Timely arrest of vulgarity and violence

2012-06-16 09:44

It has been said before that politics is war by other means. Even those who agree with this notion might agree that politics is a more preferable means to the other way wars are ­normally waged.

In the age of alleged enlightenment, seeking acivilised ways of settling conflicts must be the norm rather than the exception.

Unfortunately and too often though, those ­involved in politics forget that there are rules even in the other ways wars are fought.

The Supreme Court of Appeal ruling this week that unions must take financial responsibility for the damage caused by its striking members, and Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu agreeing to apologise to Western Cape Premier and DA leader Helen Zille, must remind us of the place of civility in the social discourse.

Shivambu had called Zille a “racist girl” and “sick woman” and said that her all-male members of the provincial government were her boyfriends and concubines.

Malema called Zille’s executive a “group of racist Helen Zille garden boys”.

Conflict is an inherent part of a diverse society. Holding viewpoints different from others or having demands that you believe are legitimate is never a good reason to opt for vulgarity or violence. South Africans must learn to engage against their rivals in a civil manner.

We reject the notion that in politics and in wage strikes, all is fair in love and war. Trade unions, student organisations and communities have too often resorted to uncivilised ways of engaging with their opponents. They have in the past done this knowing that there will be no consequences.

It had to stop somewhere.

The Supreme Court of Appeal ruling and the courts forcing the Malema-Shivambu climb-down are significant for the development of our rules
of engagement.

They do not in any way say that unions cannot publicly flex their muscles nor that politicians should pussyfoot around each other.

The decisions are timely arrests of the ­degeneration of discourse. We are all for ­robustness in the political and social discourse.

If armed conflict can have regulations such as the Geneva Convention, we too can be civil with our ideological opponents. 

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