I was 13 years old on 27 April 1994, a standard 5 laaitie who was blissfully unaware of the true impact this day had on the country.
Like so many other white children my age, I was never told what the meaning of apartheid was, nor of the position it placed South Africa in, internationally speaking.
Luckily, my parents were more enlightened than others, and never brainwashed me into the “swart gevaar” type thinking so many other white Afrikaners did with their children, leaving space for me to make up my own mind as to what was right and wrong, not just in terms of politics, but also from a human rights perspective.
The one thing I do remember was the reference made by white adults during the late 80’s and early 90’s to the infamous “Rubicon Speech” by PW Botha in August 1985.
This eloquent reference stems from a sentence used by Botha, in saying “...today we have crossed the Rubicon”, basically snubbing the Western Allies, as well as anyone fighting for the abolishment of apartheid at that stage, when he rather re-enforced a slow transition through Afrikaner Nationalism, than released Nelson Mandela as the world expected him to do.
Today, historically, these words are used to refer to the speech that literally gave meaning to Botha’s words, when the country did cross the Rubicon (or basically reached the turning point) in its existence as all knew it, at that stage.
What followed was the intensifying of sanctions by the Western Allies, exponentially increasing MK activity, intense rallies and protests spearheaded by the United Democratic Front (UDF), the tumbling of the value of the Rand, and more importantly, the start of the decline of white support for the National Party, seeing past allies and friends becoming opposition and enemies.
The ANC of today had made many mistakes, just as the NP did during its rule, but eventually, it took one speech to effect a turning point in 1984, just as it took one last, ill conceived decision in the late 2000’s by the current government to break the camel’s back.
Never before has the current ruling party seen such opposition as with SANRAL’s E-tolling system, culminating in a victory for the people, and in importance, almost equalling the 1992 referendum’s landslide “Yes” vote.
As with 1984, the ANC managed to alienate massive support from its own people, in this instance, spearheaded by COSATU, its single biggest political ally.
Although this wasn’t the first time COSATU took exception to the government, it most certainly is the most successful, putting in motion a momentum earning snowball that may possibly seal the ANC’s fate in the years to come.
By saying this, it doesn’t necessarily mean the beginning of the end for the ruling party, but most certainly the way it is managed coupled with the policies it promotes. No longer can the ANC afford to appoint self-promoting leaders, advocating self serving policies such as the Info Bill.
Speaking of the Info Bill...is it doomed to walk the path of E-Tolling?
I certainly think so, as there is no Constitutional basis for the existence of such an Act, and it may very well also be shot down on number 99 by a Con-Court Judge, as E-tolls was by Judge Prinsloo.
True, E-tolls received a temporary setback by means of an interim order, but know that this momentum shift will quite possibly never turn in favour of SANRAL again, and does it have the distinct possibility of being the single worst investment call the government has made since taking power. Not because of the costs involved, but because of the victory it gave people, shattering the illusion of the ANC being untouchable.
The other big mistake the ANC made was to think that COSATU would go along with them on most major issues... but Vavi had other ideas.
Ironically, COSATU never entered into any legal battle against the ANC, as they left this to OUTA.
However, they did use the weapon they knew how to wield, being protests, marches and public rebuttal. I suppose Vavi knows that the only way to hurt the ANC, is to hit them where it hurts most; at the belly of the beast, with the un-informed masses of this country.
It’s quite simple to do so as well. Just tell the people what’s going on.
COSATU is considered a credible source for the poorest of this country, which incidentally forms the basis of ANC support. It is for that reason, and that reason alone, that they are willing to turn their backs on the ANC when Vavi tells them the truth.
The ANC have managed to protect their secrets until now, from their support base that is, but their rogue alliance partner reminded them with flagrant fury of the power they can wield, and have done so irreparably.
So, what’s next?
COSATU to go political?
I hope not, for their current position keeps them relatively incorruptible, making them the checklist of the ANC; a position I would rather have Vavi in, considering his influence.
Whatever our position in 10 years time, you can bet the effects of the New-Rubicon will be felt, even if it only meant stable leadership within the ruling party and a competitive, two party state.