The ANC: Why is everybody afraid?

2010-03-17 00:00

THE Sunday Times this weekend quoted Dr Farouk Meer, the brother of the recently departed struggle stalwart Comrade Fatima Meer, bemoaning the state of affairs in our country both politically and in government. Farouk Meer was reported as expressing disquiet about, among others, “a young man who appears to be leading the country into disaster”.

According to the newspaper this was an indirect reference to the president of the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema. Since there was no direct naming of him it would be dicey to engage in guessing and supposition games regarding an individual. Suffice to say this country needs more men and women of honour like Meer. In fact, the African National Congress needs more and more men and women of honour who value this country and who are willing to wake up to the reality that we just might have, in our haste to get rid of one Thabo Mbeki, made a monumental mistake in some of the people we replaced Mbeki with.

Since we handed over the mandate to lead this country to the ANC (in the case of those of us who are members) things have literally gone haywire. But one fundamental aspect that Meer and everybody else seems to be quiet about is this culture of fear that is gripping the ANC. Nowadays people are afraid to talk in my organisation. Sycophancy has escalated to new highs. You either agree or you go “hungry”, so goes the saying.

We, as a country, have become a laughing stock of the world because of the behaviour of some in the leadership of the organisation and this country. What happened to the bold cadres and young lions in the movement who stood firm against grenades and guns, and sang “a ya sava amagwala — the cowards are scared”. What happened to us after we defeated the might of apartheid? Did we suddenly become wimps and cowards just because the thieves and enemies have the same skin colour as us and are members of our own organisation? Why is everybody allowing Malema to stand on public podiums and insult our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. Forget the dithering of Jacob Zuma. I am talking about you and me, ordinary members of the ANC and members of society on whose ballots these people are trampling.

Why is everybody afraid and what are we really afraid of? Or rather is it that we envy these leaders who insult everybody and loot public resources in our names. Can we afford this blind loyalty that has beset us such that the state coffers should rather be bled dry by a clique that seems to think its turn to loot has arrived and it is justified in its conduct? Where are the honourable members of society and the ANC in all this? Are we not complicit or are we caught in a time warp such that we feel that criticising our own is treasonous? Do we even think of the future of our children and do we even understand the extent of our complicity in this unfortunate episode playing out in this country.

I am appalled and I must say that we owe it to this country, ourselves, the leaders themselves and future generations to stand up and be counted (without necessarily being a faction or confrontational). As a professional, and taking into account historical factors like the high level of illiteracy in our communities, I think the responsibility lies chiefly with us to stop being indifferent to things happening around us in our name and rise and challenge these foreign tendencies.

Intertwined with the above phenomenon is the Orwellian culture that is firmly taking root in the ANC and the country in general. This new culture presupposes that there are members of the ANC and society who are more equal than others and are therefore entitled to behave in an abominable manner simply because of the offices that they hold.

Examples abound of members of the ANC and society who are getting away with murder on a daily basis. Why, I ask, are we all quiet? What are we afraid of? After I wrote, recently, about the bling culture in the ANC and the looting of public resources in the name of the poor, I received a lot of feedback with some commending me for my “bravery” and I was appalled that in a democracy my speaking out was labelled as bravery.

What are we scared of? Why are we losing our voices at such a critical juncture in the history of our country and one of the mightiest liberation movements in the world, the ANC? Are we aware that we are being complicit not only in the plundering of state resources but also the raping of our proud history and legacy?

Please, let’s stand up and remind those whom we honoured by putting them in leadership that if there is a favour done by one for the other it is us, the ordinary people, who did them the favour and not the other way round. Let us make it clear that leadership comes with responsibility to behave in an exemplary and upright manner and that our kids look up to them for role models and they need proper and respectable ones.

Let us stand up and remind those that we honoured with leadership positions in the ANC that we are entitled to remind them that when we elected them to the positions we did not sign over a blank cheque to them to suddenly become more equal than all of us. As Meer is quoted as saying, we need to “restore the pride of our liberation movement”, and our country I dare add. Where is this fear of our own coming from and why is it that suddenly membership of senior structures of the ANC and government entitles certain individuals to become untouchables? Was this what the Oliver Tambos, Walter Sisulus and Moses Mabhidas of our country sacrificed their lives for?

Most importantly, what would they think of our silence and paralysis induced by unfounded fear of individuals if they were to rise from their resting places tomorrow? What is it that has us so scared of the very people we elected to lead us? A new cadre both in the ANC and in society in general is urgently needed in this country. A cadre that will stand up to leadership and remind it why and how they got to be where they are. One that will not be afraid to be labelled “counter-revolutionaries” and all sorts of names that have recently appeared in our political landscape.

The country and the ANC need a new dawn that will entail, among other things, a reawakening of the culture of accountability, robust engagement and debate without fear of being labelled. Or else we are doomed and history will judge us all very harshly.



• Dinga Nkhwashu is a practising attorney and consultant.

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