Moral expediency is a failure of character

2011-10-08 07:46

The furore over the Dalai Lama’s visa application is further proof of how far the ANC government has strayed from the movement’s moral, intellectual and political foundations.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu responded by saying it was worse than the apartheid government.

Tutu may have been off the mark but he was certainly not too far off. The idea of banning an individual from a country is truly repugnant, is certainly a hangover from the apartheid government and so are many of the things the government has been trying to ram down our throats, including the infamous secrecy bill.

The Dalai Lama was not even coming here on a state visit. He was coming here on a private visit for a friend’s birthday – someone who played a leading role in our own freedom struggle.

Oh, how we forget.Tutu is right in yet another respect – that the ANC thinks we owe our freedom to it.

It is this patrimonial attitude about our struggle that also leads the ANC to act like it owns the country and can therefore banish whomever it wishes.

Of course the media spotlight would be focused on the Dalai Lama because he is one of the most respected spiritual leaders in the world and would most likely say something about the China/Tibet issue.

But the idea that you can banish someone from your country because they might say something offensive to your trading partners shows not only a totalitarian instinct but also how far you will go to give up your sovereignty for pieces of silver.

I can also already hear the argument that the relationship with China is critical for our economy.

But who is likely to benefit from whatever deals are concluded? Your guess is as good as mine.

The Arch is not far off the mark when he says: “You do not represent me, Mr Zuma and your government, you represent your own interests.”

How many of the people who went to China will come back with their pockets lined and will turn around to ask the poor to eat cake, or is it sushi?

The problem is bigger than we imagine and it lies in the fact of a government that thinks we are stupid and of a citizenry that plays along with that.

The government delays the man’s application until it is practically impossible for him to travel and until he has to give up on the prospect.

The same government then turns around to say the visa was being processed when he cancelled the trip – a classic case of blaming the victim.Well, the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre called the government’s bluff by telling it that the Dalai Lama’s passport was still with the South Africa High Commission in India and it could still grant the visa.

I do not know that the government will do that but its dishonesty has been shown for what it is.

And a dishonest government is not worthy of the name. And that brings me to our role as citizens.

We play along with the dishonesty when we allow wordplay to obfuscate the real issue – that the ANC government does not want the Dalai Lama here.

Why should it take to so long to grant a visa to anyone, let alone someone of his stature?

We saw how Orwellian wordplay over HIV/Aids led to the same kind of dishonesty in government while our people were dying by the thousands.

Only now are we catching up with the consequences of our collusion with the disingenuousness and the dishonesty.

There will indeed come a time when we will have to catch up with our own integrity as a nation and not know where to go to find it because we would have denigrated the very people who might have reminded us of it, including one Desmond Mpilo Tutu.

And the president has met all of this with a deafening silence. I am sure he will find his voice after the fact and then still try to convince us that he is decisive.

Can we still buy that and still deny that we allow those in power to treat us like children? Not long ago we asked the countries of the world to forsake their profitable relationship with apartheid for the sake of our freedom.

But that was when moral, political and intellectual integrity, not material interest, counted for something. The problem here extends beyond the government.

It lies with citizens who allow their government to lie to them. The real challenge is whether we can imagine ourselves anew beyond those who lead us back to the vile ways of our former oppressors – travel restrictions and censorship.

The Cape Verdean revolutionary, Amilcar Cabral, once observed: “We are all necessary to the struggle but no one is indispensable...If this were not the case we would not have achieved anything yet.

A man who has achieved something which he alone can continue has achieved nothing.”

History tells us that one day the people of South Africa could also wake up to say to Jacob Zuma and the ANC: “We can continue without you.”

Whether the Dalai Lama comes for Tutu’s birthday or not and whatever reasons are given, no leader or party can fool all of the people all of the time.

» Mangcu is the author of the newly published Becoming Worthy Ancestors

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