For many South Africans, April 27th – or Freedom Day, invokes memories of the euphoria of 1994, when voters of all races voted alongside each other for the first time. Leading anti-apartheid campaigner, Desmond Tutu, described it as like “falling in love”. Ntokozo Qwabe, the leader of RMF, had a similarly elation-filled Freedom Day – but for very different reasons.
Last night, he posted a status lauding another RMF activist, Wandile Dlamini, whom Qwabe was in Cape Town with. While at the city’s OBZ cafe, the two decided that decolonisation would apparently be best served by targeting one of the cafe’s waitresses. The message they scrawled on the bill in RMF’s typically under-stated style, “WE WILL GIVE TIP WHEN YOU RETURN THE LAND”, was enough to reduce her to tears. Not that Qwabe could see the issue – “why are you crying when all we’ve done is a make a kind request? lol!”. VERSA thinks that this might be slightly unreasonable when the only other person who seems to consider forcibly reclaiming land a “kind request” is Robert Mugabe.
True to form, Qwabe didn’t stop there. Upon being told by a male colleague of the waitress that they found his and Dlamini’s note offensive, he deployed the “we haven’t even started” line. Then, later, in the comments section of his post, he told the world “NOTE: I will NOT be responding to comments from white people on this post. Y’all are a mess. A total waste of time. energy and effort.”
But what, according to Qwabe, hadn’t even started? Well, if his status is to be taken at face value, the whites of South Africa should be on the lookout for an armed rising. However, since it’s Qwabe – the man who finds French flags “violent”, President Zuma needn’t declare martial law just yet. Instead, it’s far more likely Qwabe and co. will try take down “colonial” symbols – aka that evil, oppressive waitress, with hyperbolic levels of vindictiveness.
Such bombast manifested itself in the denouement of his status. One highlight was the line which prophetically declared, “the time has come when no white person will be absolved”. Generalised and completely lacking in nuance (no, we’re not talking about RMF’s approach to history), such a comment undoubtedly calls Qwabe’s judgement into question – again. After all, this is the figure who rails about whites being “a total waste of time, energy and effort”, and who showcase his etymological talents by coining phrases like “white weakness”. Give that man a Rhodes Scholarsh…oh wait.
RMF have always stressed their aims were Oxford-centric. Reform of a Europe-heavy curriculum and improved access for BME students are but two which figure heavily on the movement’s website. These are laudable goals. But it’s hard to see where victimising a woman on the basis of her skin colour and casually mooting the prospect of violence fit into these. Perhaps that’s why freedom fighter Qwabe has since taken his post down.