HOW TO END THE de­struc­tion

The war on pub­lic prop­erty can be stopped, write Fa­ther Sman­gal­iso Mkhatshwa and Jef­frey Se­hume

CityPress - - Voices - Mkhatshwa and Se­hume are associated with the MRM

South Africa has nursed its wounds with­out achiev­ing any recog­nis­able heal­ing for more than 20 years. These wounds are struc­tural and re­quire sys­tem­atic med­i­ca­tion that ad­dresses both symp­toms and causes. A process of find­ing some restora­tion for vic­tims of apartheid began with the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion (TRC). The TRC’s short­com­ings, in em­pha­sis­ing dis­clo­sure above jus­tice, ex­posed the jour­ney still re­quired to build a more in­clu­sive so­ci­ety.

Per­haps what is now re­quired is a TRC to deal with cross-gen­er­a­tional anger, ex­ist­ing in a no­tice­able man­ner in those born af­ter apartheid. The so-called “born-free” gen­er­a­tion is, de­bat­ably, most dis­il­lu­sioned with the out­comes of democ­racy and the un­ful­filled prom­ises of the “rain­bow na­tion” or, more fit­tingly, our cap­puc­cino coun­try. Given our high lev­els of poverty, un­em­ploy­ment, in­equal­ity, and can­cer­ous cor­rup­tion, this is a gen­er­a­tion fac­ing the brunt of dis­ad­van­tage caused by these neg­a­tive struc­tural con­di­tions. There can be no de­nial that if we fail to pass­ably ad­dress these so­cial ills, it will threaten the moral re­gen­er­a­tion of our land.

Given this mi­lieu, there is an ur­gent need to as­sess the meth­ods of strug­gle used by the wretched of our earth. Dur­ing the pre-1994 fight against apartheid, guer­rilla tac­tics were used in a bid to ren­der South Africa law­less and un­govern­able. In the ab­sence of rep­re­sen­ta­tive and le­git­i­mate le­gal in­sti­tu­tions, peo­ple’s jus­tice be­came the norm. It was by a mir­a­cle that the coun­try held to­gether, lead­ing to the es­tab­lish­ment of a demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion. The even­tual ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment was es­tab­lished based on prin­ci­ples of ne­go­ti­a­tion, com­pro­mise, sac­ri­fice and con­sen­sus.

But was this set­tle­ment suf­fi­ciently com­mu­ni­cated to ev­ery­one as a prefer­able – and “civilised” – means to raise con­cerns and solve griev­ances?

How pos­si­ble is it to con­vince peo­ple who don’t have ac­cess to law­fare, to aban­don in­stru­ments of lib­er­a­tion (such as stones and tyres), which worked well in com­pelling the apartheid regime to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble? What would re­place these in­stru­ments when, for one, rep­re­sen­ta­tive coun­cil­lors are mo­ti­vated not to serve com­mu­ni­ties but are driven to be served with di­min­ish­ing pub­lic re­sources?

Which plat­forms can be re­lied on when bar­gain­ing cham­bers are ap­proached, not to seek shared so­lu­tions, but to en­trench cal­ci­fied po­si­tions?

The dis­pute over mu­nic­i­pal borders is one ex­am­ple where pub­lic school­ing has suf­fered. How to ex­plain the al­most Kafkaesque phe­nom­e­non, in some com­mu­ni­ties, of protests over RDP houses de­gen­er­at­ing to a point where there is van­dal­ism and de­struc­tion of houses? Not only is it il­le­gal to de­stroy pub­lic prop­erty, but it causes fear, psy­cho­log­i­cal dam­age and an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour.

For­tu­nately, sev­eral op­tions are avail­able to get us off the dis­as­trous of­framp we are stuck on. In all, these pro­posed so­lu­tions should be lo­calised, have the agree­ment of af­fected com­mu­ni­ties, and be peo­ple-cen­tred.

First, like any coun­try in­volved as we are in low-in­ten­sity war­fare – with world-record-high homi­cide and sex­ual vi­o­lence – we need a col­lec­tive de­brief­ing pro­gramme. The aim of this would be to dis­arm our coun­try. Linked to this would be a fol­low-up cam­paign to iso­late those who use the cover of le­git­i­mate civil dis­obe­di­ence for vile crim­i­nal acts. This has been done in re­cent protests staged against proven al­le­ga­tions of state cap­ture and the #Gup­taLeaks.

Sec­ond, we need a shift from view­ing gov­ern­ment as a giver of pub­lic goods to an en­abler of op­por­tu­ni­ties and con­ducive leg­is­la­tion.

Trag­i­cally, we have be­come a heav­ily de­pen­dent so­ci­ety which does not pri­ori­tise grant­ing peo­ple the means to em­power and up­lift them­selves. In­stead of pro­vid­ing free houses, free clin­ics and free schools, there is noth­ing stop­ping gov­ern­ment from grant­ing lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties land and lim­ited sup­port cap­i­tal for them to build these fa­cil­i­ties them­selves.

Would this not in­stil a sense of pride and own­er­ship in those com­mu­ni­ties?

Would this not en­cour­age them to pro­tect these pub­lic ameni­ties since they help their chil­dren and their sick?

Black na­tion­al­ist move­ment leader Mar­cus Gar­vey is on record as say­ing: “Ac­tion, self-re­liance and the vi­sion of self and the fu­ture have been the only means by which the op­pressed have seen and re­alised the light of their own free­dom.”

Third, while wait­ing for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of such pro­grammes, gov­ern­ment author­i­ties have to do more to ex­plain the mean­ing of “peo­ple’s prop­erty”.

More cam­paigns are oblig­a­tory, on both so­cial me­dia and at taxi ranks, to en­sure politi­cians are held ac­count­able at na­tional, pro­vin­cial and lo­cal lev­els. The power of the bal­lot box should be used to re­ward and re­move pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

There is room to start con­sid­er­ing com­bin­ing our West­ern-style democ­racy with the Chi­nese model of mer­i­toc­racy. What is mer­i­toc­racy? It is a model of or­gan­is­ing the gen­eral affairs of so­ci­ety and em­pha­sises select­ing pub­lic ser­vants on the ba­sis of proven abil­ity and com­pe­tence. Pro­po­nents of mer­i­toc­racy will in­form you that, based on their strin­gent sys­tem, divisive dem­a­gogues like Don­ald Trump would not have be­come pres­i­dent.

One just imag­ines the mul­ti­plier im­pact of ap­ply­ing mer­i­toc­racy in the 263 South Africa mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

One also vi­su­alises, with unadul­ter­ated ela­tion, the cu­mu­la­tive pos­i­tive ef­fect of ap­ply­ing mer­i­toc­racy at the ANC elec­tive con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber, and in the 2019 na­tional elec­tions. In essence, mer­i­toc­racy is an an­ti­dote to nepo­tism, klep­toc­racy or an oli­garchy where the 1% rule over the 99%,

TALK

TO US

Do you have ideas on how de­struc­tion of pub­lic prop­erty can be stopped?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word MORAL and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 as French econ­o­mist Thomas Piketty elab­o­rates about the re­turn, in the 21st cen­tury, of the gilded age of in­equal­ity.

Fourth, end­ing the de­struc­tion of pub­lic prop­erty can be di­rectly linked to moral­ity in­stilled in the family, in schools, and on other pub­lic medi­ums. In a prac­ti­cal sense, it re­quires fore­ground­ing civic ed­u­ca­tion so that it be­comes the new nor­mal not to lit­ter, not to piss on street cor­ners, and not to wolf-whis­tle at girls and young women.

Hence the view of the Moral Re­gen­er­a­tion Move­ment (MRM) that pro­tect­ing pub­lic prop­erty is an eth­i­cal is­sue, be­cause if we do not take care of pub­lic prop­erty then, surely, we can­not be en­trusted to run the coun­try.

The dis­tinc­tion be­tween pure sav­agery and be­ing moral cit­i­zens is clear when univer­sity stu­dents, raising gen­uine griev­ances about wa­ter and power cuts, re­sort to loot­ing a book­shop and burn­ing staff quar­ters.

It made po­lit­i­cal and eth­i­cal sense to use vi­o­lence in the fight against apartheid, when the mil­i­tary might of the pre­vi­ous regime was bent on crush­ing the black body. It makes no po­lit­i­cal or ra­tio­nal sense to de­stroy and dam­age pub­lic prop­erty in a democ­racy which de­pends, for its very sus­te­nance, on the par­tic­i­pa­tion of all cit­i­zens, even when law en­force­ment agen­cies and the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem are caught up in fac­tional bat­tles.

Fifth, since our repub­lic is based on the ethic of ubuntu, it is re­as­sur­ing to see the busi­ness sec­tor tak­ing up the cud­gels and in­vest­ing in South Africa.

It makes busi­ness sense for the pri­vate sec­tor to in­vest in small, medium and mi­cro en­ter­prises and in our young peo­ple. This will change for the bet­ter the lives of the three mil­lion young peo­ple not in ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment, or skills train­ing. The net ef­fect of such ven­tures is to re­move idle minds from the street cor­ner and the groove of hope­less­ness.

Of course, al­most all these pro­pos­als de­pend on our select­ing and ap­point­ing morally up­right lead­ers at all lev­els of gov­er­nance. In­sist­ing on self­less eth­i­cal lead­er­ship is im­por­tant to re­store con­fi­dence and trust in pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, more so for the oc­cu­pants of the Union Build­ings.

Af­ter all, eth­i­cal lead­er­ship is syn­ony­mous with role model lead­er­ship. Prov­i­den­tially, the moral col­lapse of the sta­tus quo is re­versible if we pri­ori­tise some form of an RDP of the soul, premised on col­lec­tive re­moral­i­sa­tion.

We should con­sider, amid the un­de­ni­able gloom, an eman­ci­pa­tory eco­nomic Codesa, to goad pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment in South Africa af­ter De­cem­ber. First though, the pub­lic should be un­com­pro­mis­ing in de­mand­ing that all lead­ers live by the prin­ci­ples en­shrined in the MRM’s char­ter of pos­i­tive val­ues, which are an­chored in the pro­mo­tion of re­spon­si­ble free­dom and the rule of law.

French philoso­pher Al­bert Ca­mus said that “a man with­out ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world”.

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