Max du Preez

ANC disregards the ordinary masses

2015-05-26 09:46
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Max du Preez

The one constant in the ANC’s rhetoric and propaganda over the decades was its supposed commitment to the liberation and upliftment of the masses, of the ordinary people.

But the harsh reality is that the party has over the last 21 years mostly served a small elite and largely left the masses to their own devices.

On the weekend president Jacob Zuma spoke with nostalgia about what our country looked like four hundred years ago. There was peace and joy before “the others” arrived, he told an Africa Day gathering in Mamelodi.

It is time that people told him that he and his party are copying too many of the former white rulers’ many bad habits and not enough of their few good ones.

Leaders lived in luxury

The ANC’s instinct to focus on the needs and interests of the elite stems from its days in exile.

There is enough evidence - credible books, interviews and papers - that demonstrate that the ANC’s political and military leaders in exile lived in relative luxury while the soldiers in the camps lived in misery. On many documented occasions those guerrillas that stood up and complained were called mutineers or apartheid agents and jailed, even tortured and in some cases executed.

This attitude did not change after 1994. Former editor Barney Mthombothi wrote on the weekend that Edwin Hlape Melato, who was an Umkhonto we Sizwe soldier for 30 years, died last week without ever living in a decent house. He lived in a shack from the day he came home and was on a waiting list for a RDP house since 1994.

Melato’s plight is not unique. Thousands of MK veterans, people who gave their lives to the struggle for liberation, live like paupers because they have simply been ignored since 1990. They served their purpose, now they can look after themselves.

Disregard for the ordinary masses

Ironically, the ANC appointed a man who had deserted from an MK camp exactly because of the poor living conditions, Kebby Maphatsoe, as deputy minister tasked with looking after these veterans. Many struggling veterans say he now lives the life of a rich and important person and doesn’t care about their plight.

We also see the ANC’s disregard for the ordinary masses in its black economic empowerment policies. Over the last 20 years this has made a handful of people very rich, but millions of poor and unemployed people still barely survive in squatter camps and townships.

The government recently proposed changes to the black empowerment codes that would again have benefited a few individuals and black-owned businesses rather than employees and community trusts. This proposal was dropped last week, but it does demonstrate the mentality.

The government has now allocated R23bn to the establishment of a hundred or so black industrialists. Yes, R23bn. It is indeed important to establish more black people in business and industry, but where is the concomitant action to stimulate tens of thousands of entrepreneurs?

Struggle to survive

Zuma himself sees nothing wrong with spending R246m of public money on his own palatial village in an area plagued by extreme poverty. The ANC treats the Zulu king like a billionaire celebrity while his subjects struggle to survive.

You will never encounter a member of the ANC elite in a bed in a state hospital. These institutions, many of them places where patients are treated inhumanely and go to die, are only for the plebs.

Children of the ANC elite go to private schools or the so-called former Model C schools outside the townships where they get excellent education. The children of the working class and unemployed receive the poorest education in virtually the entire Africa.

Populist politicians regularly and with great emotion blame the white minority for the persisting inequality in our society. The white community should take this seriously and admit to its own privileges and responsibilities. But these politicians would have a lot more credibility if they were seen to have the interests of the masses rather than their own comfort at heart.

Resist being sidetracked

Black students who now want to radically “decolonise” formerly white dominated universities should be taken seriously.

Black writers who withdraw from “white” literary festivals and advise whites to stop going to townships to help the poor and rather work on their own “stained selves” should be engaged in debate.

Black commentators who tell whites to shut up, butt out of the national discourse and withdraw to a corner to examine their whiteness and privilege should not be ignored.

But all South Africans, white and black, should resist being sidetracked from the most pressing problems challenging our nation: poverty, unemployment, rotten education, weak health services and a lack of basic services to townships, squatter camps and deep rural areas.

We should not allow the privileged and the elite to hold us captive with their narratives while the marginalised majority stew in their own juices.

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