Guest Column

Pillars of democracy toppling one by one

2017-08-02 12:45
Dr Makhosi Khoza. (Lindile Mbontsi, Gallo Images, Daily Sun)

Dr Makhosi Khoza. (Lindile Mbontsi, Gallo Images, Daily Sun)

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Sonwabile Ngxiza

Over the past two decades our respective leaders have lauded our democracy by amiably ascribing our political stability on the independence of state institutions, including the judiciary and institutions supporting democracy. 

Importantly, the maturity of our democracy is lauded for inspiring political tolerance amongst political parties in particular and the South African polity in general. The much vaunted stability and maturity of our democratic project is brazenly eroded with increasing intensity in the current conjuncture. 

This has become clear in a string of allegations of corporate capture of the state and emerging evidence of rabid corruption and looting contained in leaked e-mails involving the emigrant family from India under the guidance of President Zuma.

The stratagem of weakening the law enforcement agencies and ultimately the judiciary is aimed at avoiding the long arm of the law from reaching the culprits. 

The inexplicable break-ins at the Chief Justice, the National Prosecuting Authority and Hawks offices signal deliberate and calculated attempts to destroy the integrity of the judiciary and compromise the law enforcement apparatuses. 

The modus operandi of these break-ins shows a disturbing pattern of a well orchestrated ploy to steal computers and confidential information about the justices and files containing sensitive details of on-going investigations. 

Undermining the rule of law epitomises the hallmarks strategy to evade justice. The break-ins are but a manifestation of a consistent ploy that has been aggressively implemented over a period. The latest incarnation of undermining the rule of law was preceded by the appointment of questionable characters to head strategic law enforcement agencies despite negative findings by various courts. 

History is littered with such names as Simelane, Jiba, Mrwebi and Ntlemeza to name a few of those dubious individuals. 

It appears that the phase of political interference in these institutions has been replaced by a criminal offensive (stealing of confidential information about judges and on-going cases) to destroy evidence and therefore evade criminal prosecution.

These fugitives of justice have always asked for their day in court and not conviction by a court of public opinion. But the destruction of the law enforcement apparatuses also destroys public confidence in the criminal justice system which means our democratic project is severely impaired. 

Those who abuse political power with reckless impunity have tacitly cultivated a culture of political intolerance that is simmering beneath the surface. The intimidation of journalists for exposing corruption and brazen looting of public resources through capture of the state and related entities are but symptoms of a wider systemic destruction of the very fabric of our democracy. 

Patriots who are vocal opponents of the looting spree and who want to restore revolutionary morality, good governance and reclaim our national and economic sovereignty are targets. 

The prime example is the frontal attack on Solly Mapaila, the first deputy general secretary of the SACP, and his family. Media reports suggest that the SACP has increased his security detail in lieu of the increased threats by henchmen, particularly the ANCYL who have become a private militia unleashed to fight proxy wars as part of wider factional battles. 

Political killings are fast becoming commonplace as we regularly learn about the assassination of leaders in Mpumalanga, Northwest and KwaZulu-Natal. 

With the 8th of August on the horizon the desperation of the looting brigade will increase and no one will be spared from intimidation and threats to the lives of men and women of integrity such as Solly and Dr Makhosi Khoza will be heightened.

Against this background it would be foolhardy to take light the threats to comrade Solly’s life. Unfortunately, our Minister of Police has not showed any particular zeal to deal decisively with these threats outside comical press conferences. 
Who must protect the brave men and women who denounce wrongdoing when law enforcement is severely compromised? Who must be the last line of defense for our democracy and public resources?

We would do well in this sordid state to recall the observation by the Lutheran Minister, Martin Niemöller during the Nazi reign of terror which culminated into the Holocaust:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The pillars (including an independent judiciary and culture of political tolerance) of the democratic project are gradually but with increasing intensity being eroded and it is easy to destroy and the costs will be severe. The costs of rebuilding will be even heftier. 

The costs of constructing this democracy were severe, people paid the ultimate price and if we allow the descent into anarchy we will have no one to blame. And if we allow those of speak truth to power to be terrorised there will be no one to defend our democracy.

- Ngxiza is 2nd Deputy Provincial Secretary of the SACP in the Western Cape. He writes in his personal capacity.

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