Friends & Friction: Hope, ubuntu in a time of chaos

Cranes jut high in the Sandton skyline like the skyscrapers they are raising, as if their sole motive is to touch the stars. The architecture is nothing to behold, mostly unoriginal, as if the building plans were found in a lucky packet.

As the Sandton cityscape touches the heavens above, factories are closing down below. Lawyers are making all the money. According to The Economist, nearly 4% of the world’s unemployed are South African.

Food prices have skyrocketed and, as the election approaches, no one has laid a plan of how they are going to end the economic malaise. So after the election we should expect to trudge through the difficulties of life.

The mental emptiness of our thinkers has finally been exposed, like the mythical worm that eats the brain of a child. It is as if the intellectuals, if we ever had any, cannot hold two thoughts at the same time.

Read: How we can heal our wounds and build the nation

There is no other story beyond the fable of the lost nine years, largely because they cannot imagine a fresh future for this country beyond the scraps that were scripted in foreign capitals.

Partisanship has gone in the way of common sense and vulgarity is fast reaching the levels preceding the black-on-black violence of the 1990s. The rhetoric is causing a polemic brain freeze, so much so that I wonder if South Africa will ever become a non-racial society.

Justice, friends, is not fair play. Instead, it is, as Socrates warned in Plato’s The Republic, “the art of which gives good to friends and evil to enemies”.

A person still entrenched in the African sense of ubuntu would be horrified to remember that Plato said “he who is a good keeper of anything is also a good thief”. In other words, those who claim to be the clean guards of the state today should also be looked at with suspicion as the thieves that will be unearthed tomorrow.

Our politicians today lack what art critic Hilton Kramer called persuasive theory. They are unable to tell us something that we need to urgently know and their converts, who masquerade as journalists, keep chanting their praises instead of asking the urgent questions.

Democratic South Africa has had six heads of state before this sixth election and none of them, except for the late president Nelson Mandela, finished two terms in office.

So why should we believe that President Cyril Ramaphosa will buck the trend? Must we start getting used to the idea of saying president David Mabuza in the same way that we got used to the idea of saying president Thabo Mbeki during Mandela’s tenure?

Rightfully or otherwise, right now, in the eyes of many, both locally and internationally, the heir to Ramaphosa’s presidency is portrayed as the devil himself.

Must the people run to neighbouring countries like our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters did during former president Robert Mugabe’s tenure? Remember how our Mozambican brethren flocked to South Africa under president Joaquim Chissano? Should they await an inferno of famine like our fellow Africans in Ethiopia under former prime minister Mengistu Haile Mariam?

In the orgy of corruption, official opposition sounds more like castrated men who scream and shout about what is happening, rather than able leaders who are ready to take over. Their endless media stunts have exposed their naked spirits that are forever hungry for fleeting glory, but unable to capture the power in Ramaphosa’s hands.

But if ever there was a time to be hopeful, it is now. Every great country is shaped by accidents of history, both good and bad. It is the harsh and opposing forces that finally create a better society.

Despite all our problems, there is a deep decency among all those who have been touched by the African continent and they are always following the north star that is ubuntu.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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August 2020

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