Stop the 'big lie'

2010-08-25 00:00

IN George Orwell’s Animal Farm there’s a character by the name of Squealer, a slithery-tongued propaganda officer, who justifies the evil actions of Napoleon the leader and the rest of the pigs in charge. Squealer reminded me of Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, who perfected Hitler’s “Big Lie” propaganda technique.

This technique was based on the notion that a “lie, if colossal and repeated enough times, will be believed by the masses”. In a similar way, the Young Communist League (YCL) has consistently barraged traditional leadership and accused it of being unAfrican in the media, thus making one wonder what the leadership’s objective is.

Monarchies and traditional leadership generally are one of the oldest political systems in our history. Questions always arise on whether they are still relevant in our current civilisation, and I say they are. The weakness in every political system, particularly in monarchies, is the absence of an effective economic system, and not necessarily the lack of a democracy.

A case in point are the Gulf state monarchies of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan to a certain extent, whose citizens are higher-income individuals, but where democracy is either non-existent or very limited. Their affluence is a result of guided and researched economic systems being adopted by these monarchies to ensure that their citizens and their economies develop.

Traditional leaders in Africa, generally, are misunderstood simply because they do not look “appealing”. Due to the legacy of colonisation and segregation, many of our kingdoms and chiefdoms had their powers diminished, and poverty has been represented by African monarchies.

It is thus a wonder that when cynics of monarchies congregate they always seem to forget that countries like Thailand, Monaco, Spain and Norway are constitutional monarchies where their kings are heads of state who exercise great power and influence. Does the YCL deem these monarchies obsolete simply because they are monarchies, or is there another reason?

Why would you take the view of just rubbishing an institution that is so important and significant in South African life, without creating a platform to understand better how traditional leadership fits in the rural areas?

Honestly though, as traditional leaders we have done an excellent job in ensuring that this fraternity we belong to is treated like a secret society when it isn’t. The iNkosi (senior traditional leader) is the custodian of a community’s heritage and culture, and the keeper of law and order in the customary manner, under informal Indigenous Law. Together with an elected ward committee, as set out in the Municipal Structures Act of 1998, the inkosi and his Traditional Council (60% selected, 40% elected) work together to develop the community under the inkosi’s jurisdiction. The inkosi and his Traditional Council play a significant role in rural communities, but like any other business or job, the development of an area is directly proportional to how hard the inkosi and his Traditional Council work to better the lives of the people they are responsible for. Thus one is bound to find very hard-working amakhosi, and others who may not be that way inclined.

The media may be a tool to communicate one’s thoughts, but when it comes to matters of Amakhosi, it would serve the YCL better not to disrespect people, irres­pective of how they may feel about traditional leadership. African society has always been driven by respect, thus for the YCL chairperson, David Masondo, to call His Majesty, King of the Zulus, by his first name was ill-advised.

Unlike our European counterparts who live by the mantra that “respect is earned”, in African society one respects another person because of age, stature, if a person’s child has achieved well at school, and simply because a person is a stranger. Yet, traditional leadership is painted as unAfrican? I beg to differ.

We shall never achieve anything in this country if we are continuously denouncing others about what they should and should not do, when we know nothing about them or what they represent. Like the monarchy, communism is a political system that probably has had worse press than traditional leadership, yet you will not find us denouncing it, because it has a place in this country.

If you remove traditional leaders, who are you going to use to fill that vacancy, because we have seen that local municipalities are in no way ready for the added responsibility? The YCL should seek to engage amakhosi through the KZN Provincial House of Traditional Leaders (or its motherbody, the National House of Traditional Leaders), the Congress of Traditional Leadership of South Africa (Contralesa), and even the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, to get them to talk about the role that traditional leaders can play in the development of our beautiful country. That engagement would be much more fruitful than using the media to communicate frustrations.

Sadly, there is a growing notion that urban people are custodians of all wisdom and that they are, therefore, very quick to regard rural folk as a lesser class. This is not the case and, unlike Boxer in Animal Farm, we do not subscribe to the notion that “if Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right”. The “Big Lie” must stop.

• Inkosi Sbonelo N. Mkhize heads the AbaMbo Traditional Council: Imbabazane Local Municipality in uThukela District Municipality.

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