Our leaders should not be brandishing weapons

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is a writer and political analyst.

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is a writer and political analyst.

Published Nov 29, 2023


Kenneth Moeng Mokgatlhe

In 2017, when Zimbabwe’s longest-serving president, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, was being deposed for his authoritarian conduct he told the Zimbabwean army that guns should not lead politics.

“The principle is that politics shall always lead the gun and not the gun politics,” he said.

I was therefore perplexed to see former City of Joburg mayor Thapelo Amad posing with a big automatic machine gun, declaring support for Hamas, the terrorist organisation that attacked Israel on the morning of October 7. In his since deleted X post, Amad declared his undying support for Hamas while displaying a flag and a rifle. “We stand with Hamas, Hamas stands with us, together we are Palestine, and Palestine will be free. With our souls, with our blood, we will conquer AL AQSA,” he wrote.

Amad is one of many people who do not see anything wrong with the brutal murder, rape, and beheading of innocent, unarmed civilians, or the more than 240 who were abducted and held hostage in the Hamas tunnels in Gaza.

This was not the only social media post where Amad declared support for Hamas and hate for Israel and its people. On November 5, he posted the comment on his X account: “Death to the Zionist Israeli and its supporters for killing innocent civilians i.e., women and children.”

There is little doubt that Amad is standing for and endorsing violence against Israel and also against people who support it. Naturally, it is puzzling to see any person posing with a gun unless they are security officials who are carrying their pistols for work purposes. I was not only perplexed but frightened to see a former mayor of the largest metro in the country effectively calling for war. Someone of Amad’s stature should rather be at the forefront of calling for renewed efforts for peace, negotiations, solutions, and compromise.

It is quite embarrassing for the residents of the City of Joburg to have some who is undeniably a warmonger as their former mayor. This is the weakness of coalition politics, where people may end up being stuck with the most unintelligent person who sees nothing wrong with calling for perpetual conflict when the world is so desperate for peace.

Amad is currently serving as a councillor in the City of Joburg and draws his salary from South Africa’s taxpayers, not Hamas. His job is to serve the residents of the City of Joburg, not Gaza. He should rather be concerned about the appalling living conditions in Johannesburg and its surroundings, the increasing levels of drug and human trafficking, poor service delivery, unemployment among young people, a growing murder rate, and other social ills.

Why does he not to use the same energy he devotes to encouraging Hamas to continue to provoke Israel to defending the people of Johannesburg against the drug lords who are harassing everyone? Why is he not concerned by the deteriorating living conditions in Johannesburg?

Amad’s dream of becoming premier of Gauteng, the country’s richest province, in the upcoming year’s general elections may be doomed by his radical demonstration. His decision to brandish a weapon tells us more about this individual and his lack of good judgement. He could have shown his support or sympathy to whoever he liked without such a display.

Any leader, local or international, should be well aware of how not to abuse or misuse their influence to deepen division and perpetuate conflict. Leaders should work towards peace. What comes out of our minds and mouths should be aimed at building rather than destroying the world.

In a world more divided than it was in recent years, it is important for every political leader to strive towards coexistence and tolerance rather than dismissing others whom we think are less important.

The silence of Amad’s party, Al Jama-ah, following the violent post he shared on X is deafening. In a normal organisation, he would have been reprimanded. However, it does reveal what his party stands for. I am also quite certain that large assault rifles like this should not be in our possession as private citizens. Have the police initiated investigations or brought Amad for questioning to establish his ownership and whether he is licensed to carry such a weapon?

The Star