Mondli Makhanya

Just do the right thing

2017-03-26 06:26
Mondli Makhanya. (City Press)

Mondli Makhanya. (City Press)

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Mondli Makhanya

At the height of the Nkandla controversy, ANC leaders and public representatives were almost evangelical in the defence of their leader and his wayward ways.

Whenever given the opportunity they would go to great lengths - often contradicting themselves in mid-sentence - to justify that R246m that had been spent on that eyesore on the side of the hill.

In Parliament, they ululated and clapped when the thuggish parliamentary security guards manhandled those demanding that the giggly president should “pay back the money.”

It is now well-documented history that former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela earned her horns from her principled pursuit of right in this matter.

During the sham parliamentary inquiry the ANC behaved most shamefully, refusing to be on the correct side of legality , ethics and fiscal rectitude.

In essence the ANC stood on the wrong side of everything that it professes to stand for. It stood on the wrong side of society .

In a warped kind of way one could try to understand the ANC’s stance in the context of all that has gone wrong with the organisation over the past decade or so.

One could understand that for some bizarre reason the part faithful needed to stand by the leader at all costs , regardless of how he was costing the country. I did say warped so please don’t judge.

It took a decision of the Constitutional Court to get the ANC to accept that it had been wrong and everyone else had been right . By which time much so much damage had been done to the.

Social grants crisis

Now if the logic behind the defence of Nkandla was warped, the inertia around the social grants crisis has been diabolical.

The "home of the poor" and "the disciplined force of the left" has folded its arms as the livelihoods of 17 million welfare recipients was jeopardised by an unholy alliance of somnambulant minister, a greedy multinational and shadowy figures.

While it has many critics who blame it for creating a culture of dependency, the extension of the welfare net has been a signature policy intervention of the post -1994 government.

For millions of South Africans it is the difference between starvation and survival and for many it has been the difference been the ticket a child getting through school or being reduced to a life of herding livestock or sniffing glue.

But the governing party could not bring itself to defend a policy that, more than any other, has brought it credibility in the eyes of the bulk of the population.

It took public outrage, civil society action and the courts to get the ANC to accept that it had to be activist on the side of right.

Thankfully the authors of the ANC’s pre-policy conference discussion documents recognise this warn that the party’s failure to play a leadership role is harming not only itself but the rest of society.

The Strategy and Tactics discussion document cautions that “the sense of hope in broader society is dissipating” and “social cohesion seems to be withering”

“Instead of being the centre of transformative and ethical rectitude,increasingly the ANC and the government it leads have occasionally to be directed from elsewhere– in the manner of ‘lawfare’ – to do right.

"The moral suasion that the ANC has wielded to lead society is waning; and the electorate is starting more effectively to assert its negative judgement,” the document says.

The term “lawfare” has been in ANC parlance for sometime now, but from a defensive posture. The party has previously accused opposition parties of waging lawfare against by going to court to win battles they could not win on the political terrain.

The same accusation has been levelled at civil society formations and NGOs who have taken the government to court to force it to do the obvious.

At least there is a sentiment in the ANC that lawfare would be unnecessary if it did right thing in the first place.

ANC's reach

To be fair to the current ANC it was not under its watch that it found itself on the wrong side of public discourse and had to be forced by pressure and the courts to change course.

The first landmark example was the defeat of the Aids denialist policies of the Thabo Mbeki era.

But back then it was not the defence of wrongness for the sake of defending wrongness.

Mbeki believed - wrongly and devastatingly- that he was he saving his people from rapacious drug companies and that he knew medical science better than medical scientists.

The current period has seen ministers and arms of state arrogantly spend public money on cases they know they have no chance of winning and which are in defence of obviously illegal actions.

And everytime the courts have put them in their place. With tails between they have fone back to do the right thing.

The Strategy and Tactics document points out the ABC “ still contains the main ingredients of the glue that holds South African society together” and its weakening can “ undermine the state and the democratic system as a whole.”

While this may sound self-serving, it contains lots truth.

Because of the ANC’s ubiquiutous reach into all sectors and corners of society, its clumsy disintegration and disregard for the rule portends terribly for South Africa’s present and future - regardless of who is in charge.

“With optimism and hope among the people squandered, the social tinder of old and new contradictions can explode in a raging fire,” warns the document.

Read more on:    sassa  |  anc  |  nkandla  |  thabo mbeki  |  thuli madonsela
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