THE PARTY OF LUTHULI IS IM­PLOD­ING

CityPress - - Voices - Phakamisa Mayaba voices@city­press.co.za

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

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