Rhoda Kadalie is a black feminist who was active in the fight against apartheid, served on the South African Commission on Human Rights in the administration of President Nelson Mandela, and worked with George Soros to fund development projects in poor communities.
Rhoda, who now lives in Los Angeles (she’s my mother-in-law), was also an early supporter of President Donald Trump and remains so to this day. Her political journey offers lessons for a nation struggling with race and democracy.
Born in 1953 in Cape Town’s colorful District Six – which was later devastated by the apartheid regime – Rhoda grew up colored or mixed race. Her grandfather had been Clements Kadalie, a migrant from Malawi, the first black trade unionist in South Africa.
Her father was a musician turned pastor and the family moved to the suburb of Mowbray to run the town’s public laundry. But the area was declared “white” and all of its black families were evicted in the early 1970s.
Rhoda attended the University of the Western Cape, a segregated campus dedicated to people of color. Inspired by writer Steve Biko and his Black Consciousness philosophy, students began protesting against apartheid and rejecting distinctions between its “non-white” victims.
Rhoda began to advocate for the role of women, who were overlooked and even abused by male leaders in the movement. As a faculty member, she later built the Gender Equality Department on campus. As a result of her efforts, women at the university received benefits such as equal pay, maternity leave and protection from sexual harassment.
Rhoda also took part in discussions on including women’s rights in South Africa’s new constitution. Her efforts garnered national attention, and after the first multi-ethnic democratic elections in 1994, she was appointed to the Human Rights Commission and soon became its most active member and best-known public face.
Rhoda demanded that South Africa live up to the standards of its new democratic order. Having studied in The Hague in the 1980s with women from around the world who were activists in their own country’s liberation struggles, she knew that post-colonial governments were prone to corruption and institutional failure. When the ruling African National Congress (ANC) faltered in its commitment to human rights, she resigned in protest and urged Mandela to pass reforms.
She then founded Impumelelo, an organization that supports successful public-private partnerships in local communities. With funding from Soros and other donors, she also created a database of best practices that she hoped the government would use to scale up local successes.
At the same time, Rhoda began writing regular columns for local newspapers, often denouncing the government for its growing corruption – and increasingly for its racial exploitation.
While she supported Affirmative Action and the idea of redistribution known as “black economic empowerment,” Rhoda opposed those policies if they meant lowering standards or making big deals for “disadvantaged” ruling party insiders.
When Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, endorsed racist conspiracy theories about HIV/AIDS and supported Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe’s anti-white outrage, Rhoda was among the first South Africans to speak out in protest.
She remained a member of the ANC but criticized it from within, supporting the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) in several elections – although she also criticized the DA, particularly its hasty promotion of black leaders to counter the party. white” image.
Rejecting political correctness, Rhoda was most vocal when she criticized the South African media, academia and business leaders for their endorsement of what we would today call “awakened” racial ideology.
Rhoda eventually broke with Soros and also spoke out in defense of Israel, defying the pro-Palestinian consensus on the left and speaking out against the anti-Semitism that often crept into anti-Israel activism. She infuriated her critics but gained a wide base of readers and fans.
A keen observer of American politics, Rhoda was skeptical about the rise of Barack Obama and saw him as a largely empty shell. As then-Sen. Obama (D-IL) visited Cape Town and gave a speech which she disliked in principle. Few suspected as she did that his presidency would end in disappointment.
Conversely, Rhoda was interested in Donald Trump and saw him as one scollie – a “brawler” in South African slang – who would shake up a complacent American establishment.
Trump wasn’t the only candidate to impress Rhoda. She enjoyed watching Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) take aim at Hillary Clinton and cheered when businesswoman Carly Fiorina confronted Trump about his past rhetoric about women.
Above all, Rhoda saw the need for a more open American political debate, less constrained by the same rules of political correctness and identity politics that she believed had prevented South African democracy from fulfilling its full potential.
The chaos of the 2020 election has left her disillusioned with American democracy, but she sees hope in the backlash against the “awakening.”
As a committed Christian, Rhoda has also spoken out for the rights of gays and lesbians her whole life. She’s always been pro-choice, although she’s also opposed to partial birth abortion and has spoken out against the extremism of planned parenthood.
Rhoda has a unique ability to embrace political contradictions. Her approach to democracy is pragmatic, not ideological: she favors a diversity of views, including those she dislikes, because this gives citizens the greatest leverage to hold politicians accountable.
Her remarkable journey teaches that a true love of freedom transcends the categories that often limit our political thinking.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and presenter of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday nights from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET (4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. PT). He is the author of the forthcoming biography, Rhoda: Comrade Kadalie, you are out of order!. RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship winner. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.