The protests against Zuma have brought to­gether peo­ple of all races and so­cial classes. This is our op­por­tu­nity to change this coun­try to ben­e­fit all who live in it, writes

CityPress - - Voices -

In its lat­est Strat­egy and Tac­tics doc­u­ment, the ANC reaf­firms the lead­er­ship role it be­lieves it should be play­ing in so­ci­ety, and does a crit­i­cal anal­y­sis of where our so­ci­ety is at. The doc­u­ment, pre­pared for the na­tional pol­icy con­fer­ence to be held in June, speaks a lan­guage that is vastly dif­fer­ent from the wild talk that is pub­licly spo­ken by the cur­rent lead­er­ship.

“In­formed by prin­ci­ple and a con­tin­u­ous read­ing of the bal­ance of forces, the ANC also seeks to avoid ul­tra-left ad­ven­tur­ism and ‘rev­o­lu­tion­ary leaps’ that may in fact re­sult in the de­feat of the rev­o­lu­tion,” the doc­u­ment reads.

Com­pare that with the un­de­fined rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, seizure of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion and other pop­ulist clap­trap that is mouthed by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and the wild men and women in his po­lit­i­cal camp.

The doc­u­ment spends much time analysing the work that has been done in trans­form­ing South Africa, the work that still needs to be done and the chal­lenges that lie ahead. It is hon­est in ac­knowl­edg­ing the short­com­ings in right­ing the wrongs of the past. In speak­ing about those who ben­e­fited from the colo­nial and apartheid past and those who suf­fered from the op­pres­sive sys­tems, it is re­al­is­tic.

“The marginalised are less and less pre­pared to bear the agony. At the same time, more and more of the priv­i­leged do seem to ap­pre­ci­ate that their in­ter­ests are closely linked to those of so­ci­ety as a whole,” it says.

“This con­flu­ence of cir­cum­stances presents a unique op­por­tu­nity to forge a so­cial com­pact to move the na­tion to greater so­cial heights. The cur­rent phase of tran­si­tion de­mands de­ci­sive­ness, speed and a dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion. The suc­cesses and the fail­ures call for op­ti­mal so­ci­etal lead­er­ship,” the doc­u­ment says.

Trans­la­tion: There is an op­por­tu­nity to reignite the na­tion-build­ing project as the for­tunes of apartheid’s ben­e­fi­cia­ries and those of the vic­tims are in­ter­twined. Again, a far cry from the barking and race-bait­ing among the controlling com­po­nent of ANC lead­ers.

“So­cial agency, in­spired by ide­al­ism and skil­ful or­gan­i­sa­tion, is the key to un­lock move­ment to higher forms of hu­man civil­i­sa­tion,” it says.

The ANC com­mits to con­tribut­ing “more de­ci­sively to this en­deav­our” and it af­firms the “ap­pre­ci­a­tion that most South Africans as­pire to a hu­mane so­ci­ety; and are pre­pared to act in its re­al­i­sa­tion”.

Now, those are the ut­ter­ances of a think­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion. An or­gan­i­sa­tion that should have recog­nised the unique op­por­tu­nity pre­sented by the out­rage against cor­rup­tion and its twin, state cap­ture. The re­cent past – no­tably the past 18 to 24 months – has seen an amaz­ing con­flu­ence of in­ter­ests be­tween the work­ing classes and the well heeled Did you protest against the pres­i­dent? Tell us about your ex­pe­ri­ence. SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word ANC. In­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 when it comes to these mat­ters. South Africans across class and race hate cor­rup­tion equally. The ways in which and de­grees to which cor­rup­tion af­fects them may dif­fer ma­te­ri­ally, but they all suf­fer. And they all recog­nise that the coun­try they love, that gives them a liveli­hood and that they as­pire to build, will be killed by this cancer.

As the protests mounted over the past two weeks, the pres­i­dent and the mob he prefers to sur­round him­self with at­tempted to racialise them. A crude pro­pa­ganda cam­paign was mounted to project the protest as a mis­sion of those seek­ing to pro­tect white priv­i­lege against Zuma’s new-found pas­sion for eco­nomic eman­ci­pa­tion of black peo­ple.

The fact that the cam­paign against the cap­ture of the state was black-led and that its most vo­cal pro­po­nent was the SA Com­mu­nist Party was con­ve­niently for­got­ten. The fact that Cosatu – led by its two pub­lic ser­vice af­fil­i­ates – also drew the line was nei­ther here nor there for the cor­rup­tion de­fend­ers. The fact that the ANC’s own stal­warts and vet­er­ans have stepped for­ward to of­fer moral guid­ance and lead­er­ship is Tipp-Exed out, be­cause they speak inconvenient truths.

The work­ing class and un­em­ployed black peo­ple who joined the protests, and who were by far the ma­jor­ity, were stooges of the whites. The black peo­ple who braved the heat and the rain to voice their re­jec­tion of bad prac­tices were just stupid idiots who were be­ing duped by white peo­ple. Pre­sum­ably, black peo­ple have no sense of moral­ity or ethics. When it comes to is­sues of cor­rup­tion, it is the white peo­ple who would feel strongly about it and then con­vince the black peo­ple that it is a re­ally bad thing.

An or­gan­i­sa­tion with the ca­pac­ity for the kind of think­ing that is con­tained in the Strat­egy and Tac­tics doc­u­ment would have recog­nised this unique mo­ment in South Africa’s his­tory. Not since the sum­mer of 1989 have South Africans united across class and race lines around a com­mon ob­jec­tive as in the past fort­night.

The Mass Demo­cratic Move­ment-led De­fi­ance Cam­paign of that year was the fi­nal push against the apartheid gov­ern­ment. Just like the cur­rent push against cor­rupt el­e­ments, it brought in dif­fer­ent strata of so­ci­ety. Even those who had ben­e­fited from apartheid – but stood to lose more if the coun­try col­lapsed – re­alised what was good for them and joined in the protest. It was an un­stop­pable rev­o­lu­tion in which the “ANC Lives, ANC Leads” slo­gan of the then-banned move­ment was dis­played with de­fi­ant glee.

To­day, the ANC is re­fus­ing to lead, pre­fer­ring to rather be on the wrong side of his­tory and moral­ity. To­day, the ANC is be­ing ren­dered ir­rel­e­vant as so­ci­ety seeks lead­er­ship else­where.

In a move rem­i­nis­cent of Zanu-PF, the party threw its leader a lav­ish birthday party, even as eco­nomic news fore­told of many more days of hunger ahead for the na­tion. And, just like Robert Mu­gabe, the leader of our coun­try was ar­ro­gant and de­fi­ant in the face of pub­lic dis­ap­proval. He no longer does the mid­dle-fin­ger thing with his spec­ta­cles, but his danc­ing, singing and gig­gling at his birthday party was the big­gest “f*ck you” he could give South Africa.

Nev­er­the­less, back to na­tion-build­ing and so­cial co­he­sion, which should be led by so­ci­ety in the face of the gov­ern­ing party’s re­fusal to be part of its own his­tor­i­cal project. This mo­ment in the coun­try presents South Africans with an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore a com­mon pact. There has never been a time in post-apartheid South Africa when so many peo­ple have been po­lit­i­cally en­gaged and will­ing to be ac­tivists for good, even if, for some, it is to pro­tect their in­vest­ments, trust funds and prop­erty val­ues. A work­ing class pop­u­la­tion that is po­lit­i­cally en­gaged beyond wage ne­go­ti­a­tion and the shop floor is also fer­tile ground for big con­ver­sa­tion about the direc­tion of the so­ci­ety.

The scep­tics of the 1994 break­through should cease to be re­jec­tion­ists and en­gage with the pre­vi­ously ad­van­taged and have the dif­fi­cult chat. There is no point in shout­ing empty slo­gans about white priv­i­lege and de­coloni­sa­tion with­out map­ping out a prac­ti­cal plan go­ing for­ward. Those who be­lieve that the post-1994 demo­cratic in­fra­struc­ture is em­pow­er­ing can ex­plain why they be­lieve so and how it can be used to achieve the “higher form of civil­i­sa­tion” that our coun­try should be teach­ing the world. The for­merly priv­i­leged should be in­tro­spect­ing about what they have given back to so­ci­ety that en­abled them to not only re­tain their sta­tus, but en­joy one of the freest life­styles on the planet. Civil so­ci­ety, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and busi­ness should be think­ing beyond protest and in­still­ing in­vestor con­fi­dence, and rather about the South Africa that will rise from Zuma’s ru­ins.

Sooner or later, Zuma will go. His cronies and acolytes will go too, pos­si­bly fol­low­ing him to a jail cell some­where. Batha­bile Dlamini will prob­a­bly spend her days sit­ting in the shade of a tree hap­pily chew­ing away.

When all of that hap­pens, South Africans should not be left with a “so what?” mo­ment.

This is our chance to re­visit our so­cial com­pact and strengthen what we have al­ready built.

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