DM Manana: Of the slaves to culture and male machismo

Mduduzi Manana Photo: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

When the news of Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana’s Cubana incident broke out on social media on Sunday morning two things immediately came to my mind.

Firstly I knew that, alcohol consumption, especially at harmful and hazardous levels, is not just a major contributor to the occurrence of intimate partner violence, but a key source of conflict, so I immediately put that as a contributing factor. A high number of incidences that involves assault on women, happened at a place of alcohol, with high levels of alcohol consumption. Again this does not mean it could not have happened under different circumstances but on this particularly incident, and many others, alcohol is at the centre.

The initial reasons given of the assault, a disagreement over a Ramaphosa/Nkosazana political conversation, was immediately circumspect. Such debates happen everyday both inside the ANC circles and outside and Mduduzi would have been engaged in many of them. Although it was possible this could have been the course, it was however improbable that such debates would lead to one or two girls being beaten, at the very least, two groups would have at least gone at it.

It would be much later when the other reason came out, that the women had accused Mduduzi of being (Isitabane) a gay male.

As a person who reads widely, both in politics, journals, gossip columns etc, I immediately remembered a string of high profile figures, particularly in the entertainment and movie industry who live with such suspicions and accusations daily. George Clooney, who has become some kind of a statesman in his latter years due to his involvement in philanthropic work and being the major funder and friend of the Obama campaigns, in 2013 was highly celebrated for his mature reaction when he faced the same accusations.

Firstly, George Clooney, although his sexuality is frequent fodder for the tabloids, doesn’t feel the need to deny being gay. In an interview with the Advocate in 2012, he said, “I think it’s funny, but the last thing you’ll ever see me do is jump up and down, saying, ‘These are lies!'” he said. “That would be unfair and unkind to my good friends in the gay community. I’m not going to let anyone make it seem like being gay is a bad thing. My private life is private, and I’m very happy in it. Who does it hurt if someone thinks I’m gay? I’ll be long dead and there will still be people who say I was gay. I don’t give a shit.”

In another Interview Clooney said, ‘”Well now, [according to the Internet] I’m gay. You’re not going [to deny it] because that’s flat out insulting to the gay community.”

Given that ANC always chooses the most advanced Cdes to lead in government, I thought this was a missed opportunity for Manana to finally teach, both the girls and the males around him that no male should ever fall into the trap set by those who seek to emasculate and insult using sexuality and gayness in order to offend an entire community in our country. No one, especially an enlightened leader of Mduduzi’s calibre should ever feel a need to deny or distance himself from accusations of being gay because indirectly, you will find yourself trapped in backward thinking and frivolity of an uncivilized mob.

But of course Clooney and Manana live in different worlds. Hollywood is a world on its own, elitist, Idealist and typically not in touch with day to day realities of ordinary people. Mdu Manana’s problem of assaulting a woman is his and his alone, but our view on gays, that we could use the term to insult and emasculate, and that it would conjure so much anger is a societal problem.

The leading Christian Publication in South Africa, Joy Magazine has for example lambasted local media saying, ‘South African Media has convinced itself and others that liberal secular humanism is the prevailing philosophy of post-apartheid South Africa – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The mainstream media in South Africa is almost exclusively pro-abortion, pro-homosexual and hostile to Biblical Christianity. However, whenever surveys are conducted on the issues of abortion, homosexuality, pornography, etc – the vast majority of citizens reject the liberal view, subscribing mostly to a conservative approach. Although they claim to report the news objectively, there is actually no evidence of this in the popular media or in our daily news bulletins’.

The honest truth is that despite the progressivism of television and aspirational thought leaders, most citizens, due to enduring cultural norms and christian norms, still view homosexuality as an abomination. South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and South Africa was the fifth country in the world, and the first—and, to date, only—in Africa, to legalise same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, LGBT South Africans, particularly those outside of the major cities, continue to face some challenges, including conservative social attitudes, homophobic violence (particularly corrective rape), and high rates of HIV/AIDS infection.

These conservative social attitudes played themselves out on social media as some man began to defend Manana because they, along with him, viewed such an accusation as istabane as an extreme provocation. There was an ensuing backlash on these man because the truth is, nothing ever justifies raising your hand on a woman, ever. The other rude awakening for society however, which may have fallen by the way side was that it cannot be that in 2017, we still use ubutabane as both an insult and a tool to emasculate and we still consider it extreme provocation.

The truth is that we are still slaves to culture and religion and this has implications on human rights. How do we get out?

What is true is that an ongoing conversation and pushing of frontiers needs to happen and continue without ceasing until no South African is discriminated against for any reason. The country belongs to all who live in it and we must walk the earth without fear or a sense of being prejudiced.

Yonela Diko, is a Media Consultant & Strategist and Consults to the ANC