Sour Grapes as former head of SA Human Rights Commission attacks Rhoda Kadalie

Former South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) Chair Barney Pityana, a theologian by training, is exploiting the recent death of anti-apartheid feminist Rhoda Kadalie in an attempt to redeem her shoddy record with the organization.

In an opinion piece in the online version of the South African newspaper Sunday hoursPityana attacked Kadalie as an “argumentative” and “divisive” colleague who worked hard but “didn’t see the need to practice collegiality” and “had no respect for some of her peers”.

Given widespread public dissatisfaction with most South African government departments, including the nominally independent but disappointing SAHRC, few readers would take a former civil servant who claims to have more “respect” seriously.

But Pityana seems determined to resist the many tributes that have followed Kadalie’s death on Saturday, most of whom have noted with approval that she has resigned from SAHRC in protest at her growing ineptitude.

Pityana wants to clear things up but has problems with basic facts like the date of Kadalie’s dismissal: she left in 1997, not 2000 as he claims.

She wrote to Pityana: “In my opinion, much (not all) of the service we provide is mediocre and many at HRC seem happy to just drag their feet, producing shoddy work because they get away with it.”

When Pityana tried to claim that SAHRC lacked funding, Kadalie said that “more money will not solve management issues.”

After she left, SAHRC began to shift its focus from rights in the South African constitution and focus on topics of interest to the African National Congress.

In 2000, for example, it held hearings on alleged racism in the South African media, paralleling then-President Thabo Mbeki’s attempt to dismiss all criticism as racism. Kadalie criticized the SAHRC, accusing Pityana of becoming the “self-proclaimed thought police” and violating freedom of expression.

Two decades later, Pityana still cannot defend his leadership of the SAHRC on merit. He resorts to petty personal attacks.

He admits that Kadalie was an “absolute professional” but claims (falsely) that she resigned because of a “joke”; that she quarreled with staff over what he calls “the minor infractions”; and that she raised objections “indiscreetly”, “in open meetings of the commission”. He speculates about her “unhappiness”: “I don’t think she enjoyed her time on the commission,” he opines.

In fact, Kadalie said in 1997, “I love this job and I didn’t want to do it. [resign]. It is a very efficient office with very limited resources. I want this job, but on better terms. I am not satisfied with the way the organization is managed.”

She was seen as the most effective member of the SAHRC, in part because it focused on the Western and Northern Cape provinces to which she had been assigned. assigned.

Pityana now says she was “very regionally focused”; in other words, she did her job very well.

No doubt Kadalie, if she were still alive, would have deconstructed the sexist connotations in the Pityana attacks – as she did in 2003, when Chris Barron wrote a “chauvinistic” article about Helen Suzman, a strong liberal and Kadalie’s former colleague at the SAHRC. . (Barron, who wrote a laudatory obituary of Kadalie for the Schedules, concluded by imagining that he had few “remaining” friends in South Africa because of his support for Donald Trump. Old habits, it seems, die hard.)

Pityana complains that Kadalie “took the side of the late Helen Suzman” on SAHRC’s communication policies. Suzman also resigned from the commission, a year after Kadalie, because she felt she was being “forgotten”. At no point did Pityana seem concerned about the departure of the two most trusted members of the SAHRC.

After destroying Kadalie, Pityana offers condolences to the family and wishes Kadalie “peaceful passage to her heavenly rest”. It’s not hard to imagine his two-word answer.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor at Breitbart News and host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday nights from 7pm to 10pm ET (4pm to 7pm PT). He is the author of the next biography, Rhoda: Comrade Kadalie, you are out of order!. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also Rhoda Kadalie’s son-in-law. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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