How does one fix a country as broken as South Africa? We have many issues to deal with, and we would like to believe that many of them are uniquely South African.
As everyone waited with bated breath for the announcement of the Cabinet by President Cyril Ramaphosa this week, I was more concerned with some of the things happening elsewhere in society, all somehow linked to politics in different ways.
In the past week or so, the body of award-winning journalist Junior Bonase was found next to the N1 in the Free State; Angelo Agrizzi, the notorious former Bosasa executive who has spilled the beans on the company’s bribing of politicians at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, was hauled to the Equality Court for racist comments; and Julius Malema has once again issued veiled threats against journalists who have continued to write about alleged wrongdoing by him and the party he leads.
We have also seen Satawu (SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union) threatening to go on strike at Transnet because of what they say are pay discrepancies based on race.
According to Satawu, black workers earn less than their white counterparts at Transnet. To people who have been in the media industry for a long time, the stories listed above are normal in South Africa, but one would have expected them to become less normal, especially since we are celebrating 25 years of democracy this year.
Take, for instance, the case of Bonase. It was not unusual under apartheid for journalists who exposed illegal activities to disappear mysteriously or to end up dead. But one would not expect something like this to happen in a democracy. Without pointing fingers, this incident just appears strange and one hopes that the police will solve it urgently.
One of the most amazing things for me about the Agrizzi racism case is that there are people who are still surprised that such racism exists. Powerful people often think that they can abuse their power without consequences, which is what appears to have happened in the Agrizzi case.
The Malema incident worries me the most, especially since there appear to be many young people who have been taken in by the obvious racial polarisation that he is promoting.
Malema’s comment, in a tweet, was a reaction to journalists writing about the EFF’s involvement and benefit from the VBS Bank scandal. He said: “We are still cruising nicely, bana ba baloi are not happy. Go for kill fighters, hit hard”
Malema is a populist and populists are dangerous because they depend on sound bites and half-truths to push their agendas. They believe in the truth only if it suits their purposes. The fact that he seems to be able to pursue a racist agenda against his opponents could make his supporters feel that it is okay for them also to be racist.
The final story, about pay disparities, is shocking because, once again, it is not something that one would expect to happen in a democracy.
I began my journalism career in 1980, at a paper which targeted coloured people. It was one of the few places that people like me could find work in those days. Most of the mainstream papers mainly employed white journalists. But within a few months, we discovered that we were earning half of what our white counterparts with similar experience and qualifications earned. We went on strike and all got handsome increases. I did not expect to see this scenario repeating itself in 2019.
South Africa has many problems and, unless we deal with them comprehensively, we will continue to see stories like these in our media. This should not happen in a democracy.
* Fisher is chief executive of Ikusasa Lethu Media. Follow him on Twitter: @rylandfisher
*** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.