Max du Preez

The sickening smell of 'revolution'

2011-07-06 08:15

Max du Preez

South Africa hasn’t had its revolution yet. It is coming, a newspaper editor declared on Twitter this week, echoing the earlier stark warning by writer Peter Godwin.

I’m beginning to smell revolution too. Just a whiff, for now, but still.

But it isn’t the exciting, promising smell of the 1980s. The smell of freedom and possibility.

It’s the sickening smell of hatred, greed and revenge. The smell of rot.

Revolution fomented by greed

Look, I think there are ample reasons for a lot of people in this country to want to revolt.

I would too if I lived in a shack and had no hope of finding a job and improving my miserable life and those of my children.

But the revolution I fear is not one driven by a genuine desire for a decent life and dignity.

I fear the revolution fomented by greedy, fat cat demagogues lusting for more power, with insecure little men clinging to their coattails.

I don’t fear an uprising aimed at correcting imbalances and bringing justice.

I fear an uprising that will dump our constitution in the rubbish bin, rob us of our freedom, destroy our economy and put a nasty, super-wealthy bunch of despots in power.

Sense of unease

My sense of unease was not triggered when Julius Malema called a whole section of the nation a bunch of criminals.

It was triggered when he said it in front of our president, who said nothing to distance himself from such hate speech, and the ruling party praised Malema by its faint condemnation.

Malema’s unchallenged insults were a signal that it was open season. Columnists like Andile Mngxitama and Eric Myeni, Youth League leaders like Floyd Shivambu, writers of letters to newspapers and callers to radio talk shows started spewing racism like we last saw coming from the AWB.

The staid British magazine The Economist remarked, “It is becoming more acceptable for black South Africans to scorn and abuse whites openly as a racial group.”

Turn your head away from corruption, bad governance and abuse of power; it is time to find a new common enemy to divert the attention. It worked for Robert Mugabe, didn’t it?

Supporting economic freedom

The new populist madness dominating our political culture saw Malema’s demands for nationalisation of mines and banks and grabbing of land become mainstream thinking in the Tripartite Alliance within weeks, with Cosatu and the SACP backtracking on earlier reservations.

There is nothing wrong with a campaign for “economic freedom in our lifetime”. In fact, I support it.

But then fight for real solutions to poverty and unemployment, not for a system that can only lead to more misery, suffering and hunger.

I’m not sure about many things, but I’m very sure large-scale nationalisation and expropriation of agricultural land will not in the end benefit the poor at all.

The economic cake will simply shrink drastically and you will only be certain of a slice if you’re already very wealthy or you are an ANC insider.

I listen when a movement such as Abahlali baseMjondolo champions the cause of the destitute, not to the Johnny Walker Blue drinkers who wax on with their racist threats and over-simplifications.

There is no quick way to kill poverty and create millions of jobs, but there has to be a quicker way than the way we’re doing it right now.

We have to find that way, “we” meaning government, the business sector, the labour movement and the citizenry.

In need of a wake-up call

Mind you, I sometimes think white South Africans deserve a revolution. Too many of them live in complete denial, as if nothing had changed since the comfortable days when they were what Malema and Co now want to become.

Too many whites fooled themselves into thinking putting black faces in government and parliament would be the extent of their “sacrifice” after apartheid.

Their racism, although mostly uttered privately or anonymously, matches that of the new breed of black racists.

They need a rude wake-up call, or there will be a revolution and they will be its first victims.

As I said, it was just a whiff of revolution that I got. But a whiff that should jolt us all into action.

Don’t go stockpiling tinned food and bottled water yet. Rather help stop the madness.

- Follow Max on Twitter.

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