ANC supporters of Ace Magashule near the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court. Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency(ANA)
ANC supporters of Ace Magashule near the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court. Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency(ANA)

Ace Magashule: I doubt supporters had had opportunity to reflect on asbestos debacle

By Opinion Time of article published Nov 20, 2020

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Walter Matshwi

Pretoria - South Africa is again mired in controversies, from the fleeing of the Bushiri couple, Jacob Zuma’s bid to have Justice Zondo recuse himself, which failed, and more arrests by the Hawks.

It was the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court events in particular that has caught my attention.

The festivities outside the court reminded me of my tumultuous and naive teenage years. I remember that in Soweto, where most of my upbringing took place, we used to revere with deep admiration okapi-wielding and gun-blazing criminals.

Looking back, though, I regret that we never took time to reflect about the victims of our heroes.

Last Friday, we saw the videos and pictures of young people chanting and dancing in the scorching sun outside the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court where Ace Magashule appeared (on 21 charges of fraud and corruption, alternatively theft and money laundering, stemming from the Free State asbestos scandal. He is out on R200 000 bail).

It reminded me of the naivety I suffered from with my friends all those years ago when we saw glory and heroism in the criminality of our supposed “heroes”.

You see, I doubt that, like me and my friends, the youngsters had had an opportunity to sit down and reflect on the asbestos debacle – who the victims are, the losses they and their families have suffered as a result of the failure of the Free State government to provide alternative roofing material.

Research shows that as asbestos deteriorates, it can release hazardous small fibres into the air. When inhaled, these fibres may cause asbestosis, or scarring of the lung tissue, mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lining of the lungs, and other asbestos-related diseases, which, according to medical reports, can take decades to manifest.

The roaring “young lions” on the sidelines of the Magistrate’s Court in Mangaung hailed with a debilitating sense of nativity the extrajudicial exploits of their “hero”.

It is deplorable how little we expect from our leaders.

Today’s leaders are a far cry from those that led us to the 1994 democratic breakthrough; they are nothing like the honourable statesmen we learned from such as Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and Moses Kotane.

These titans of our country provided young budding activists with role models which they could look up to. Role models have an astounding effect on the lives of young people in our society. They have an overwhelming ability to shape their views, ideals and actions. It is important for role models to be positive and responsible in instilling good morals and values in future generations.

It is quite astonishing that the ANC has not called out its secretary-general for the circus he hosted following his court cameo last week. Magashule, in classic and incorrigible fashion, stood in front of scores of young people and waxed lyrical as he cast vacuous aspersions on organs of state that are meant to protect the citizens from unabated looting of public resources.

Of course there are children who grow up in environments where there are few role models and still grow up to become responsible citizens. But even then they are still required to have some people in their lives who can offer a positive vision, inspire confidence, encourage excellence, responsibility and egalitarian values.

The failure of the democratic dispensation and liberation forces to hold criminals accountable sends out mixed signals about our values and the character of leaders required for our collective prosperity. This is precisely the reason why people like Magashule ought to face prosecution to reaffirm the centrality of the Constitution and the rule of law in the country.

* Matshwi is the spokesperson of the Young Communist League of South Africa in Gauteng. He writes in his personal capacity.

Pretoria News

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