Hot on the heels of his re-election ANC president, Jacob Zuma went back to his real job—providing an entertaining distraction from what many of his critics call “South Africa’s Serious Socio-Economic Inequalities.”
And this time it’s about dogs. Yes, you read that right—dogs. We’re not talking metaphoric dogs like one would imagine he’d use to refer to CIA agents, here. No, he means dogs as in ‘woof, woof’.
The South African president has been quoted as saying spending money on buying a dog, taking it to the vet and for walks belong[s] to white culture and [is] not the African way, which [is] to focus on the family.
When I first caught wind of this on Twitter, my first reaction was to agree whole-heartedly with him. (Well, as whole-heartedly as one can agree while giving zero dams about a topic)
And indeed some months ago I went on a similar tirade on Twitter about Africans that protest Rhino poaching but remain silent on topics of human rights violations. I termed these Africans Irresponsible Human Beings ™.
I expressed my belief that Africans that can sacrifice their hard-earned money for animal charities, while their family-members fight off flies for food back at the village, are a danger to the continent. And to a great extent I still believe this.
And if this was all that Zuma was saying I wouldn’t even be writing this.
So why am i?
Because Zuma used the one word that I am physically incapable of ignoring. In his defence of his anti-pet-dog sentiments, he uttered the word, “un-African.”
Nothing infuriates me more than the use of that word. It drives me particularly insane when its speaker is very obviously using it as a means of shaming Africans out of their right to self-determination.
It makes me even angrier because it is almost always used to persecute the African middle-class. Very rarely are the poor in Africa accused of behaving in an un-African manner. It’s almost as if some people believe that the African, like some sort of religious servant, must stay in his most deprived form in order to retain dignity in his identity. Which is a notion that I regard ridiculous at its best and at its worst, utterly dangerous to the African psyche.
I can’t believe it is five-to-2013 and we’re still hell-bent on keeping African culture in 1605. How is it that African leaders are still allowed to equate walking your dog to lightening your skin?
As if Africans never had pets before. My father scoffed at Zuma’s words, as he drove our dehydrated puppy to the vet. Normally first in line to throw around the ‘‘un-African’’ label, my father (whose upbringing was set in rural Botswana), was quick to remind me that dogs have been around in Bantu culture as long as hunting has been a thing. So in this case the label doesn’t even make sense.
So what is this about?
This is about using shame to police a part of the South African population that the ANC is quickly losing touch with—the African middle-class. By ridiculing them for choosing to lead a lifestyle outside of the confines of the poverty and often-oppressive 18th century principles that he defines to be ‘African’, the ANC president may be aiming to shame them back to the party that all the ‘die-hard Africans’ cling to like a life-raft in ice-water.
I say this because I can tell you that words like ‘un-African’ do 21st century Africa no good. And any well-read and socially conscious African can tell you that.
However, sometimes I suspect that Zuma’s plan might be to create an even larger rift between the middle-class and the African working-class. Could it be that in identifying middle-class Africans in South Africa as ‘un-African’ the plan is to make it far easier for the poor in SA to lump them up with Whites and others under the huge sign of ‘oppressor’ and topple all of them over when the time finally comes?
Well whatever it is about, I know damn well this isn’t about dogs.
For more on my refusal to keep African culture in 1605, check out: Patriarchy is the parasite that African culture must rid itself of in order to survive.