Friends & Friction: We must build a nation of self-respecting, productive citizens

The SANDF members during a patrol in Soweto on the eve of the national lockdown. Picture: Tebogo Letsie
The SANDF members during a patrol in Soweto on the eve of the national lockdown. Picture: Tebogo Letsie

South Africa is on the precipice, and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech on the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown reminded me of PW Botha’s Rubicon speech.

The one thing that they have in common is the military taking over our streets.

Easy solutions are habit-forming. This is the second time in his first term that he has unleashed the army; first in the Cape Flats and now in the whole country.

For heaven’s sake, I hope there will never be another excuse. This is Africa. Our militaries have a habit of overthrowing elected governments.

It is our society after Covid-19 that I am most concerned about.

We currently have 20 million unemployed people, and so they have nothing to lose. The soldiers who are roaming their streets will not offer a solution to their hunger and frustration.

It is the classic case of the toughest gangs on the streets meeting armed gangs that are sanctioned by the state. Videos of the head of the SA National Defence Force, General Solly Shoke, have been circulating on social media, in which he says their job is to just “skop and donner”.

We currently have 20 million unemployed people, and so they have nothing to lose. The soldiers who are roaming their streets will not offer a solution to their hunger and frustration.

There is no doubt these are times of crisis, but that does not mean it is time to take a holiday from thinking.

Although, in truth, we have been on one for the last twelve years or so.

Everyone is desperately looking for the romance, a feel-good story that will help us forget the problems of corruption and incompetence that are piling up.

Sadly, the government’s solution to the looming economic crisis has not been a comprehensive economic plan but a church fundraising-like begging bowl to two industrialists – Johann Rupert and Nicky Oppenheimer.

Cynics say it is to purchase the acquiescence of the EFF. The two good men paid $115 million (R2 billion) for this PR exercise.

Just the advertising spend of Rupert’s Richemont is $400 million per year. Big ups to the two business men, but what is to be made of our begging government?

Read: Covid-19 lockdown: Be a force of kindness, not of might, Ramaphosa tells SANDF

If history is to be heeded, John Pierpont Morgan claimed to save America from bankruptcy during the economic Panic of 1893, when he demanded that he and the Rothschilds be allowed to sell their gold directly to the Treasury in return for 30-year bonds.

The gain for the two men was a tight grip on the US economy until Franklin D Roosevelt broke it with his New Deal, which reformed the financial system.

Hopefully, in our post-Covid-19 society, we will begin to realise that giving change and old clothes is not compassion.

It strips away a person’s dignity, creating a dependency syndrome like monkeys in a zoo that depend on their feeders.

The monkeys do nothing except be seen and they are then fed for that.

Human beings must never be put in that situation.

South Africa must earnestly pursue the dream of nonracialism, and black people must realise that it is not in their interest to become The White Man’s Burden, to borrow from Rudyard Kipling.

We know we are still far behind if we rely on armed men and women to protect us from viruses that attack us from the inside of our bodies.

Instead, they must strive to become equal partners in the affairs of humanity. This status is never donated on a platter, but is earned.

We know we are still far behind if we rely on armed men and women to protect us from viruses that attack us from the inside of our bodies.

May our leaders create a climate in which the people can regain their dignity through doing an honest day’s work and contributing to society, rather than taking only the coins.

We must shed our lowly lewd role that is ruled by command and control.

“All roles are dangerous,” wrote American novelist James Baldwin. “The world tends to trap and immobilise you in the role you play.”

We have to become our own self-respecting, better selves and value our own lives if we are to become a better nation because, without self-respect, we will perish.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency


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President Cyril Ramaphosa says government has set the target of ensuring that at least 40% of goods and services procured by public entities are sourced from women-owned businesses.
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