Daily Maverick Interviews

Q&A: Zackie Achmat

Daily Maverick, 30 May 2012- 

The controversy that ensued from trade and industry minister Rob Davies’ announcement to have goods originating from the occupied Palestinian territories labelled as such and not “Made in Israel” refuses to die down. Some members of the South African Jewish community were affronted. The Israeli government was appalled. Yet this move has been months in the making, thanks largely to the efforts of one man, Zackie Achmat.

Achmat, with his organisation, Open Shuhada Street, held talks with Davies in September last year. The talks led Davies to agree in principle that goods manufactured in occupied territories should be labelled as such because labelling them as a product of Israel is misleading. And if the relabelling requirement is a victory for the Palestinian solidarity movement, particularly the campaign to enforce Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions against Israel, it is also the culmination of the efforts of Achmat, the country’s indefatigable champion of human rights.

Daily Maverick: Is it correct to call you an advocate of BDS?

Achmat: Yes, I support Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions against Israel.

DM: Is the BDS movement the best way forward for Palestinian solidarity?

Achmat: I think there are a number of ways we can show solidarity with the Palestinian people. I think one of the ways we can do this is to raise money for political prisoners. Another is to raise money for organising to help with education and distributing information. One of the strategies that is vital to raising awareness is BDS because it presents the possibility of internationalism – of bringing people together across borders, race, religion and class – bringing people together to resist the last case of European colonialism in the world, which continues to expand.

DM: What was your reaction to minister Davies’ announcement that goods originating from the West Bank would have to be relabelled?

Achmat: I was absolutely delighted. It is a huge advancement but it is only the first step. It’s something we have been working on for a while. We hope people will boycott and divest and so on, but there are very few targeted campaigns. Of the few targeted campaigns that exist one that I’ve learned from is Stolen Beauty – the campaign against Ahava cosmetics. All the other campaigns have been more general. And then in our country what happened at University of Johannesburg was very important. There is, though, very little understanding of what BDS is. I think a lot of people want to do something but we have not passed on the historical experience of South Africans. It starts with little things to raise public awareness. Whether it’s oranges or apples or wine (of Israeli origin) – it eventually ends up in an arms embargo and financial sanctions. It’s the least we can do for the people of Palestine.

DM: You’ve mentioned what happened at the University of Johannesburg, where academics voted in favour of severing ties with Israel’s Ben Gurion University last year. That certainly lent some momentum towards an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. Last week an Israeli diplomat, who was set to address a gathering at University of KwaZulu-Natal, was forced to withdraw from the event after academics in Durban raised objections. Together with Davies announcing the requirements for goods to be relabelled, we’re seeing a build-up towards a cohesive boycott of Israel in the country. Do you see the South African government playing a greater role from here on?

Achmat: I think it’s time the ANC discusses BDS at its policy conference and I think it’s time it gets raised in our Parliament. I’m not sure the government will immediately adopt it. I think it will only be adopted once there is a mass movement for it and I think, most importantly, it will happen slowly. It won’t happen overnight. I think in two, three, five years, we’ll have a very serious movement that will – locally and globally – be able to isolate apartheid Israel.

DM: In Israel, the news of the department of trade and industry’s requirements for the relabeling of goods has been discussed widely and it’s come under severe criticism from the right-wing media as well as members of the Israeli government, who accused the ANC and the South African government of racism and anti-Semitism. How does a BDS advocate respond to such criticism?

Achmat: The first thing I would say is whenever we raise criticism against the state of Israel we are called things like “jihadists”. Secondly, such people undermine, minimise and ridicule the real anti-Semitism people face in different parts of the world – whether it’s in Europe, or the Arab world or here in South Africa. There is a real anti-Semitism that exists and we don’t face up to it. There is also a greater wave of Islamophobia taking root. All of us have to stand together against this, just as we stand against racism, against the oppression of black people and other minorities. It is our duty to fight anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, but the abuse of anti-Semitism to support the occupation and Israeli apartheid makes a mockery of the people who died in the Holocaust… It is essential for the BDS movement not to adopt a sectarian approach. We are so angry, legitimately angry, with what Israel is doing but we dare not ignore opportunities to build alliances to isolate Israeli apartheid.

DM: Last week reports emerged indicating Israeli companies had won UN tenders for reconstruction projects in the Gaza Strip…

Achmat: It’s totally beyond my imagination how the UN could even imagine giving Israel these contracts in Gaza. Everyone should be protesting that. It is absolutely insensitive.

DM: You’re one of the most prominent activists in South Africa and have been for some time now. You’re admired for your work as an advocate and looking at South Africa today. What is the responsibility of an activist?

Achmat: The first responsibility I think is what someone said at a public meeting for Haneen Zoabi – the Palestinian who is a member of Israel’s Knesset – and someone from the Palestinian Solidarity Movement there said it is very important for Muslim activists and Jewish activists to recognise that there is an Israel-Palestine situation out in Khayelitsha and Manenberg that all of us need to be part of. So activists have to be, firstly, active in South Africa, have to be at the top of what happens in our country, but at the same time we must get involved in international solidarity work. For me, the choice is Palestine and Israel – and it’s for personal reasons because there are two warring religious factions in this country who are trying to make this a religious issue instead of an issue of freedom and human rights. The struggle for freedom by the Palestinian people and Israel’s continued struggle to dominate the whole of the Middle East is a core issue of our time.

DM: As you’ve pointed out, Palestinian solidarity suffers in South Africa from a conflation with a religious issue. Many South Africans see this as a fight between Muslims and Jews. How, then, do we overcome this?

Achmat: I think the only way to do it is to educate people. Unlike the Israelis, who take our MPs on private visits to Israel and try to try to win them over… I think we should openly declare our solidarity, openly say to people where we stand. But most importantly, we need to study, we need to create movements that are based in our townships that take on the daily struggle for social justice in our country as well as the more broader struggle for equal human rights in the world. The Palestinian solidarity movement cannot advance in any other way.

DM: The South African government, as well as the ANC, have been vocal in their support for the Palestinian cause. Do you think the South African government could do more to assist the Palestinian cause locally and internationally?

Achmat: I genuinely believe we need to do a lot more to address the issue, but it can’t be done without a movement because the government is under immense pressure from a range of sides, not least those supporting apartheid and the occupation in Israel, be they Christian Zionists, religious fundamentalists in the Jewish community…but also the United States and their allies in Europe who are constantly putting pressure on our government not to take a stronger stand. I think, though, the government is fine. It’s played a very big role in helping Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to talk to each other – I don’t have much hope in either of these parties – but the South African government helped to get them to speak to each other. DM

Daily Maverick Interviews

Riaad Moosa and his bright Material

Daily Maverick, 10 February 2012

As Ronnie Apteker’s latest movie, Material, is about to enter the circuit, the reviews are glowing with praise. I spoke to the man in the centre of the action, Riaad Moosa.

I find Riaad Moosa on a Sandton sidewalk, impatiently waiting for a download to complete on his iPhone. He’s also looking for a lift. I dutifully oblige. We weave our way through the lunchtime traffic, making our way to the offices of United International Pictures (UIP), chatting amiably about theatre, a chance meeting I had with his sister and the other. His film Material had premiered in Johannesburg the previous night and I was eager to find out if he had overcome an anxiety that the film would earn him a fatwa. “I’ve still got major anticipatory anxiety,” he tells me.

At the offices of UIP, we sit down to an interview. I’ve already watched the film and tried my best to assure Moosa that he had not done anything to enrage the crazies. At least not this time. I do understand his fear though. It’s not altogether a reservation about the film’s content, but rather a nagging worry about the tropes of artistic expression.

I assure him again, he has nothing to worry about. It’s a beautifully made film in which Moosa plays Cassim Kaif, a young Muslim man who works in his father’s fabric shop in Fordsburg, Johannesburg. As tradition dictates in this part of the world, Cassim is groomed to take over the family business from his father. As a dutiful son, he has not considered any alternatives. The shop is his life and his destiny. Until one night, through a series of coincidences, he lands up doing an open mike session at a local comedy club. He discovers a hidden talent for comedy and is encouraged to continue further along the comedy path forcing him into conflict – not only with his father but also other family members and some elements of his community.

The film lends historical significance through its storyline of conflict between Riaad Moosa’s father in the film, played by Vincent Ebrahim, and his brother. Their conflict was founded when shopkeepers from Fietas – one of the oldest communities in Johannesburg, and one of the first ‘locations’, or multi-racial areas established under the government of Paul Kruger in 1893 – were forcibly removed by the Group Areas Act. Until then, Fietas was an integrated community, not unlike District Six and Sophiatown. Many of the shopkeepers who lost their livelihoods in the move from Fietas to Lenasia, ended up at the Oriental Plaza, the shopping complex in the heart of Fordsburg, now famous for bargains, samoosas and a plurality of fabric stores. And the story of the film goes, Vincent Ebrahim’s character was affronted by the readiness of other shopkeepers to sell out to the apartheid government and go meekly to the Plaza. His brother however has no such qualms. And it is this richness in the story telling, the attention to historical detail that sets this film aside from other efforts to represent the Fordsburg community in all its beguiling eccentricity.

The film bills itself as a story of a family grappling with universal issues like, identity, responsibility and duty, and Moosa feels the film has lessons for his current predicament as well. “Material,” he says, “shows up the conflict of duty – the expectations of family and community versus the yearning to do something different. This is something you deal with.” He continues as I nod along in agreement, “How do you express yourself in an artistic way, in a creative way – in my case with humour but at the same time wanting to be an integral part of your community and wanting to be embraced and accepted?” He points out that some people don’t feel this obligation to please the hearth and home. “Some guys don’t have an issue with that. They say, ‘Forget it, I’m going to say what I want to say’.”

It’s regrettable that a film about a South African Muslim family fails even to win over the star’s reservations of artistic licence and creativity within the Muslim community. This is not a film about the backwardness of Muslims. It does not portray Muslims in an unforgiving light. Instead, it shows an aspect of Muslim life in South Africa rarely seen before. Away from the bombs of Baghdad and the schizophrenia of Pakistan, this is Johannesburg, South Africa, and this film reminds us that though Muslims are easily wound up into fits of self-righteousness, they are human too. They share the same physical space as other South Africans. They share the same experiences.

In the car earlier, Moosa spoke to me about a comment from Cape Town-based journalist Yazeed Kamaldien. “Yazeed makes a good point,” he says, “This is the first time you hear the adhaan in a movie – the call to prayer that sounds from mosques five times a day, inviting the faithful to salvation while irritating their neighbours, and then actually see people praying afterward. Usually in a film, you hear the adhaan and then you hear a bomb going off or George Clooney’s fingers being hacked off.”

The film effectively challenges perceptions of the Muslim community’s ‘otherness’.  “I really think this is a positive thing,” Moosa says. “It moves away from the general narrative about Muslims.” He then adds, “You know there’s a specific narrative out there involving Muslims – terrorism, war, misogyny…” He trails off and then looks at the poster of Material on the wall opposite him and continues, “Here, this is just a human story, a family story that everyone should be able to relate to. The only difference here is that the protagonists – the leads – are Muslims.”

Just that morning, Megan Godsell, a writer, director and filmmaker in her own stead was gushing with praise for Material. “It was subtle and gentle and funny as well as heartbreaking!” she enthused. “Everyone must see it!” She rates Material alongside PaljasGod is AfricanTsotsi andWhite Wedding – films she calls real South African films. “It’s an interesting thing,” Moosa says weighing the feedback he’s received so far, “I think non-Muslims are going to like this movie more than Muslims.”

He’s experienced some weird reactions to the film so far. Putting on his best impression of a Sandton kugel, he says, “I just realised Muslims are people like everyone else. I identified.” While we enjoy a chuckle he says, “It’s not just anyone saying these things – intelligent people are saying these things. It is strange but it’s the thing with these themes that are pervasive and you get bombarded by one kind of image and then you are confronted with something that is just a lot more real. In that sense you can understand this reaction, but it’s just still so strange,” he says while his face creases into a thoughtful furrow.

This film has been more than seven years in the making but the hard work and thought put into it has paid off in a beautifully made peace of art. Moosa though is certain there will not be repeat performance for him. “I’m more comfortable moving behind the scenes. I think I have a feel for it but I do like performing,” he says. “ I like writing jokes and performing for the first time. That is my bliss.”  And it is his love for performing that gave birth to the film. He recounts, (the film’s producer) Ronnie Apteker came up to him, and said “Riaad,” Moosa now puts on his best impression of Ronnie and then continues, “‘We should do a movie. We should write a script.’ I thought, ‘What is this guy saying? I have ward rounds in the morning.’” The idea though took root. “I approached it like I do to a lot of things in life. If I don’t have an initial moral opposition to something directly then I just go with it and see where the universe takes me. And this went through some strange process where at various points along these seven years we thought we were flogging a dead horse. Nothing’s going to happen and then you have a moment of clarity – an epiphany to spur you on.”

The title of the film, he says, was one of those moments. “At that point the film was set in a bicycle shop – that was the inspiration of the original story about two brothers who become estranged that Craig heard from some shopkeeper while he was doing his research – and the one went to the Plaza and the other didn’t. The one at the Plaza flourished and the other one’s business went down.  It was a bicycle shop. And then chatting to (writer and director) Craig Freimond one day, he asked me what question I’m most often asked as a comedian. I told him I’m always asked, ‘Where do you get your material from?’ And I usually respond, ‘The Oriental Plaza’. Craig took a beat and he said, ‘Why don’t we name the movie that?’ Joey Rasdien and I looked at each other, high fived and we were all happy. It sounded good and then upon further reflection, it just opened up so much – the textures, the beauty, the colours – the potential for that. As well as the conflict – it’s the theme of the movie in one word.”

“It’s moments like those that have made the film. And towards the end of the journey the script wasn’t right. And then we had the opportunity to get Vincent involved. Craig went to see him in London – he was doing an eight hour play on Afghanistan – that’s the kind of actor this man is – and Vincent said to Craig”, and Riaad now drops his voice into an audible whisper, “‘I need the character of Ebrahim to be a bit more developed. So I’m going to take ownership of the character…’” Riaad continues, “Craig worked with Vincent, they worked on some improvisations. Vincent got a feel for the role and then Craig travelled back home but the script now had a better-developed character for Ebrahim. And that process resulted in the script coming together. All the pieces came together. Eventually the film evolved into a story about this man. At the beginning of the film you’re not sure what it’s about. If Vincent didn’t come aboard we probably would not have shot this film.”

Material opens in cinemas countrywide on 17 February. DM

Daily Maverick Interviews

Neville Alexander – a linguistic revolutionary

Daily Maverick, 11 November 2011

He’s been a Robben Island prisoner and more recently one of South Africa’s most eminent educationists. He’s also a linguistic revolutionary.  I lent Neville Alexander an ear.

In April this year, higher education minister Blade Nzimande raised the ire of many South Africans when he suggested proficiency in an “African” language would be a prerequisite for graduating from higher education institutions. Speaking in isiZulu, Nzimande said: “Akukwazi ukuba yithi kuphela ekuthiwa sifunde isingisi nesibhunu bakwethu, kodwa ezethu iyilimi nabanye bangazifundi [We can’t be expected to learn English and Afrikaans, yet they don’t learn our languages”]. At the time Nzimande said the development and teaching of African languages in universities was something he was taking up as a special ministerial project. He had appointed a special committee to investigate how to strengthen the teaching and expansion of African languages in universities, which was in serious decline.

One eminent supporter of the thrust of Nzimande’s vision is Neville Alexander. For a 75 year old Alexander cuts a spritely figure. He quotes Lenin with the same alacrity as he quotes Bourdieu. Alexander certainly has much to share.  His has been the life of a revolutionary, a political prisoner and more recentl;y one of the country’s foremost educationists. He has been interrogated at length about his memory of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, where he was incarcerated for 10 years in the 1960s, but it is his views on language in South Africa today that are particularly relevant to the great language debate.

Alexander is a vocal proponent of multilingualism in education.  He acknowledges that his views on language are construed by some as the “idle musings of an out-of-touch eccentric”, but he believes the dominant opinions of multilingualism in education in South Africa suffer from the disposition to see everything through the prism of English. He is quick to clarify that it would be “silly” to be anti-English, but believes the role of South Africa’s African languages must be enhanced to ensure no South African is robbed of democracy.

Alexander certainly kowtows to no one, not even himself. He assisted in the formulation of South Africa’s language policies, but now admits that too many compromises were made with former minister of education Kader Asmal particularly in the role of African languages in higher education. He describes the embarrassing failure of South Africa to ensure mother-tongue education to all its citizens as a product of “neo-apartheid” language policies.

Alexander admirably resists that great South African inclination to reduce every argument to race. His is a consistent leaning towards the principles of non-racialism. Yet, in a fleeting moment he invokes memories of a young, South African revolutionary try-hard. “The means of production and exchange,” he says, “are tied into language.” His Marxist ideologies quite aside, Alexander raises an integral point about the relationship between language and the economy. “Unless we have spaces where people use languages they know best, productivity and efficiency will continue to suffer,” he says. “It has become an axiom that you give instruction in Afrikaans or English, but if people are able to understand immediately the nuance of the instruction received it will improve efficiency.” He stresses, “Language is built into the economic structures of society.”

And while many lament the lack of economic value attached to African languages in South Africa, Alexander points out that the country’s informal sector is grounded in the African languages. “African languages have potential,” he says. “They are economically lucrative and to think otherwise is to assume an elitist position.”

Alexander stresses that the need for further research into the tropes of the relationship between language and the economy in South Africa. He underscores as well the role of language in upholding human dignity. He points out that the denial of the rights of a people to use their languages in public life invariably leads to conflict and adds that Afrikaans cannot be made the scapegoat for apartheid.

Alexander emphasises that the political and cultural leadership must have the vision and the political will to make sure English does not continue to operate as the de facto only official language. “We have to begin to use other African languages in powerful ways,” he says. Participation in public life hinges on the ability to articulate yourself in the language you know best.

The Constitution of the country certainly accords the same status to English as it does to isiZulu. They are both official languages. Yet in the important work of governing the country even the President chooses English over his own mother tongue, often to his own detriment.

On the lawns of the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria journalists have shared a giggle about Zuma’s public speaking gaffes. I share with Alexander the story of Zuma addressing a press pack during a recent European Union-South Africa summit at the Kruger National Park. Zuma was meant to describe the relationship between South Africa and the EU as a “burgeoning” one, but mangled the pronunciation of “burgeoning” into something that sounded closer to “berg-onioning”. The assembled newshounds decided that his speechwriters should certainly not pepper his speeches with such lofty language. Alexander points out that Zuma should be able to use isiZulu in such settings, but ultimately the development of African languages are hamstrung by a perception of inferiority. “African languages,” Alexander argues, “must be accorded cultural capital.”

There is merit to Nzimande’s plan to compel students to learn an African language, but Alexander believes that African languages must be introduced to students long before they enter universities. And eventually it will not be the work of government alone to grant African languages the much-needed cultural capital. “It will take a social movement,” Alexander concludes.  DM

Daily Maverick Interviews Miscellaneous Published

Interview with Andile Mngxitama

I have always associated Pambazuka as a place the super-smart go to write, so it was a a tremendous honour for me to be contacted by the editor, Firoze Manji, with a request to republish my interview with Andile Mngxitama on the anniversary of Steve Biko’s death.

You can read the original on Daily Maverick here and the Pambazuka version here.

Daily Maverick, 13 September, 2011-

Like Che Guevera, Steve Biko is the poster child for revolution. His face adorns the T-shirts and posters of a generation who may know nothing of his teachings except that his is a face with some erstwhile significance. Thirty-four years after his death, Steve Biko is an icon but he is also a lot more than a trifling symbol of an ancient idea. I spoke to Steve Biko scholar, black consciousness thinker and organiser, co-editor of “Biko Lives!” and publisher of the journal “New Frank Talk”, Andile Mngxitama about the legacy of Steve Biko, the remaining vestiges of white privilege, the hate speech ruling against Julius Malema and most intriguingly, how often he combs his hair.

On 11 September 1977, apartheid police loaded Steve Biko in the back of a pickup truck. Tortured, dehumanised, naked and restrained in manacles, he began the 1,100km trek to Pretoria where he would purportedly be imprisoned in a facility with medical amenities. So severe were the injuries Biko sustained at the hands of the police during his detention that he died shortly after his arrival at the Pretoria prison. It was 12 September 1977. State officials claimed his death was the result of an extended hunger strike, but an autopsy revealed multiple bruises and abrasions, and that he ultimately succumbed to a brain haemorrhage from the severe injuries to the head. To everybody outside the state apparatus, it was clear that Biko had been brutally clubbed by his captors. It was Helen Zille, back when she was just a journalist, as well as Donald Woods, another journalist and close friend of Biko, who eventually exposed the shocking truth behind Biko’s death.

Thirty-four years later, Helen Zille is the leader of the Democratic Alliance, the opposition party taking the fight to the ANC, and Biko haunts the political subconscious of the “new dispensation”.

“Steve Biko… we say Biko lives. Steve Biko lives,” insists Mngxitama, “The biggest mistake of the apartheid regime was to think they could kill him and his ideas.” Mngxitama believes Biko himself understood the need for longevity in his ideas when he wrote, “It is better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die.” Steve Biko is certainly more than a T-shirt. His were ideas that galvanised the struggle against the apartheid and a realisation of self-worth among black people themselves.

Mngxitama believes that time will prove the memory of the contribution of Biko to the struggle to be greater than even Mandela. “Today we see young people outside of the political formation trying to read and understand Biko, try to make sense of Steve Biko in a country which remains basically anti-black. So, from this point of view, it is very clear that Biko lives,” says Mngxitama. While the ANC may claim to espouse the ideas of Biko, Mngxitama believes “Biko is a threat to the current set-up that started in 1994 which continues to treat black people as sub-human. The ANC is basically managing the architecture which is anti-black”. Two weeks ago, at the opening session of the Mail and Guardian Literary Festival at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, Mngxitama shocked the audience when he said, “South Africa is a white country under black management”.

“The best tribute we can pay to Steve Biko is to fight to realise his vision of what it means to be free. It is not the picture it is now. (Biko’s vision) is simply a cantering of black people and their dignity so that every policy, every law, every act by our government is postulated to make… Right now this is not happening,” Mngxitama continues. While the palpability of Biko’s ideas in South Africa is certainly debatable, there is little doubt that Biko’s legacy is indeed a powerful one.

“I think the idea that blacks can be the bosses of their own destiny is the most powerful, distinct legacy of Biko,” says Mngxitama.  “You must remember that until the emergence of black consciousness in our country, black people had given up hope. 1976 is in a sense the culmination of Biko’s teachings. And we all know that it proved be a reinvigoration of the PAC and the ANC leaders in exile, and gave hope to the leaders on Robben Island when there was no hope.” He points out that the “democracy we have today it is unimaginable without Biko’s contribution”.

It is telling that on Monday, while many self-proclaimed acolytes of Steve Biko remembered Biko by replacing their own avatars online with an image of Steve Biko, Mngxitama replaced his Facebook avatar with a picture of a student politician at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Ziyana Miché Lategan. While Nkosinathi Biko, son of Steve Biko regaled among others, Helen Zille with a timely reminder of Biko’s message at UCT, Lategan a fierce proponent of Biko’s principles of black consciousness, was contesting a seat in an SRC election.  Mngxitama lobbied support for Lategan who he says confronted no less than Trevor Manuel earlier with the message that he “was a servant of capitalism and imperialism with his anti-black Gear policies”. For all the quotations proffered in deference of Biko, the reality of his message is not an entirely palatable one. Biko will not be easily made into an anecdotal teddy bear.

Among the newly crowned gentry that is the black middle class, Mngxitama is himself seen as an elaborate joke for his staunch black consciousness ideals. While he is grudgingly feted for pushing the agenda of the advancement of the lives of black people, he is lambasted for driving the debate about white privilege into circles.

While he often sounds alarmingly like Julius Malema, Mngxitama is no praise singer for the embattled ANC Youth League leader. Hours after the Johannesburg High Court ruled against Malema’s right to sing the struggle song, “Dubula iBhunu”, Mngxitama said he believed Malema was a tool in a highly contrived scheme concocted by the ANC to divert attention from the realities of South Africa’s lack of transformation. “Malema did not have to jump up and down to sing the song,” he says, but goes on to opine that the ruling proves the lack of transformation in the South African judiciary. “Increasingly, we are seeing the Constitution as a tool for extreme right-wingers,” says Mngxitama.

His vision for South Africa, he says, espouses the ideas of Biko and is one of “justice and equality”.  “When I read Steve Biko carefully, I have come to the conclusion that Steve Biko must have been a black socialist because when he was asked the question ‘Are you a communist?’ he replied ‘No.’ But when he was asked ‘Are you a socialist?’, he said, ‘Yes’.”

But is Andile a socialist? Only “if you say socialism will maximise democratic life and the democratisation of wealth…” he says cautiously.  Ultimately Mngxitama says his vision for South Africa is one “where communities are happy and secured”.

But how often does Mngxitama comb his hair? He laughs heartily, and then says very seriously: “No, never”. “Let me answer the question this way,” he continues, “For those who take a position against the system, there is a particular beauty in revolution.” DM