Soldiers of delusion

2009-11-13 13:31

PYRRHIC. I like this word. I’m not sure how it is pronounced but I like it. When I first saw this word I couldn’t help but think about fire. I suppose I must have associated it with “pyre”.

The origins of the word pyrrhic lies in events of 279 BC. According to the tale, one Pyrrhus of Epirus defeated the Romans in a series of battles but suffered such heavy losses his victory was of no use to him. In fact it led to his total ruin and defeat; hence the notion of a “pyrrhic victory”.

Pyrrhic and pyre, two different words, come to mind when one observes how comrades Fikile Mbalula and Julius Malema have become our designated post-Polokwane ­heroes. See how they busked in the glory of the sweat and tears of the people of Sakhile a few months ago.

The comrades came to solve a service delivery problem that had long been bothering the community.

They fired the hapless mayor and her mayoral committee and marched to the stadium to declare their victory.

The masses went into a frenzy, whipping out cellphones to record the presence of these two great leaders.

Well, I love the masses, that fickle, spineless and gullible force. Today it celebrates with you, tomorrow it throws stones at you.

Standing on the podium of the victors Malema advised his supporters to stop burning property because “that’s an old style of protest; now you just stand up and protest”.

I wondered if he was joking or just out of touch with reality. Didn’t he know that Sakhile residents had been in the news for months without any response from the authorities?

The people had suffered jail, beatings and rubber bullets and two deaths before Luthuli House responded. The comrade didn’t know how difficult it was to get a response from a politician or public servant.

Truth is the intervention by Malema and Mbalula was nothing but a pronouncement of what community struggles had achieved already.

The council was practically deposed and the leaders had fled. The comrades from Luthuli House could only fire the mayor and her committee and save the council from totally collapsing under the weight of community protest.

The comrades painted themselves as saviours but it was a pyrrhic victory.

The secret is out. Mbalula and Malema are our saviours against corrupt, inefficient and indifferent councillors and mayors. Now they will be called by the burning tyres to do as they did in Sakhile.

But how many mayors are they going to fire? The local government crisis of delivery has been described as a leadership failure. The problem is systemic, actually.

Our municipalities mirror our national politics.?They are not meant to function in the interest of the people; they are tills to grab a quick buck from.

I can see the end clearly – a marriage of the pyrrhic and the pyre. A huge, all-consuming fire.

) Mngxitama is the publisher of New Frank Talk

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