Youth camp saga: MEC Sihlwayi reacts


Eastern Cape MEC for Social Development Nancy Sihlwayi has lashed out at the Democratic Alliance (DA) for laying “ill-conceived” charges of racism against her, after newspaper reports alleged she refused inviting a number of disadvantaged children to a state-sponsored camp in Port Alfred, due to their skin colour.

On Monday, DA MPL Veliswa Mvenya said the party had written to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and referred Sihlwayi to the provincial legislature, to investigate claims that her department only accepted black youths at the camp, and that her Chief of Staff later expressed anger at an official for allowing six out of the 200 youths to be white.

In a statement posted by News24, Sihlwayi said Mvenya’s comments, although shocking, does not come as a surprise given the recent saga surrounding the comments made by now sacked former DA Shadow Minister of Police, Dianne Kohler-Barnard.

“For someone with my background and ANC struggle credentials, this is a serious insult, because I have dedicated my whole life to the struggle against racism and sexism,” Sihlwayi said.

“Like her party, with its overwhelming political history of protecting and serving white privilege, [Mvenya] does not seem to appreciate the basic reality that racial equality can only be achieved when the playing field for all racial groups is equal.

“Affirmative action in general, and specifically BEE, are genuine instruments to address our historical legacy with the perpetual inequalities and very real disadvantages that black people continue to suffer up to this day. Therefore by the very same token that it is not racist to enquire about the race of a person in order to implement Black Economic Empowerment, it is not racist to enquire about the race of young people who attended the government funded and organised youth camps that my department is responsible for”.

Sihlwayi also stated that the camps adhere to the requirement contained in the National Youth Development Act (NYDA), adding that she makes no apologies for inviting mainly black youths to attended camps, due to the high unemployment rate caused by the past.

Taking a further swipe at Mvenya, Sihlwayi remarked that she, “as an African woman” chooses to ignore the plight of black youths in favour of serving “the interest of white privilege in the DA”.

“She should be ashamed of herself! Has she got no self-respect? In her we sadly see what Steve Biko so aptly described as white colonialism of the black mind,” Sihlwayi said, before accusing DA leader, Mmusi Maimane, of “having sold his soul to the DA’s white masters”.

“He tripped over himself trying to defend Afrikaans as the main language of instruction at Stellenbosch, and in doing so alienated himself from the black student struggle for a more inclusive language policy.

“Instead of being the DA’s ‘great black hope’, he has exposed himself as a black front-man defending white minority privilege. The real leaders and bosses of the DA continue to be [Federal Chairperson] Athol Trollip and James Selfe, who shamelessly use black DA members to do their dirty work,” Sihlwayi said, adding that Mvenya should stop herself “from being used and abused by these white men”.