No amount of champagne, cakes or booze-fuelled parties can mask the reality of the what the ANC has become.
The launch of Gangster State by Pieter-Louis Myburgh in Sandton was disrupted by ANC members. Photo: Felix Dlangamanda
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It is impossible for the ANC to control the words and actions of every single member and supporter. What is expected however, is for the party to do far more than issue statements like "we distance ourselves", writes Redi Tlhabi.
burning and banning – the favourite pastime of dictators the world over. From
Nazi Germany to repressive communist states like Stalin's Soviet Union; from
the goons who painstakingly constructed the vicious apartheid state, to the
military rule of Nigeria's Sani Abacha, making an enemy of writers and
activists is the bedrock of tyranny.
It is the
paranoia of failed and failing leaders to suppress the flow of information. If
this is not confirmation of their fragility and inadequacy, then I don't know
what is. The fact of the matter is that a book can never be damaging to one who
is not already damaged, by his or her own actions.
The now famous
book by investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh, Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule's Web of Capture was
elevated to greater heights by a mob of ANC members who went on a rampage of
destruction at the Exclusive Books launch in Sandton. They stormed the launch,
called for the book to be banned and continued to damage books that were on
display. They did this in the name of the ANC, the party that has been in
government for 25 years.
READ: 600 people attended the Khwezi book launch - why it matters
travelled along its 25-year journey in government, the party has taken some
very bad offramps, caused serious crashes that led to severe injuries to our
constitutional democracy and disturbingly, has allowed all sorts of miscreants
to hop on the train and stay on the journey. It has embraced and allowed them
to influence the direction of the organisation.
founded by luminaries and stalwarts, built by women and men endowed with a
formidable intellectual and moral pedigree, is unrecognisable.
impossible for the ANC to control the words and actions of every single member
and supporter. Nobody expects them to do that. What is expected however, is for
the ANC to do far more than issue statements like "we distance ourselves".
you cannot just "distance yourself" from the hooliganism of your
members, who have clearly stated that they see the book as being a deliberate
design to thwart your election fortunes as a party.
a home don't just "distance themselves" from the actions of their
children. The pope cannot just "distance" himself from the actions of
his bishops and priests. And "this was not done in our name" also
doesn't cut it because it was actually done in the ANC's name. Sturdier action
is required. Like naming the Free State members and Youth League leadership who
appeared on television, boldly and proudly committing acts that are incongruent
with our democratic principles.
By now, we
should have heard that the scoundrels have been called to Luthuli House and that
disciplinary action will resume. Just like action against former Youth League
leaders Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu was swift, visible and final, the
storming of Exclusive Books and shredding of books require similar action.
ALSO READ: How the apartheid regime burnt books in their tens of thousands
that the ANC cannot control the actions of every single member, but once those
members are known, it is incumbent on the party to take action. So far, the ANC
has established a pattern of showing an unhealthy appetite for wrongdoing and, more
disturbingly, creating unlimited space and freedom for the wrongdoers to cause
mayhem and escape without censor and accountability.
The act of "distancing"
itself has created some paralysis within the party where transgressions are
brushed off and the actual moral identity of the party is not well-defined. What
does the party actually stand for and what actions does it find intolerable? "Distancing
ourselves" is actually a misnomer for paralysis and nonchalance. Let's for
a moment remember the brutal political assassinations in Mpumalanga. Body bags
piled up in the battle for tenders and positions and this caused no ructions at
all. It was business as usual as the party "distanced" itself.
act of overlooking repulsive behaviour and brazen criminality, the party has
gradually built a culture, a way of doing things. Eventually this is entrenched
and solidified as normative behaviour.
BOOK EXTRACT: Gangster State - The ANC's asbestos benefits
is also a cowardly way of avoidance. But the party, if it is to survive in
years to come, must reflect on its identity. It must hold a mirror to its face
and ask some difficult questions: What calibre of supporter are we attracting?
Why are our supporters not afraid to act without a mandate? (If indeed they
were not given a mandate.) Why is our movement so fragile and afraid of
dissent? Are we a party that will now survive by violence and chicanery, rather
than the strength of our ideas and moral compass?
ask and answer these questions will result in the ANC being a party of quantity
rather than quality; a party that utilises might, rather than ideology, to get
ahead. The party cannot evade culpability when its members choose to publicly
act out practices and cultures that are harmful and toxic.
quarters, destroying books, storming book launches and calling for the heads
for writers are seen as "not that deep". Followed by "you guys
are overreacting". Nobody who reads enough, thinks enough can utter such
detachment. History is besieged by demolition that began with an attack on
ideas and institutions.
If those in
power start to believe that their ideas and truths are so fragile that they
need force to protect them against the ideas and truths of others, then we are
on a slippery slope.
- Redi Tlhabi is an award-winning author, journalist and talkshow host.Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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