Ignorance aids and abets state capture

May 17 2017 05:00
Solly Moeng*

THERE are two expressions I learned from my late father which he used to repeat ad nauseam, so that his face reappears in front of me whenever I hear them, even today.

Regrettably, I was either too young or too intellectually unprepared to engage him on his apparent obsession with these expressions. Now he’s gone and it’s too late for that. The first expression is that “a little education is dangerous” and the second one is that "judged by their conduct, some people clearly know which side of their bread is buttered".

Both expressions are increasingly relevant in contemporary South Africa. The first one, the main subject of this article, is applicable to the many people out there who, despite all the easily available information and evidence, still allow themselves to be used as meek cows to defend corrupt and captured leaders whose conduct is diametrically opposed to the vision that we had set for ourselves at the dawn of our democracy.

The latter are the ones who know “which side of their bread is buttered” and who, to succeed, need the former to remain ignorant, lazy and ready to be mobilised on emotion to defend the indefensible. While one group has power and the other doesn’t, the two reinforce one another at the expense of our country’s interests.

The second expression refers to all the corrupt and captured people in senior and executive level or who hold high office, some of whom often get described as formally educated and intelligent. They have allowed themselves to be used by others as conduits to derail the progress our country has been making in developing a caring, inclusive society, united in its diversity.

This group of people cannot be described as ignorant. They know the truth and they know the implications of what they’re involved in, but they’re also like a smoker, a drug abuser, or an alcoholic who has become so dependent on their substance that they’re unable, even unwilling, to quit.

Others are simply too scared to quit because the people who supply them with drugs have come to own them and will not let them go. They might even be subjected to blackmail because their capturers know of things they might have done that would hugely embarrass them, or lead them to jail if made public.

The meek cows

These come in bigger numbers. They’re ill-informed because they’re either lazy or consistently refuse to connect the dots. It’s hard to imagine that they’re simply being cynical when, for instance, they welcome back with song and dance a corrupt and captured leader who was forced to resign after being outed for corrupt links.

The ignorance of such people, and their inability/refusal to see the bigger picture and to connect the dots, is bad for South Africa.

Some dotted lines   

We live in an amazing country, where freedom of the press and expression is still guaranteed. It frustrates me each time I hear apparently intelligent people still giving Jacob Zuma the benefit of the doubt because it’s possible, they fear, that his troubles might stem from attempts by the West to reverse the gains achieved after the end of apartheid.

It frustrates me when the same people look me in the face and tell me that “the whites are the enemy”; that they should go back to Europe and leave Africans to run things their own way; that whites are doing nothing to contribute to nation building. It frustrates me when I hear regional ANC leaders blame the courts for the troubles their leader and, by extension, their party, finds itself in.

To such people, Zuma was simply exercising his presidential or executive prerogative when he fired respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with an unknown person who had just undergone a straight seven-day induction by the Guptas.

They probably also see it as a mere coincidence that the same person happened to be the treasurer general of the body supposedly taking care of the material interests of veterans of the ANC’s armed wing, an armed wing that many of us believed had been demobilised years ago and yet, on cue, is able to come armed ready to reverse the gains we thought our country has been making.

We should be worried when the prominent leader of the same body, a deputy minister in our government, doesn’t get reprimanded each time he dons paramilitary fatigues to lead matches and make threats against other organs of our state.

It doesn’t stop there. Zuma is also considered to have been exercising the same presidential prerogative when, more recently, he fired another respected finance minister and his deputy, following several failed attempts of indirect intimidation through trumped-up criminal charges and threats of arrest by his bulldogs.

No dots are drawn and no parallels are seen between the lies we get told today and the ones that were invented and repeated by one Robert Gabriel Mugabe, just over a decade ago, when he started blaming the West for his failures.

The enemy working against South Africa’s sovereign interests is no longer out there looking in; it roams the space we all occupy. Those who continue defending it can no longer be regarded as belonging to us.   

* Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley. Views expressed are his own.

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solly moeng  |  opinion  |  state capture



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