Apathy isn’t any part of patriotism
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There is so much of which we South Africans can be justifiably proud. Among these are the resilience of our democracy as reflected in the recent successful municipal elections
, our sound macro-economic policies that have brought us sustained economic growth only briefly interrupted by the recent global economic downturn, the fact that our public debt is less than 36 percent of GDP and external debt is only 16 percent of GDP, that we are 24th largest economy in the world, producing more than 30 percent of the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa with only 6.5 percent of its population, and that the government has made great progress in improving the lives of millions of South Africans, building 4 million houses and bringing electricity and sanitation to more than 72 percent of our homes.
The magnificent success of the World Cup showed the world what glories we South Africans can achieve when we all work together.
However, there are many things of which we are not so proud.
We see them in the daily barrage of press reports about corruption, crime, incompetence and divisive racial politics.
Unfortunately, we are becoming so conditioned by such reports that our responses have been deadened.
Developments that in other countries would lead to the fall of governments are routinely brushed aside by South Africans as being just more of the same old tiresome thing.
Among many of us there is a feeling of disempowerment – and almost of detachment.
My message is that we have a constitution that empowers all of us.
We must not allow ourselves to be lulled into a situation where we no longer respond to situations that are constitutionally, morally and politically unacceptable.
It is unacceptable to sing songs calling for the shooting of anyone. The historical context is irrelevant.
It would be equally unacceptable for Afrikaners to sing Boer War songs calling on people to shoot the English – or for Americans to sing World War II songs about killing Japanese people.
It is unacceptable for Julius Malema to call whites criminals, and to add that they should be treated as criminals and that their land should be seized without compensation. It is even more unacceptable for President Zuma to sit on the same platform, smiling, while Malema, as a key office bearer in the ANC, makes such racist comments.
It is unacceptable for the Judicial Services Commission to ignore unambiguous constitutional requirements regarding the manner in which it should be constituted – and then to refuse to fill vacancies on the Cape Bench, despite the availability of eminently fit and proper candidates, simply because they happen to be white.
It is unacceptable for Cosatu and the SACP to set as their mid-term vision the utterly unconstitutional goal of “worker hegemony in all sectors of the state and society”, and it is unacceptable for Gugile Nkwinti, our Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, to declare in Parliament last year that all “colonial struggles are about two things: repossession of the land and the centrality of the indigenous population”.
One could mention many other unacceptable aspects of our society – the parlous state of our education and health systems; unsustainable levels of unemployment; the failure of half of our municipalities; the deplorable levels of crime; the inefficiency of most government departments, and recurrent reports of endemic corruption and incompetence.
Unfortunately, South Africans are in danger of allowing this dismal litany to pummel them into accepting the unacceptable as part of their daily reality. They must not.
The fulcrum on which South Africa’s future will pivot is our constitution. It is a carefully balanced document that represents an historic compromise between all the significant sectors of our society. It makes provision for a fully democratic society; it is based on the rule of law; it protects the fundamental rights of all our citizens; it entrenches our language and cultural rights; it envisages a society based on equality and human dignity. If we can maintain this excellent constitution I am confident that our future will be secure.
I believe that we are approaching a pivotal point in our history where all South Africans of goodwill, regardless of their race, circumstances or political affiliation will have to rally around the constitutional rights, values and vision upon which our new non-racial democracy has been established.
If the forces of history come down on the side of constitutional values we can all look forward to a positive future. However, if the balance tips against the constitution, the consequences for all South Africans could be very dire.
The main force seeking to disturb the constitutional balance is the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution.
Developments during the past 17 years have shown that, assisted by its unconstitutional use of cadre deployment, the ANC has taken vigorous steps to take over – or to try to take over – state institutions. In the process it is obliterating the constitutional borders between the party and the state, undermining the independence of key institutions, and opening the way to large-scale corruption and government impunity.
The ultimate goal of the NDR is a “non-racial democracy” – in which all aspects of control, ownership, management and employment in the state, private and non-governmental sectors will broadly mirror the demographic composition of South Africa’s population.
Like the communist ideal of the “classless society”, the non-racial democracy has a superficial appeal – but is equally unattainable in practice.
Nearly all of the unacceptable developments that I have listed can be traced back, directly or indirectly, to the NDR’s corrosive and unconstitutional ideology.
Achievement of the NDR’s goals would end any prospect for racial harmony and lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of people with indispensible skills and the collapse of Africa’s largest and most sophisticated economy.
No reasonable South African would question the need to promote genuine equality; achieve fair and sustainable land reform, and remove any barriers to black advancement. But
South Africans urgently need to speak to the government on the best ways of achieving these goals.
Such a dialogue is necessary because many ANC members truly believe the myths and historic distortions that underlie the NDR, including that blacks cannot be racists; that land whites occupy was “stolen” from the blacks (even if it was purchased after 1994); and that white wealth was acquired through the exploitation of blacks.
I am confident that civil society together with Nedlac will be able to stop, or greatly ameliorate, the worst excesses in the labour and land reform bills that are currently before Parliament.
But it will not be an easy process. The defence of liberty has always been a hard and difficult struggle.
The media, civil society and opposition parties will need all the support they can get from people of goodwill here and abroad.
l This is an edited extract from a speech by former president FW de Klerk to the Adele Searll Ladies 100 Club in Cape Town earlier this month.