Wild West politics serve no purpose

2011-11-12 10:30

News of Julius Malema’s suspension from the ANC will be celebrated and mourned with equal measure by his many friends and foes.

But one thing remains certain: we have not heard the last of Juju or his political sagas.

The battle is certainly not over. Malema and his comrades will appeal against their sentences. As the youth league leader himself declared
hours after the verdict was announced: “The gloves are off.”

Whatever you may make of Malema, we hope that South Africa, party members and supporters will take at least one sound thought emanating from the ANC’s national disciplinary committee: “Ill-discipline is not a cure for frustration.”
Abusing your power for what you believe is an honourable end is just as unacceptable.

With the acrimony set to reach fever pitch as we edge ever closer to the ANC’s epic conference in Mangaung next year, it is important that all concerned remember these two points.

For far too long, South African politics have been conducted as though the normal rules of civil engagements do not apply. Words have been uttered without thinking about the impact they might have.

A culture has developed in our country where righteous anger is enough reason to act without worrying about the consequences
of your actions.

We see it in the streets when workers trash the streets every time there is a labour ­dispute.

University students think nothing of ­doing the same when they are unhappy about fees or how their colleges are being administered. An untold number of libraries and other public amenities have been reduced to heaps of ash ­because residents believe the service delivery van has forgotten their town.

There are many reasons for this state of affairs. For a long time, successive South African ­governments closed their doors and covered their ears to amicable conversation.

This forced ­opponents to act outside what would be regarded as acceptable standards of behaviour. But that era has passed.
There can no longer be any excuse for such ­behaviour.

It is incumbent on all of us, not only the governing party, to create conditions where our compatriots not only feel free to express
their frustrations, but do so in a civil and adult manner.

Robust engagements are a fact of life in a ­democracy and should be encouraged.

What we have to always guard against is blurring the lines between this type of engagement and turning our republic into the Wild West.

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