Reclaiming SA

2011-03-16 00:00

TALKING to a group of journalists in August 2010, Jackson Mthembu is reported to have told them that it was through the ANC that they (journalists) attained the freedom which they enjoy today. Mthembu's statement represents a form of mythical history, a gross misrepresentation of facts which is selfish, divisive and very dangerous indeed.

Clearly Mthembu is mischievously attempting to reconstruct the history of the struggle for liberation on his own terms, if not exactly to his and his bosses' liking.

But Mthembu's statement does explain the basis for the ruling party's imperial arrogance and inept style of leadership. By implication, therefore, according to Mthembu, the ANC "owns" this country and its people, and is at liberty to do as it pleases.

The facts of history which I believe will be easy for Mthembu to understand and accept are the following: first, the struggle for freedom in this country predates the history of the ruling party. Second, the struggle for freedom was waged by an alliance of a variety of classes of people here and every­where else in the entire world, and by other political groups, including the ANC.

Statements such as Zuma's that the ANC will govern until "Jesus comes" are all symptomatic of people who are, to say the least, naïve in the extreme and display a total lack of understanding of what real democracy is all about or how it works. This is confirmed the way in which the ruling party has so demeaned, mocked and squandered democracy. The ANC brand of democracy is not only a sham, but also that the ruling party's so-called democracy does not even have the structural capacity to treat its citizens, its alliance partners, its public servants and labour decently.

Citizens have become intensely peeved at the ruling party's high levels of inequality, at their total exclusion, and at the growing evidence of corruption and the flagrant disregard by the ANC for the institutions of this land.

Citizens who stood to cast their votes in that historic first election were doing so for a variety of reasons. First, those citizens were not necessarily all members of the ANC. Many had nothing to do with the ANC at all. The majority of the voting citizens were doing so to dislodge the apartheid regime.

Second, many citizens in those queues were voting to pay tribute and to express their gratitude to all our struggle icons for the sacrifices they had made over the years to win the country its freedom.

Third, all South Africans were congratulating themselves for overthrowing the apartheid regime.

The ANC has now become a haven for all sorts of people who possess all types of agendas while at the same time proclaiming themselves as the disciplined cadres of the ANC.

Sixteen years on, the "eagles" of 1994, whom the citizens voted into office, have given way to "peacocks". To the current political leadership, freedom is all about showing off your achievements.

The choice by some cabinet ministers of luxury hotels when most professional public servants and ordinary citizens can ill-afford a start-up house is astounding. Many teachers, public health workers and police officers live in shacks, while military personnel live in dilapidated and crowded barracks with inadequate amenities. The sense of relative deprivation and total exclusion is what drives the anger of those living in abject poverty.

With the voting season fast approaching, you see politicians competing for space on radio and TV, dancing to their national anthem, Umshini Wami, and striving hard to impress their leader so he will prolong their perks.

Politicians are deliberately trying to blur the lines between their party and the state so that their luminaries and functionaries will go about distributing food parcels bought with the taxpayers' funds, brazenly telling citizens that the food comes from the ruling party.

Unfortunately for the ruling party, citizens of the 21st century have seen through all of these short-term and hypocritical tactics.

The question is, what options are there for the citizens to pursue? It is certainly not in the interest of this country to be led by a political party that is in a permanent state of crisis. South Africa deserves political leaders who will be capable of broadening the horizons, who will uplift the spirit of all its citizens, empower all our people, and mobilise the necessary resources — the intellectual and moral power of its people. It needs visionary leaders who will act in the best interests of the country.

We call on brave South Africans and leaders who are capable of telling it like it is, while knowing very well that the task of stopping the slide to political authoritarianism, diminished government accountability and eroded sovereignty of the nation will be a difficult one. The rich, the corrupt and the politically powerful will not give up their entrenched privileges without a fight, and those fights are likely to get ugly.

South Africans realise now that once again we are in a kind of war, a war against injustice and exclusive political supremacy, against ill- gotten wealth and oppression.

Who still insists today that it was only the Nats who were capable of committing inhumanity?

I borrow from Albert Luthuli: "The task is not finished. South Africa is not yet a home for all her sons and daughters. Such a home we wish to ensure …There remains before us the building of a new land, a home for men who are black, white, brown, from the ruins of the old narrow groups, a synthesis of the rich cultural strains which we have inherited."

• Edgar Dhlomo is a business­person and retired teacher.

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