LETTER TO THE EDITOR | What we are seeing now is nothing new

A view of the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
A view of the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24

News24 reader Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg has written a response to Qaanitah Hunter's column, in which she asked whether she is a fool to believe in a better tomorrow. 

In her latest column, political editor Qaanitah Hunter writes poignantly about our South African national trauma.

She vividly recounts examples of her personal experience of this trauma, of her loss of a close family friend and his family in the most brutal fashion, of the inevitable rage that anyone with a modicum of humanity experiences when confronted with the savage treatment of the most vulnerable in our society by the very agents of the state who are paid to protect and uplift them.

I'm sure that readers of her column can recite examples of their own – ranging from trauma that they have experienced personally, to incidents of mistreatment of the poor and vulnerable at the hands of those in power – that leave them numb, speechless and at a loss for hope for the future.

One such incident of abuse that has particularly angered me recently was the alleged theft and subsequent selling of food parcels meant for the poor by, again, agents of the state, deployees of the ANC, for their own gain.

I cannot help but ask in shocked astonishment: Who does that? 

As usual, when confronted with the realities of these and other abuses of South African citizens by their ANC comrades, the government says all the right things, and the president publicly expresses his outrage and he promises swift corrective action.

But where are the outcomes? Who has been held responsible? Who has been fired? Dare I ask, who is going to jail?

The unfortunate truth is that the past 26 years of ANC rule have been riddled with a litany of similar outrageous abuses.

Abuses of power.

Abuses of tax-payers' money.

Abuses of voters' trust.

Abuses of goodwill.

Abuses that can no longer be tolerated, and which far outweigh any benefit that the ANC can possibly pin their hopes on as a greater good that warrants South African citizens to continue to meekly shrug and remain silent.

One gets the impression that the ANC senses this dissatisfaction. They sense that power just might be slipping away. That the support that they count on, which traditionally bordered on religious fervour, is waning in the wake of scandal upon scandal, cruel abuse upon cruel abuse, and a new generation of voters who are woke enough to voice their discontent.

Unfortunately, instead of spurring the ANC into introspection and decisive self-corrective action, one gets the sense that their ever more rapidly shrinking support  base is spurring them into ever more feverish looting, because the kitty is almost empty.

Every taxpayer, who looks at his or her payslip at the end of the month, seeing the amount deducted from their gross earnings to go to the state, after which they pay additional taxes on just about all their subsequent monthly purchases, and additional fees to secure their families, to ensure their health, to give their children access to a reasonable education – every such taxpayer knows that a large portion of those precious rands in taxes are not going to be applied honestly for the greater good.

And, of course, one has to bear in mind that simply being a taxpayer, being a member of the fragile and shrinking middle class, earning enough monthly income to be eligible for tax deductions, makes you one of the few most privileged people in the country.

We have recently been informed that South Africa has now reached the point where we will need to borrow billions – hundreds of billions in fact – to come back from the edge of the abyss. Without these borrowings, the state will cease to function. Infrastructure will implode. The economy will follow.

The money has well and truly run out, and there is scant comfort in being in a position to say, "I told you so", and quoting Margaret Thatcher's warning that "the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money”.

The hundreds of billions in proposed borrowings will need to be paid back, with interest, for many, many years, and possibly multiple generations to come.

What possible reason could any taxpayer have to believe that the borrowed money will not also be stolen?

All indications are that sooner, rather than later, we will hear about another scandal, and subsequently another commission of inquiry (which costs additional millions) will be set up. And there will be few or no consequences for the perpetrators.

And finally, as a last hurrah, they will raid the pension funds of the working class.

As we recently heard from [Finance] Minister Tito Mboweni, the wheels are already in motion to make this possible.

Qaanitah Hunter ended her column with the following question:

Am I a fool for still being optimistic at a better tomorrow?

This is a question that every patriotic South African, who loves this country, has undoubtedly asked with increasing frequency over the past years.

Should we cling on to hope when all indications are that the situation will not improve, that the ANC is irreparably immoral and corrupt, and that South Africa's slide to the oblivion of just another failed, post-colonial African state, is inevitable?

In Ayn Rand's dystopian novel Atlas Shrugged, in which the author warns against the dangers of a socialist state, one of the main characters, Francisco d'Anconia, delivers a speech in which he says the following, a quote which I have long recognised as likely being a stark, foreboding prediction of what we could expect for the future in South Africa under ANC rule:

“[Y]ou will see the rise of the men of the double standard – the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money – the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law – men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims – then money becomes its creators’ avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenceless men, once they’ve passed a law to disarm them.

“Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favours – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed.”

These words, written more than half a century ago, describe with eerie accuracy what we have witnessed and experienced in South Africa during the past 26 years under ANC rule: Utterly corrupt men and women in power, who consume without producing, who lavishly adorn themselves with every component of material wealth in a sea of poverty, at the expense of the producers, the risk takers, the wielders of tools, the creators of the same wealth that they so flippantly squander.

Dare we believe that we will escape Francisco d'Anconia’s final words, his prophesy of doom?

Surely, the only possible honest answer has to be: No, because as long as the ANC remains in power, we dare not hope, we dare not be optimistic, we dare not dream.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that all of this is so clichéd.

It has all played out before, not once or twice, but time and again.

Despite our knowledge of the past, despite the manifold warnings written in the annals of history, despite the best intentions of good men and women, it is happening all over again, and we have been, and remain, incapable of escaping the same destructive path as all the other nations who have suffered under the relentless attack of ostensible liberators, who turned out to be brutal, vicious perpetrators of oppression.

None of this is new. None of this has not happened before in another time and place.

It is, after all, 40 odd years ago, that Linton Kwesi Johnson, who I see has this year been awarded the PEN Pinter Prize for his literary genius, penned the words:

Dem a seek posishan

Aaf di backs of blacks

Seek promoshan

Aaf di backs of blacks


Dem a black petty-booshwah

Dem full of flaw

Dem a black petty-booshwah

Dem full of flaw.

- Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg writes in his personal capacity. 

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