IN HIS recent weekly Sunday Times column, which I wish I had written, Barney Mthombothi says of us, the wounded people of South Africa, “those who benefited from it [apartheid] mainly want us to move on with Godspeed; while the victims prefer to linger on just a tad, to allow time for the wounds to heal and to extract an acknowledgement of their hurt. How we bridge this gulf determines the society we become or the future we inherit.”
How right he is – but also for a totally different set of circumstances!
Beyond the heavy yoke of history and legacy of apartheid that few thinking people will deny we all still carry, I found it hard to resist comparing Mthombothi’s observation with a situation that is happening right now in South Africa, under our noses.
A few weeks ago ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, like a comedian telling the same joke twice during the same show after giving it the loudest laughter, saw fit to repeat a recent Zuma trick on us. This is the trick President Jacob Zuma pulled out of his hat following the seminal Constitutional Court judgment on the Nkandla scandal, back in April.
Shortly after the judgment, both the ANC and President Zuma invited us to a televised address that many hoped would be the announcement of what they had waited for all along, Zuma’s resignation from office. After all, the country’s “court of last instance” had finally spoken in clear terms.
Many of us believed there was nowhere else for Zuma – he who is meant to embody the supreme law of our country – to run. Millions of South Africans changed whatever plans they had for that evening and the whole nation gathered in front of TV sets in homes and public venues around the country with much anticipation.
Those who were too far from TV sets or did not have them in their homes remained glued to their radios in homes, cars, and other places. Apparently, even the SABC had changed its early evening programme to accommodate the important ANC and presidential announcements. It promised to be one of those evenings you would begin future discussions of with, “do you remember where you were when…?” but it was not to be.
A few weeks later, a former ANC MP, a serving deputy minister, a former senior government spokesperson and others broke their long-held silence and told the nation that they had either been offered government positions by people who did not have the legal authority to do so, or pressured to influence government tenders and departmental expenditure in favour of companies belonging to the president’s son and close friends of the president. Senior party leaders feigned shock and disgust. To add salt to our wounds, the party’s secretary general came out and, with a serious, authoritative face, promised to go to the bottom of all this nonsense.
He invited the declarants to approach him in confidence with whatever evidence they had, and leave the rest up to him to sort out. Since this is South Africa, many believed the promise, opting to give the secretary general the time and space he asked for to solve the problem.
Wound after wound inflicted by the ruling party’s lies
Those of us who were still licking wound after wound inflicted by the ruling party’s lies chose to adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude. We had seen it all before and besides, who – having seen the level of resources, energy and reputational capital invested in defending the indefensible president in recent years – would fall for the trick? It all smacked of a corrupt policeman asking gullible victims of his crimes to trust him to thoroughly investigate himself.
It did not take long before another televised public address was called by the same secretary general, who this time announced that he would not continue his investigations because there wasn’t sufficient evidence for him to do so.
Besides, his party had already decided to forgive its president and turn the page. He also feared that any further investigation of the matters brought to the attention of the party and the nation would merely serve to divide the party further, and please opposition parties who only wanted to use the ruling party’s problems as electoral footballs.
Ever since these events – and this is where Mthombothi’s words strike an eerily familiar chord – those who benefit from state capture mainly want to wish us godspeed while we, the nation and eventual victims of the massive abuse of public resources and the weakening of our institutions, prefer to linger on just a tad, to allow time for the whole truth to come out and for our rulers to demonstrate a belief in our constitutional equality before the law. How we bridge this gulf will determine the society we become or the future we inherit.
I do not agree with those angry South Africans who, frustrated by all the corruption, false promises and ineptitude, have opted to either abstain from voting or spoil their ballot papers. Only they will lose if they do this. Too many lives have been lost, too many limbs have been broken, and a whole people’s self-esteem levels undermined for all South Africans to finally have the right to vote. The best we can do is to use the only democratic tool we have at our disposal to administer a serious electoral kick in the butt to those who have taken us for granted for much too long.
While pre-electoral sweeteners are being dished out to the gullible, state capture continues in earnest. The abuse we see at Eskom, Transnet, South African Airways, the SABC, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks and Denel are just a tip of the iceberg of what is really going on in our country. South Africans need to wake up!