South African political analyst and legendary founding editor of the defunct Vrye Weekblad, Max du Preez, is launching his latest book, A Rumour of Spring, a title curiously close to South African literary legend, Andre P Brink’s Rumours of Rain.
In du Preez’s latest book, he chronicles the African National Congress’s rule of South Africa since the advent of democracy in this country. According to the book’s advertorial, the 27th of April, 2014, will mark 20 years since that historic day.
During apartheid’s darkest hour, Max du Preez was steadfast and brave in his investigative reporting against the tyranny of PW Botha’s regime of censorship of the press and continuous death threats from security operatives. To my mind, Mr du Preez still holds the mantle as a leader of the free press in SA.
The free press, however, is under threat with the passing of a bill in parliament which will curb both the press and the public’s access to information, particularly that of its elected government. This is a constitutional right. The manifestations of the ruling party’s looming tyranny and its scant disregard for freedom of expression and access to information can today be seen in the debacle surrounding Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence in KwaZulu Natal.
Mr du Preez and I have very few things in common, however, even from the vantage point of his knowledge of South African politics and the history of the country, he is humble in accepting opinions which differ from his own. And offering a counter-argument when he deems it necessary to do so.
He recently told Free State farmers that they should “get to know the ANC” before resorting to paranoia under the threat of new political luminaries such as Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters. He believes that the ANC will not in the foreseeable future be able to alter the constitution. I beg to differ.
Both du Preez and I were avid supporters of the United Democratic Front before 1994. He voted for the ANC whilst I did not. I chose not to vote for the ANC because I believed that it would not serve the interests of those that elected them to public office. I believed that once Nelson Mandela left public office, the crass corruption and gross incompetence of the ruling party’s cadres would set in. And proceed to control all, or most, levers of political and economic power in our country.
Brink’s Rumours of Rain was written some years ago, long before the Sunset Clause was proposed by the late South African Communist Party leader, Joe Slovo, and signed and sealed by FW de Klerk’s ruling National Party government and Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress government-in-waiting.
Rumours of Rain can be defined as a plaas-roman (farm narrative). Its protagonist is a well-connected wealthy Afrikaner (Afrikaans-speaking white South African) businessman whose primary concern is the looming crises in apartheid South Africa and the maintenance of his material privilege.
The Sunset Clause essentially ensured that the hegemonic status quo of an élite group of white-owned corporate behemoths such as Anglo-American, Old Mutual and Naspers, amongst others, could maintain their control of the South African economy. It also set in motion the corrupt and racist malpractice of what is termed BBBEE (Broad-based black economic empowerment). Twenty years later, as Madiba is left voiceless and ailing in his sick bed in an upmarket (previously white) suburb called Houghton, the fruits of this so-called political compromise are being felt harshly today.
Millions of (mostly black) South Africans have effectively been excluded from having an equal and fair chance of accessing the country’s declining economy by way of a decent job, a functioning and profitable small enterprise, or even a small-holding on which to farm productively for the benefit of all. Indeed, Stats SA, a government-run department, will argue correctly that unemployment is dropping (slightly) and that more and more black South Africans are joining what we have come to call the wealthy middle-class.
World-wide, this term, a wealthy middle class, has become a misnomer. Why, you may ask? In order to reach these giddy heights a contract of indebtedness is entered into. It is said that it benefits the country’s economy as a whole. But it benefits the country’s leading financial institutions more. And it benefits its majority shareholders still more.
Now, who falls into this category of majority shareholders? The white élite mentioned earlier, certainly. And the black élite, smoothly operated from the ANC’s investment vehicle, Chancellor House. The leading beneficiaries of this black economic empowerment élite are Patrice Motsepe, one of Africa’s wealthiest men, Tokyo Sexwale, Mathews Phosa, a former treasury general of the ANC and a practising attorney, and the ANC’s deputy president and heir apparent, Cyril Ramaphosa, a former trade unionist aligned to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) which remains in a tripartite alliance with the ruling party (along with the SACP). How did these men come to be in such powerful positions? Look back to the Sunset Clause, and you will learn that none of these men in essence earned or worked their way into these powerful positions in the spirit of free enterprise and equal opportunities for all.
Former State President, Thabo Mbeki, will be justifiably pleased with his achievements, the primary aim being that of setting into motion BBBEE.
Crime statistics and the SAPS (South African Police Services) has become something of a pariah in South Africa these days. White South Africans who have thus far managed their financial affairs well may feel threatened by the alarmingly high crime rates in South Africa. Max du Preez, has stated correctly that South Africa’s crime rate is not the highest in the world, but it is running close. Not only that, it is characterised by extremely violent manifestations.
I sympathise whole-heartedly with the majority of disenfranchised black South Africans living in shanty towns reminiscent of Brazil’s favella’s, who have little or no means of protecting themselves. The spate of farm-killings reminiscent of South Africa’s once-prosperous neighbour, Zimbabwe, is not to be trivialized either. Again, du Preez (and others) argue correctly that white farmers are not the primary targets. There are black victims too. Many, much more than the white minority.
The violent crimes being committed today are still being blamed by apartheid and the legislation which put into motion the apparatus of excluding the majority of South Africans from free and equal status as citizens. Recently, Jacob Zuma’s close ally, Nathi Mthethwa, the minister of Safety and Security no less, made this allegation. His subordinate, Ria Piyega, rumoured to have giggled on hearing that over thirty miners in Marikana (the centre of one of the world’s richest deposits of platinum) were hideously gunned down (to death) by SAPS officers, has recently expressed grave concern for the safety of an alleged powerful gang boss.
But little, or no concern for the safety of the country’s citizens has been expressed.
Riya Piyega, a former civilian with no formal police training, carries the military rank of General, reminiscent of the ranking system used by former apartheid prime ministers BJ Vorster and PW Botha. Her predecessors are General Bheki Cele and Jackie Selebi. Cele was fired by Jacob Zuma for incompetence in the handling of a corrupt tendering process managed by so-called property magnate, Roux Shabangu. While still in office, albeit suspended, Selebi was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment for corrupt dealings with gangster and drug lord, Glen Aglioti.
When Nelson Mandela took up the office of State President of the Republic of South Africa he appointed seasoned professional George Fivaz as the country’s first police commissioner in a democratic dispensation. Fivaz was tasked by Mandela to “depoliticize” (Mandela’s own words) the South African Police force. When Thabo Mbeki succeeded Mandela, that democratic process was reversed.
There is hope for this country. Thanks to its beloved leader, Nelson Mandela, and those who helped put it in place, South Africa is blessed with one of the most fair (not liberal, no, that word is not entirely correct to my mind) constitutions in the world, where the civil liberties and rights of all, I repeat, all, the country’s citizens and its resources are enshrined. Sadly, they have not yet been guaranteed.
One of South Africa’s bravest and indeed most controversial activists, Mr Zackie Achmat, has for some years worked for a non-governmental movement called The Social Justice Coalition, which works tirelessly for the liberties and safety of the majority of citizens living in one of the country’s largest townships, Khayelitsha, near Cape Town. Achmat is perhaps better known for his tireless campaigns as leader of the Treatment Action Group on behalf of the millions of (mostly black) South Africans inflicted with HIV and Aids.
Nevertheless, the citizens of Khayelitsha became gatvol (extremely angry) at the SAPS as the crime rate in their neighbourhood rose unchecked by the police. On behalf these citzens, the Social Justice Coalition approached the (Western Cape) province’s premier, Helen Zille (leader of the country’s official opposition, the Democratic Alliance) to sue the responsible minister to act accordingly against the truancy, incompetence and dereliction of duties of the SAPS in protecting the impoverished communities from the vicious and violent crimes that they are plagued with daily.
After much filibustering and court attempts to halt the Premier’s call for a commission of enquiry to investigate SAPS in this jurisdiction, Mthethwa had to relent after the citizen’s calls were heeded favourably by the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Court.
Crimes committed against the country’s (mostly black) citizens are not entirely economic and cannot be blamed on apartheid. These crimes are extremely violent. Elderly women and very young children are not only murdered, they are raped! Corrective rape is also performed on the scale now being seen in Uganda against lesbian (homosexual) women.
Is this the fault of apartheid? Many of the perpetrators of such violence were not even born at the height of PW Botha’s kragdadigheid (tight security control and endless states of emergency) as a counter against swart gevaar (black danger) and rooi gevaar (red, Communist danger).
Neither was Julius Malema, barely thirty and leader of EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters). The root of his fiery rhetoric and his call to expropiate property, farms, industry, banks and the like are based on a firm hatred of the white minority, not a genuine concern for addressing the inequalities of the black majority. Much like the German dictator, Adolf Hitler, Malema is today either derided, ridiculed and not take seriously by the economic élite. While they may cautiously shift prized assets, whether earned or not, to foreign lands, their privileged lives continue much as it did before.
If you dismiss Julius Malema, you do so at your own peril, it matters not into which race group or economic group you have been categorised.
Nazi Germany, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. History has a strange habit of repeating itself, particularly when the lessons of the past have not been heeded.
I leave you, friends, with a very important message from our beloved State President Nelson Rohlihla Mandela:
“We, who were outlaws not so long ago, have today been given the rare privilege to be host to the nations of the world on our own soil. We thank all of our distinguished international guests of what is, after all, a common victory for justice, for peace, for human dignity.
We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.
NEVER, NEVER, AND NEVER AGAIN SHALL IT BE THAT THIS BEAUTIFUL LAND WILL AGAIN EXPERIENCE THE OPPRESSION OF ONE BY ANOTHER…
The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement. Let freedom reign.
GOD BLESS AFRICA!