Feel free to stomp on the clay feet of the ‘leadership’

2010-02-27 15:15

PERHAPS, after all, there is a silver lining to the dark cloud that

is our depressing national political scene: perhaps it will undermine the

established culture that The Leaders should be respected and followed without


It took a similar shake-up in Afrikaner politics to undermine the

powerful monolith.

A sacred principle of Afrikaner nationalism since its earliest days

was that the leadership should be revered and never questioned – they were

chosen by God. This was especially true of The Leader – read the history books

on the way Afrikaners idolised nasty men like JG ­Strijdom, Hendrik Verwoerd and

John Vorster.

But in 1979 the Information Scandal broke and Afrikaners were faced

with the fact that their revered leaders, apart from being staunch Christians

and Emissaries from Above, were also crooks and charlatans.

Three years later the party split, with Andries Treurnicht forming

the Conservative Party.

It was a bitter split. For the first time Afrikaners mocked and

cursed their own prime minister, told horrible jokes about their leaders and

drew nasty cartoons about them. And nobody said afterwards they were “bad

Afrikaners” because they didn’t respect leaders of the volk.

It was a liberating moment in Afrikaner politics and its

after-effects were felt during the administration of PW Botha, who was

eventually forced out of power by his own cabinet and caucus. Only then did real

change and proper negotiations ­became possible. Not long afterwards, the once

mighty National Party died an undignified death.

Widen the focus to the greater South Africa. Reverence for the

leadership runs like a thread through our history, including that of the ANC.

Don’t question – the leaders know better. Our task is ­only to follow and do as

we are told.

This was the dominant political culture when OR Tambo was ANC

president, when Nelson Mandela took over from him and also became president of

the country, and into
Thabo Mbeki’s first term as president of the party and

country. (The ANC Youth League publicly demanded I be charged with high treason

when I made a remark about Mbeki’s private life 10 years ago.)

But then the cracks began to show. There can be few South Africans

who still believe that no ANC politicians took bribes during the arms

procurement transactions. Mbeki’s attempts to frame his political opponents came

to light, as did aspects of his private life.

The cracks in the monolith finally became spectacularly obvious

during the unruly, undignified Polokwane conference of the ANC in December 2007.

Teenage delegates made rude signs and cursed senior leaders like Mbeki and

Terror Lekota. Nobody said they were bad comrades. Mbeki was humiliated, ousted

unceremoniously and replaced by Jacob Zuma.

But Zuma’s private life is a rotten mess, with sensational court

cases alleging rape and corruption. He became president, but in his own party,

in the group that broke away and among many outside his movement he is seen as a

weak, immoral man and a lame duck who can’t or won’t lead. The unseemly power

struggles in the ANC burst into the open.

And then the dam broke with ­Babygate. Most South Africans felt

revulsion and deep embarrassment. Even Zuma’s staunchest supporters made jokes

about him. Add to this the public spectacle of one of his lieutenants, Julius

Malema, flashing his obscene wealth like a car salesman who has won the Lotto –

and lying about it.

So there you have it. It is now OK to mock and ridicule the

president, his cabinet members and the once esteemed leaders in Luthuli House.

Nobody will say you’re a bad native.

So why should the great unwashed, the hoi polloi, continue to

follow the leaders? Isn’t it time for them to make up their own minds?


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