Why South Africa must collapse after Mandela’s death

January 2, 2014 1:40 pmComments Off on Why South Africa must collapse after Mandela’s death by:

Last week Monday a friend walked into my office brimming with excitement. He asked me a bizarre question – rather smirkily, I might add – “How do you think apartheid ended?”

My answer was the usual waffle: South African was on a brink of collapse; the internal status quo of violence untenable; the international community applied unrelenting pressure and so on. He was not satisfied with my answer, but he also did not challenge me; as if inviting me to rethink my position.

After an unusual pause he asked me whether, in my opinion, the end of apartheid had something to do self-preservation. To avoid making a fool of myself by giving an incongruent answer, I avoided the question altogether. I did not think about the question again, until a rather peculiar occurrence the following day.

On Tuesday world leaders gathered at the majestic FNB Soccer City to celebrate and bid farewell to Africa’s greatest son, Nelson Mandela – the father of the Republic of South Africa. In a strange turn of events, President Jacob Zuma was booed by persons in ANC regalia while former president FW De Klerk was greeted with applause and cheers. This is strange indeed.

Former president FW De Klerk is no small man in South African politics. As the president of the Republic between 1989 and 1994 he was instrumental in negotiating the democratic settlement. However, De Klerk’s role in South African politics did not start or end there. He became a member of parliament in 1967. Between 1978 and 1989 De Klerk held successive cabinet positions, including Minister of National Education and Planning (1985-1989).

While De Klerk received international acclaim for his role in ‘ending’ apartheid, he recently shocked South Africans when he went on CNN to publicly defend elements of apartheid. In his own words, “What I haven’t apologised for is the original concept of seeking to bring justice to all South Africans through the concept of nation states.”

De Klerk denied that black South Africans were disenfranchised saying, “They were not disenfranchised, they voted.”

De Klerk went so far as to deny that homelands were created by the apartheid state. In his words, “They [black people] were not put in homelands, the homelands were historically there. At that stage the goal was separate but equal”.

More recently, De Klerk – through the De Klerk Foundation – went on another spurt of apartheid apologism. In a statement, the foundation rebuked President Jacob Zuma for pinning poverty, inequality etcetera on apartheid. It said,

“Attempts to blame these failures on “apartheid” will simply divert government and public attention from the urgent need to implement the kind of realistic solutions called for in the National Development Plan. They also serve intentionally or unintentionally to stir up racial animosities that we simply cannot afford. When President Zuma says that “we cannot stop blaming those who caused it”, he is playing the very dangerous game of making whites the racial scapegoats for the manifest failures of his own government.”

So how is it that a self-appraised apartheid apologist gets applause and cheers but President Jacob Zuma, a democratically elected president of the Republic, is booed?

When the media asked boo-ers why they had booed the president, they responded that, “Because he is corrupt and we do not want him.”

The booing incident is bizarre. Not because President Zuma is an exemplary statesman undeserving of such treatment, but because President Zuma is – without doubt – set to become a president for another term. Yet, he is no dictator. He will be democratically elected. By modest estimates, his party (the African National Congress) is set to receive 60% of the national vote.

What has all of this got to do with South Africa collapsing?

There are two myths in South Africa: one is that South Africa will spontaneously combust after the passing of Nelson Mandela, the other is that South Africa will be fine.

South Africans, especially blacks, are angry and self-loathing. They are so angry that we would rather embrace and man who was central to the system that oppressed them, a man who continues to embrace parts of that system.

The country’s political situation is deteriorating rapidly. Twenty years after democracy, the government has not prioritised equality and empowerment. Problems of inequality and poverty are not being addressed through redistribution, as was promised by the Freedom Charter – the founding document of the revolutionary struggle. Instead, those who benefited from apartheid are now the moral voice, huffing and puffing from their positions of privilege.

The promise of a “better life for all” is now a pipe-dream, a common joke. Those who looted the country and denied the majority equal opportunity remain elevated on pedestals, pointing at government failures and denying their own roles in the oppression. They continue to accumulate more, while the poor are getting even poorer.

South Africans are being set-up against themselves, by the same people who fought hard during negotiations to preserve unequal ownership of land and distorted access to the economy. Citizens are being duped into believing in a flouted liberation.

Also, for the first time since 1912 South Africa is without saviours (leaders). There is neither an African National Congress to cry to nor a Pan-Africanist Congress as an alternative. There isn’t even a Black Consciousness Movement to talk people into taking action. There are no longer any Sisulus or Mbekis or Mabhidas to radicalise the masses. What the country has are oligarchs and kleptomaniacs riding the un-collapsing wave of former glory.

What is worse is that South Africans have just lost the last symbol of that promise of a better life for all – Nelson Mandela.

Revolution is the only hope for South Africans. The country needs to start afresh, and for that they need a point of reference. Recent apartheid history is skewed in favour of those who created, and continue to benefit from, apartheid.

Uruguay’s José Mujica, an exemplary statesman in his own right, once said “The world will always need revolution. That doesn’t mean shooting and violence. A revolution is when you change your thinking.”

South Africa needs a revolution. Even if it is only a change in thinking.

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