SO THE bullies have won. What a sad day for South Africa, what a sad couple of weeks for our constitution. And what a sad day for the African National Congress, which can no longer claim to be the vanguard party of the revolution.
The bullies and the reactionaries have stolen the party. And the true democrats have either fled its ranks or are too scared to put their heads above the parapet.
Bob Dylan, as always, has some lyrics to describe what has happened: “Farewell Angelina/The bells of the crown/Are being stolen by bandits/I must follow the sound.”
Ironic, isn’t it, that in this 100th year of existence of the ANC that the once-proud party should finally turn its back on history, turn its back on the progressive struggle for liberation, and complete the process of Zanufication?
Terror Lekota had it right when he said on Tuesday that the ANC had resorted to “fascist tactics” in the way it had handled the issue of Brett Murray’s painting, The Spear. And the Azanian People’s Organisation, Azapo, had it right when it said (OK, it was a bit overblown) that “we are convinced that our country is speedily sliding towards dictatorship and anarchy.”
The whole mess has left me feeling very, very sad.
I find it hard to believe that a liberation movement of which I was once proud could slide so fast into a reactionary, racist mess. I find it hard to believe how quickly a noble movement could descend into a messed up goulash of competing factions all stabbing each other in the back in a desperate scramble for power and, let’s be frank, access to the levers of wealth.
I find it hard to believe that this liberation movement could so cynically set about destroying what few gains we have made on the path to nation-building and racial reconciliation just to help Jacob Zuma get re-elected at Mangaung.
And I can’t believe that until yesterday in Parliament, President Zuma himself had not lifted a finger, not uttered a single word to stem the tide of vitriolic, racist nonsense that has emanated from his followers, among them Gwede Mantashe and Blade Nzimande.
Yesterday he broke his silence to say, “What is remarkable about our country, is that despite this human disaster that lasted too long as described by Madiba, we still had that historic gathering in Kliptown in 1955, where under the leadership of the ANC, delegates to the Congress of the People declared that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.
“It is remarkable too, that while our struggle was a struggle against racism, it was never a racist struggle. That is why we had white democrats fighting side by side with their black compatriots to liberate this country and put an end to racism and subjugation.”
Exactly. And Brett Murray is one of those white democrats who fought side by side with his black compatriots to liberate this country. And, as President Zuma said, “it was never a racist struggle”. Well, in just a few short weeks, the ANC has completely undone much of what was achieved through decades of non-racial struggle, and completely racialised political debate in South Africa.
Shame on you all.
Shame on Blade Nzimande who said “we did not fight for freedom to be insulted.” Well, Dr Nzimande, consider yourself insulted. You have shown yourself to be a racist and a reactionary. Shame on you when you said on Tuesday that the painting must be destroyed. I fear for our universities with you as the minister in charge. What’s next? Book burning? Tarring and feathering revisionist academics?
I am sad that the Goodman Gallery and City Press were bludgeoned into submission by the bully boys. I am sad that this matter will never be ventilated properly in the High Court, where the patent absurdity of the ANC’s case would have been laid bare. And I am sad that from now on, it is the mob that will dictate our public discourse, that rational debate will be howled down and beaten into the dirt.
There’s another line from Dylan’s Farewell Angelina that sums up some of the despair I have felt this week: “The machine guns are roaring/The puppets heave rocks/The fiends nail time bombs/To the hands of the clocks/Call me any name you like/ I will never deny it/Farewell Angelina/The sky is erupting/I must go where it’s quiet.”
Yes, I know it’s just a bit of Dylan nonsense, but the bleakness of the lines touch on the dark space we went into this week in South Africa.