27 February 2008

Where are the black bloggers?

Nearly a year ago I asked Where are all the black bloggers in South Africa? -- and suggested that perhaps there was a need for some affirmative action, which provoked incredulity among some white bloggers who commented on that post.

Now Inside Candy has asked the same thing, and Black Looks responds by pointing out that:
  • Black Africans (BA) make up 79% of the population v whites (W) at 9%.
  • BA with higher education - 5% v W 29%
  • BA with landline or mobile phone -31% v W 95%
  • BA with own computer 1.8% v W 97%
  • Unemployment of Black Africans 28% (has risen since 2001) v 4% of whites
  • Medium annual income of Black Africans 12,000 Rands v 65,400 Rands for whites.

So yes, there are issues of access, cost and time - if it takes you up to 4 hours to get to work and back then blogging is not going to be a priority even if you could afford to have your own computer or access an internet cafe.

... which I think strengthens the case for affirmative action.

But it seems that some white bloggers just don't get it. White bloggers, from their position of privileged access, squeal about black racism when black journalists arrange an exclusive interview with Jacob Zuma, and they are right to do so. But white bloggers (not necessarily the same ones) also fail to understand the racism built into their response to the question of access and the possible need for affirmative action.


Wessel said...

Depends what you mean by Affirmative action.

"strengthens the case for affirmative action"

Is not very specific. Should the government target its social grants to ensure that more people have access to telephone lines and personal computers? I suggested something along those lines a while ago.

Should it be based on race or class? Class I would say.

Perhaps the main reason white bloggers bristle against this general suggestion is the way that affirmative action has been implemented.

"One of the first areas to experience violent protest in 2004, Phumelela is a typical example of the municipal protests focusing on poor delivery of the basic services. The complaints included inadequate, dirty water supplies; the persistence and poor management of the bucket sewerage; sewage flowing into streets and leaking into rivers and dams; poor garbage collection; interrupted power supplies; and poor roads. These inadequacies were compounded by allegations of nepotism, corruption (in respect of allocation of housing subsidies in particular) and arrogant, incompetent and indifferent behaviour by councillors and officials." said Anne Bernstein recently.

In another article she continued "ALL our interviewees in Phumelela in Free State believed that the mayor and municipal manager were less than competent, underqualified, and had very poor interpersonal skills, which had helped paralyse what little leadership and management capacity the municipality did have...

The skills shortages in municipalities are far broader than a shortage of “hard” technical skills in engineering and finance. Phumelela was cruelly short of leadership, integrity and management skills. Why keep appointing people who can’t do the job?"

And of course their is now some claims that the reasons we don't have power is because of the lack of skilled staff at Eskom.

"But Solidarity spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans, whose trade union represents many Eskom workers, said these problems should not have had
such a dire fallout. A shortage of skilled workers was the real culprit. On the wet coal pretext, Kleynhans said Eskom had been dealing with this problem “for as long as it’s been generating electricity”. Wet material could block machines which feed the generators, and the traditional practice was for one or two workers to clear feeder blockages promptly. Now one worker looked after several feeders -- meaning that when two blockages occurred simultaneously, the unit had to be shut down. Giving details of a confidential Eskom report leaked to it this week, Business Report revealed that not a single Eskom coal-fired power station was running at full capacity."

The point I'm trying to make rather long windedly, is that to cull white public sectors workers in an affirmative action program does exactly the reverse one is trying to achieve.

South Africa's fixed line telephony penetration is also going in reverse. This should be worrying fr anybody wanting to see universal service.

In fact we might soon come to ask, was the greatest mistake the ANC made not that they did not use arguably Africa's most successful and underpaid civil service. Instead they got rid of them in undue haste, perhaps because they are Afrikaners.

A better life for all is so much harder to achieve without these civil servants.

SouthAfrica said...

The action which could be taken is to open the doors to all those who are not currently blogging - no need to base it on racist grounds.

Steve Hayes said...


I had in mind the way things used to work at Unisa.

When a senior staff position became vacant, the Broederbond selected the candidate they wanted. They worte the ad in such a way that only that person really qualified, and put it in carefully selected newspapers that the people they didn't want would be less likely to read. Lots of people would apply and they went through the motions, but the Broederbond candidate would be selected anyway.

In those circumstances, blacks knew there was no point in applying, because it was a waste of time.

Affirmative action means encouraging suitably qualified black people to apply, and not wording the ads so as to exclude them.

Affirmative action may have been applied stupidly in some cases, but I don't see what harm it would do to encourage more black people who have something interesting to say to do some blogging. I suspect that quite a lot haven't done it because they haven't thought of it.

candy said...

No one wants to feel patronised, which is not what I suggest. In a perfect world we'd all have access to information and facilities. On a level playing field, the best can excel. When the playing field isn't level, however, it stands to reason that those on the slopes won't get as much exposure as those on the peaks. In my opinion we should do what we can to encourage the provision of equal opportunities.

Thanks so much for the link, and for taking an interest in what I had to say. I'm looking forward to reading more of you.

Unknown said...

"I don't see what harm it would do to encourage more black people who have something interesting to say to do some blogging. I suspect that quite a lot haven't done it because they haven't thought of it."

That should go without saying, but how do you do that in practise?

Karen said...

Well said. Dude, you totally get it.

Nice blog!!!

Karen said...

p.s. I read Black Looks and there response was good.

Steve Hayes said...


Doing it in practice...

Encourage people you know who DO have Internet access and have something to say to participate actively -- join newsgroups, mailing lists, start a blog, whatever.

In some cases churches could help by trying to make Internet access available to a wider range of people -- perhaps by setting up a sort of Internet cafe as part of a job-skills programme for the unemployed. There are lots of possibilities.


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