The F-Word: Indifference today, denial tomorrow

2012-06-09 14:51

I’ve enjoyed pouring scorn on white South Africans old enough to have voted who now say they never voted for apartheid.

I enjoy that despite the National Party being voted for in ever-increasing majorities, it seems nobody voted for the Nats during their reign from 1948 to 1994.

I am starting to believe that black South Africans like me are running out of time, as well as the right, to poke fun at our white compatriots.

Like whites did under apartheid, black people are choosing to look the other way as almost every day they see every tier of government spit on the faces of those who voted for it.

One of my reasons for feeling that blacks are losing the moral high ground (if they have not already) was best articulated by Freedom Under Law’s Jeremy Gauntlett when the NGO sought the intervention of the courts in the suspension of crime intelligence chief Richard Mdluli.

Gauntlett said it took the step because if the minister constitutionally tasked with ensuring law and order couldn’t, it was left to outfits such as Gauntlett’s to ensure the right thing happened.

With the ruling party back to its favourite pastime of blaming the “minority” and the courts for colluding in the undermining of majority rule, we have to ask ourselves why it is that the majority keeps silent when a character with criminal charges – as Mdluli has – gets what appears to be a favourable hearing from a Cabinet minister.

The ruling party and its followers might not have said it in as many words, but the subtext is that it is the uppity whites, with a few foolish blacks pretending to be proponents of deepening democracy, who are a spanner in the works.

They say that just because the majority of those who voted for them are black, whites such as Gauntlett should just shut up and pretend nothing is wrong, otherwise they are racists who distrust blacks.

The ruling party gets away with isolating “minorities” who point out its ills because the “majority” chooses silence – unless it relates to the fortunes of a Bafana Bafana coach.

Instead of engaging with the merits of the arguments raised by “minorities”, our rulers would rather paint them as racists unable to trust the capacity of black people to govern.

That way they do not have to account to the majority why their children are still without textbooks halfway through the year, or why they have to risk being raped while crossing the wilds to attend school under a tree.

I’d rather have a racist white compatriot who points out true flaws in how we are governed than an indifferent black nationalist who will imperil the future of my children.

Happily, those are not our only choices.

Patriotism knows no skin colour, just as the instinct to mortgage our children’s future in return for short-term goals is equal-opportunity affliction.

The rise of lobby groups fighting the right fight is a sad indictment of the majority who, like whites did during apartheid, are opting to go on with their merry lives while the signs are there of our country being led into the gutter.

In a normal democracy, blacks – not because they are black but because they are in a majority – would be the ones who government feels the need to account to.

The courts would deal with the normal disputes citizens have or with the miscreants who rob, murder and plunder.

In South Africa, the courts are overworked because those who should be keeping public representatives under watch are too worried about losing their tenders, their Range Rover Sports and homes in exclusive estates.

Yet they think we are an improvement on the whites who today deny ever supporting apartheid.

As it happened with apartheid, today’s indifference will be tomorrow’s denialism – unless we raise our voices against all wrongs, all the time.

» Follow me on Twitter @fikelelo

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