Former president Jacob Zuma's supporters protesting against his impending arrest at his Nkandla home. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)
Former president Jacob Zuma's supporters protesting against his impending arrest at his Nkandla home. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)

Why I won’t go protect a rural palace and a has-been president

By Sandile Memela Time of article published Jul 4, 2021

Share this article:

I am glad that I am neither an Umkhonto we Sizwe veteran nor a foot soldier of the new struggle. Both are instruments of an imaginary war that has no place in a free and democratic society. In fact, there is no polite way to tell the soldiers and amabutho that they are chasing an illusion.

At peace time, nobody should ask me to put on an outdated uniform and go into some strange countryside in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal to man the gates and entrance to a rural palace that was built on taxpayers’ money.

In this country, nobody should defend or protect a former leader who should face the full might of the law, especially when that man has always demanded his day in court.

Thus I will not draw illegal guns that probably have been smuggled out of the army barracks or bought from arms-smugglers-turned-billionaires who thrive on fermenting African wars that result in brother killing brother over crumbs from the capitalist master’s table.

I know that many of the so-called MK veterans and Struggle foot-soldiers, including members of the police and army, are products of poverty, unemployment and neglect by African political elites who do not put the interests of the people first.

Many men who are soldiers on this continent think and believe they have no option but to be dogs of war. Some have little option but to enlist in so-called discredited and fake armies in order to find a job, food, shelter and security.

If they refuse to join the marauding armies that do not hesitate to bring chaos and disorder to society, they know they will miss out on some shallow sense of belonging, meagre wage and some chance to be paraded as a threat to the state on television.

Thus, with all their bravura, all they do is instil fear in the timid populace that they have the potential to rob law-abiding people of their businesses and homes, rape their wives and plunge the country into the much-vaunted revolution.

No, I will not go into the heart of the rural part of my country to protect a palace and flag down visitors that desire to have tea with a has-been president. Worse, I refuse to fight against fellow brothers and men when they, too, are entangled in some pseudo-struggle on the instructions of some greedy man who wants to get into power or gain access to state coffers.

Over the past three decades, even before the dawn of democracy in 1994, there were and are far too many greedy men who have fought to get rid of other greedy men to get into power by hook or by crook.

The cycle of self-destructive war, low key as it is, threatens national peace and stability and must come to an end. Some African men are addicted to the kind of power that serves the interests of only a few in this country

I am tired of this fear of unending low-scale war unleashed upon poor African people in the name of freedom and democracy we never see. It is always about one group that desires everything the other group has. It is the same difference.

Is there anyone who can explain to me why a president who was deposed from power by his own party in a democratic manner would allow so-called MK veterans to threaten the hard-won peace in his name?

Was he not deposed by his people or did he too – like the ones he deposed – use political rhetoric to mobilise political support by splitting and fragmenting the oldest liberation movement just to get into power, just so he could enjoy the spoils for himself?

What is it exactly that former exiles and Robben Island prisoners – once regarded as legitimate leaders – do for the little people of this country? This is the most unequal society on Earth.

My heart bleeds for young men who are sucked into this fragmentation to fight for any side. We do not need this bravura, one that is without significant purpose and meaning.

I consider myself a God-fearing man who respects the dearly departed spirits. Thus I will not go anywhere near some rural palace that stands out like a sore thumb in a place characterised by poverty, unemployment, hopelessness, famine and tea parties, to protect a former president and prevent law and order from taking its course.

Former liberation fighters need to get their houses and, above all, heads in order.

Why do our leaders who have served more than one term insist on using emotional political power to try to save face and avoid facing the consequences of their abuse of power? Every man must answer for his conduct, behaviour and attitude while in power. This is a constitutional democracy and the law is the law.

They swore to uphold the Constitution of the country.

If I risk being accused of promoting mutiny, lack of patriotism or defiance to authority, then so be it. The time has come for South African men – old and young, exile and inziles – as well as boys, to refuse to shine their boots and clean their fake military gear to kick the Constitution in the teeth by defending the indefensible.

Nobody has the right to pick up arms to prevent the law from taking its course in this model democracy marred by injustice and inequality.

Above all, they must desist from using guns to threaten our hard-won peace and stability. They must desist from giving Nelson Mandela’s country and legacy a bad name.

Apparently, the paramilitary types are a threat to the stability of this democracy. Frankly, they are out to rob us of hard-earned peace in the name of fighting for peace, democracy, freedom and justice.

* Sandile Memela is a writer and cultural critic.

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

Share this article: