THE PARTY OF LUTHULI IS IMPLODING
When the late Nelson Mandela said he would join “the nearest branch of the ANC in heaven”, one could imagine OR Tambo being there to welcome his upstanding comrade. But given the old men’s reputed sober habits, we can’t say whether they would make a beeline for the local bar.
Even less clear is whether his friends, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and George Bizos would continue their party support in the afterlife, or be too disillusioned to bother. Both Kathrada and Mlangeni watched helplessly in agony as the party of Nobel laureate Chief Albert Luthuli was desecrated.
Their lamentations were often waved away as the fickle rumblings of the decrepit. They were seen as a nuisance, told to mind their own business. The only recourse for these galant veterans was to cherrypick who should speak at their funerals. Again, their wishes were trampled on.
Because they were disciplined cadres, we can assume they would nevertheless first clarify issues with Comrade OR. Or get everybody up to speed on how things were unfolding in South Africa. They might say that, as we emerge from the pandemic of the times, morale is at its lowest, as loved ones are dead and the people need a hero.
Yet many of our comrades resemble Roaring Twenties hoodlums instead of superheroes who clandestinely slip into capes and leap up to save the day. More disheartening is the rhetoric that comes with a lack of solutions – just a herd of seemingly tired old people who must occasionally quote you, Comrade OR or Madiba, to save face. Other than that, things are mostly as you left them.
The spatial planning of the previous regime continues. Townships still resemble migrant dormitories. Shanties, sewage on the streets and poverty still dominate. In towns, they still toast the sweet white life, though. There, our mothers still do the ironing and cooking, while our fathers mow the lawns, nodding “ja, baas”.
In this time of strife, of 31% unemployment and households with no food, the citizens feel they got it wrong in the winter of last year when they braved the cold to hand a 57% election victory to a party that has proven worthy only of a #VoetsekANC hashtag.
Despite a shrinking economy and corrupt-to-the-core comrades, the people faithfully believed the party could self-correct. In hindsight, this was nothing but a hospital pass.
Women’s Month has, along with the washed up speeches, come and gone, but violence against girls and women continues unabated. Public healthcare facilities are still seeing snaking queues of misery, skeleton staff and old people being told to come back tomorrow. Chronic medication is out of stock and there’s still no oncologist.
Children are packed into overcrowded classrooms. They come nearly stone last in maths globally, and the majority can’t read for meaning. Every year, the bar is lowered. Driven by technology, the world has entered the fourth industrial revolution. But we are still churning out unemployable graduates by the thousand who, when our comrades are gone, will find an economy that cannot absorb them and they will most likely turn to crime and drugs, then find themselves in prison.
Of course, as Comrade Kathrada and I learnt the hard way, these admissions will invite hostile labels such “counter-revolutionary”. Our once glorious organisation of dialogue and robust debate has become a club for teachers’ pets and playground suck-ups.
In fact, our people only have one place to turn to for intellectual sustenance – the grave. Last month, they reflected on the wisdom of Steve Biko. Now that we’re all here, there aren’t many left behind. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is reduced to a pitiful position. Mosiuoa Lekota saw the looming decay and figured he’d go it alone. Madiba’s anointed successor was unceremoniously kicked out, University of Sussex degree and all.
How ironic that, in all the bloody years of our history, despite the bodies on the streets, the letter bombs and the gridlock of suffocating laws, there was never a shortage of strong leaders. Their words fired up an impossible struggle. Now Comrade Chris Hani’s words ring true: “What I fear is that the liberators emerge as elitists who drive around in Mercedes-Benzes and use the resources of this country to live in palaces and to gather riches.”
Across government, comrades appear to be stealing something. From the highest office in the land to nondescript municipalities, scandals are the order of the day. The party is imploding and those who see the writing on the wall are hellbent on getting their hands on as much as possible before the Bastille finally gives in.
The future looks bleak and, in the words of Gil Scott-Heron: “The revolution will not be televised.” It has been ailing for years and Covid19 has gracefully put it out of its misery.
I’m not sure about you, comrades, but a part of me is glad that I will not be there to see our hard work crumbling down to naught.
Mayaba is a graduate and freelance writer