When will we hear the Gupta alarm bells?

2013-05-05 14:00

One of my childhood heroes and co-founder of the black consciousness movement, Barney Pityana, was pilloried by government apologists when he wrote an open letter asking President Jacob Zuma to resign.

It is worth quoting Pityana at length and to ask you, dear reader, to reach your own conclusions about whether he was right or not about at least one thing: the influence of the Gupta family on our national life.

He asked: “What about the Guptas, citizens of India, who have managed to ingratiate themselves and worm themselves into the very heart of this nation.

“The benefits are obvious: they get to summon ministers to their compound and issue instruction; they manipulate the cricket governing council with disastrous results; and the paper they publish has access to large resources from state agencies for which no other newspaper was invited to tender.

“Yes, we are in the midst of a new Infogate Scandal! It can only be in a ‘banana republic’ that foreign elements can succeed so easily. I wonder where else is that happening and what about the security of the state? That would definitely never happen in India.”

Those who attacked Pityana were of course shooting the messenger. The truth of his message would not go away.

Now we learn that the Guptas landed in one of our national key access points for a wedding of one of their children. This country has literally become the playground of this one foreign family.

Embarrassed by this occurrence, the ANC leadership has sought to distance itself from the debacles – as if they had never been forewarned about this eventuality.

What else must the Guptas do for anyone to realise that they have gone too far? ANC leaders know as well as I do about the ministers who are summoned by the Gupta family.

Who really is in charge of this country? What else needs to happen before the ANC smells the coffee, or do they have a bad case of sinusitis?

In his letter, Pityana also complained about how Zuma and his government have continually undermined the intelligence of ordinary South Africans.

The attempt to deflect responsibility for the landing by making the chief of protocol the sacrificial lamb is just one example of the dumbing down of South Africans that Pityana was describing in his letter.

If the newspapers had not exposed this calumny, the Guptas might as well have partied happily ever after at Waterkloof Air Base. What kind of society is this that allows its sovereignty to be violated in this way? I cannot think of a more disdainful display of disrespect for the integrity of people of this country.

But you see, maybe we deserve the disrespect. That’s what happens when you keep on voting for the same party for a good 20 years. The leaders could take our young people to wars in foreign lands without our knowledge or approval, as they did in the Central African Republic, and we would vote them back into power.

They could take our troops to fight on the side of Joseph Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

And whose interests are our soldiers really protecting when they go off to fight in these faraway lands? Are we really threatened in any serious way by these countries, or do our leaders have deals with some of these leaders that must then be protected with the blood of South African soldiers?

If there are legitimate national interests, why can’t they be aired in Parliament? I know we have a pretty toothless Parliament. The ­

ANC-dominated Parliament behaves no differently from the National Party-dominated Parliament – just follow the leader wherever he leads you. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed giant leads indeed.

For all I care, Zuma could ask us to commit national suicide and we would all be competing to be chief volunteers. In any self-respecting country, the decision to send soldiers into the battlefield does not rest on any single individual.

History is replete with examples of what happens when citizens give up their personal judgement for that of political parties and their leaders.

Maybe it is time we stopped looking to Zuma for our travails and started examining our own individual culpability in destroying this country.

Still, sending decisions about war to Parliament would provide an opportunity for public discussion, even if it is not likely to affect how the political hacks behave. Who knows, one day they might wake up with a little bit of conscience in their heads.

You would think that if the politicians don’t listen or learn from experience, the voters would. But there is no such luck in South Africa. Black people will keep voting for the same dudes over and over again until we are tired.

Maybe Barney Pityana got it only half-right. The problem is not just Zuma, the problem is us. We get the democracy we deserve – or is it the kleptocracy we deserve?

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