Life under the vampire state

2014-09-18 00:00

FRIENDS of mine from a rather anaesthetic European country make a biennial pilgrimage to South Africa simply because they love the place.

This journey started excitedly with the founding of our new democratic order. As teachers who greatly admired Nelson Mandela, they saw the potential for the creation of a new political template that would erase the racial edifice of the past and bring about new opportunities for South Africa’s black people.

With every visit they grew more optimistic about the potential of the people to craft a new narrative.

The more they discovered social innovations all over the country, the more they cultivated a hope that South Africa would become the definitive democracy on the continent. Soon enough, they built up a sizable network of friends all over the country, of every colour, race or creed, who gave them different perspectives on our evolving democracy. By now, they have a very balanced understanding of the political landscape.

I saw them again after two years and I could see the deep disappointment in their eyes about what they consider to be a national squandering of the country’s human and natural resources. That our ministers live in such opulence, enjoying high security, luxury cars and enormous salaries disgusts them, given the high rates of poverty and inequality.

They find the blue-light convoys a joke because their ministers go to work by bicycle or public transport. That we even tolerate such entitlements shocks them.

In talking to them, I realise that I too am in a permanent state of rage about our vampire state, but feel helpless because so many in this country acquiesce to this culture of looting as long as they get something in return. So that today, the big divide is between those who play the system and benefit, regardless of how corrupt, and those who earn their money honestly and with integrity.

The co-option of the middle classes has become so nauseating that the unravelling of the state cannot be blamed on the Zuma administration alone, but also on all those leaders who have gone before and who have used the state’s resources as their personal or party political banks.

And here I refer not only to political leaders, but also to those in the private sector, who as Sipho Seepe claims, choose compliant blacks to help them sustain white privilege by dragging them along, with some or other reward for playing along.

In this scramble for a piece of the pie, much has been destroyed and this is no better illustrated than by Janet Smith’s article “Pansy’s disgrace may not hurt her” (September 5), on the resignation of IEC head Pansy Tlakula.

Using a rather delectable term “sheltered deployment”, Smith speculates that no crime, however serious, has deterred government from recycling tainted public officials to even higher office. So even though the public protector found Tlakula and her executive committee guilty of violating procurement procedures in acquiring a building, this will not curtail her from being appointed to more important jobs in future.

Tlakula knows how to keep her powder dry for future advancement in a ruling party of which she was never a member.

Smith recalls the likes of Menzi Simelane, Lawrence Mushwana and Humphrey Mmemezi, who the ANC resurrected with even better incarnations of their former selves.

One of my Facebook friends asked: “Who will succeed Pansy Tlakula?”

My response was “someone worse”, and another friend cynically responded “Lily”.

Highly amused I thought, if only the next person would be as lily white, fit and proper and honourable as Thuli Madonsela, then we could actually save South Africa for our children and look forward to a promising future.

• Rhoda Kadalie is the founder of the Gender Equity Unit. She is an executive director of Impumelelo Innovations Award Trust.

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