Staying silent

2010-03-17 00:00

RECENTLY, two university vice chancellors have shown the kind of bold leadership they knew would make them unpopular with the government. I refer here to Professor Jonathan Jansen from the University of the Free State (whom I have written about in a previous column) and Dr Max Price, vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town.

I commend Price for taking a public and principled stand in support of student Chumani Maxwele, who was brutally arrested for allegedly showing the presidential cavalcade the finger. In a recent Sunday Times column, Price reminds the government that his protest and that of his campus, comes from the same lineage of protests against apartheid that made UCT’s Jameson steps famous.

Maxwele’s arrest demonstrates that the more beleaguered our president and the ANC become, the more fascist tendencies will come to the fore, and the arrest of an innocent jogger who shows his displeasure at the ANC’s constant display of “mine is bigger than yours” portends something deeply sinister about where we’re heading.

It has often been said that the ANC would display worrying tendencies at the prospect of losing at the polls. And this flagrant abuse of power against the weak shows how near to the surface the Quattro brutality lurks.

To haul Maxwele into their car, cover his head with a bag, and search his home harks back to the kragdadigheid era of P. W. Botha.

In all of this, the Human Rights Commission and local commissioner, Pregs Govender, have been silent. So co-opted and pleased are the deployed cadres that they no longer hold the government accountable.

Not only was the arrest a hideou­s abuse of power, it was also a gross violation of Maxwele’s human rights. It was an infringement upon his right to freedom and security of person, dignity, privacy and freedom of expression. It rendered the police powerless to act against the head of state and so they arrested Maxwele instead, knowing there was no case against him.

The silence around this case, except for the UCT protests, demonstrates how docile we have become as a public. Julius Malema, a recipient of state tenders, becomes an instant millionaire and flagrantly displays his wealth by using the stadium in Polokwane to celebrate his birthday, and all we do is gasp in disbelief. This buffoon, who was a baby in 1994, and who now claims to be a freedom fighter, is nothing but a thief, stealing our hard-earned money.

We don’t need lifestyle audits; we need criminal investigations and arrests of those who steal taxpayers’ money. And, to quote Price: “… [W]e must mobilise and we must hold politicians to account … We must demand upright citizenship in our leaders, in public servants and in every person who lives in our country … That is also why it is so important to reject corruption, the abuse of power, and public officials’ lies and unaccountability.”

The Maxwele case is directly related to the recent Eskom electricity tariff hike by 25%, by which the ANC is set to benefit by millions of rands, and we are silent. Whether or not we vote for the ANC, we, the public, are putting millions into the ANC’s coffers, unwittingly supporting a party we do not even vote for.

Referring to the fact that the ANC’s Chancellor House funding arm stands to make more than a billion rand from its partnership with Hitachi in the contracts for the Medupi power station, Business Day editor Peter Bruce remarked incredulously: “Never was thieving so simple.” This deal, by cosmic coincidence, is costing 30% more than equivalent units built elsewhere, and conveniently, Valli Moosa was both chairman of Eskom and a member of the ANC fundraising committee when the contract was signed. He failed to mention that major contracts, tenders and BEE deals are awarded on an understanding that the ANC gets its slice for the elite.

An uncontested Sunday Times front-page lead on March 9, 2008, revealed how the party had received its cut of R9 million, through Saki Macozoma in the R1,5 billion Stanlib BEE deal.

The ANC’s theft of billions of rands which could otherwise have been used to uplift the poor has had catastrophic consequences for service delivery. The party has countered the consequent protests by setting up an unsustainable, noncontributory, social grant system, derived from a rapidly shrinking tax base.

A-loota Continua the Vampire State.

• Rhoda Kadalie is a human rights activist based in Cape Town and author of In Your Face: Passionate conversations about people and politics, Tafelberg, 2009.

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