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Rule by middle finger is bad for SA

Mar 23 2016 07:15
Solly Moeng

I WISH this column were not about the depressing newsmakers of our time: the Guptas, Jacob Zuma, the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, rampant corruption, state capture, political arrogance, political duplicity and all the related themes, including the shocking denial by South Africa’s leaders of the negative impact of their conduct on our country’s reputation.

But keeping quiet seems like a dereliction of duty to one's country.

Yesterday a well-known, lowly newspaperman that I have huge respect and admiration for sent me a tweet by Trevor Ncube, owner of the weekly Mail & Guardian. The tweet read: “My South African friends ask me: Why did Zimbabweans allow Mugabe to destroy the country? My answer: It was a process, not an event!”

It’s safe to argue that one of the most important communities of South Africa watchers is the nebulous “African diaspora” and, perhaps specifically, the millions of African migrants who have come to make South Africa their home over the past 22 years or so.

Over time, they have whispered in the ears of those South Africans who can listen that what they’re witnessing here is exactly what happened in their own countries and eventually made them run away from those countries. Many left for purely economic reasons, seeking a better life after their countries were plundered and economically brought to their knees by greedy political elites with no foresight; others left for political reasons, as their pronounced opposition to the plunder put them and their families in the direct line of fire from the kleptocratic despots running their countries.

Car guards now choose Canada above SA

Recently, a Congolese car guard at my local gym told me he’s beginning to look at ways of moving his family to Canada because South Africa is fast becoming just another African country; it no longer represents the shining ‘black ruled’ country that would prove to the world that blacks can run a thriving modern democracy without repeating the mistakes made elsewhere on the continent.

Of course, South Africa might seem a long way from becoming another Zimbabwe or the DRC but, as Ncube and countless other African migrants keep warning us, it is a process; not an event.

The signs are there for everyone to see. Only those who put party and archaic racial brotherhood first will continue denying the reality that South Africa is being ripped off in broad daylight by those we put in power, their families and friends.

We were naïve to believe that they would forever put our collective interests and those of the country first. One by one, even South Africa’s independent institutions of democracy are being weakened, at the mercy of politicians who will stop at nothing to bring them to heel for their own selfish ends.

Unlike millions of fellow Africans all over the continent, we South Africans still enjoy our constitutionally protected freedom of expression. We can write letters to newspaper editors, call into radio talk shows to freely express our views, comment on social media platforms, and stage marches against government abuse.

But, going by increased political attacks on those who differ with what is going on, coupled by Marikana-style suppression of our freedoms, even such liberties are in danger of being yanked away.

The people in Darfur, for instance, have never had these freedoms. They continue to struggle to make their voices heard; they do not enjoy the same access to free media; their forced silence has provided the rulers of South Africa with an excuse to act as if they do not exist and are no longer waiting for justice.

This country denied them a chance to justice when it chose to let their butcher, the outlaw Omar al-Bashir, escape arrest in 2015, all in the name of African brotherhood.

In defence of this man and other African despots - not the African victims of their barbaric acts - the rulers of our country are even prepared to pull South Africa from fulfilling its commitments to human rights and the International Criminal Court, with the clumsy excuse that a number of Western leaders who should also be prosecuted for human rights abuse are still free.

Instead of setting an example by leading from the front, they have adopted the foolish politics of “arrest your culprits first, then we will arrest ours”.

As a further indication of our moral bankruptcy, our government was among the first to congratulate another African despot, Ugandan Yoweri Museveni, after he recently claimed victory following elections during which his main political opponent was repeatedly and routinely arrested while campaigning.

All of these things are linked; South Africa is in trouble if our leaders continue to go on blinded by too much power and lack of foresight. Their rule by the middle finger is bad for South Africa. Soon, there will be little left of our reputation to defend.

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

solly moeng
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