Clem Sunter

A line not to cross

2011-09-02 07:32

It is fashionable, particularly in the comments section on this website, to berate the government for all its failings and imply that the quality of life in virtually every aspect of South African society is inferior to what it was 30 years ago or more.

Nevertheless, in one essential characteristic of any civilised community, South Africa is immeasurably better. People no longer disappear because they are considered enemies of the state.

It happened routinely in the apartheid era and it still happens routinely in every dictatorship that exists around the world. It even happens in some democracies. But not here.

We may have a lot of other vices, but not this one.

It is therefore absolutely imperative that no tendencies develop which could lead to a reversion to this practice. You only need one example to be dead in the water in the eyes of that small clan of nations who also respect the sanctity of human life in this way.

The reason hate speech has legal consequences in this country is precisely on account of it being seen as a precursor to actions which trivialise the worth of the individual. The reason that the defence force and police must remain neutral is so that they do not start using unreasonable tactics to protect a prominent political figure or the intentions of a particular political party.

So far, so good – they have remained neutral.

My main purpose in writing this article is, however, to highlight the importance of the current battle for the soul of the ANC.

The word ‘revolution’ should always have a small ‘r’ at the front. As soon as it becomes a capital ‘R’, you know that the laws of common decency and morality will probably be suspended to make it happen.

Stalin killed 20 million of his own citizens to perpetuate his brand of the Bolshevik Revolution and Mao butchered 30 million in pursuit of his Cultural Revolution.

Add those two figures together and you have the entire South African population.

We have enormous problems of inequality here, but one very precious asset – nobody has recently disappeared because he or she is an enemy of the state.

We must bear in mind the crucial rule of sticking to that statistic as we work out ways of resolving our problems. The line has not yet been crossed: and it should never be crossed.

Keep the revolution to a small ‘r’. A true Leader with a capital ‘L’ will ensure that.

Send your comments to Clem

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