Tito Mboweni has re-emerged from virtual obscurity to great acclaim as South Africa’s new minister of Finance. A job to which he has long aspired. The financial markets and most observers have reacted well to his appointment because of his record as a politician, a successful governor of the Reserve Bank, and a businessman of note.
There is, however, another side to Mboweni that has received some attention. He is a keen Twitterer and some remarkable Tweets throw a somewhat different light on the man and his views. DA Shadow Minister David Maynier queried certain Tito Tweets about radical economic transformation and the need for a state bank. His later Governorship obscured his earlier record as minister of Labour where he was responsible for the labour legislation that has all but killed employment opportunities for a generation of work-seekers.
Some Tweets earlier this year showed how he feels about race. This is not the Tito Mboweni I knew and liked in Parliament from 1994.
The first Tweet sets the scene: “I was shouted at by a white man at the immigration queue at ORTIA. And when I tried to talk to him he dismissed me as though I was unworthy of conversation. I could feel the build-up of anger that could have led to an altercation. I restrained myself. The struggle continues! “
This was not too bad, although I am not sure what the man’s race had to do with it. If the rude creature had been black would his abuse have been more acceptable to Mboweni?
The reference to the struggle was significant, because the very next Tweet was this: “As an experienced political activist, ANC NEC member and political educator, I have never been of the view that single incidents can change one’s mind. After what happened to me at ORTIA last week, I have my doubts and deep concerns. Are white South Africans prepared to be non-racial?”
That this experienced political activist and former minister can extrapolate one unhappy incident at the airport with a rude white man and then smear the whole of White South Africa beggars belief. Mboweni had some outdated socialist views before he became wealthy beyond the imagining of ordinary people, but surely, he recognises that one rude white man is not representative of millions of other individuals.
Humans are not a racist mass, but a collection of individuals, good, bad, indifferent. Or does he support EFF -think – the new intellectual backbone of the ANC? Black=good; White= bad. What a depressingly dangerous categorisation of South Africans and an infantile reaction from someone of Mboweni’s brains and standing.
Mboweni’s Tweets continued in an ominous tone: “If white South Africans are not willing to be non-racial, then we have a big, big problem on our political hands. We might need to re-evaluate our non-racial stance. Black people cannot be the only accommodative ones.”
He ended this Tweet with the rather opaque statement: “But one swallow does not make it a summer!” Was that a tiny apology? If so, what on earth was this racist rant about in the first place?
Racists do not see our country in Mandela-like terms, or support the noble provisions of our Constitution. This states that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity, as part of our commitment to healing the divisions of the past and establishing a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. Lumping people together without recognising the individual as the touchstone of value in our liberal-democratic society misses the plot entirely.
The next Tito Tweet reads: “We, the leadership, may have, unwittingly, over the years, not given sufficient attention to Race and Class in our quest for reconciliation. There are two sides to reconciliation. In fact, the white community should be doing more having been the oppressor group.”
There you have it: If I am white, then I was part of the oppressor group and I must do “more.” Black people, of course, were all oppressed, and they have done enough, or perhaps done too much for reconciliation. Is that the Mboweni recipe for building a united and democratic South Africa?
People wanting others to “do more,” seldom spell out what Whites must do. Should they, irrespective of their past political activities and affiliations, apologise at least once a month for Apartheid? Should they pay more taxes than Blacks people earning the same income? Should they do more of the work and participation than black parents at their children’s schools, both private and government? Should they work harder than Black people so as to promote reconciliation? Should they stop insisting that their children are as entitled to a good future in the land of our birth as are black children, or must they accept second-class status while being increasingly stigmatised and vilified as a group – the Oppressors?
Unlike some, I still believe in the Rainbow Nation. No group-think and racism, overt or thinly veiled, will make people like me give up on reconciliation. Sometimes it is hard. Sometimes when one has been the victim or close to victims of violent crime and robberies, there is a temptation to look at the race of the perpetrators, virtually always black, and dismiss the whole group as criminals. That is racist nonsense. If one forgets the other tens of millions of individuals who are good and kind and hard-working and lumps them all together, one ends up like Tito Mboweni, offended by one rude white yobbo and blaming millions of white people, instead of seeing them as individuals who all add to the complexity and the wonderful variety of our country. Tito must show, as a minister, that he cares about all South Africans and it would be good if he stopped Tweeting.
Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand.
This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.