ANC promises violence: Bekkersdal gunman

2014-03-19 11:00

Text can be defined as anything that communicates meaning or a message. Thus image is text. (Similarly, a decision or action is also text.) When looking at the image of the African National Congress’ (ANC) gun toting member in Bekkersdal, what meaning does this communicate? What does it call on the audience to think?

It quite clearly associates the ANC’s brand and image with a weapon. Weapons, as we know are that which is meant to inflict some sort of violence. The image therefore communicates violence by a member of the ANC, who is in this case a brand ambassador for the ANC. Let us look at why this is of such importance. In so doing, we will briefly glance at the culmination of our liberation movement, which saw South Africa into a peaceful or non-violent revolution.

The turn of the century has seen a turn in South African politics. We have begun to take for granted the fortune of our peaceful revolution. What we have shifted to is therefore a discourse of violence, since peace is what we are turning away from.

Let’s look at 1994 briefly, which saw the climactic end to Apartheid. We can call it that because of the array of variables that were at play in making our peaceful revolution so. There was, firstly, and most importantly; the tenacious liberation movement that South Africans fought against the oppressive government from within its borders. This liberation movement saw the imprisonment of the late former President nelson Mandela. A move that instead of shattering the uprisings; galvanised it. Secondly; and largely linked to Mandela’ imprisonment, there was the popularisation of anti-apartheid protests globally. Thirdly, the sanctions that were placed on South Africa as businesses and nations boycotted the Apartheid policy by withdrawing trade. Lastly, there was the end of the Cold War.

The latter two variables were, arguably, the most crucial. Here’s why: Sanctions cost the then government money. So it could not indefinitely afford to sustain itself. Much of our liberation struggle was funded by Communist nations. As they began to disintegrate, so did the funding for much of our liberation struggle. The result, thankfully, was a stale mate and the rest is history as we know it. It seems almost miraculous doesn’t it?

There is no refuting that there was grave loss of life suffered during our liberation struggle. But we were not plunged into Civil War. If we look at other African nations that fought liberation struggles resulting in classic revolutions. We can tell the damning impact this had on the enterprise of nation building. Put otherwise, it had far reaching detriments to the the consolidation of democracy. There are many cases where nations can be defined as ‘democratic’ without really boasting the true traits thereof.

These traits being as follows: an active civil society, free press, political tolerance, good governance, a strong or growing economy and the rule of law – to name the most obvious. In cases where violent revolutions have imbedded conflict in the political cultures of liberated states, we see that some, many and even all of these traits of consolidated democracy are missing. The threat of political violence is one that cannot be taken lightly as it can radically undo concerted efforts made towards a healthy democracy.

With this in mind, let us think about our head of state. The Honourable President Jacob Zuma; who rose to power within the ranks of the ANC and succeeded in winning over mass support by chanting songs that incite violence. Whether the then aspiring president had predicted that singing such songs could incite violence, or whether he even cared is debatable. The fact is that he did. The fact is; this was his way of rallying support. It was his way of mobilising the masses, as it were. It was a device, never mind the consequences. Never mind our political history. Never mind our political reality.

It’s no surprise that we see this image of an ANC member; gun in hand at a protest in Bekkersdal. This was a service delivery protest. The ANC was intent on disrupting the protest. So essentially what they are communicating is ‘if you protest a protest that we do not agree with, we’ll shoot you.’

The ANC says it will investigate the matter as it is uncertain of the individual’s intentions. This is hard to believe at best, considering that the ANC is well organised to the point of militant precision. When there is a march or protest that the ANC doesn’t agree with, it responds with threats of violence followed by well thought out and rolled out on the ground presence. As it did when the Democratic Alliance marched to Luthuli house, in disagreement with the ANC’s election manifesto. On the ground that day, there were murmurs that the ANC had been gathered at Luthuli house, since the previous evening; with its leadership encouraging members to chant songs of violence.

Once again, the ANC slowly warms South Africans up to violence as a viable political tool when it is entirely unconstitutional. It is unconstitutional in the sense that it necessarily implies that there are those who deserve to be on the receiving end of such political violence. Therefore it is saying that the rights to safety and security of those on the receiving end may be infringed upon.

So let us think about the ANC and political tolerance:

1) Imagery or text communicates meaning

2) South Africa’s peaceful revolution communicates a message of political tolerance

3) Political tolerance is in large definitive for democracy

4) The ANC member, pictured holding a gun communicates political intolerance

5) The message or communication from the ANC refutes the message of South Africa’s peaceful revolution

Let us, for the sake of real time implication, add to the above list of statements, that today saw political parties publicly commit to upholding the electoral code of conduct. Which again implies the all-important political tolerance that this piece so heavily hinges on?

1) Imagery or text communicates meaning

2) South African political parties, including the ANC, committed to upholding the electoral code of conduct

3) The electoral code of conduct denotes the importance of political tolerance

4) Political tolerance is in large, definitive for democracy

5) The ANC member, pictured holding a gun communicates political intolerance

6) This message or communication from the ANC therefore refutes its message that it will uphold electoral code of conduct

We are seeing political tolerance, set out earlier as cornerstones of the consolidation of democracy; be undone for the sake of politicking. Aside from inciting violence, the ANC also incites racial hatred and we need no lesson in what that can mean for a nation. It doesn’t always end in hate speech. It can end in Xenophobia or oppression. It can also end in genocide.

The ANC’s message is one of violence and intolerance. The ANC is undemocratic and irresponsible at best.

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