MANY of us heaved a collective sigh of relief when the Zupta-commissioned Bell Pottinger racial campaign was outed about a year ago.
Sadly, the campaign had had a successful run of just over a year before it was unmasked for what it was. Much of the damage had already been done. A lot of fear had been sown in the lives of many South Africans, leaving some of them making enquiries about possible emigration to safer countries for the sake of their own lives and the future of their children - and our already fragile national unity was further weakened.
Now we have to deal with heightened levels of suspicion among different communities.
This is not good for South Africa.
We had almost reached the edge of a precipice when we realised that all the racist slogans being bandied about by the Zupta apologists – we know who they are - were part of a well-orchestrated campaign to derail the South Africa we sought to build together in the early years of our democracy.
At the time, many of us were persuaded that the Economic Freedom Fighters were on the side of national unity. After all, they too urged the ANC – which spent almost a decade defending the indefensible - to place the interests of South Africa ahead of its own.
It seems we were wrong to look at the EFF’s leadership as maturing, potential national leaders of a diverse South Africa.
It was premature to start celebrating the departure of racially divisive forces when we saw off Bell Pottinger and opened up the belly of the Zupta-led state capture. The sad thing is that we South Africans keep doing this to ourselves. A bad person gets chased out or assigned new responsibilities and we make that an excuse to start celebrating.
How many times must we be kicked in the behind before we realise that where a cancerous cell has been taken out – especially after a long period of germination or metastasising in the body - more time must be spent checking the body for any remnants of the said cancer, and cleaning it out completely before we start with our braaing?
The wrecking ball EFF
From where I sit, the only difference between the Zupta-commissioned and funded Bell Pottinger campaign, the Black First Land First (BLF) movement and the EFF is that whereas the former were paid directly by the Guptas – OK, by money obtained through unconventional methods - the EFF is paid by directly by us, the taxpayers.
This party has seen it fit to use its parliamentary legitimacy to continue the work of Bell Pottinger, the BLF, and several individuals whose lifestyles were allegedly funded by the Guptas.
Like many South Africans, I supported the EFF when it harassed former president Jacob Zuma in the National Assembly and on other forums, leading to his eventual removal. I even used my chess vote in favour of them for being steadfast against Zuma’s horrific, divisive leadership of our country.
But I will not vote for them again. Especially as they remind me of places like Nazi Germany, Rwanda and Zimbabwe each time their leader has taken to the podium since the departure of Zuma.
I will not be one to be remembered for claiming that I didn't know; or that I saw nothing wrong with it; or that I didn’t think they were serious when history gets written about a bunch of people who, driven by misplaced emotions, political immaturity and opportunism, will have driven a country to ground by racially harassing innocent people and causing them to flee the country of their birth.
'So-called white land thieves'
We should also not assume that the so-called white land thieves are a bunch of unarmed cowards who will simply cower in the face of EFF zealots and run. Chances are that some will stand their ground and fight to defend what they believe to be rightfully theirs. Blood will be spilt and innocent lives will be lost.
None of this is necessary.
With the forced early departure of Jacob Zuma from office - the low hanging political fruit the EFF fed on to reach its current heights - Malema’s party seems to have served its purpose and to be in a frantic search at the stinking bottoms of our political dustbins for other reasons to remain relevant and in the public’s eye.
Early indications are that they’re prepared to grab at anything to achieve this - including their infantile wrestling with inanimate mannequins in H&M stores a few months ago - even at the risk of causing a racial war and social unrest in South Africa.
South Africa is a complex, richly diverse, and largely modern African country. No one can lead it successfully without first acknowledging these qualities and, in the spirit of its progressive founding documents, pledging to honour and harness the talents of all its people, irrespective of their racial, ethnic, religious, sexual and gender identity backgrounds, to make it a home for all its people and a leader in a world increasingly hungry for inspiring leadership with a vision.
The kind of leader who would be the right fit to lead the South Africa I describe above will come with emotional intelligence, maturity, balance, patience, tolerance and solid self-esteem - all of which are qualities I struggle to locate in Malema.
In fact, if Julius Malema were a cake I was baking for my dinner guests, I would not take him out of the oven just yet. I would leave him in there for a little longer, especially going by his infantile belligerence against our fellow South Africans and the disrespect of the vision we all set for this country at the dawn of our democracy.
Maturity doesn’t mean neglect
We have to deal with the unresolved legacy issues inherited from apartheid, no doubt, especially the land issue and racist incidents that still rear their heads on farms, at the workplace and in other public places.
We also have to make those South Africans who find nothing wrong with the symbol of hate that is the apartheid flag see that brandishing it in our faces makes them no better men and women than Julius Malema.
And we also have to have the balance and maturity to deal with the scourge of farm and other forms of murders – irrespective of the identity of the victims – in order to show all South Africans that they belong.
We do not need to tear South Africa apart in order to grow a winning nation.
- Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley Reputation Managers. Views expressed are his own.