Commentary: Where will they lead South Africa?

2009-03-02 00:00

The implications of being “in the fast lane with JZ” as Deon de Langa reported (Daily News, November 20, 2008) in his account of a ride with the ANC president on the campaign trail, must be a matter of concern for any person with a shred of democratic sensitivity or an understanding of the rule of law. It has happened again as reported often and now in The Witness (February 27, 2009).

“Indecent haste” best describes what is put on show in the most vulgar manner in these “blue light” convoys or cavalcades. In the case of Jacob Zuma, here is a politician clutching power, not democracy or the dignity that defined predecessors in his party. His entourage demonstrates an obscene abuse of power, arrogance and anarchy that is not befitting of his office or the values that brought his political party to rule with a promise of a liberated society in which “freedom of movement” by all people, is a fundamental right. This may explain the exodus of thinking ANC members from the Zuma fold.

Many will be concerned that the barbarism of apartheid is preparing for its “second coming” in the form of the New ANC, personified by its president and the president of its Youth League, some of whom were the child soldiers that operated under the cover of innocence but now show their teeth. These were highly trained operatives by the age of 10.

Similar brigades operate in the IFP and other parties.

This we must understand, but not necessarily accept. The struggle of old is done. The new challenges are not for those of destructive minds. We need to move beyond the ANC Youth League rhetoric and motive that was their mantra in the war zone of the townships. We need a country that is governable. We do not need the war-mongering of Shaka.

The MEC for Security and Community Liaison seems to fit the same mould as his boss, having allegedly ordered the firing of rubber bullets on a group of people that were “campaigning for their party”, albeit in robust fashion. The cowboy hat that identifies him defines his approach. He bans buses that crashed with great loss of life, shooting from the lip, and then leaps overboard to endorse them. The list of indiscretions is long and too tedious to repeat. There may have been provocation, but neither conduct is excusable.

Few people have the stomach for modern politics. Freedom, democracy, empowerment and all of the feel-good products that should be enjoyed in any new democracy, very quickly lose their appeal when the conduct of those in power make previous colonial and apartheid regimes look benign.

We certainly have no place in society for the likes of “Kortbroek Malema”, the foot in mouth spokesman for the third generation of the ANC. This was a once grand organisation with an impeccable ideology. The fundamental principles started with John Dube of the amaQadi, people that had an identity before the “Zulus”, was made real by Madiba and Mbeki, and now is on the cusp of ethical choices: good government or political chaos.

The phenomenon is not new.

The Irish poet WB Yeats wrote his provoking work The Second Coming at a time not dissimilar to present day South Africa in the evolution of its politics. He leaves us with chilling words in this poem that defines our situation acutely:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity”

What “rough beast” slouches towards SA to be born? Do we have a Constitution or a court that upholds the rule of law or do we give way to the child soldiers epitomised by the president of the ANC Youth League? The next few months will determine our fate when we decide who sits in Parliament and rides the rough beast.

•Jeremy Ridl is a KwaZulu-Natal attorney and environmental law specialist.

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