Considering the Babel of languages spoken in South Africa and how each developed verbal cues and connotations in state-sanctioned isolation, I think we’d all do well to ask, before assuming, if we’ve understood what the other is saying. This goes doubly so in instances when we think the other person has said something preposterously outrageous, as is the case with the ‘clever blacks’ comment City Press attributed to president Jacob Zuma.
Addressing the House of Traditional Leaders, Zuma said, “Some Africans who become too clever take a position (where) they become the most eloquent in criticising themselves about their own traditions and everything.” He went on to urge the House to play a role in helping Africans remember their roots.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of what Zuma said in this sentence, but City Press pounced on this, running the story as their Sunday lead under the headline “Zuma scolds ‘clever’ blacks”. The Sunday lead is usually reserved for the most scandalous, most riveting, most newsworthy story. Puzzling then that this fairly innocuous comment would receive such prominence in a speech riddled with other more shocking comments, particularly the double-speak on the unconstitutional Traditional Courts Bill. Continue reading