President Cyril Ramaphosa visited KwaZulu-Natal to assess the situation after a string of violence consisting of looting and torching of buildings that has affected the province negatively. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited KwaZulu-Natal to assess the situation after a string of violence consisting of looting and torching of buildings that has affected the province negatively. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Civil Unrest: The incompetence of high-living, plush politicians is infuriating

By Lorenzo A Davids Time of article published Jul 20, 2021

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On Friday, July 16, President Cyril Ramaphosa dealt a death blow to South African exceptionalism when he told the nation, "it is now clear that the events (attacks on key infrastructure, looting and stirring of racial violence) of the past week were nothing but a deliberate, well planned and co-ordinated attack on our democracy”.

He further stated that the individuals behind this mayhem had as their agenda to “cripple the economy”, “severely weaken the democratic state” and “provoke popular insurrection”.

In this statement lies the now tarnished image of our 27-year standing as a beacon of constitutionalism on the African continent as well as the often quoted “South African miracle of the peaceful transfer of power through the ballot box”.

For the president to state that the plotters of the planned insurrection had "exploited" and "manipulated" the poor is, however, a claim too far. That is so akin to a PW Botha claiming, in the most severe clampdown on free political activity in 1985, that “all peace-loving South Africans reject the violence of the ANC communists”; that it is scary.

The poor, along with the peaceful, are all “gatvol” of the political disconnect between poor people and plush politicians.

Our State Security Agency did not act to arrest the plotters. The breaching of our hard-won democratic firmament poses a massive threat to our national security.

But while the plotters continue to experience the luxury of presumed innocence, the poor encountered immediate imprisonment.

Most of our political leaders employed to serve and protect this democracy did not appear on the scene for days into this mayhem. And, when they finally appeared, they tried to convince a nation that has been living through the worst violence in our democratic history, that “it is not a war” and that the police are actively dealing with the looting.

Their incompetence was infuriating. Years of lavish living have transformed their incompetence into dangerous unconcern.

South Africans lived through a planned insurrection in which key roads, cellphone towers and water supply infrastructure were attacked and food distribution services were severely disrupted and destroyed.

Our politicians, surrounded by their own ever-growing security detail, gave pointless speeches to a traumatised nation.

The insurrection caused South Africa to experience a seismic shift in our brand of politics over the past week. We have reached a class rupture in this country.

Anyone who believes that a right-of-centre brand of politics can still survive in South Africa post-July 2021 is delusional.

This week we peered into the political abyss; and we saw its teeming masses, its 212 dead, its violence and its disruption.

South Africa needs politicians who can transcend the urge to create enclaves of class and groups of vigilantes and lead within this chaos to build a new national consensus about the kind of country we want to live in.

Our future elections will have voters who will come to the polls in four groups: the peaceful, the poor, the plush and the plotters. And it’s increasingly clear that they are no longer distinct groups.

Anyone who claims that the poor “won’t do this” have no idea of poverty. If the rich can reach for their guns to protect themselves, the poor will reach for the free bag of mealie meal to feed themselves. Everyone shares one dominant trait: Everyone’s “gatvol”. And not necessarily about the same things.

A year ago, in his April 27 Freedom Day address, the president called on the nation to build a new economy, a new consciousness and a new society.

My call to the president, in his attempts to repair our tarnished global image, is to drape himself in the mantle of the healer and give us a new multiparty Cabinet, a new set of multiparty ministers and new multiparty directors-general.

And to overhaul the State Security Agency. That’s the only way we can heed his call.

* Lorenzo A Davids.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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