Our people are so used to getting nothing that they will smile at a pittance

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Political leaders have used poor black people as a tool to hang on to power. Picture: File
Political leaders have used poor black people as a tool to hang on to power. Picture: File

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Some time this week popular political analyst Justice Malala stirred up a hornet’s nest.

On an eNCA show this writer did not watch, Malala is said to have implied that those black people who continue voting ANC despite all its taintings were, well, to put it crudely, rather stupid. This saw at least one Daily Maverick contributor telling Malala where to get off. Oscar van Heerden, a man generally of sound penmanship, put it to Malala, albeit not in as many words: No way that people who’d fought the sufferings of apartheid and lost their lives in the process could be so easily weaned off the filial party of liberation.

He sprinkled a few titbits about how the party had afforded the masses with piped water, electricity and “[equalised] old age pensions across the colour line and [restored] the dignity of our aged and most vulnerable”.

Of course only an idiot would dispute the inherent validity of these claims, and the self-righteous Malala ought to get off his high horse before calling anybody dumb.

Our people are so accustomed to getting nothing that they will smile at a pittance

But I live in a township too. Here we were, indeed, officially put on the grid in the early 1990s. Not until the early 2000s did some of us have those foul bucket toilets replaced with ones that actually flushed. The first tarred road was also introduced round this time. For the tail end of the apartheid years we relied on a communal tap that catered to at least a dozen families. No doubt a party of liberators, who were well aware of these difficulties and now commanding a national budget, would know where the money should go.

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Yet nowadays in these very towns it is not uncommon to have leaders proudly posing in front of a newly installed tap or with a few elderly citizens who’ve just been issued food parcels or blankets.

It would seem they are saying: See, we are working in the interests of the masses even if we are expecting you to smile for next to nothing.

The long and the short of it is that our people are so accustomed to getting nothing that they will smile at a pittance. They will excitedly gush at a slipshod RDP house, or a roofless toilet, that neither the school textbooks have arrived nor the chronic medication because the black body has accepted that it wallows in the dregs of the socioeconomic ladder.

Mr van Heerden is merely regurgitating, albeit with some fine prose, what every lay-by ANC councillor will tell you. He is saying not only is the substandard treatment that so irks Malala acceptable, but we should thank God for the ANC.

They are not stupid, only desperate

But those of us in the gutter will insist that a party that commands a budget of billions, a chunk of which invariably goes to corruption, ought to be doing way more to save face.

Moreover, there is the inescapable reality that the inability to grow the economy and create jobs means that people are being reduced to social welfare. They do not enjoy the dignity that comes with creating their own wealth and the glorious pleasures this generates.

Contrary to popular belief, social welfare is nothing to smile about. Of course such sentiments will not fly without the emissary being called a self-hating black person. Correction, though, the term ought to be self-respecting.

What the ANC will seek to foster is a nation of cheerleaders who hunker around courts in support of thieves and looters.

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It will pull off a five-year long disappearing act only to show up visiting hovels with promises of building houses in exchange for your vote. It will seek to turn any independent mind into a grovelling and moping propagandist.

When we ought to be going nowhere near a suspected looter, the party would sooner pile a horde of unemployeds on to a bus with promises of a packed lunch and maybe a cold one to slake their thirst. That’s if they don’t simply promote these nefarious elements to better positions. So materially pitiful are our people that they will gladly play along, burn some shirts and scream “hands off our leader!”

And these are precisely the people Malala refers to. They are not stupid, only desperate. And we know that the ANC does not take kindly to dissent and people who ask too many questions. What it wants are simply those who ask “how high?” when the comrades say “jump”.

Mayaba is a freelance writer


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