16/04/2017 11:38 SAST | Updated 16/04/2017 12:31 SAST

Ferial Haffajee: We Cannot Argue For The Disenfranchisement Of Anybody

Did this blog amount to hate speech and was it in violation of the code of ethics and conduct for print and online media?

I don't like a punitive community or state because it impacts freedom.
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I don't like a punitive community or state because it impacts freedom.

Because it's precious, I always try to fall on the side of free speech. Thus, my belief that Helen Zille should be disciplined but not fired for her tweets on colonialism.

While Zapiro's series on rape are offensive, I don't think he should be fired or closely directed by the editors of the Daily Maverick or Sunday Times, the platforms he draws for.

Neither do I agree with the petition to pressure Multichoice to push the Gupta family mouthpiece ANN7 off the DSTV bouquet. And I don't think the family should be stripped of their citizenship as SACP central committee member Jeremy Cronin has suggested.

I don't like a punitive community or state because it impacts freedom. But the rule of law is vital.

So, when I read the column by one Shelley Garland arguing for the disenfranchisement of white men, I balked, and thought she was stupid because her facts were wrong. And I was dismayed at her argument for targeted racial classification because apartheid was a system of targeted racial classification.

Subjugation and tyranny followed in its wake.

Did this blog amount to hate speech and was it in violation of the code of ethics and conduct for print and online media? We are submitting it to the press ombudsman for a finding and we will publish this.

Huffington Post has built a community of bloggers and this process runs on the principles of good faith where you communicate with the writer and get a photograph, edit their columns and publish.

Our newsroom is one of many stripes and consensus is best struck through conversation rather than through diktat and I planned a conversation that went something like this.

My vote is precious. Every time there's an election, I cry in the queue because it is a gift of democracy and citizenship denied to me and mine until 1994. Universal enfranchisement is the sine qua non of freedom and our negotiators fought hard against any limitations of this concept of equality against those who wanted a franchise qualified by group rights.

I take seriously the preamble to our Constitution which reads:

"We, the people of South Africa,

Recognise the injustice of our past;

Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;

Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and

Believe that South Africa belongs to all (my emphasis) who live in it, united in our diversity."

All means all and I don't see how we circle the walk to freedom by arguing for the disenfranchisement of anybody. It is a false binary and it was badly argued. Could we, I meant to ask my colleagues, look for arguments that are constructed with greater thought and alacrity? Do we have a duty to put interesting and factual thoughts into the public domain? Can we avoid race-baiting while having honest and meaningful discussions on race?

The story of the election of Donald Trump and Britain's exit from Europe are complex stories of working people feeling disenfranchised by elites.

The story in 2017 in South Africa is of a freedom incomplete. But to continue to place in the public domain the concepts of 97:3 (that 97% of listed wealth is owned by whites and 3% by blacks) is as post-fact as the worst tweets of Trump.

To take the ideas of land justice and claim that 13% of land is black-owned is inaccurate as any reading of a set of statistics will show.

The blogger claiming to be Shelly Garland used these statistics as do all lazy analysts and politicians who do not quantify state ownership as part or the picture or tally the progress of freedom into their thinking.

Neither do the numbers take account of the impacts of being an open economy, where foreign ownership is a big part of listed wealth. They do no quantify the unlisted economy. An updated land audit is with the Cabinet but not yet released so we will soon know where we are with regard to land.

How far have we come?

"Awaking on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African Native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth," Sol Plaatje wrote in his book Native Life in South Africa, which documented the land genocide.

A new work is needed to cycle in the tracks of Plaatje to reveal the map of land today, not racist blogs and bloggers with scant regard for fact or value.

We are not close to where we need to be to realise the first value in our Constitution, which is: "Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms".

I am trying to cycle in Plaatje's tracks to compile a wealth study for publication in June that will attempt to put the facts into the public domain as the important question of economic transformation take centre-stage when the governing ANC huddles to make new policy at its mid-year meeting.

Our country is not helped by cheap platitudes and our journalism is not helped by click-bait blogs.

* Shelley Garland's was a fake blog sent to us and published in good faith. In the era of fake news and opinion, good faith is not good enough. We are tightening our systems on the blogging platform. In addition, we have sent the offending blog to the press ombudsman for voluntary adjudication and will be guided by the outcome.