Why de Waal’s anti-Zille rhetoric is wrong

I watched with interest last week as Mandy de Waal waged a strange crusade against Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, Helen Zille.

The reason for de Waal’s crusade, to my surprise, was because Zille had written a comprehensive condemnation of white-on-black racism and a call to action for us all to clamp down on it.

In doing so, Zille listed in detail the numerous incidents of heinous behaviour around the country that have been reported with alarming frequency in the media. She made the case that South Africans have a responsibility to shut down the social space white racists thrive in. She cited as “nauseating” those whites who think it is ok to make racist comments by assuming their company all share the same views.

Zille also held no punches in taking on the new “self-appointed” leaders of the far right – Steve Hofmeyr and Dan Roodt – comparing them to the “khaki-clad, gun-toting, horse-riding para-militaries of old”.

Importantly, she drew a line in the sand by bluntly telling the “incorrigible” racists in our society to rather go and find a home with Roodt’s microscopic Front Nasionaal party, because the DA is “disgusted by them”.

So I was surprised then that de Waal chose not to attack the loony bin that is the far-right, and the social misfit aggressors among them, but instead elected to use cherry-picked visuals and flawed data analysis to support her strange and pious crusade against Zille.

What has compelled me to pen an intervention in this matter, is de Waal’s ham-fisted use of statistical demographic data produced by my colleague Adrian Frith prior to his accepting a position in my directorate.

Using census data, he developed maps of the entire country showing the geographical spread of residents by income, language and race.

The maps he produced are actually very useful for assessing current levels of racial integration in our cities, and how this compares to our apartheid past where races were strictly segregated.

Desperate to attack Zille using the approach of the old chestnut of Cape Town being more racist or segregated than anywhere else, de Waal selectively used these maps to make a self-serving point, that is patently incorrect.

Frith was never asked – as the author of the maps – for an interpretation that could have spared de Waal this embarrassment.

Only de Waal alone will know why she chose to manipulate the data to serve her own pious argument.

Her grand conclusion was: “A look at the Johannesburg map and the Cape Town map speaks volumes about integration in the two different cities. The Jozi map shows that previously white neighbourhoods are becoming integrated. The Cape Town map shows that the city is far from integrated.”

But to set the record straight on racial integration in our cities I would like to offer a statistically based overview, as a service to anyone genuinely interested in the truth about this important South African question.

In July 2013, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) produced a report entitled “Measuring racial segregation at different geographic scales in Cape Town and Johannesburg 1991 – 2011”.

The report found that in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, “residential segregation has decreased between 1991 and 2011” but that, “despite this, segregation remains high in both cities”.

At some geographic scales Johannesburg is more segregated than Cape Town, and at other scales Cape Town is more segregated.

In the end the report found that levels of racial integration are similar in both cities, with neither being particularly more segregated than the other.

Stats SA applied the same method of calculation used by the United States Census Bureau to determine an “entropy score” or “diversity index” for these two South African metros.

To see the bigger picture, my colleagues and I have since calculated the diversity index of all of South Africa’s metros. I am happy to make the working data and codes we used available for the sake of transparency, but will offer a brief explanation of the methodology here (note that the results for Cape Town and Johannesburg we obtained differ slightly from those obtained by Stats SA, because the exact data and calculation approach used by Stats SA are not known).

We calculated a diversity index (or “entropy score”) for the whole municipal area in each metro. If a metro contained 25% Black Africans, 25% Coloureds, 25% Asians and 25% Whites, it would have the maximum possible diversity index. (we ignored those who indicated “other” on the census because we don’t know what that really means.)

If a municipality had a population that was 100% of one race, it would have the minimum possible diversity index.

We divided the municipal area into a regular grid of 4km x 4km squares. This size was chosen because it was the middle of the range of sizes used by Stats SA (Note that the Stats SA paper describes the grid sizes as ranging from one square kilometre to eight square kilometres).

We calculated the diversity index for the population of each square. Then we calculated, for each square, the difference between the whole municipality’s diversity index and that square’s diversity index – so a square more diverse than the municipality as a whole would have a negative difference, and a square less diverse than the municipality as a whole would have a positive difference.

Finally, we multiplied each square’s difference by its total population and summed them up. This sum, when divided by the population of the whole municipality, divided by the municipality’s diversity score, yielded a result between zero and one, with zero being complete integration and one being complete segregation.

We have represented the results of these calculations in a graphic showing the diversity index of South Africa’s cities.

segindex

The actual data is interrogated rather than a biased glance at selected maps as Ms de Waal chose to do, Cape Town and Johannesburg are on pretty much an even keel as far as integration is concerned.

This is supported by the Stats SA report which indicates that in some cases Cape Town is more segregated, and in others Johannesburg is more segregated, but broadly speaking they have very similar figures.

The index places Cape Town second (best) in the country for integration, followed very closely by Johannesburg, and then the rest of the metros with Tshwane and Manguang (worst) showing up about twice as segregated as eThekwini.

It is clear that the challenge of tackling apartheid’s legacy is one that faces all of South Africa’s towns and cities.

The bottom line is that all governments have a duty to drive economic growth and inclusion so that people have more opportunities to improve their lives, and to choose where they live.

I take issue with de Waal abusing mapped data of Cape Town and Johannesburg that was put into the public domain as a service to help people understand the statistical truth of integration in our cities.

All de Waal simply did was deliberately select a part of Cape Town’s map that was less integrated than the part of the map she selected for Johannesburg.

In any case, trying to judge the degree of segregation by just “looking at the maps” is unscientific and highly subject to bias in the viewer – if you expect to see more segregation in one city, you’ll probably see it. This is an abuse of the data and irresponsible journalism. There is no need to use this visual approach when there are actual statistical measures of segregation available.

I have not written this piece to favourably represent one city’s integration over another regardless of the facts. Nor do I seek to trivialise the very serious challenge of integrating our cities, to make any self-serving political arguments; as I believe de Waal has unfortunately done.

However, I do want to make a point about a sector of middle-class hypocrites who use serious issues such as racism, privilege and segregation as cover to serve their own narcissistic agendas.

Only they, it seems, can be the true “anti-racists”, ironically using the privilege of their amplified voices in the media, not in service of the greater good, or of the facts, but for their own self-interest.

60th Anniversary of the Bantu Education Act – South Africa desperately needs quality education

This month, 60 years ago, the Bantu Education Act (full text) was promulgated. This evil piece of legislation has damaged the people and potential of South Africa inestimably. The Act was the brainchild of the Apartheid Minister of Native Affairs, Hendrik Verwoerd. Author Alex Parker wrote the following on Verwoerd and the Bantu Education Act:

“In a crime of lasting and monumental proportions, [Verwoerd] penned and promulgated the 1953 Bantu Education Act. There is no better person than Verwoerd himself to articulate how he felt about the education of black people:

“There is no place for [blacks] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour,” he declared. “What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live.”

Blacks were, as [Verwoerd] put it, destined to be “hewers of wood, and drawers of water”. In a stroke, Verwoerd has stolen the opportunity of a better life from them… [T]he education system he decreed on generations of South African blacks remains, even today, one of the most damaging aspects of his legacy.”

It is against the sort of sentiment expressed above that we should judge the quality of education in South Africa today. If there ever was an opportunity to over-compensate in the measure of corrective action, it would be education in democratic South Africa. Had our governments since 1994 made quality education their number one priority, South Africa would be a fundamentally better country today.

Verwoerd was an evil thief. The man and everyone who supported him, stole the opportunity for a more prosperous life from millions of South Africans.

Imagine, instead, that in 1953 the state had decided to prioritise the education of all South Africans regardless of race. Imagine that the government understood that quality education was the most significant contributor to providing productive human resources to power our economy. Imagine a South Africa today where our education system had been providing quality education for 60 years to all races. Imagine how different our country would be, how much better all of our lives would be.

Every day we waste tolerating an education system crippled by corruption and the stranglehold of unions, we prolong the crime against our people that was committed in 1953.

Protesting against excellent service delivery… Yes, that’s absolute poo!

Dear Editor

Two months ago I moved from Durban to Cape Town. For the 5 years prior to my move, I had been a ward councillor in the eThekwini Municipality.

In eThekwini, I had elicited much anger from the mayor and his colleagues highlighting the extent of slums built by the City (called ‘transit camps’) with broken or non-existent sanitation. I had pointed out that very little and very often no sanitation is provided to many of the informal settlements in the eThekwini. I had campaigned in vain to see the delivery of these basic services fundamental to human dignity.

Compared with the non-existent delivery of sanitation in parts eThekwini and in other town and cities, the near total delivery of sanitation in Cape Town stands alone in South Africa. I had noted the ‘poo protests’ before my arrival in Cape Town, but it was only once I arrived here that I understood what was actually going on: these are the first major protests against effective service delivery.

The mere fact that the protesters throw containers onto the road or empty them in public places means that toilets exist for the containers to be removed from. If the protests were truly about the delivery of sanitation to the poor, then why are the protesters not targeting governments where delivery has failed and people are still required to ablute in circumstances considered inhumane?

This campaign gives us a glimpse into the worst of our politics. The activists are protesting the effective delivery of a government they fiercely dislike, and in doing so vandalise working sanitation services in their attempts to disrupt the government and economy of the City. Their motivation is not to secure better service delivery, but instead to frustrate and cost the City and its people as much as possible while protesting effective delivery by their political opponents.

Their ruse is paper thin, and every toilet they disable through their action, every ounce of job-creating productivity they disrupt, impacts negatively on the very people they purport to stand up for – and the people know it. It is thus no wonder that their party has been forced to act against them.

Yours faithfully
Warwick Chapman

Lady Mondegreen, an eggcorn, a malapropism and mumpsimus…

A mondegreen is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. (eg. “pre-Madonna” instead of “prima donna”)

The unintentionally incorrect use of similar-sounding words or phrases in speaking is a malapropism. (eg. “intensive purposes” instead of “intents and purposes”)

If there is a connection in meaning, it can be called an eggcorn. (eg. “old timers” instead of “Alzheimers”)

If a person stubbornly sticks to a mispronunciation after being corrected, that can be described as mumpsimus.

Just for the sport of it, how about “reverse Mondegreens”:

Some nonsensical lyrics can be interpreted homophonically as rational text. A prominent example is Mairzy Doats, a 1943 novelty song by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston. The lyrics are a mondegreen and it is up to the listener to figure out what they mean.

The refrain of the song repeats nonsensical sounding lines:
Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe

The clue to the meaning is contained in the bridge:
If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”

The listener can figure out that the last line of the refrain is “A kid’ll eat ivy, too; wouldn’t you?”, but this line is sung only as a mondegreen.

To the Justice Verma Committee

LETTER

To the Justice Verma Committee

I visited India in 2009 and to this day consider it the most interesting and friendly country I have ever visited. I would return in an instant if the opportunity arose.

India is known the world over for its association with peace, spirituality and vibrance. The Satyagraha that Mr Gandhi developed while in my country, South Africa, was pivotal to your nation’s own independence.

When I visited in 2009, it was clear then that, not unlike my own country, the general populace were beginning to grow very concerned with the disconnect between those elected to lead the country and the needs of the people. Corruption and all the ills associated with it seem to be a growing trend in developing countries like ours.

In South Africa we are just emerging from possibly the deadliest festive season in history as far as traffic fatalities are concerned, with an estimated 1600 people to have been killed on our roads in the past month. Corruption and poor management are to blame, with Police not doing enough about drunk and reckless driving, and other departments failing in their duty to keep unroadworthy vehicles off the roads.

I use this example because it shows how a government that no longer has its finger on the pulse, a government which is focused on political games and self-enrichment, is a government which does little to make the lives of their citizens, most especially the poor, any better.

The grotesque crime against Jyoti Singh Pandey in your country has been closely followed in mine. South Africa has one of the highest incidence of rape in the world and it is said that nearly two thirds of all South African men are rapists, just worse than the around one quarter of Indian men.

Rape in South Africa is another example of a serious issue which affects the lives of South Africans significantly and yet goes relatively unaddressed by our elected leaders. I expect our leaders to speak out on a regular basis about rape, gender discrimination, and the broader ills affecting our society caused by corruption but they do not.

But far more than that, in the second decade of the 21st century, it is high time that leaders started to actively do something about these crimes. The ability and willingless of our respective government machinery to investigate and prosecute rape cases leaves much to be desired. Often far more debilitating than the lack of competent forensic facilities, is the attitude of the investigators and other officials to the crime. Too many men regard rape as something that women must just get over, and far too many more regard rape as something that certain women ask for.

To that I say the following: “Rape is not something that happens to a certain type of woman. Rape is something perpetrated by a certain type of man.”

We need to sensitise our societies and sharpen our law enforcement to the point where the most despised and most harshly punished individuals are the perpetrators of rape.

A political leader who has an interest in maintaining access to the levers of power they so desire would do well to take this and related issues very seriously going forward. The Arab Spring of the past two years has shown the world that the general populace of any country, especially the youth, will tolerate only so much before they revolt. We needn’t ever learn that lesson again.

Please consider signing the petition here and sending an email to the Justice Verma Commission yourself.

Faithfully
Warwick Chapman
eThekwini, South Africa