, the "racists" argued, just look at them! Look at how they live! Look at how they dress! Why, their women run around half-naked! The counter-argument was that if the black people were still, errr, underdeveloped, that was the fault of the white oppressors, who failed to understand African customs, and wouldn't recognize that African ways and customs are by no means inferior to those of the "developed" -- read "white" -- peoples.

So, 20 years after becoming "free at last, free at last", the culture and customs of Africa's once-repressed black people are stronger than ever, as witness reports of Hlaudi Motsoeneng's recent visit to South Africa's northern Limpopo province.

Mr. Motsoeneng is the acting COO of SABC, the nation's public broadcaster. He and several other SABC execs went on a little tour of the hinterlands, ostensibly to find out how their programmes were being received by the folks out in the bush. "Not so well", was the answer given by Mudzi wa Vhurereli ha Vhavenda, a lobby group of traditional leaders and healers -- read "witch doctors" -- agitating for more programming in the local Venda language.

The Venda lobby group felt that Mr. Motsoeneng, being a "chef" -- a political appointee -- would probably respond favourably to their requests if he were given something by way of an incentive. So they gave him a bride, Vanessa Mutswari, a human resources management student, aged 22 or 23, depending on which paper you read. They also gave him a cow and a calf.

"We gave him these gifts", said Mudzi executive secretary Humbelani Nemakonde, because "he is committed to his job and understands the strategic objectives of the SABC".

But wasn't the giving of a girl a bit over the top, kind of like sacrificing a virgin? Oh no, Mr. Nemakonde told The Sowetan. "All the girls were there with their parents. Their parents knew what was going to happen and they all agreed." About ten girls were paraded in front of Mr. Motsoeneng bare-breasted, and "he chose the one he liked."

The Commission for Gender Equality said it had received a complaint after news of the Venda group's generosity was published. And the South African women's ministry said it viewed the whole process as an abuse of cultural values. "The use of women as gifts as if they were livestock is a serious regress and an insult to the gains of 20 years of democracy and freedom," its statement ran, "particularly the contribution of women."

SABC spokesthingy Kaizer Kganyago told the BBC he was unaware of the Commission for Gender Equality's investigation and that if it had any issues, they should be taken up with the Venda group concerned. Mr. Motsoeneng himself has not commented, perhaps because he has his mouth full.

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