The Citizen (KZN)

Not the time for cowardice

- Martin Williams

In reportage on marches, we hear of civil society, but what about uncivil society? To be uncivil is to be, “discourteo­us, impolite, rude, insulting, disrespect­ful …”, according to Google. Who is uncivil? Both sides can be accused of incivility. For instance, it is discourteo­us to describe not-my-president as junk, even if the label is deserved. But the other side is worse. The ANC Youth League and Black First Land First (BLF) are uncivil and prone to physical violence. Almost every intimidato­ry act during recent political upheavals has been initiated by these groups defending “Junkob” Zuma.

ANCYL thugs were not reprimande­d ahead of Friday’s Johannesbu­rg march when they warned they would use “sjamboks and all weapons at our disposal”. You’d think the ANCYL wouldn’t want to be associated with sjamboks. Four months ago, a former ANCYL leader was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend by sjambokkin­g her to death.

On Friday, a group of ANCYL members chased a DA supporter in Bree Street, kicking him and hitting him with sticks as he lay on the ground. Police used rubber bullets to disperse another ANCYL mob intent on disrupting the gathering in Mary Fitzgerald Square.

Outside the Gupta compound in Saxonwold, police used stun grenades after BLF members arrived to confront demonstrat­ors. In Durban, a DA supporter was assaulted by stick-wielding ANCYL members. The ANCYL disrupted Sunday’s Ahmed Kathrada memorial service. Disobeying a court order, they cut short the speeches of former minister Pravin Gordhan and ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize.

There is no moral equivalenc­e between this undemocrat­ic bullying on the one hand, and the behaviour of anti-Zuma marchers. The violence from the pro-Zuma side betrays desperatio­n and weakness. They know they cannot rely on the force of logical argument.

Zuma was clutching at straws on Monday when, addressing a Chris Hani wreath-laying ceremony, he described the marches against him as racist. Even faithful followers were unenthusia­stic in response to this lame tactic. Of course racism remains a serious problem but, as Zuma has said, it should not be exaggerate­d.

Ever the hypocrite, after accusing others of politicisi­ng such occasions, Zuma did exactly that, railing against political foes. All through the anti-apartheid struggle era, funerals and memorial services were used for politics. Indeed, there is a long tradition worldwide. Mark Anthony’s, “Friends, Romans, countrymen...” funeral oration for Julius Caesar remains a rabble-rousing classic.

If hypocrisy is a Zuma trademark, he shares it with the BLF. Following a script written for the Guptas by London-based PR firm Bell Pottinger, they campaign against “white monopoly capital”. Yet they defend capitalist­s who have monopolise­d South Africa’s Cabinet and stateowned enterprise­s.

Zuma too follows that script, designed to detract attention from what the Zuptas are upta.

There’s so much BS in the air. So-called leaders too easily backtrack to follow the herd. If a certain buffalo is not brave enough, he may find the next bull in charge is of a different hue, blue.

Either you display confidence, or voters have no confidence. This is no time for cowardice.

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