South Africa is, in my humble opinion, not given enough credit for what it is contributing to the manual of how to stymie all demands for political accountability.
I blame it on our traditional humility because if dictators in other lands learnt our ways, they wouldn’t need to invest in high-handed ways that dent their human rights record and drain the fiscus.
One of the first things tyrants must learn is that it is better to stigmatise the media than ban it or arrest journalists.
Brand it as an agent of opposition or of those hankering for an inglorious past. If you want to prolong your future, make sure you do not allow the past to pass.
Linked to this useful trick is to accuse someone of not having been visibly or audibly upset by some wrong that happened in the past and therefore disqualified from commenting on a current wrong.
Tell them the reason they were not sufficiently outraged was because they are privileged.
This can depend on anything that nature or circumstances have endowed on the “privileged” person. It can include anything from race to being tall and good looking.
Only those who have said anything about everything that has gone wrong will have the right to comment about a present wrong.
Since none of them can say they have commented on all the wrongs – from a murder and a rape of a child by a paedophile in an informal settlement somewhere to discovering that the NP has founded The Citizen newspaper as a propaganda tool – you will find that the tricks listed below are for your reading pleasure because the above should settle all political debates.
Anyone who condemns the Marikana massacre or the shooting of a priest in his parish (as happened in Joburg) can easily be put in their place by asking them for their record when police shot at school kids in 1976 or harassed, say, Dr Beyers Naudé.
Once you have done that, you can happily build yourself a home for $250 million (R3.5 billion – to use a random figure) or spend R750 000 on a funeral of a prominent personality without having to give reasons for your thinking and a breakdown of your spending.
If anyone seems bothered, point out to them that they must be one of the last few who have not realised that the media is an agent for interests that are not only foreign, but fatal for the good of the country.
Gently put your hand on their shoulder and tell them not to allow themselves to be played by the media and opposition conspiracy in the same way that quack pastors dupe the ignorant.
Nobody wants to be the only one who does not see what is going on. If in doubt, read The Emperor’s New Clothes. Find phrases that are so imprecise that they can be used to mean virtually anything while being hurtful at the same time.
For example, “white monopoly capital” or “anti-imperialist”.
You don’t need to show when you realised that the phenomenon you are describing was a problem or what you have done about it up to the point.
In fact, you don’t need to do anything except point out that it is something bad.
Use the word to justify and explain anything unclear or what at face value seems to be unwarranted changes in policy or personnel.
You can say, for example: “We have decided to remove comrade So-and-So from his position to strengthen our capacity to push back against the forces of white monopoly capital and advance our anti-imperialist outlook.”
While at it, accuse your opponents of what they cannot do anything about. Anything from the shape of their ears to their sex and race. Tell them the reason they are pointing out a wrong is because of their sex, race or the fact that they could afford cheese sandwiches when they were young while their neighbours went to bed hungry.
If it turns out that the white man you are talking to is a Joe Slovo or Bram Fischer, ask them if they have ever carried a dompas or had to draw water from a river and carry it on their head.
If they answer ‘no”, end the discussion. If the person is black and has endured all that whites have not, shame them for forgetting their past and allowing themselves to be used as agents of those who once oppressed and marginalised them.
Use education as a tool of separating the wheat from the chaff.
If your opponent cannot quote any number of social theorists with any depth or understanding, make them aware that while you would like to continue with the discussion, it would be like discussing the intricacies of the human body with your pet cat. Pointless.
If all this fails, just do what all self-respecting dictators do: run political opponents out of town, shut down “irresponsible” media and social media use, and rule by decree.