The collapse of the New Dawn myth

By Sipho Seepe and Kim Heller Time of article published Aug 21, 2019

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South Africa is a nation that oscillates between hope and hopelessness.

It’s a psychosis that gives life to an imaginary universe of saints and sinners, intolerant of the defects, complexities and gradations of real life. This creates an impossible gap between promise and reality.

This national psychosis is at the heart of the propagandist portrait of President Cyril Ramaphosa as the salve and salvation of South Africa.

For his part, Ramaphosa has enthusiastically embraced this world of make-believe. He is as much complicit as he is an inevitable victim of this malady. But like all myths, the messianic Ramaphosa portrait is beginning to melt.

As could be expected, those who invested deeply in this myth will not take this without a fight.

The report by the public protector, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, which found that the president deliberately misled Parliament, has in one fell swoop disrupted the messianic portrayal of Ramaphosa.

But the epidemic of fury against Mkhwebane will not easily snuff out the one question that South Africans deserve answered. Did President Cyril Ramaphosa mislead Parliament and the people of South Africa on the R500 000 Bosasa donation to his presidential campaign?

This question trumps all others, including those about the scale and details of the CR17 funding.

For those invested in the Ramaphosa presidency, the truth may just be too ghastly to contemplate. Truth is the supreme disruptor of both faith and fallacy, and right now, the truth is blowing the whistle on the make-believe of The New Dawn.

The “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” mainstream media monologue on the president is fast losing its currency.

Renowned psychiatrist, political revolutionary and writer Dr Frantz Fanon prefigured the current national trauma when he noted that “sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong and will reject evidence that works against that belief”.

Cognitive dissonance is a painful, uncomfortable condition.

It is “eyes-wide-shut’’ blindness of mind - the refusal to see what is before us.

Fanon contends that it is so important to protect the “core belief” that those afflicted with this condition will “rationalise, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief”.

Swiss psychiatrist Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote about grieving in her book titled On Death and Dying.

She identifies the five stages of grief in terminal illness as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

In many ways, her model applies to grief over any loss.

Acceptance is the final stage of grief. Acceptance does not mean that one no longer feels the pain of loss, but that there is a slow acceptance of the new reality.

It will be in this final stage of grief that Ramaphosa’s supporters will ­recognise and accept that the collapse of a myth will not collapse the country.

They will know and accept that the sun will rise tomorrow, as surely as it did today, and yesterday.

We need to accept that our leaders are fallible.

This acceptance will free us to institute complexity in our analysis.

And perhaps make us empathic.

* Professor Seepe is an academic, author and political analyst.

* Heller is a writer and socio-political commentator.

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

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