Economic freedom: The new Swart Gevaar

September 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

Originally appeared on my news24 column, 2011-09-06 08:15

Perhaps I should start off with some shocking numbers, which I’m sure some will tell me I haven’t put in line with population numbers, education levels and other such factors. Well, there are other societies in the world that are similar to ours but hardly as unequal.

In 1995, just a year after the demise of apartheid, the average white income was R48 387, R9 668 for coloureds, R23 424 for Asians and a whopping R6 525 for blacks. Fast forward to 2008. You think things might have improved because you see lots of black folks driving fancy cars and eating in fancy restaurants, right? Let’s see if you are right. White per capita income in 2008 was R75 297, coloured was R16 527, R51 457 for Asians and a bling, bling R9 790 for blacks. While a white person makes R100 a black person makes R13.

This is after BEE, AA and all sorts of other acronyms we have decided to put in place. None of them have made a dent. In fact, adjusted to inflation levels to the year 2000 per capita, blacks still don’t make as much money as whites did in 1917. Whites made R13 069 per capita in 1917. In the year 2008, blacks were only making R9 790. These stats are Leibbrandt, M et al (2010), “Trends in South African Income Distribution and Poverty since the Fall of Apartheid.” I didn’t make them up. A white person made them up. I promise.

When then deputy president Thabo Mbeki made his “Two Nations” speech at the opening of the debate in the National Assembly, on “Reconciliation and Nation Building” in 1998, some accused him of being divisive, there was no such thing. Well, the numbers speak for themselves.

For those of you who are too young to know history (you know history, that thing that happens in the past so that you can have a future and that subject you hated in school ), Swart Gevaar is what the fears of a black revolution was known during the apartheid era. Swart Gevaar, the Black Threat. Free blacks were a threat for some odd reason.

It is also known as black entitlement these days. Not to say that there is no such thing as entitlement. There are people who feel like they are owed something by someone, people that feel they don’t have to work for anything. Unfortunately some want to paint all black people with this brush. It is not true. We don’t mind working hard to get what we want, but we mind having to work extra hard just to get a fraction of what a white person gets. But if it means we must work extra hard, we do it anyway.

It is a mistake to think that economic transformation is a black issue; it is a South African issue. Every South African should be trying to make it happen. We can no longer afford to delay. The longer we delay, the closer the day of destruction moonwalks.

It is the will to transfer skills, it is to teach others how to create and make wealth. It is about ensuring that we avoid the day when a populist, charismatic and angry leader will lead angry, hungry masses on the streets. On that day, it won’t just be the whites who will lose out my fellow black brothers and sisters, it will be everyone who lives in Sandton and any other such fancy abodes.

This is why economic liberation is the duty of every South African. If you forget the forgotten for too long, they will make us remember them. Woe unto the haves if that day comes. Again, it won’t be a black and white issue, it will be about the have nots, the majority which is black of course.

In the 1920s, in the Eastern Cape, black people started talking about having their land back and opposition to white rule was mobilised. A series of crop failures, cattle disease, locusts and drought put pressure on people. A newspaper of the time wrote, “These are the general conditions of life; poverty growing into hunger, debt with no hope of escape. No people under the sun who have not been tamed and weakened by centuries of low diet and despotism can fail in such conditions to get into a state of unrest.”

Maybe what we can say about today is that poverty is growing into hunger into anger. There it is up to the private sector to be proactive to ensure that it is opening up to grow the pie so that more can access it. The private sector is very quick to point fingers at government when it does naught. The private sector needs to do more to aid government before it is forced to by legislation.

Black economic liberation is essential for the survival of this country and continued white prosperity. Those who think that economic transformation is about taking from the whites to blacks don’t get it. I believe that economic freedom is about giving everyone the opportunity to create jobs and to make money.

We are not trying to take from the whites so that they have nothing. We just want a chance for as many people to be prosperous, not just to showcase a few wealthy black people and pretend that is true economic transformation. It’s not. It’s black economic window dressing.

All black people want really is the ability to make money in their land. They want to feel like they own their own country by owning its wealth. That is all. There is no need to fear black prosperity. No need for the Black Economic gevaar.

The Freedom Charter clearly says, “The people shall share in the wealth of the land.” As you can see, it doesn’t say, “The people shall share in the wealth of the land but the blacks.” Let’s fix this.

The ANC and the vulgarity of money and power, who will save the ANC?

September 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

Originally appeared on News24, 2011-07-26 08:10

Malema should start a church and call it Tithes for Tenders Church. After all, the ANC is a broad church. This would be a lucrative church. There are already so many people who worship at the altar of the tender anyway.

In light of the recent allegations levelled against Malema, the suggestion of course is that Malema is unscrupulous, he’ll get you the tender whether you are competent or not. Let’s not forget that he also gets anywhere between 30% and 50% of the profits from the tender once awarded. Of course we don’t know how true the allegations are; they have not been tested before a court of law.

This might or might not go before the courts. Malema has many powerful enemies who would be happy to see him go. But he also has many powerful friends with vested interests who will do whatever they can to protect him, for if he goes down, so do they. For us outsiders, the reports make it look like the ANC is nothing but a sordid orgy of greed based palm greasing.

It is of course no surprise that there are many who are pleased to see yet another front page story about Julius Malema that goes to prove their point that Malema is a greedy principle-less entity. Because that’s what he is to them, not a human being, but just an entity to provide entertainment.

Purchasing favour with money

It seems to me that some powerful and influential people seem to believe that they can avert the wrath of the ANC by purchasing favour with money. That one will be looked upon favourably by those issuing tenders, very much like the Catholic Church forgiving people’s sins in exchange for money before Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis in 1517. There was a teaching by the church’s salesman, Johann Tetzel, who taught that one’s sins could be forgiven by God if they paid a fee.

The corruption of the church had reached Sodom and Gomorrah proportions. Johann Tetzel was working under the instruction of the Archbishop of Mainz, who had bought his position, the Archbishopric, from then Pope Leo X. The Archbishop encouraged these heretic teachings because money was coming in for him to pay the Pope. The Pope tolerated them too because money was coming to his coffers too, which would help him finance his vanity project, the renovation of the majestic St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The love of money is the route of all evil, even in the church.

If money can corrupt the church, how much more will it corrupt mere men? Especially men of politics?

The ANC has lost its soul. It lost it a long time ago, and those with the means to find it, do not want it to be found. Power and money. They are sinking in the quick sand of unscrupulous lust for all that is glitzy, all that will visibly impress. The ANC is being spat at and demeaned tender by tender, brown envelope by brown envelope. Slowly the great party sinks to stinking new depths. When you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

The ANC faces a crisis of morality and moral leadership. Worst of all, it faces a lack of outrage from its membership. Perhaps it fears losing that its sins will not be forgiven if it utters a word. I don’t know.

This is no fault of Julius Malema. He didn’t create this. The monster was already there when he got there. He had seen it done. The grownups, the ones who were supposed to guide him and show him the way (as I wrote in the Cape Times) have let him down. The seniors turned a blind eye because he must get something too. They are rewarding him for his hard word. The indictment is on the ANC, those who made him and others think that it is ok to do this, if the allegations are true.

Thabo Mbeki, when warning against what he foresaw, said: “We should not seek to emulate the demeanour of our oppressors, nor adopt their evil practices.”

Our turn to eat

The brown envelopes are a continuation of the oppression of the masses. They say to themselves there is no harm. They are just taking money from the government and helping other black people. It is our turn to eat. We must eat while we can and much as we can because the gravy might not be here for us for long. This is the thinking.

Taking money from the government is taking from the poor, whether one likes to admit it or not. They do not think that they are serving themselves, not the poor they claim to speak for. What is celebrated is the ease with which money comes as opposed to the hard work that one puts in to get the money.

Since I write about Martin Luther, a man of the cloth in his day, perhaps it is appropriate that I quote the book of Isaiah 10:1 – 3

1 Woe to those who make unjust laws,
   to those who issue oppressive decrees,
2 to deprive the poor of their rights
   and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
   and robbing the fatherless.
3 What will you do on the day of reckoning,
   when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
   Where will you leave your riches?

They steal from the oppressed and rob from the fatherless. They deceive themselves and say they are not stealing from anyone, and they harm no one.

The ANC is in desperate need of the RDP of its very soul. The Reconstruction and Development Programme of its very core. The ANC may be dead. It may be in need of mouth to mouth.

Who will be the ANC Martin Luther?

Who will stand up in the ANC and post the 95 thesis against what is unANC behaviour? Who will have the balls to do this? Who will be the ANC Martin Luther or is money and power far too great an incentive than to stand for what is right and true? Who is bold enough to make the ANC sit up and notice? Who will risk being called a heretic by the heretics?

One no longer has to work for the good of the people; one must merely appear to be working for the people in order to get votes, and then get the position, then get the financial benefits that come with it. Personal financial gain is valued over a legacy that one can leave behind. The generation before fought tooth and nail and even giving up their very lives for liberation.

In 1978, Thabo Mbeki delivered a lecture in Canada and said: “The capitalist class, to whom everything has a cash value, has never considered moral incentives as very dependable. As part of the arrangement, it therefore decided that material incentives must play a prominent part.”

It appears that in South Africa today, we can change the wording from “capitalist class” to “political class”.

It is not all lost. At least we can still talk about these things. We can discuss them. The moment we are not free to discuss them we are in a bad place. There are still people within the political class in the ANC who uphold the values of the ANC. And I am not for a second saying that politicians must not make money. They should and must, but it should not be at the expense of the people, nor should it be because of undue influence. Money is good, but not when people think that it’s the most important thing.

Did the election of Zuma cost us a female ANC and State president?

March 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

*this article originally appeared in the Cape Times on the 5th of March

The African National Congress has had women activists for almost as long as it has been alive. However, when the movement was born those 100 years ago, there were just men in the room. Perhaps there were two or so women who served these men while they decided the route the struggle against black disenfranchisement would take.

It only made sense back then that men would take the initiative to lead the movement. Women, black or white were rarely given an opportunity to an education. They were essentially second-class citizens almost everywhere. Even white women didn’t have the vote. The prejudices of the day against women prevailed, even though the ANC was fighting prejudice, ironically.

The direction that was taken by the ANC is no different from the one that was taken by the rest of the world. Just as history had been male dominated for thousands of years. If one looks at Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Shaka Zulu and others. War was one sure way of making history – women weren’t allowed to fight wars even though they almost were always casualties. They were often taken by conquerors as slaves, sex slaves and were often raped. They were, unfortunately part of the spoils of war for the warmongers.

Which then brings me back to the ANC’s women problem. Isn’t it time the ANC had female president? Women have contributed a great deal to the organization. They are also respected in a lot of communities. Women have held communities together for a very long time, often, they are the strongest and most resolute members of in many communities.

In the 1980s, many women tried to feed their families by opening spaza shops and even sheebens. Which is where the term sheeben queen comes from. As a result of opening these businesses, these women often became influential members of their communities.

It would appear as though Mbeki was laying down the ground work for a future female ANC and South African president when he ran for a third term as president of the ANC, since the South African constitution wouldn’t allow him to be president for a third term. It was generally accepted that Dlamini-Zuma was his preferred candidate for the presidency even though Mlambo-Ngcuka was his deputy president in the cabinet after he fired his then deputy, Jacob Zuma. In terms of seniority within the party, Dlamini-Zuma would have most likely been elected president of South Africa, then during the ANC’s elective conference later this year, would have been elected president of the party and republic for her second term.

Unfortunately Jacob-Zuma was in a bind and thus set women back when his desperation for the presidency set in. The knock on effect of this has resulted in the re-emergence of hierarchy in the ANC. The next most senior person in the ANC is deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, therefore, if tradition is followed, he will be the next president after Zuma.

It is puzzling then that even though the ANC has many talented women, no one seriously thinks that they stand a chance as far as position of ANC president, and thus of the country. Everyone sings the praises of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, yet no one seems prepared to give her a chance for a run for the presidency. For a while, there were rumours that Lindiwe Sisulu would be in the running for the presidency in the near future. Early on in the presidency of Jacob Zuma it certainly seemed that way.

The way the wheels were turning and the power she seemed to yield within the ruling party seemed to suggest that, but things have changed dramatically since then and now seems to have been left behind by the debate amongst the men. Now even Tokyo Sexwale’s name comes up before hers is even mentioned. It is going to be a while before we get a female president by the look of things. Unless Motlanthe wins the ANC presidency later this year with Dlamini-Zuma or Sisulu as his deputy.

Is the ANC missing Mbeki?

July 31, 2011 § 3 Comments

*Originally appeared on the Cape Times

It would appear as if the very same people who wanted Thabo Mbeki gone are the very same people who miss him terribly now. We all remember how Malema said, “Mbeki is the best leader the ANC has ever produced… the most educated and clever,” a few weeks ago. The irony of course being that the man Malema supported, “100% Zuma”, is in office and he’s busy singing the praises of his predecessor, the man he helped get kicked out of the presidency. A week is a long time in politics.” Harold Wilson once remarked when he was British Prime Minister those many years ago. If two weeks is a long time, then two years is a lifetime.

For Malema, a man who actively campaigned around the country against Mbeki for Zuma to say something like that speaks volumes. Louder than the trumpets that shook the walls of the Biblical city of Jericho. At one point after Zuma publicly lambasted him, Malema said Mbeki would never have done something like that, he would have taken him aside and spoken to him. Malema was excoriated for saying that because he was indirectly giving Mbeki praises above his current president.

When Thabo Mbeki was on Metro FM over the past week, the social networks lit up like I haven’t seen over him in a while. Many started calling him Dr Thabo Mbeki. Something I’ve never heard before. The comments on the social networks were going on about how intelligent he was, how great it was to hear someone who knew what he was talking about as opposed to someone who was saying what his advisors were telling him.

It is important I think to remember that the two presidents have two different styles. Mbeki didn’t live up to Mandela many said. Now that Zuma is president, they are saying he is not living up to Mbeki. Funny enough, Mandela was generous in his praise of Mbeki when he said, “No President or Prime Minister in the history of this country can claim to have done more for the people and the country than has been achieved by President Thabo Mbeki.”

What I always find interesting in regards to Mbeki is the reaction of white people when I say that Mbeki is missed. More often than not, one gets a rather violent reaction from white people. The favourite subject of choice is that Thabo Mbeki is a murderer because he killed thousand of people during the HIV AIDS crisis. He has been called an AIDS denier amongst other things. These are just some of the reactions one encounters when one starts singing Mbekis praises, particularly from white people. Remember, I’m not saying all white people, I know how reactionary we get when we mention race in SA.

What I find strange is that the people who were least affected by the HIV AIDS epidemic are the least forgiving.  Yet those who were most affected are the ones who seem to miss him more. The question then needs to be asked, do some of these white people say these things because they think we will agree with them because we were affected? Or do they think that there is something wrong with us for thinking that Mbeki is great despite his stance on AIDS? (His position was misrepresented by the way, and it’s not something I want to get into right now.)

One keeps hearing whispers in the corridors of influence from people who say, not too loudly, how much they miss the former president. He may not have been the best human being but he was a brilliant man they say.

It is clear that South Africa’s loss has been Africa’s gain. With the formation of South Sudan, and Mbeki having been at the forefront of the formation of that nation, it is clear that he has included his name on yet another page of history. This has made many people realize that they miss iZizi

The president is public property

February 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

Julius Malema said that President Jacob Zuma is “our father”, I must admit, I half expected him to complete the statement by saying “who art in heaven”. Let’s face it, the president has never done anything wrong in the history of his existence according to the Youth League and the ANC. St Zuma is saintlier than Mandela. A man who repeatedly said he wasn’t a saint, let alone a messiah. Zuma on the other hand, very few see him as one, yet the ANC likes to present him as one. I know he has never claimed to be one. The ANC seems to have sanctified and raised him to the level of a deity. Maybe we should expect to see government offices adorned with his face in stained glass windows beaming upon us. He is infallible. Every indefensible action is defended. The public and the press are publicly ridiculed for questioning the questionable. He is beyond reproach. Again, not according to him but by those who surround him. The president has said nothing to refute implied sanctification.

When he married his third wife I did not see what the big deal was all about. Let the man have his three mothers-in-law I said. It was his democratic right. Some of us applauded him for his honesty, he sees a woman he likes, he marries her. That was admirable. That was until we found out that he had fathered a 20th child according to reports, out of wedlock. Many people have children out of wedlock. There are such people within my family.

Then the ANC tells us we are being disrespectful for asking questions. Excuse me? They tell us it is a private matter. This does not work for us. Since the taxpayers pay for his wives. When Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States and upon arriving in Washington before his inauguration, he said, “the truth is, I suppose I am now public property”. I know fully well that many will give the easy and lazy answer “this is not America”. Of course it’s not. The fact of the matter is that he was put in office by the public. The public foots his bills. The public pays for his spouses. Therefore the public has the right to know, especially considering what an expensive affair this will be for it. As much as the ANC would like to keep him an ANC matter, he is more than a simple ANC matter, he belongs to us, the public. Whether some of the public like him or not, he is theirs. He is a property of the state. We are concerned for his health, his well-being and how he represents us before the world’s stage.

According to News24: “The state will contribute an amount equal to 17% of his salary to a pension fund and will pay two thirds of his medical-aid contribution covering his family. He will also be insured by the state for accident and life cover. When he travels on official business, he may be accompanied by his spouses — (the handbook makes allowance for spouses in a polygamous marriage) and those dependent children who cannot remain at home are entitled to accommodation and subsistence at the expense of the state. The same arrangement applies to travel abroad.” If this is what we pay for then we have the right to know. There is nothing disrespectful about wanting find out what one is paying for.

Everyone celebrates when a child is born. It is a beautiful and good thing and adds incalculable joy to the parents. Having read the president’s statement I get the feeling that he is blaming us for having had unprotected sex with a woman who is not his wife. All of a sudden, if we talk about this issue we are questioning the right of the child to exist. Not at all, we are questioning the apology you made after the rape trial (in which he was exonerated) when you apologised for having had unprotected sex. Of course we appreciate the fact that he is taking responsibility for the child, but then again, he is supposed to take responsibility.

The birth of this child is only a reflection of a lot of men in South Africa. Men who are married and father children with other women. My own father fathered a child with another woman even though he was married to my mother. Clearly, the president is a reflection of what is happening within our society. One would expect that he would try to change this, if not, at least pretend to. Having unprotected sex with a woman who is not his wife is not sending out a positive signal to the rest of our men — particularly after he apologised a few years ago for even more dangerous behaviour, unprotected sex with a woman he knew was HIV-positive at the time. Unfortunately when it comes to his partners and sex this will follow him forever — just like Zapiro’s shower. He is a clear indication of what is wrong and broken with many men in our country. Young men have few positive role models and the president is not helping. By all intents and purposes, even though he has three wives, one can’t shake the feeling that he still cheats on his three wives. That’s what this implied.

It is a pity that we rarely debate policy positions. It’s as though he were a celebrity of sorts, not a head of state. One wonders if the press should be blamed or he should be blamed for putting himself in positions where he is treated like a celebrity. He is in danger of being a celebrity president, where his contribution to the liberation of the country is but a footnote in the books of history. Does the president want to be known for everything else other than the instrumental achievements before the 2000nds? Will he be asked about his child out of wedlock and having unprotected sex after he apologised for it when he is in Davos again? Why can’t the ANC demand discipline from the president?

The best thing about the ANC is the worst thing about it. Loyalty. Loyalty at all costs it seems. The ANC’s relativism when it comes to defending its leaders is disturbing. Senior leaders are always defended even though it is clear that they are in the wrong. I’m not suggesting that people should be thrown under the bus, recognise that something is wrong, correct it and move on. The sooner you do so in public the sooner the irrelevant headlines will disappear.

This begs the question, where does loyalty lie? Is it to party first, then to nation? Or is it because the party is so powerful that the perception is that the ANC is in fact the nation? If that is the view, doesn’t the party fall into the trap of arrogance and a sense that it can do no wrong because it is the sole party that is in fact looking after the needs of the people? The ANC needs to stop running like it is still in exile, still a banned organisation. The symptoms of a secret organisation are still alive.

The problem I have with ANC is the same one Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had while Nelson Mandela was president. He’d said that the ANC had “stopped the gravy train long enough for it to get on it” a few months into the Mandela presidency. Madiba reprimanded him on TV for this. A few weeks later Tutu was on the phone with him and said “for goodness sake, how come you can shout at me like that in public”, Mandela laughed according to Tutu.

In conclusion, I would like to agree wholeheartedly with Tutu’s words when he said: “There are those of them who don’t actually recognise people who are basically on their side, who are critical, not because we want to see them fail. It is precisely the opposite. It is to say we want to see you succeed and that is why we mention these things … there are those who are becoming … I would say dangerously hypersensitive.”

Zuma: Why people will still vote for the ANC

April 6, 2009 § 4 Comments

South Africans remind me of a girl with an abusive boyfriend. He beats (excuse my Xhosa) the shit out of her. Every now and then he tells her “I won’t beat you again, I love you”. They cuddle up and cosy up. Then he beats her up again. The girl knows the relationship is not ideal, it is not the best relationship but keeps making excuses for him and his behaviour. “But he loves me” she keeps telling her friends through broken teeth and ribs.

Then she says: “Anyway before I met him I was down and out and in the dumps. I had nothing. I was a nobody. He made me who I am. He took me in, helped me get a good job and a better education. He introduced me to celebrities, Moet, cigars and all the glitz and glamour. He cares for me even though he gave me a blue eye yesterday and will probably give me another tomorrow. To be fair I owe him.”

She believes in her heart of hearts that she cannot find anyone better. “I am used to him” she tells friends who tell her to get out of the relationship. “I don’t want to get used to someone new all over again.” Then she continues to stay in the abusive relationship where she used to be the significant other and is now the insignificant other. The many trips to the hospital do nothing to dissuade her. Like a perfect gentleman he goes to the hospital to pick her up when she leaves the hospital because he cares. She never lays charges. She is convinced that he still cares because he was sweet enough to pick her up from the hospital.

“He only beats me because he loves me” she tells her friends. Of course by the time she wakes up it’s too late. This is what’s happening to South Africa right now. But we can change this, we only need to want to change the situation bad enough.

How badly do you want to get out of this relationship with the ANC?

Zuma: Mpshe and NPA show some balls!

March 30, 2009 § 2 Comments

Mr. Mpshe needs to be reminded of a little fact about South Africans this week – we are not a people born of cowards, nor men who place personal ambitions above what needs to be done for the people. We are born of men who stood up when it was more comfortable and beneficial to sit down. We are a people born of the same stuff that made Mandela sacrifice his freedom for 27 years; we are born of women who gave birth to Steve Biko who died bravely writing what he liked and what we have come to love. Biko showed the might of the nib of a pen facing off against the barrel of a gun. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword. We are born of the nameless heroes who died fighting so that we could be free one day. This is what we are made of. Men and women who sacrificed despite the immense power and pressures that could have persuaded lesser men and women to do otherwise.

According to news reports we have been told that the NPA (National Prosecutions Authority) will seek to have the corruption charges against the man who could be president, Jacob Zuma, dropped. One must understand the position and the pressures that face the director of the NPA, Mr. Mpshe. There is the easy way out, drop the charges. By dropping them all that will happen will be wide ranging condemnation from opposition parties, the press and civil society. That’s all. If he decides to go ahead he will be pressured by the ANC in every way imaginable. They might even find dirt on him. Now is not the time for cowardice.

History often calls on those in positions of responsibility to choose to do what’s difficult or unpopular. Allowing Zuma to walk will be a popular decision with the electorate. But is it the right thing to do? The men and women of the NPA have history knocking on their doors. What are they willing to do? Mr. Mpshe, in the words of former American vice president, Al Gore, “Sometimes you have to be willing … to pick the hard right over the easy wrong.” We are told that it is not in the national interests to have Jacob Zuma going to court. It is precisely because it is not in the interests of the nation that he should go to court, so that we can judge for ourselves.

What is the hard right? The hard right is to investigate both Zuma and Mbeki if there is reason to investigate the former president. To drop these charges without having these so called tapes heard in court cannot serve our democracy well. We are being told that the former president has done something wrong, yet he has not been afforded the opportunity to defend himself. By dropping them, by implication, that tells us that there is evidence of wrong doing on Mbeki’s part. Are they going to be charge him yet Zuma hasn’t had his day in court? If there is evidence of interference on Thabo Mbeki’s part that does not mean that there was no wrong doing on Zama’s part either. Investigate both I say.

I suggest that Mr. Mpshe read A Man for All Seasons, a play by Robert Bolt. In it, Sir Thomas More is led to the gallows for refusing to bend to King Henry VIII’s wish to divorce his wife because she could not bear him a son. This is a man who believed in himself and his conscience despite the “national interests” concerns of the king not having a son. In our case, the king is Zuma.

More is a strong advocate for the rule of law in the play, even if it leads to his own execution. When his future son-in-law implores him to arrest a man whose perjury will eventually lead to More’s path to the gallows. More tells him that the man has broken no laws, he even tells him that the devil himself deserves his chance before the courts, “And go he should if he were the Devil himself until he broke the law!” More’s son-in-law is shocked at the idea of affording the Devil the benefit of law, but More is unwavering.

Then he goes on to lecture his future son-in-law, “What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? … And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s, and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”

So, do we really think we can stand upright in the winds that would blow the laws? The laws are there for our protection, that is why it should be and must be applied to all equally without fear or favour. To claim that we are not going to apply the laws because it is not in the “national interest” to do so is to show fear and favour. As the Devil should have his day in court to prove his innocence before his accusers, so must Jacob Zuma. Not forgetting that the law says innocent until proven guilty. The Devil in this case would be innocent excerpt before the eyes of the accusers who have evidence against him. Zuma too is innocent until proven guilty. But he must be afforded the opportunity to prove his innocence before his accusers.

Lest we forget, Jacob Zuma asked for his day in court, yet he has left no legal avenue unturned in order to avoid this day he has been screaming about. Let’s give it to him. He has threatened to spill the beans if he goes to court. Well, if he has bean to spill, let him spill them. And let those who are trained in the art of catching beans catch them. We want everyone responsible to be brought to book. The law should be applied without fear or favour. Mr Zuma, spill the beans! It is in the interests of the nation for you to do so. By saying nothing, you are still participating in the corruption of our government. It means you are aware of wrongdoing but have been willing to sit silently. You sir should not blackmail us.

How can the NPA accept as evidence, illegally obtained information? The wiretapping of a sitting president without the authorization of a judge? Where did these tapes come from? Who authorized the illegal wiretapping of a sitting president? Is that not treason? Why is there no outcry? If a president can be subjected to such blatant abuse of power, what chance do ordinary people like me have? We should have much fear for ourselves.

So far all we have are rumors, hearsay and we have no proof to judge whether the tapes are authentic or not. It is difficult to take these tapes seriously after the so-called “hoax emails” that made the rounds a while back that were wildly circulated amongst the Friends of Jacob Zuma. Then there was “proof” that Bulelani Ngcuka was an apartheid spy. There were no credible witnesses, no credible evidence and no credible facts to support a claim that was clearly designed to intimidate and pressure the former Director of Public Prosecutions. If there has been a conspiracy, it is the one that has been led against Bulelani Ngcuka. Marc Maharaj, and his friends failed to come up with any evidence proving that he was in fact a spy. Then the ANC misled the nation calling a press conference, assuring us, and fooling us into thinking that they were going to address an issue of national importance. National importance turned to be of national importance for the ANC to announce the defection of a little known Cope figure.

Granted, at times, especially in cases like the Zuma case – it is often difficult to tell the difference between prosecution and persecution. When one is prosecuted it is an easy and often necessary form of defense to shout persecution, painting oneself as a victim. Jacob Zuma is too powerful to persecute.

If there is a conspiracy against Zuma it should be proven in a court of law. The defense always states that conspiracies by nature are difficult to prove. Well, don’t make claims you can’t prove or defend. We don’t have any evidence, all we have are innuendos. If former president Thabo Mbeki is implicated, he must have his day in court, like Zuma. What are these national interests they speak of? Are Jacob Zuma’s and Shabir Schaiks interests now considered that highly? The arrogance of the ANC has taken an unprecedented step, where party and personal interests are dressed up as national interests. They can no longer distinguish what is of national interest, this is a clear indication that the ANC believes that it is South Africa. This country is not and does not belong to a political party. It is no wonder Thabo Mbeki was removed in the way he was.

Our nation cannot afford to have a prosecutions authority that is perceived to cave under political, powerful or from the pressures of the privileged. South Africa is becoming accustomed to the insulation of its elite from the law, yet leaves its ordinary down trodden citizenry, the very people it claims to represent to under representation by the law.

We cannot profess to be a truly democratic society when those who are sworn to protect it do everything in their power to subvert it for their own means.

By caving, Mr Mpshe, you are telling us, the children and future leaders, our brothers and sisters that it is acceptable to be a coward. I do not know what it is like to be in your position Mr Mpshe, nor do I wish to be. But you accepted it and you knew what you were getting yourself into, your country needs you, don’t choose the easy path.

To act as if there is nothing you and anyone else can do, as if this has been preordained, written in the stars, is not just giving up on yourself, you are giving up on your country, sir.

It is not written. It is not preordained that Zuma must walk away from these charges. To quote Cassius, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…” What happens to Zuma now is not in the stars. It is up to the facts before you Mr. Mpshe. It is your lips that will speak, your mind that will be applied – and it is your hand that will sign the document that decides this country’s fate. Just because you know that you are fighting a losing battle against the ANC does not mean you should cease to throw punches. Throwing in the towel is not an option. We are not a nation of quitters Mr. Mpshe.

The very notion that some individuals have more freedoms and liberties than others is not, should not and must not be accepted. Yet millions of us are willing to sit on our hands and applaud an insult to democracy, civil liberty and the basic tenant that “All are equal before the law.”

We have become victims of our liberation, hostages to our own freedom and slaves to those who think that we owe them for our liberation. I owe my liberty to man and no political party. It belongs to me. None of us owe it to anyone. This slavery to the ANC must come to an end.

We cannot profess to be a truly democratic country when the already, powerful, the already privileged have added privileges before the law. Nor can we boast to have the best constitution in the world when it is not honored. Mr. Mpshe, show us you have balls.

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If you disagree with me, know that you are an enemy

March 16, 2009 § 1 Comment

When I wrote the post about making friends with Julius Malema I was making a larger point on agreeing to disagree.
I am disturbed by the manner in which we conduct debate in this country. Disagreeing with a politician or someone in a powerful position earns one unflattering labels. When anybody raises views contrary to our own, we react emotionally and go on the attack. We don’t sit back to consider the possibility that the opposing view might have some value, even if we don’t agree with it. If you happen to work for a government institution and happen to support COPE for example, the days of your employment might be numbered. Our consciences are being bullied – the stomach is used as a weapon.

In our disagreements we are disagreeable. We seem to hold the view that he who disagrees with me must be an enemy. This is how COPE has been treated by the ruling party since it’s inception. And so we employ words most vile, demeaning and, if at all possible, humiliating. We saw examples of this when President Thabo Mbeki wrote his letters attacking the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu a few years ago. Of course the president had the best things to say about the archbishop as soon as they shared the view that Jacob Zuma could not be president. Those of you who have read any of my blogs know that I think highly of our former president, just because hold him in high regard ] does not mean I found everything he did or said agreeable.  As citizens we should not be afraid of criticizing our leaders, nor fail to praise them when it is deserved. Not only do you owe it to yourselves but your country and the ideals of democracy and free speech.

I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln, who said during his first inaugural address, perhaps addressing the man he defeated: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” It is my hope that as we debate and comment on the state of the nation, we will be virtuous enough to heed Lincoln’s call for these bonds of affection that should not be broken in the heat of debate. The truth is many of those who left the ANC for COPE are friends with people in the ruling party. So I urge you, whatever side of the fence you are on, let not the bonds affection be broken by the pettiness of politics.

COPE’s presidential candidate Mvume Dandala put this very well during a radio interview when he said, “When you are building an alternative voice you are not trying to create enemies, but to get more people involved in making the country work better.” I hope the members of the ruling party understand this.

In politics, I have come to realize, the virtue of humility seems to have no place; it is seen as a weakness, and arrogance as a strength — how far off the truth that is. He who shouts the loudest is smartest and the strongest. It is sad indeed.

If we carry on this way, it won’t be long before we get to a point where questioning views held by those in leadership positions are regarded as unpatriotic. We have seen this happen in the United States; anyone who spoke up against the war in Iraq was called unpatriotic. We are coming dangerously close. Some comrades in the mass democratic movement have began to use the term “counter-revolutionary” with liberal ease in order to stifle debate. The possible firing of Dr Barney Pityana will set a dangerous precedent. Opposing views are not allowed, or you will be left in the wilderness – that seems to be the message.

As a consequence, men and women of this country will cease to heed their consciences, but rather worship at the altar of the state tender. A friend of mine who disagrees with the ruling party on almost every level cannot and will not admit this in public because he said, “My conscience will not feed me, tenders will.” His life depends on tenders. People like this support the ruling party without any sense of irony. The altar of the tender is that powerful. Can we blame him or judge him for this? We cannot. But what we should try to do to people like this is to convince them that “coming out” preserves the greater good.

Many of us are patriots who love this nation. We say what we think is wrong as one would tell someone one loves dearly, because love dictates that one doesn’t shut up if one thinks that the loved one is driving down a cliff at high speed — even at low speed, for that matter.

Unfortunately some of us have misguided ways of demonstrating their affection for this, the southern-most country on the African continent. It reminds me of an abusive husband who belittles his wife by telling her that she is nothing without him. The cruel lover says this in order to control her. (In our case control is in the form of government jobs and contracts.) When she does leave and manages to succeed, the jealous ex-husband has only unflattering things to say about her.

Since many of us profess to love South Africa, I want to know the following:

How would we treat her if she were a lover?

How would we help her reach her goals?

Would we gloat if she failed and say, ‘We knew you couldn’t do it’?

We need to ask ourselves: How would we treat South Africa if she happened to be our true love?

I am saddened that we strive to feed our obese egos instead of finding ways to improve debate. The more we focus on our fragile egos, the less we focus on how we can help improve the nation.

We have to look deep into ourselves. No one is innocent. Not COPE, not the ANC, or any of the other parties. Our hands aren’t clean. I am a sum of all who agree with me. Those who disagree with me build my character. They are the ones I have to thank for helping me think the way I do.

What will destroy this country is an army of uniformity when it comes to its thinkers. We will die a painful, intellectual death if people perpetuate a certain school of thought because they want to preserve jobs, or because they are too afraid that they might not be able to find employment because they might have expressed an opinion contrary to that of some powerful figure.

We have forgotten the principles on which the country was founded. Instead we spend our days fighting petty battles. We have become a nation of the petty and arrogant. We slice and dice one another. Our internal battles have become so intense that we are slowly forgetting that we are still trying to fight for our position in the global arena. We have become so inward-looking that we have forgotten that we are competing in a global field. Since president Thabo Mbeki left the scene, our global standing has shrunk at an incredible pace. To this day, AU still sends president Thabo Mbeki to the UN to represent it. Those outside our borders see his value. Jesus Christ was right, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.”

Our inward-looking extends to the economy we’re trying to grow. We make it virtually impossible for foreigners to work here. One of the reasons America became such a force to be reckoned with is because it embraced immigrants with open arms. Immigrants come with different ideas. According to Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, 25% off all high-tech businesses in the US and 50% of all venture-backed companies were started by immigrants.

Dubai is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies because it has no qualms about getting foreign skills. It knows that to be the best, one must get the best. In his book, Florida points out that economies that open up to diverse peoples, immigrants and the likes are much more likely to be innovative and grow because they embrace different ways of thinking.

I am not unmindful of the fact that some will call me idealistic in my thinking. That is the beauty of youth. I am not old enough to know my limits. The reason I have hope for this country is because there are many more young people than older people. We don’t see a reason why we should doubt and limit ourselves.

Please, you are welcome to disagree with me.

I think I’d be great friends with Julius Malema. Seriously.

March 12, 2009 § 7 Comments

And I mean it. I think he is a pretty pleasant and probably funny guy too. I can’t help but imagine exchanging slaps on the back and doubling back in laughter as we have chats about whatever it is that young men talk about. As much as I take issue with some of the things he has said and what he stands for politically, that does not mean that I wouldn’t or shouldn’t get along with him personally.

There is no doubt that some people might take issue with what I just said. Particularly those who see Malema as a fumbling idiot who does not know when to shut up. That would be understandable considering some of the things I have written about him. As people, we tend to have no separation between the public figure and the fact that he is also an average guy who likes to have a drink and talk about girls. Those of us who are not public figures all have friends we disagree with on almost everything – but we don’t stop being friends simply because we disagree. We need to be able to separate the personality from their politics.

I imagine some of my friends would give me odd looks if I told them that I went go-carting with Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma (not that I have, don’t start spreading rumours now).  “How could you hang out with them after all the things they have said?” Well, I would remind those people that in my friendship circles I have friends who are pastors and atheists, friends who are womanisers and friends who have had the same and only girlfriend for the past five years. In our dealings with the complexities of human engagement, we all have these contradictions in our friendship circles. Why then can we not have friends who hold differing political views without being enemies? But that does not mean we can’t be honest in our disagreements with them.

One’s political position does not define who they are; it defines what they stand for politically. We are not our politics. We are people before we have a political position.

Thabo Mbeki is probably not the easiest person in the world to get along with, but that does not mean that one should dislike his politics simply because one does not like him as a person. I imagine being a friend with him requires a lot of work, he must not see you as just a waste of his time if you are to be his friend. I also suspect that once he has brought you into his inner circle you would have great laughs, and probably an intellectually meaningful relationship.

We should not vote for people simply because we like them.  Nor should we not vote for them because we don’t like their personalities. Competence, character and ability seem to run a distant second when people vote, which is most unfortunate. How else can we justify the fact that most voters don’t trust Zuma but somehow he still garners more votes according to opinion polls? I understand that someone is going to comment and say that it’s not him, it’s because of the party.

Like I said, I’d have a drink with Julius, I’d tease him about his political views because I know he is set in his ways. I don’t see him changing them. He would probably tease me about mine too. Much hilarity would ensue I imagine. Naturally I’d have more to laugh about. I’d talk about showers and fake accents amongst other things. I don’t know, maybe I’m just idealistic.

There are many people I agree with on almost every issue yet I cannot stand. Just as there are people who agree with me but just cannot stand me. Understandably, if I were someone else I wouldn’t stand myself either.

Just to make things clear, I’m not ANCist or anything, some of my best friends are in the ANC. I think I’m beginning to sound like a Malema, Bush and Zuma apologist. Having said what I have, I am still voting COPE and I hope you all do.

Should Mbeki publicly endorse Cope but remain an ANC member?

January 28, 2009 § 6 Comments

Imagine a scenario where former president Thabo Mbeki decides to announce his endorsement and intentions to vote for Cope but decides to remain a member of the ANC. I cannot imagine a situation that could rattle the feathers of some of the over inflated egos at Luthuli House more. Some of those egos are “too big, too wide, too strong, won’t fit they’re too much and they talk like this but they can’t even back it up.” “Quoting” Beyonce while discussing politics seems a tad out of place. Perhaps I should make a better analogy. Let me point to the most widely followed election in recent memory. The US elections.

(Just an aside here. I was commenting on someone’s status on Facebook about something they had said regarding the ANC. In my comment I quoted Dr Martin Luther King; someone then commented saying, “Trust Cope to quote Martin Luther King who, at the time, was speaking about equality during the 1960s. What relevance does Dr King have to our democracy,” as if there was something wrong with quoting people from other countries. I’m afraid if that person sees this blog post I will be taken to task for making references to America.)

Two weeks before the American general elections in 2008 a very well respected Republican sat before Tom Brokaw, the host of MSNBC’s much-respected Meet the Press TV programme. This particular Republican, according to opinion polls, had been the most respected American for years. In fact, had his wife not forbidden him from running in 2000, would most certainly have been the Republican nominee for president, meaning that he would have ended up president of the United States instead of George Walker (Dubya) Bush. He would have been America’s first black president.

This Republican gentleman and former National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of State, General Colin Luther Powell endorsed Barack Obama, a member of the Democratic Party, for the presidency of the United States. During his endorsement he mentioned that he was and still is a member of the Republican Party but felt that Obama would make a better president than his fellow party man, John McCain. Although he endorsed an individual, it was essentially an endorsement of the Democratic Party’s platform.

General Powell made that endorsement fully aware of the impact it might have on the fence sitters. Here was an established, highly respected man going out of his way to make known his intentions of voting for a member of a different party to that of his own. Although he allowed himself to be used to bring falsified evidence before the United Nations, which led to the invasion of Iraq, perhaps the endorsement was a way of correcting that error.

He was not hounded out of the Republican Party after his announcement. Of course they were not happy with the endorsement. It was his right to express his preferences. Some tried to spin it by saying he was only endorsing Obama because he is black. Maybe it is time our country matured enough to allow people to express their preferences without fear or favour.

Unfortunately I don’t see Luthuli House viewing Mbeki’s endorsement of Cope as his democratic right. He would most likely be called a traitor at first. Then names and a host of animals that can be found in a zoo. The endorsement would then be ridiculed. They would say that he wants to rule from the grave. They would accuse him of bitterness. They would say that people aren’t going to switch from the ANC and vote for Cope simply because Mbeki decided to do so. The funny thing is they would spend an awful lot of time telling us how insignificant the endorsement was. They would also appear on every SABC station telling us how it would not make a dent in the ANC’s support base, which would make you how wonder: is it really inconsequential? Fikile Mbalula would say that he was right all along; Mbeki was behind Cope all along. Then Julius would call for him to be disciplined or call for his expulsion.

I had the rare opportunity of seeing Julius Malema and Fikile Mbalula at a wedding I too had the privilege of attending some time last year. While all the guests were having tea before the reception, they stood together and talked, like two lonely figures. No one really walked up to them, to talk to them. Then later at the reception the master of ceremonies made the following pronouncement, “I see Mr Malema is also here.” There was much laughter. Make of the laughter what you will. But I digress, as usual. Excuse the ADD.

Should senior members of the ANC who might be sympathetic to Cope publicly announce their intentions to vote for Cope even though they remain members of the ANC? Should they come out and say that they are doing so in order to strengthen democracy and not necessarily weaken the ANC? Will a stronger opposition not in fact strengthen them? Maybe not in terms of numbers, but in strengthening the democratic processes within the party?

Members of the ANC should have the freedom to endorse and to state their intentions of voting for Cope even though they are still senior members of the ANC without the fear of being suspended.

If the rumours are true that the ANC is busy denying – President Motlanthe’s intentions of refusing the position of deputy president should Zuma become president, then it is difficult not to view his discomfort of serving as deputy to Zuma as a vote of no confidence in his presidency.

If, in the next few weeks and months, people decide to go public and announce that they will vote Cope but will remain members of the ANC, then the ruling party should understand one thing — these people do not love the ANC any less. It’s just that they love their country more.

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