Recipe for madness

Apr 29 2011 10:13
Kader Asmal
BEING confined to bed on doctor's orders doesn't lead to an optimistic view of the human condition.

There's enough going on at home in South Africa without concerning yourself with the pain and sorrow elsewhere. What's happening at home can best be described by the poet WB Yeats when he wrote his work Second coming.

Are we in a situation where "Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold" and is our leadership so wanting "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity"?

The behaviour of the leadership of the African National Congress Youth League is a microcosm of Yeats' fears. Nobody is prepared to see reason among the buffoons whose behaviour now threatens the heart of our constitutional democracy.

It's worthwhile identifying what the league has done over the very recent past. During Jacob Zuma's trial the league's leader undertook to die for him, with the implicit threat to kill; at the last minute – at a big ANC conference – an intimidating rush towards the platform ensured the ANC would undertake a study of the nationalisation of the mines, but a senior official of the league has made it quite clear only a recommendation to nationalise would be acceptable.

Once upon a time the league played a progressive role in ensuring the ANC would follow progressive policies and adopt a more direct opposition to apartheid. Now the air is full of smoke and the league is anticipating the ANC's 2012 conference by deciding who the general secretary of the ANC would be, in breach of the parent body's decision there should be a moratorium on any public discussion of leadership matters.

Reticence is certainly not the house style of the league. On the contrary, it's full of bluster and isn't affected by questions about the provenance of the wealth that is so conspicuously spent on expensive food, drinks, clothing and fancy cars. It seems money isn't really a problem, which raises a further question as to whether there are strings tied by the donors of the money.

My doctor has warned me against reading or watching anything that would anger or excite me during my convalescence. I tried not to be angry at the goings-on at the Equality Court trial of the president of the youth league.

Like many people, I felt the prosecution brought by an Afrikaner pressure group was misconceived. All that it's done – in a rather poorly organised case – is to give enormous publicity to the vulgar gyrations of league members. The sight of sleekly-dressed goons with their semi-automatic weapons raised the spectre of a banana republic.

From my bed I ask: "Who will assert the sanctity of our courts? Who will protect witnesses and their friends? Who will prosecute the gun-toting 'protectors'?" More importantly, who has engaged and paid for those goons?

Finally, the silence of the chief justice at this serious violation at a trial is sad – but what's appalling is the refusal to comment by the minister and the so-called general of the SA Police Force.

Are things really falling apart? Sadly, it seems so.

My comment on the killing of a schoolteacher by police at Ficksburg is lost in a feeling of shame that our police "service" is so inadequately trained it cannot understand the nature of peaceful protest.
Where the ANC Youth League approach becomes one of tragicomedy is with the publication of discussion documents for its forthcoming national conference.

I suggest everyone read them. Basically, it proposes the nationalisation or expropriation of SA's mineral, metal, banking, energy production and telecommunications sectors. It's very forthright about compensation: no compensation will be paid. The property clauses in our constitution must, it says, be amended to allow for expropriation in accordance with the economic and social needs of blacks. Only "imperialists" will disagree.

This is a recipe for madness. No sane person today would countenance discussion on those matters that, if implemented, are certain to lead to economic suicide. At a time of genuine discussion about the nature of foreign direct investment we require, this document isn't only a distraction but an impediment. The Youth League is optimistic about being able to bulldoze those policies through at the 2012 national conference of the ANC.

Ours is a beautiful country, with enormous human and economic potential. Can we not revive the "ceremony of innocence" – to paraphrase Yeats – and make the centre hold?
anc  |  politics  |  sa economy



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