SA pot will boil over even­tu­ally

CityPress - - Voices - Mondli Makhanya voices@city­press.co.za

Those who have stud­ied up­ris­ings will ar­gue that there are cer­tain ba­sic con­di­tions that ren­der a so­ci­ety ripe for such – among them a grow­ing in­equal­ity, sense of mis­gov­er­nance, fail­ing lead­er­ship and dis­gruntle­ment among the mid­dle classes and in­tel­lec­tu­als in the es­tab­lish­ment.

These read­ers of his­tory also cite the grow­ing dis­tance be­tween the lead­er­ship and the peo­ple, a phe­nom­e­non that leads those in power to be­come deaf to the voices around them. The state then be­comes para­noid, spies on and un­leashes vi­o­lence on its cit­i­zens. A de­ci­sive el­e­ment, which re­sults from a com­bi­na­tion of some or all of the above, is dis­trust of those in power.

If those who run this coun­try, many of whom were trained in revolutionary the­ory, were to hon­estly con­sider these fac­tors, they’d be wor­ried.

It is com­mon cause that we are one of the most un­equal so­ci­eties on the planet. We know about the mis­gov­er­nance that is felt most harshly by those in work­ing class neigh­bour­hoods. The lead­er­ship fail­ure needs no fur­ther elab­o­ra­tion. Mid­dle class re­sent­ment has been pal­pa­ble for some time now, as has been the mu­tual dis­dain be­tween Num­ber 1 and the in­tel­lec­tual class.

The dis­tance be­tween the lead­er­ship and the peo­ple is vis­i­ble in the daily protests by those who feel they are not be­ing ad­e­quately served by the cur­rent or­der. When you lis­ten to all the con­spir­acy the­o­ries com­ing from the mouths of those who are feign­ing lead­er­ship, and con­sider the vi­o­lent – but still rel­a­tively re­strained – clashes be­tween the po­lice and protestors, you would see the state busy gird­ing its loins against the peo­ple.

Then we come to the all-im­por­tant mat­ter of trust. The cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion has spent the past seven years squan­der­ing this com­mod­ity – so much so that peo­ple roll their eyes – much like the pres­i­dent dur­ing Nkandla ques­tion time – when­ever gov­ern­ment makes a new prom­ise or an­nounce­ment.

What is bizarre and dis­con­cert­ing about this squan­der­ing of trust is that it was done with eyes wide open. Min­is­ters of state piled lie upon lie in their bid to pro­tect a cor­rupt­ible man from any form of ac­count­abil­ity. In do­ing so, they were erod­ing the le­git­i­macy, au­thor­ity and dig­nity of the state.

Three events of the past two weeks stand out as demon­stra­tions of how this le­git­i­macy and dig­nity have been un­der­mined.

The first was the re­lease of the long-awaited Ser­iti com­mis­sion re­port into the multi­bil­lion-rand arms deal. The dis­mis­sive man­ner in which the re­port was re­ceived demon­strated just how dis­trust­ful many have be­come of au­thor­ity. It was a case of: “Oh, but what did you ex­pect? It was al­ways go­ing to be a white­wash.” Even worse was the fact that it was be­ing read out by some­one with zero cred­i­bil­ity in most quar­ters.

The se­cond was the Free­dom Day cel­e­bra­tions, dur­ing which the head of state sang the praises of the Con­sti­tu­tion that he had re­cently been found to have vi­o­lated, and which he had mocked by is­su­ing min­is­ters with slap-on-the-wrist rep­ri­mands. With a straight face, he told a na­tion, which can­not wait to see the back of him, that “what is im­por­tant is that we should hum­ble our­selves” and “if you were elected at one point and peo­ple no longer want you, hum­ble your­self”.

Just in case the na­tion was get­ting ex­cited that this was a pre­lude to a mo­men­tous an­nounce­ment about his own fu­ture, he quickly made it clear that he was re­fer­ring to other peo­ple, such as the coun­cil­lors who will be elected on Au­gust 3.

On the fol­low­ing day, he presided over the con­fer­ring of the na­tional or­ders, a solemn oc­ca­sion on which the repub­lic hon­ours its finest and salutes its hon­ourable friends. But with the most dirt-laden in­di­vid­ual con­fer­ring the awards, the oc­ca­sion lost much of its sheen. Im­por­tant as it still was, his pres­ence in the pic­ture de­nuded it of much of its dig­nity.

The week was com­pleted with the “spy tapes” judg­ment, in which the North Gaut­eng High Court ruled that the 2009 de­ci­sion by the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Au­thor­ity to set aside Zuma’s cor­rup­tion charges in 2009 was ir­ra­tional. That de­ci­sion, by then act­ing na­tional di­rec­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions Mokotedi Mp­she, was one of the most dis­grace­ful episodes in demo­cratic South Africa’s his­tory. It was es­sen­tially the re­sult of crass bul­ly­ing, when an ANC task team strong-armed Mp­she into drop­ping the charges so that Zuma would not have to park his VIP car out­side the court in­stead of in the Union Build­ings parkade. The long-term ef­fect of the de­ci­sion has been dev­as­tat­ing to or­gans of state and the na­tional well­be­ing.

Zuma and his side­kicks will brush off the judg­ment as “just one of those things”. They will con­tinue their Stal­in­grad-style cam­paign by tak­ing the mat­ter to the higher courts, unperturbed by the costs, as these will be borne by the South African pub­lic. An an­gry pub­lic will grow an­grier. The lead­er­ship will be deaf to their anger. The para­noid state will re­act to their rest­less­ness with old-fash­ioned krag­dadigheid.

It may not be to­mor­row, next month or next year, but the ten­sions will even­tu­ally mount and morph into some­thing more than per­turb­ing.

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