Unemployed People’s Movement Press Statement
We Need to Move beyond Mngxitama’s Gutter Politics
Andile Mngxitama has become notorious for trying to privatize the memory of Steve Biko. He is not the only person trying to privatize that legacy, which is a legacy that must be there for all of us. But he is the only one that uses gutter politics to defend his privatization of Biko’s legacy.
They way that Mngxitama insults people is just incredible. If you are not a loyal follower of the Big Man then you are a CIA agent, an askari or a house nigger. He even called one comrade in the Landless People’s Movement a CIA agent while she was being tortured by the police! He has insulted so many young black activists and writers. He has used highly gendered language in these insults too. This is gutter politics. This is not the politics of BC. Aubrey Mokoape always makes the point about the humility of Biko. We learnt to reject the politics of sectarianism in BC during the feud, during hard times. Even when BC was under siege they still put forward ideas. The seminars that were organised across the country in those days were organised to debate ideas, not to attack individuals.
Other people on the left that rely on the politics of the gutter have been marginalised because grassroots movements refuse to work with them. All that is left for them is NGO politics. But Mngxitama has kept going as a result of his appropriation of Biko’s name to build his own personal power. Mngxitama is only interested in his own power. Like the worst sectarians he tries by all means to destroy any people or movements that he cannot control.
In 2011 Mngxitama came to Grahamstown. He asked for a meeting with UPM and we agreed. He asked us to support his People’s Manifesto and to join his organisation. He also said that his organisation, the September National Imbizo, must contest elections. Our members made it quite clear that they would not accept this. They insisted that they must retain control over their own organization. Therefore we politely declined to join his organization or his campaign. Mngxitama then asked Ayanda Kota to use his personal influence to get UPM to join his organization. Cde Kota refused and said that the movement must decide these things. Immediately Mngxitama went on a public attack calling UPM an organization of askaris and niggers. It was clear that he was going to try by all means to ruin what he could not rule. It was clear that he did not think that we had any right to make our own decisions for ourselves. It was clear to us that for Mngxitama our only legitimate role was to support him.
Mngxitama then attacked us, following one notorious fellow known as Heinrich Bohmke, because of a photograph showing UPM members marching with Palestine Solidarity posters. These two claimed that this photograph showed that UPM was controlled by whites. Neither of them had done any research or spoken to any of the people in the photograph. Neither of them was at the protest. Bohmke and Mngxitama just assumed that a picture of some UPM members with Palestine Solidarity posters must automatically mean that whites were in control of the movement. The truth is that some UPM members had attended a Palestine Solidarity event at the City Hall. It was organised by the Muslim Students Association (MSA). After the event the MSA came to our event in the township which was a march to remember Robert Sobukwe. There were about 300 people there – more than Mngxitama has ever been able to gather for his protests. This is how the Palestine Solidarity posters came to be at the march. Some of the MSA members had Sobukwe posters. It was a nice day. We all enjoyed it. There were many other posters too but Bohmke and Mngxitama just focused on the Palestine Solidarity posters to say that we were under the control of whites. The truth is only one white student attended this protest and that not one white person was involved in the planning or organisation of this protest at any time and in any way. Comrades in UPM and the MSA and all 300 people that were there can confirm this. But Bohmke and Mngxitama don’t care about the truth at all. They just want to do everything in their power to damage grassroots movements that don’t accept their leadership.
Mngxitama’s own attempts to organize have failed totally. Last year he tried to organize a march on parliament. This was supposed to be a national demonstration and there had been one year of mobilisation. Only 45 people came to the demonstration! It was a total joke. Mngxitama became the laughing stock of BC activists on Facebook who referred to this as ‘Guy Fawkes’. Mine workers, farm workers, the unemployed and shack dwellers have all shown that they can organise themselves very well. Yet despite all this evidence Mngxitama does not believe that poor black people can organise themselves. He is so wrapped up in his own ego that he has lost touch with political reality.
The Unemployed People’s Movement in all provinces (Eastern Cape, Free State KwaZulu-Natal) were happy to sign the letter published by Comrade Jane Duncan which called Mngxitama to account for his threats of violence against a fellow journalist. Cde Jane has worked with trade unions and social movements for many, many years and she stands against all threats to freedom of expression. Her political integrity is beyond question. She acts on principle and not personality. The letter was also signed by people who know our movement well and whose standing in society is beyond question. Mngxitama is saying that these people are white liberals. Again we say that he has lost touch with political reality.
Mngxitama is a product of the media [newspapers and Facebook] and not of struggle. Now that the media are criticizing him for threatening violence against a fellow journalist he is claiming that he is a victim of the white media and white liberals. If he really expected the media to think that it was ok for him to make public calls for violence against a journalist then we say again that he has lost touch with reality. How can a person who calls for violence in response to a newspaper article turn around and say that he is a victim when people express their concern? This makes no sense. If he did not expect people from many political traditions and all races to be offended then he’s not in touch with reality.
We are not surprised to see that Mngxitama has now sunk so low as to unite with the most viciously sectarian elements of the left. At the very bottom of the gutter Mngxitama has formed an alliance with Bohmke – a notorious writer of dishonest attacks on individuals and movements that no credible person takes seriously. Mandisi Majavu has argued that Bohmke’s attacks are racist. Most people tell us that they can’t read Bohmke for more than a few paragraphs because his ravings make them feel sick to the stomach. One comrade said that he felt that he needed to wash himself after reading Bohmke. But those with the strength to make it through Bohmke's fabrications find that there is one constant theme which is that poor black people are incapable of thinking for themselves and that therefore their politics is (1) non-existent in reality and something that only exists in a conspiracy created by white middle class people or (2) totally under the control of white middle class people.
The reason why no credible publication will publish Bohmke is because his writings are sheer fabrication. One of the students here says that he takes Bohmke "as seriously as David Icke”. But now Bohmke has found a publisher in Mngxitama. If Mngxitama really thinks that publishing these lies is in service of the struggle of black people he has become delusional. If UPM have any connection to a white comrade we will be attacked, called askaris and house niggers and told that we are under white control no matter how democratic, brave or principled that comrade is. Yet Mngxitama spends his time giving a platform to Bohmke’s ravings [Bohmke is a white person] and thinks that only he can decided who is a genuine black person or a sell out! It makes no sense at all.
There is no doubt that Bohmke is coming to the defence of the state. As soon as grassroots movements face repression Bohmke writes attacks on them that tell the same lies as the state! What kind of a radical is this? He says that his work for the police is important and progressive work but what kind of a radical chooses to work with the police instead of popular struggles? It makes no sense.
When Abahlali baseMjondolo were attacked by the ruling party Bohmke attacked Abahlali baseMjondolo and defended the state. Later on the case against Abahlali was withdrawn without their lawyers having to even make a defense. The judge found that the state’s case has been fabricated. This was the same case that Bohmke was supporting.
When Ayanda Kota was arrested and assaulted on trumped up charges there was Bohmke to repeat that same lies that the ANC tells in Grahamstown. Cde Kota’s case was also thrown out. The magistrate made a joke of the prosecutor. Only Heinrich Bohmke and Mngxitama take this kind of nonsense seriously.
Bohmke never even came to Grahamstown to do his ‘research’ on UPM. In his attack on our movement that Mngxitama has just published Bohmke mentions our comrade Wycliff Mfecane. Mfecane told us that he has never met Bohmke. When Bohmke’s attack was first circulated last year Mfecane signed an affidavit stating that he was offered a bribe by Mohammed Moraad to “give any dirty secrets that can destroy both UPM and Ayanda Kota”. Moraad told Mfecane that he was working with Claudia Martinez-Mullen and that she needed the information for Bohmke. What kind of ‘researcher’ gets information from people who offer bribes to persuade people to offer dirt on other people? Moraad owns the building that the ANC rents for their offices in Grahamstown. He has his own agenda to delegitimate the UPM. Claudia Martinez-Mullen also has her own agenda. Please see: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/upm-statements/y0xiAa8EGYI/KsU816ZjXPwJ
Bohmke lies about big things and he lies about small things. He says that Ayanda Kota struggled to read his speech at the Fanon conference at Rhodes in 2011 and that this shows that it was written for Ayanda by a white person. Bohmke was not there. He is just making this up. Cde Kota never struggled to read his speech at the Fanon conference because there was no speech to read! He was speaking in a session that took place every morning. This was a session for activists and included the likes of Barney Pityana and S’bu Zikode. None of these three speakers had written speeches. They all just spoke from the heart. Cde Kota has been reading Fanon since he was 16 and everyone who at the conference will remember that Cde Kota gave a powerful speech. There were many people who were there and Bohmke was not there and yet he lies so casually. He has taken us for fools that would never be able to challenge his lies. He is wrong.
The truth is unknown until there is a conversation, an exchange of ideas and opinions, discourse, disclosing contradictions in the argument of the opponent and overcoming these contradictions. Insults and lies are not the same as conversation. Bohmke surrounds himself with books and internet to provide him with tools to insult comrades under the guise that he is the only one clever enough to understand what is the way ahead. He thrives on anyone taking notice of his ranting which feeds his next shot of intoxication in what clever response or insult he can come up with.
Grassroots organisations have to fight on a daily basis against councillors telling people that our movements are pagans, that we are being paid to rubbish the country by foreign governments, that we are being used by white racists and so on. In one march a councillor even said that the woman leading the march was only angry because she wanted to have an affair with him and he refused. This politics of the gutter is everywhere. Those who say that they are for socialism or for black people should not be giving it credibility. We need to move away from gutter politics. Mgnxitama has found his political home and it is in the politics of the gutter. This is not BC.
Other organisations and people that have been defamed by Bohmke have ignored him on the grounds that he is beneath contempt. However we do not feel that the likes of Bohmke and Mngxitama should be able to enjoy impunity to lie about us and insult us at will. We have found a lawyer here in Grahamstown and she has confirmed that Bohmke’s attack on us is highly defamatory. She is willing to take the case. We hope to be able to serve papers on Bohmke and Mngxitama soon. Of course all money that we get from suing them for defamation will go straight to the grassroots movements.
We will make no further statements on the gutter politics of Mngxitama and his friend. We have important political work to do.
Thembani Onceya (Secretary) 078 8437 489
Xola Mali (Publicity Secretary) 072 299 5253
Bheki Buthelezi (KZN leader) 072 6399 893