Mindless ranting

2015-10-06 06:00

CRIME, unemployment, the cost of living and corruption make people say lots of things in anger.

You hear it all the time — condemnation of politicians, threats about withholding taxes and comparisons with other countries that have gone down the drain.

Every so often, you hear sarcastic comments about how apartheid South Africa was better than what we have now.

These are rarely from people who were oppressed by the racist system but rather from those who long for the privileges they enjoyed then.

Democratic Alliance member of Parliament Dianne Kohler Barnard has found herself in serious trouble after sharing a post by journalist Paul Kirk on Facebook two weeks ago.

The post was a rant about the turmoil in the police and included the following sentence: “Please come back P.W. Botha — you were far more honest than any of these ANC rogues and you provided far better services to the public — we had a functioning education system, functioning health system and the police did not murder miners on behalf of government toadies as they do now.”

Kohler Barnard deleted the post and claims she did not notice this part of the paragraph.

The posting has caused outrage and demands for her resignation.

She has apologised repeatedly for her actions and the DA has instituted a disciplinary process against her.

There has been much debate about how Kohler Barnard could have missed the Botha line when Kirk’s post was only a paragraph long and whether she only recognised that it was wrong and racist when it was pointed out to her.

She said on radio yesterday morning that the condemnation she has received felt like “someone beat me with a baseball bat”.

She said she had considered resigning but has been advised to wait for the outcome of the DA’s disciplinary process.

This episode should be a lesson about how we engage on issues that make us angry.

The release of crime statistics this week, for example, enraged many people, particularly Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko and national Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s attempts to portray the rising murder rate as a success because the previous year’s escalation was a higher percentage.

People’s experience of crime, how it instils fear and robs us of our possessions and dignity, tells a different story from the “good story” Phiyega tried to sell by massaging the numbers.

If a loved one has been murdered, it is little comfort to be told by the national commissioner that the rate of violent crime is not so bad.

In the swirl of crime, corruption and lawlessness, fuelled by the dysfunction in the criminal-justice system, it is natural for people to want to vent.

It is also natural for people to look to other safer parts of the world and long for the ability to live without the constant fear of being attacked.

Many of us become resentful about the contamination and failures of the government system because of poor leadership.

But all of these frustrations, while understandable, should never prompt nostalgia about our apartheid past.

Perhaps because of the reconciliation process and the passage of time, people forget how vile our history was.

There is no possible way to find positive aspects in a system that was inherently evil and designed to subjugate the majority of the population on the basis of race. The exploitation, violence and suffering endured by millions of people cannot be compared to poor leadership in a democracy.

This is not to say the failures of our government should be excused.

As an elected representative, it is the responsibility of Kohler Barnard to seek ways to correct these failures, not to join the mindless — and sometimes racist — ranting about the state of our country.

If she is unable to do that, then perhaps she should resign.

South Africa does not need more politicians who do nothing but spew bile and inflame our problems.

• Ranjeni Munusamy is a political journalist and commentator for the Daily Maverick. ranjeni.munusamy@gmail.com

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