If we stand by and say nothing as stones are being thrown, we condone it, writes Lesley Sedibe.
Johannesburg - Sporadic incidents of violence have been reported in Gauteng and increasing numbers of traumatised people have been calling radio stations to report having witnessed accounts of mobs executing senseless and macabre acts of violence while armed with pangas, sticks and stones.
Witnesses have claimed that in certain instances, police members have stood idly by and done nothing as these horrific scenes of violence are executed. These allegations need to be investigated and if necessary, heads must roll. Has violence become South Africa’s narrative 20 years into our democracy? Does this mean that as South Africans we no longer see any value in social dialogue as a means to resolve our differences?
I am reminded of the often-quoted passage by Frantz Fanon in his book titled Black Skin, White Masks: “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance.
“And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalise, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
Are we as a country at a point of “cognitive dissonance”? By the way, Madiba was a huge fan of dialogue.
The destruction of property and violent attacks on adversaries is not only counter-productive, but indeed counter-revolutionary, and undermines the gains of our democratic dispensation.
It is also inconsistent with the National Democratic Revolution and must therefore be discouraged at this early stage of our democratic evolution.
Our country needs a law enforcement system and justice system that tackles incidents like these swiftly and head on. There needs to be accountability and perpetrators of crimes must be brought to book.
The message needs to be proclaimed far and wide that in as much as workers have the right to go on strike, they also have a responsibility towards others. Similarly, the apparent arrogance and intransigence that has characterised the attitudes towards the demands of workers is something that must be condemned. We cannot afford to treat worker demands with disdain and contempt.
As South Africans, we need to take urgent and decisive measures to address the trust deficit that prevails.
Our constitution guarantees our right to peaceful protest – peaceful being the operative word. While there may be legitimate wage issues, everyone has to act within the framework of the law. Yes, we all have rights. But, with those rights come responsibilities.
You will recall the violence our country witnessed ahead of the elections in May. Service delivery protests were marred by violence and community facilities were vandalised and destroyed.
Mahatma Gandhi once described the roots of violence as follows: “Wealth without work; pleasure without conscience; knowledge without character; commerce without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice; and politics without principles.”
Such stories also impact negatively on the perception of our country abroad and can have dire consequences for foreign investment in the country, as well as impacting negatively on the country’s credit rating. South Africa be warned, the world is watching us.
On Friday, June 13, ratings giant Standard & Poor’s downgraded South Africa’s sovereign credit rating to just one notch above “junk” status. It’s a wake-up call for all of us. Credit ratings are relevant for all of us as they influence the country’s cost of borrowing and, ultimately, the rand’s value and how much money enters our country.
It eventually also affects your pocket and mine and impacts on local businesses, households and our standard of living.
The question then is: How do we create and sustain jobs and grow the local economy amid all the violence and labour tension?
As painful as it may be, we can never allow the dialogue around these incidents of violence to quieten down for as long as they continue. In the end, one person being beaten to within inches of his life is a big deal. One person dying at the hands of a crazy mob is a big deal.
We all condone this kind of violence when we stand by and do nothing or say nothing. Actions are always louder than words and whether you wish to acknowledge it or not, it will impact you irrespective of how many kilometres away from the violence you live.
Together we must stand up and speak out, South Africa. It’s time for the authorities to put an end to the unnecessary violence – once and for all. And by this, I do not mean the brutal use of force, but a firm stand must be taken.
* Advocate Leslie Sedibe is the chief executive of Proudly South African.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers