The people are losing hope in the capability of state institutions to maintain law and order, and so they are taking the law into their own hands, writes Omry Makgoale
When your house is burning, everyone must be preoccupied with putting out the fire.
But this is only a temporary solution; to prevent future fires, fuel, ignition sources and oxygen must be kept separate from each other.
Now that South Africa is on fire, the heart of our problems is top-down, politically licensed corruption manifested in state capture.
Revelations show that the Guptas, the Watsons and other unscrupulous individuals, having looted state-owned enterprises such as Eskom, Transnet, Denel and Prasa, brought them to the brink of bankruptcy.
Politicians at various levels, from Parliament to local councillors, were exposed as having been extremely corrupt.
Worse still, they have not been arrested; they freely walk the streets, while others bask in Parliament or have become ambassadors in foreign countries.
This has depressed the population.
If you are represented by thieves in foreign lands, you are saying that they are your best people.
It implies that those left at home are worse than the ambassadors.
To appoint crooks as ambassadors means you are compromised politically, that you do not know the difference between crooks and patriots, or that you have lost sense of what is right and wrong.
With an unemployment rate of 29%, South Africans have watched politicians looting without consequence – no arrests, no prosecutions, it is free for all, and crime does pay.
When you are unemployed and starving, and you see politicians splashing money around at lavish weddings at Sun City or building palaces such as Nkandla while you remain destitute, it is natural to become hopeless.
At the same time, with no adequate protection of our borders, immigrants from across the world – Pakistanis, Indians, Somalis, Ethiopians, Nigerians, Ghanaians, Zimbabweans, Mozambiquans – have taken over the running of township businesses and village shops.
They have been given accommodation by us South Africans, whether they have come in legally or otherwise.
As they become successful, jealousy starts to creep in.
But our worst nightmares are about immigrants allegedly selling drugs to school kids at the Pretoria inner city taxi rank and the consequent shooting of a taxi driver by these drug peddlers who are alleged to be Nigerians.
This led to flaring emotions in the country and sparked the fires that blazed throughout Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the North West and some parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
So what is the point of our Constitution and legal system?
Unemployed South Africans witnessed in disbelief the looting of state institutions by politicians who continue to loot without consequence.
With a malfunctioning police force, captured and hollowed investigation capacities, a bankrupted crime intelligence, and the National Prosecuting Authority’s inertia, there is nothing positive to show for South Africans living in a squatter camp.
They watch with envy as immigrants become successful businesspeople in their townships and villages, and undocumented immigrants fight with the SA Police Service in the Johannesburg CBD.
Illegal immigrants pelting bricks at our police induced anger and contempt towards the immigrants.
Taxi drivers in Pretoria watched as drugs were peddled in front of their eyes, with no action from the police.
No wonder they took the law into their own hands.
The country is teetering on the verge of collapse of state institutions because of corruption in all facets of government.
The people are losing hope in the capability of state institutions to maintain law and order, and so they are taking the law into their own hands.
Their violence reflects loss of hope in the police, immigration officials, state-owned enterprise officials, municipal officials, government and in democracy itself.
Untreated sewage flows into the Vaal River. It marks the partial collapse of a state under enormous corruption.
There will be periodic upheavals until corruption is addressed in a satisfactory manner.
But why is this happening? The fact is, horrors of this particular extreme did not happen under the apartheid regime.
Does this mean that the white racist regime was right when it said that we black people cannot govern ourselves?
Were we stupid in risking our lives as members of the ANC, the Pan Africanist Congress, the Azanian People’s Organisation, trade unions, civic organisations, the SA Students’ Organisation and so on?
Or do we ask ourselves: “What have we been doing wrong these past 25 years?” and then discuss our different opinions, find the best answer and make the great national decision to change what is wrong?
I have argued again and again that the fundamental source of our problems lies in our undemocratic electoral system, which prevents us voters from having choice over any individual politician at national and provincial levels, and across half of municipal seats.
All power goes to the top, nothing to us below. And when the top is captured, everything is captured.
The solution to our problems ultimately lies in the reform of our undemocratic parliamentary electoral laws so that black people can for the first time directly elect their own MPs, not vote for an unknown power bloc.
As it is, party headquarters have been captured by various business barons who sponsor the respective internal elections.
We learned through inquiry by the Public Protector the identities of those who sponsored President Cyril Ramaphosa in his running for ANC presidency, but we do not know who sponsored DA leader Mmusi Maimane in the DA internal elections, neither do we know who sponsored EFF president Julius Malema nor African Christian Democratic Party president Kenneth Meshoe.
We, the voters of South Africa, should demand to know who sponsored party leaders in all internal elections because therein lies the capture and control as to who gets what tender and which favours.
And we should demand the right to choose our politicians for ourselves.
Or are we still slaves?
Makgoale is a rank-and-file member of the ANC