Don’t tell us what to think or say, Gwede

2012-04-07 12:38

It was ironic that it was at a gathering to dispel the notion floated by Julius Malema that the ANC leadership had become ­dictatorial that the party’s general ­secretary all but confirmed that the youth league leader may have a point.

Gwede Mantashe’s clumsy response to Nedbank chairperson Reuel Khoza’s criticism that South Africa’s political leaders were failing the country affirmed Khoza’s fears. He also unwittingly ­supported Juju’s contention that ANC leaders had developed an intolerance for views at odds with the leadership’s.

Unlike with Malema, the party cannot fire or suspend Khoza.

Knowing this, Mantashe chose to go for the chilling effect. He believed that by dressing Khoza down, he would succeed in ensuring that the notoriously feeble business leadership corps retreat to their holiday homes by the beach where they will bury their heads in the sand.

We have to record here that we acknowledge the ANC’s right to defend itself against anyone and against any attack. In doing so, the governing party must remember that it has a duty to fight clean and to stick to the facts.

By opting for the vulgar response, the party in effect admitted that it had no credible response to Khoza’s critique.

It would have been bad enough if Mantashe’s response was limited to being the vulgar retort it was. It is worse now that it was an attempt at seeking to stifle debate and silence critics.

It would be an overstatement to say that Mantashe’s response alone ushers in an autocracy, but we cannot pretend that we are not concerned about the gratuitous attack on Khoza’s person by a ­senior member of the governing party, flanked by five of the organisation’s top officials.

The freedom which allowed some of the same leaders who sat and watched Mantashe make his ­ridiculous claims to – includes the freedom to be wrong in one’s assessments of the country’s ­leaders. To seek to silence a view, even if you ­believe it to be misguided, is to be anti-freedom.

Mantashe must not be allowed to succeed with his shameful attempt at keeping us quiet on ­matters that affect our own government and our country. It is encouraging that Business ­Leadership SA has already taken the ANC general secretary to task for the comments.

It is now left to all of civil society to follow suit and register our resistance to any attempts to diminish our freedoms in the way Mantashe sought to do with Khoza’s. Freedom is not divisible.

If Mantashe and the ANC succeed in silencing one business leader, nothing will stop them coming for you the next time you express your thoughts on matters of your country and your government. 

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