Mhambi has been redeployed.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

All of us must become activists in the service of our Constitution

It's time to take a stand.

Kader Asmal has drawn up a Deceleration in defense of our Constitution.

This significant moment in our history requires that all of us become activists in the service of our Constitution.Each of us must act as a steward, if not as an owner.

We, the undersigned, take note of recent threats to kill uttered by a youth leader and a trade union federation official in the context of cases presently before the Constitutional Court.

We abhor and reject such intimidatory and threatening tactics in a constitutional democracy such as South Africa.

Just as we condemn the anti-democratic and violent practices in Zimbabwe, we must condemn South African leaders who threaten to kill to achieve political objectives.

You can read it all here, or download it (PDF) sign it and fax it to (27) +11 250 2505.

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African Union has its hands full

Mandela yesterday, to his credit, referred to Darfur and South Africa, besides Zimbabwe as crisis hot spots. It so happens that the African Union will have a summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh from Monday.

In reality there's allot more going down at present. I have made a map with the main conflicts and crises under way in Africa ahead of the African Union summit.

Click on the icons for more details. (The information on this map come from here.)

Foreign policy magazine has also just release their Failed states index. 4 or the top 5 is in sub-Saharan Africa.

View Larger Map

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mandela - a tragic failure of leadership in Zimbabwe

"We watch with sadness the continuing tragedy in Darfur. Nearer to home we have seen the outbreak of violence against fellow Africans in our own country and the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe."

Nelson Mandela condemned Robert Mugabe at a dinner in London last night. Judging from comments on UK websites many think its too little too late.

But as I posted yesterday, considering the history of antagonism between Mandela and Mbeki's ANC, I think people should cut Mandela slack.

It is also encouraging that he focussed not only on Zimbabwe, but on Darfur, and our own countries problems. Thabo Mbeki will no doubt be furious at Nelson's interference and 'pandering to the West'.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is Nelson Mandela's silence on Zimbabwe OK?

Much is currently being made in the British Press of Nelson Mandela's visit to the UK for the concert celebration of his 90th birthday.

Not because of the planned star studded line up mind you. But because Mandela has not condemned Robert Mugabe's government of late. There's even talk on a mini protest by the likes of activist Peter Thatchel. Thatchel wrote in the UK Independent that Mandela's "silence is connivance". Christopher Hitchens has joined the chorus in Slate, asking, why the Lion has not roared.

I recently had the chance to speak to George Bizos, the heroic South African attorney who was Mandela's lawyer in the bad old days and who more recently has also represented Morgan Tsvangirai, the much-persecuted leader of the Zimbabwean opposition. Why, I asked him, was his old comrade apparently toeing the scandalous line taken by President Thabo Mbeki and the African National Congress? Bizos gave me one answer that made me wince—that Mandela is now a very old man—and another that made me wince again: that his doctors have advised him to avoid anything stressful. One has a bit more respect for the old lion than to imagine that he doesn't know what's happening in next-door Zimbabwe or to believe that he doesn't understand what a huge difference the smallest word from him would make. It will be something of a tragedy if he ends his career on a note of such squalid compromise.

Hitchens is wrong. A word or two, or a torrent of condemnation would make no difference whatsoever.

Mugabe has no time for Mandela. The Mbeki government, which has some influence over Mugabe, detests Mandela's interference more than it detests human rights abuses.

In 2000, at the the time of the first Zimbabwe farm invasions Mandela was trying his best to go quietly into retirement. But events in Zimbabwe and Mbeki's Aids madness proved too much. Mandela spoke out.

In May 2000 when Mbeki controversially embraced Mugabe at a trade fair Mandela attacked 'tyrants' who cling to power: 'We have to be ruthless in denouncing such leaders' he said.

Mbeki was livid.

Mbeki's disagreement with Mandela over foreign policy and quiet diplomacy had gone some way back. In 1995 When Mandela was president Mbeki persuaded an outraged Mandela not to condemn Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha (who wanted to execute writer Ken Saro-Wiwa) and give quiet diplomacy a chance.

When Abacha went ahead and executed Saro-Wiwa, Mandela, his voice quivering with anger, pledged that South Africa will lead the campaign to isolate Nigeria.

Mbeki thought that Mandela had made a mistake. What's more he was just pandering to the West. To Mbeki this condemnation by South Africa would only serve to loose influence with Nigeria. It turned out that Mbeki was wrong. Nigerians resented South Africa's silence. Abacha's regime would not last long.

There is no doubt that Mbeki resented Mandela deeply, and not just because of him being in the right. But because Mandela was larger than life. And because Mandela enchewed Mbeki's racial Africanism for reconciliation in South Africa.

As a result Mbeki tried to ignore Mandela during much of the time of his presidency. Mandela would joke that he had no trouble speaking to any president in the world but his own.

According to Mark GeVisser, many of Mbeki's acolytes believe that Mandela took up the issue of Aids in order to break with his quiet retirement and join battle with Mbeki. This he did at an Conference on Aids in July 2000 in Durban, saying the dispute over the cause of Aids was distracting the battle against it.

Apart from this comment Mandela refrained from publicly criticising Mbeki, instead he wanted to meet the President. After being fobbed off my Mbeki's government for over a year, Mandela took action.

In December 2001 while visiting a treatment center during World Aids Day he said Mbeki was "in dereliction of duty".

Finally in early 2002 he was granted a meeting, but according to GeVisser Mbeki was so dismissive that Mandela decided to take the most provocative action to date.

The Mbeki government was just busy appealing a court ruling compelling it to distribute an Aids anti-retro viral drug called Nevaparine.

On the night before Mbeki was supposed to give the annual state of the nation address, Mandela gave a prize for two South African doctors championing the drug. At the awards after loosing his place and stumbling over his words Mandela looked up and said: "At least I am willing to admit when I have made a mistake."

This was serious.

So serious that matter was duly debated in March 2002 at the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) with Mandela present. 'Speaker after speaker stood up to admonish the former president for being "undisciplined". No one came to his defence.

But although chastined, Mandela had won the Aids battle. In April 2002 the government, forced by the party changed it policy.

This, combined with his increasing frailty, says GeVisser made Mandela take his foot of the throttle. In July 2003 came the reconciliation between Mbeki and Mandela.

In a draft message for Mandela's 85th birthday Mbeki lauded Mandela as an example of "the triumph of the human spirit". When Mandela read this his eyes welled up with tears and he asked his assistant to get 'my President on the line.'

Should Mandela break the truce and speak out on Zimbabwe again? In Southern Africa there's little doubt where Mandela stands on the matter. His voice is unlikely to carry any weight with Mugabe, and serve only to antagonise Mbeki - the only person outside Zimbabwe that could lean on Mugabe.

I hope Mandela does say something Friday, but if he does not, I for one won't hold it against him. He has done far more than his fair share.

Mbeki and the South African government is the one that deserves the opprobrium. If there is a protest it should be outside the South African embassy and not in Hyde park.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

BBC looks at SA reconciliation success and failure

This week Mhambi's favorite radio station BBC Radio 4 has flighted two good documentaries about reconciliation in South Africa. The one, is positive and represents all we could hope to have achieved. It tells the story of musician Roger Lucey and security branch policeman Paul Erasmus. Paul effectively destroyed Lucey's career.

Today they are close friends.

The second, Race and Reconciliation, tells the depressing tale of the rise of racism in South Africa. It includes interviews with students from the University of Pretoria and the Skierlik killer's pastor. It was made before the outbreak of xenophobic violence but is good none the less.

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The bitterswet taste of Chinese chocolates

Mhambi read two interesting articles this week, both relating to the Chinese and blackness. The first is a Chinese reporters account on a blog of 'Chocolate City'. Chocolate City is the name Chinese taxi drivers have given to a 10 square kilometer area centered around Hongqiao, the area in Guangzhou China where Africans have settled.

Touch Africans in China
Originally uploaded by triciawang 王 圣 㨗.

'Many taxi drivers aren’t willing to take on “chocolate” customers. They don’t like the nose-irritating perfume, nor the constant bargaining on every trip. Some drivers will use excuses that “you’re too big, the car won’t fit you”, or “I don’t understand your foreign language”; but some don’t care, “driving anybody is just business.”

Based on official statistics, since 2003, the number of Africans in Guangzhou has been growing at 30-40% annually. Based on a report in the Guangzhou Daily, there might already be 100,000 in the community. They come from Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon, Liberia, and Mali. Amongst these, Africa’s most populous country Nigeria claims first place.'

The other is news that South African Chinese will at last be considered 'black' under Black Empowerment legislation.

'The Pretoria High Court on Wednesday granted a landmark ruling that Chinese South Africans are to be included in the definition of "black people" in legislation designed to benefit previously disadvantaged groups.

Judge Cynthia Pretorius granted an order in terms of which Chinese South Africans are included in the definition of "black people" in the Broad-Based Economic Empowerment Act and the Employment Equity Act. Both laws cover Africans, coloureds and Indians.'


SA labour minister Minister Membathisi Mdladlana has been accused of racism for his remarks about the classification of South African Chinese as black.

He said he believed the Chinese who brought the application were targeting the benefits of black economic empowerment.

"That's why other people are having fears, because the fear is that they are business entrepreneurs. I hear people for instance saying, 'We are going to be flooded by everything from China.' We don't know whether that's one of their objectives, that they flood us and then we don't challenge them because they are coloureds. So I suspect that on the BEE front, there could be some serious challenges there."

"On the labour market, I don't think they have given it careful thought, because there they are going to have some serious difficulties in relation to the way they are treating the workers in the workplaces."

"Because in some workplaces, that we have visited together with some of the inspectors, they even refuse to speak English. They say, 'We can't speak English.' Chinese pretend to be dumb when they are not. We know they are not. Chinese are very clever people."

Mdladlana said 90% of Chinese factories inspected by his department had been found "wanting".

"I suppose if I stand up now and say I want to be classified as pink, so maybe a court will agree that you are pink, even if you are not pink."

The Star on Wednesday quoted Patrick Chong, chairperson of the Chinese Association of South Africa, as saying that he was disappointed by the minister's comments.

"I don't think he has missed the point; I think he has missed the entire community. The community that went to court are as South African as the next person and speak English and Afrikaans fluently. We had to learn these languages. Also, the South African Chinese don't own many factories. I can think of only four, and they are in the Western Cape," Chong told the newspaper.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hlophe - the slope just got slippier

"But where's the hope going to come from?"...

Hardly two weeks have gone by since FW de Klerk in an BBC radio interview declared to a concerned Evan Davis that South Africa's legal institutions are sound, and that these legal institutions would be the ballast, the anchor of our ship South Africa, to the certainties and protection of constitutional democracy.

constitutional court
Originally uploaded by saajana.

Hardly had he and today we have the biggest Constitutional Crisis in the country's history. How did it come to this?

Is it because ours is a Constitution born slippy? A slip-shod job at the negotiation table in Kempton perhaps? Were all the legal nuts and safeguarding bolts not fastened? Did we not need more rules on legal decorum and regulations to bolster the importance and sanctity of the judicial institutions?

Sadly, Mhambi does not think it would have made a difference.

All functioning societies require the actors in it to buy into the social contract. To step back from the brink in times of friction for the sake of the whole. It's a kind of rational thing to do.

No state can police everybody. For the great and the good and the great unwashed alike, rules should be obeyed more by way of self imposed deference for them, than by enforcement.

It's supposed to be only crooks that the state has to hold in check through force. And these felons should not be able to count on silence and even acceptance from sections of the ruling elite and society at large.

But ours is a country where Police Chiefs and Judges toy with the law. Ours is a country where senior public officials denigrate their office by refusing to resign until they are proven guilty. Ours is a country where big men are more than big laws.

What exactly transpired when the Constitutional Court decided to release a media statement that they will complain against Judge Hhlophe to the Judicial Service Commission instead of just complaining is unclear as of yet.

But with the benefit of hindsight it was most probably a mistake.

But far greater was the mistake of the JSC not to give Judge Hhlophe the boot earlier, which was after all a clear cut case on more than one serious ground.

But Judges like Bernard Ngoepe seemed more concerned about how it would look to the public if it came to be known that a Judge had not filled in his tax forms than whether he was fit for office.

Transcripts of the hearings show that Judge President Howie asked whether Hlophe had declared his income from Oasis (the company he was earing money from for which he could not produce written consent) for for tax purposes.

When Hlophe sought to evade the question, saying “I have not had any queries raised from the tax authorities”, Howie refused to let him off the hook, demanding that he provide the relevant information to the commission.

Ngoepe later tried to get Howie to back away from this line of questioning, saying he was “quite uncomfortable about such direction because what if someone hears that he has not disclosed that in his tax returns, which means a criminal offence ...”

Er... yeah

That a Judge would approach members of the Constitutional Court Bench in such a brazen fashion and threaten them as is alleged (That he would be the next Judge President and therefor keeper of their judicial fortunes), boggles the mind. I mean if somebody had told me that would happen circa 1994, I would have thought them deranged or racist rabbit hole fantacists.

That the two new Constitutional Court Judges Nkabinde and Jafta allegedly approached by Hlophe now sent a statement to the JSE that they are in fact not complainants and don't intend to give a statement (other than this one), is of course also the stuff of rabbit holes - a very deep stomach turning one.

According to City Press, this came as a surprise to the rest of the Court. I bet.

The JSE has in the meantime asked for the Court whether they should proceed, it can not operate without evidence. That both of the statements made it to the public domain is also extremely peculiar and irregular as they were both intended for the JSE's and parties concerned eyes only.

According to City Press the Constitutional Court wants to fight on, claiming that the two Judges do not have a right to remain silent in this context. I would think that Legal Philosophy would support that view. How could two Judges' silence hold the countries future at ransom? Their silence makes a mockery of Constitutional Court Judges's roles as protectors on the Constitution.

And legal philosophy is what we will need to look to because this is legal terrain so new that little precedent exists.

Bayart points out in the Criminalization of the State in Africa that strong states is antithetical to how much of power is organized in Africa. Real power is often wielded in opaque networks behind the scenes. And power is all that matters.

Open Constitutional Courts have a tendency to get in the way of this kind of power wielded to benefit predatory elites.

This is another sign post on the road to hell.

We might well ask again, where will the hope come from?

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Monday, June 09, 2008

No Afrikaans - Would it be a loss to the planet?

The other day jewish South Africans on It's Almost Supernatural were in a tizz about a letter.

"The letter entitled “We fought apartheid; we see no reason to celebrate it in Israel now!” angers me on so many levels, but none more so than the official endorsement of the letter by the ANC."

Commentator after commentator criticised the ANC as if the end was nigh.

"The logic is quite simple. The ANC (rightly) hates supporters of South African apartheid. If they believe that Israel is an apartheid state then they will hate Israel and its supporters. So if you are a Zionist, let it be known, the ANC officially hates you and would probably prefer it if you left South Africa. If there was no affluence in the local Jewish community, I wonder whether we would still have our place in the South African sun?"

And then I replied:

'This is not logic guys. How can you infer that they would probably prefer that you all leave?

Get a sense of perspective. Jeez. Gary goes on about the murders in Israel. There's no accurate tally but it's been suggested that more than 2000 farmers have been killed in this country since 1994.

You guys are not half as threatened as Afrikaners are and your going on as if the world has ended. If I was you I'd concentrate on defending what you have already achieved - Israel - by making some justified concessions and ignore the ANC.

At the rate things are going now your going to be a minority in your own country and you'll be screwed. Get rid of the illegal settlements for your own sake.'

My point was that Afrikaners are more at peril, because it's a language based identity. The Jews have a state and besides they have a religious based identity and not a language based one. The children of Afrikaner emigrants won't speak Afrikaans.

But a certain contributer, Blacklisted dictator commentated pointedly:

""Afrikaners "have a language based identity" which would be lost by emigrating. If that is the case, it might be better to lose your culture rather than your life?...

If speaking Afrikaans is the be all and end all of your culture/existence, then you should perhaps have a re-think about the meaning of your life. However, I have a clever solution to your dilemma..learn Dutch and emigrate to Amsterdam. It is a great city. Much better than Pretoria or Stellenbosch...

If being Afrikaans is "more than a language", what else does it include?

I supposes, it is primarily direct contact with other Afrikaners in South Africa? The question still unfortunately arises whether Afrikaners have a sustainable future in South Africa. I believe that they don't. As I have previously stated all colours and all faiths should make plans to get out."

And then the coup the grace.

"Would it be a loss to me if this planet lost the Afrikaans culture?

I think that you should put this question in context. Many many cultures are being lost annually throughout the world. It is a sad fact of life."

Indeed, would it be a loss to the world? Would it be a loss to Afrikaners? Does it matter?

I decided not to answer the Blacklisted Dictator. Instead, inspired by Andries Bezuidenhout I made a little compilation of Afrikaans songs about emigration, loss, verlange and heimwee.

Andries was queried about Afrikaans by Wits Phd student Mandisa Mbali recently. Mandisa asked him why he sings in Afrikaans, a dying language? Andries replied, "We want to give it a beautiful funeral."


Afrikaner diaspora songs (best when flying or driving)

When things are going well...
Originally uploaded by j.dubb.


Rian Malan - Trekboer (About missing Africa but being scared of it)

Gert Vlok Nel - Epitaph - (About dreaming of being as far away as possible)

Koos Kombuis - Vêr Van Die Ou Kalahari (About feeling guilty about running away)

Valliant Swart - Banneling (About being an exile)

Andries Bezuidenhout - Bus na Toronto (Remembering the struggle and wars from the safety of the North)

Gert Vlok Nel - Moenie My Hier Vergeet Nie, Dixie (The angst of being left behind in a country where whitches are still burn't)

Gazelle - Die Verlore Seun (Bright lights big city - cause there's a whole world out there - Careful, includes hidden track)

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Mbeki's ANC is Africanist not Nationalist

...and that is the problem.

Nationalism - A double edged sword?

This week Ivor Chipkin, Wits Professor and author of Do South Africans Exist? roundly denounced African Nationalism in a commentary The curse of African nationalism published in the Mail & Guardian.

Chipkin argues that everything from the denial of the current spate of xenophobic attacks to the government response to Aids can be laid at the door of anti-white sentiment driven by African nationalism.

"It would not be an exaggeration to say that government responses since 1994 to as diverse a range of challenges as macroeconomic policy and HIV/Aids have been informed by a preoccupation with race and white racism in particular."

The reason for a pre-occupation by the ANC with whites is obvious he says. "Apartheid was a phenomenon of mass, institutionalised white racism sustained over many decades."

But says Chipkin, because whites held all the human and financial capital - economic development and racial redress were contingent on managing white racism.

This of course makes sense. But the problem was the wildly divergent ways of seeking redress and managing white racism between the Mbeki and Mandela governments.

Mbeki holds the view that whites can not escape their racism. In exile Mbeki even lobbied to deny Joe Slovo leadership of the South African Communist Party on the basis that he was white.

Before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission whites could, so the theory goes, "by recognising their personal and collective complicity in this violence, resurrect their humanity and enter the new South Africa."

But even the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was to be whites' bapticism of fire is insufficient for Mbeki's racial view of the world.

Chipkin is on the button when he says that one of the key ideological tenets of the Mbeki administration has been - "if whites could not escape their racism, then they could not be trusted in public life." This is the essence of what the government transformation policy is says Chipkin.

This thinking is closely associated with "African nationalism" he ads.

"It is distinguished from the politics of non-racialism by its insistence that the post-apartheid government is a black government."

And he diagnoses the negative fall out of this kind "African nationalism". The dismissal of all criticism which is invariably equated as racism. And it works quite simply like this:

1. the government is a black government;
2. criticism of the government is, therefore, criticism of blacks; and
3. criticism is racist.

"The inability to come to terms with the agency of black people is, ironically, the hallmark of African nationalism. It is driven to reduce the actions of blacks to the machinations of others (white racists, in particular). Claims of a "third force" are merely instances of this political logic -- a refusal to come to terms with the racist nationalism of those committing ethnic cleansing throughout the country."

And this is where Mhambi disagrees.

Yes, it's endemic of not just the ANC but also white left-wingers like law blogger Pierre De Vos to present black South Africans as marionettes and to routinely abrogate them from responsibility. Rhoda Kadalie was right when she said that black South Africa has clothed themselves as perpetual victims that makes them oblivious to their own hate.

My problem with Chipkin's piece comes from the description of this phenomena as African nationalism and equating the xenophobic events in the townships with the government's ideology.

As I pointed out in another post it may well be a chauvinistic nationalism that drove the xenophobic violence. It may well be that the fantastical Africanist ideology of the government made for fertile xenophobic soil, by not controlling immigration. But the xenophobia should not be confused with the government's "dominant racially exclusive Africanist ideology" as Van Zyl Slabbert describes it.

Even if this racial Africanism tries to excuse the chauvinistic nationalism, the nationalism actually stands in opposition to much of Africanism.

I would argue that this Africanist ideology is not classically nationalist at all.

Anthony D. Smith of Nationalism and Ethnicty School at the London School of Economics, is considered one of the founders of the interdisciplinary field of nationalism studies.

According to Anothony Smith, the preconditions for the formation of a nation are as follows:

  • A fixed homeland (current or historical)
  • High autonomy
  • Hostile surroundings
  • Memories of battles
  • Sacred centers
  • Languages and scripts
  • Special customs
  • Historical records and thinking

Those preconditions may create powerful common mythology. It's easy to see why on a massive continent with so many divergent culture's, and such weak transport and communication links, the drive for one African Nationalism is a fantasy and out of kilter with reality.

Smith also posits that nationalisms are formed through the inclusion of the whole populace and not just elites. And nations can me multi-ethnic. It's easy to see how the joint fight, often organised on a civic basis, by the grass roots against apartheid could have contributed to a uniting of our different ethic mythologies. Combine this with labour mobility, good transport, and even achievements like winning the rugby world cup and it's easy to see how South Africans can begin to see themselves as a nation.

Although Smith thinks that nations often have some much earlier pri-mordial base that helps the building of the national myth he recognizes that nationalism as a powerful force first presented itself in the 19th century as civic nationalism. It was an age when the winds of change blew through Europe.

When the uniter of Italy, the nationalist Garibaldi arrived in England he was welcomed by English radicals as a progressive. Why?

Because this is the form of nationalism in which the state derives political legitimacy from the active participation of its citizenry, from the degree to which it represents the "will of the people".

This nationalist movement had it's base in the people, uniting them against autocratic rulers.

It is often seen as originating with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and especially the social contract theories. Civic nationalism lies within the traditions of rationalism and liberalism.

When Jacob Zuma was warned to wild cheers to shape up or ship out in a township in Springs, we witnessed perhaps the benign side nationalism introduced to Europe in the 19th century that is normally so lacking in Africa.

A nationalism that not only makes it citizens ask, what can I do for my nation, and not what I can get from my nation. It makes it's people citizens in the first place.

Compare this to Africanism with its woolly insistence of African unity and it's often criticised disrespect for Africa's difference. In this respect the Africanists are much like the Euro centric westerners they despise, they all see Africa as a country.

Africanism is elitist, and sees the whole African continent as the domain of the powerful. The people itself, nevermind their will is all but ignored. Practical evidence of this is for all to see. African leaders at African forums rarely choose the side of populations in opposition to their elite piers.

This clash between nationalism and Africanism explains the ANC and Thabo Mbeki's acute embarrassment when well organised xenophobic nationalism burst his Africanist dream. The people attacked were not white. And allegations of the attacks being driven by Zulu's not withstanding, the hatred united South Africans across - until recently very divisive - ethnic and regional lines.

Intellectually Mbeki would have been allot more comfortable if it was white South Africans being attacked. It would have fitted neatly into his grand narrative of incurable white racism as the source of the countries ills.

After all his biography, A Dream Deferred, references a favourite Mbeki poem used by him to sound a warning to whites in parlaiment.

What happens to a dream deferred?

It explodes.

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