During the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearings into the July 2021 insurgency attempt, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged exactly who had contained the devastating violence and cleaned it all up afterwards.
“It is the people of South Africa who have worked peacefully and within the law to restore calm and protect lives, property and infrastructure.
“The assault on our democracy has failed because the people of South Africa will not allow it,” the president said on April 1st.
The July attacks, which killed more than 350 people and wiped out R50 billion from the economy, came a day after former President Jacob Zuma was jailed after he was found guilty of contempt of court. court.
The violence was fueled by public threats made by Zuma’s family, supporters and acolytes on social media.
Ramaphosa’s acknowledgment of the central role of ordinary South Africans in averting some sort of regional coup attempt is a big deal.
The state could not protect its citizens, the president admitted, and moreover, the state could not protect the citizens from elements of the ANC itself.
There was no ‘great man’ speech to Ramaphosa’s account of this week’s murder and sabotage, only a tinge of sadness coloring his startling admission that the country had gazed into ‘the heart of darkness’.
Those who had “conspired to destroy this very country that we have spent the last 28 years building” had caused, the president said, “the greatest sense of betrayal”.
But, he added, “as they tried, they didn’t play us off against each other. On the contrary, South Africans have come together like never before.
Ramaphosa’s view embodies an anemic remnant of the barely beating heart of a distant ANC that embraced diversity and was a “broad church” of contested ideas that embraced the principles of constitutionalism, reparation and justice. redistribution.
But greed got in the way, rhetoric and spinning companies paid off, while officials allowed an international criminal syndicate linked to Zuma to steal billions of rand from public funds.
Redistribution occurred mainly among the elite.
On the ground, real South Africans have been left vulnerable and broken by a ruthless epidemic mismanaged by a collapsed and corrupt government whose officials have ganged up with their cronies to embark on gargantuan sprees of money theft for the purchase of corrupt PPE.
We still believe that stealing from your people during a pandemic is a crime against humanity.
Stealing from your own people is a crime; stealing during the pandemic is a crime against humanity
During this period and the era before, when Zuma held all power, the wheels of the Constitution were tested to the limit, as the law became a way of life not only for the political elite, but also for civil society and politics. opposition.
It is this same Constitution which, according to Zuma’s supporters, “obstructs the liberation of the majority”.
In the end, two small NGOs, Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, in 2017 won a constitutional challenge Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s secret trillion rand deal brokered between the South African government and Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy company.
The limping Stalingrad strategy, a courtroom-haunting zombie, is still deployed, relentlessly, not only by Zuma, now on questionable parole, but also by the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who makes currently the subject of an indictment.
Employing the Canadian writer and philosopher John Ralston Saul’s Idea of ”Positive Nationalism”Ramaphosa’s perspective on citizens and our response to the July violence fits squarely into the writer’s definition of “positive nationalism.”
Nationalism on a global scale reared its ugly spitting head, in the US, Russia, UK and South Africa, and to devastating effect.
The “they” to whom Ramaphosa refers in his submission to the SAHRC, the culprits, the agitators and the bloodthirsty, are motivated by Saul’s notion of “negative nationalism”.
This, says Saul, is an expression of a national identity or self-view based on ethnic loyalty and which often includes an appropriation of one or more gods, a certain pride in ignorance as well as “the conviction that one has been definitively injured, irremediably wronged”.
Donald Trump and the Proud Boys as well as the rise of xenophobic, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments in the United States, Europe and Africa are proof of this crass nationalism.
In our own state, a region still stares blankly into the graves of the past. Here politics becomes archaeological and a complex future in a rapidly changing world cannot be imagined.
On the other hand, positive nationalism, or civic solidarity, according to Saul, is a state in which one sees the self in the other and your bound destiny.
Positive nationalism, he says, is “a belief in the positive tension of uncertainty and the central importance of choice.”
In such a state, “citizens feel comfortable with this complexity because they are anchored in a fundamental vision of themselves and others within the framework of civic engagement”.
South Africa’s diversity, its immediate past and the struggle for a democratic and developmental state with the Constitution as its guiding thread is what has united us.
On the ground, there are countless examples in South Africa of ordinary citizens mitigating the damage caused by populist stormtroopers.
Vegetables are grown and shared, potholes are repaired (sometimes by schoolchildren), food is distributed by NGOs and citizens, money is collected to help, here with funerals, there with expenses schooling.
Ramaphosa acknowledged that at the start of the July “unrest” some may have “sought to stir up violence and disorder along ethnic lines. We know that the majority of our people refused on principle to be mobilized in this direction.
Tribalism, a manifestation that the founders of the ANC “sought to erase from the South African political and social landscape, was appearing here”, declared the president.
A government collapse allows populist parties like the EFF and individuals like Operation Dudula’s Nhlanhla “Lux” Dlamini to leverage grudges, disguised as political goals or ideology, to create a climate of eternal threat of violence. and chaos, all for personal gain/political gain.
But South Africans rejected violence, chaos and populism in July 2021.
In January this year, the EFF disbanded its structures in Limpopo, Julius Malema’s home province, due to dismal local election results in November. This is also a big problem.
If we survive this era of accountability, there is enough space left in our collective political DNA to pull us out of the hole that so many leaders have helped to dig.
Ramaphosa was right to choose citizens for our rejection of violence and sabotage.
For now – love him or hate him and his party – Ramaphosa was a rare and stable voice (considering the chaos and criminality in the party he leads) undermining noise and populist rhetoric.
Relying on the better angels of ordinary people is what is left for the good people who care about the future of South Africa. We certainly can no longer rely on our ruling party. DM