The other day I received a WhatsApp from a friend to say that the father of a mutual friend had been murdered the night before. He was killed in cold blood by gangsters on the Cape Flats. He was an honest man who had earned his living, and supported his family, by driving a taxi, day in and day out, despite the omnipresent dangers in an industry long infiltrated by organised crime syndicates.
Yet another innocent life laid to waste.
As Jacques Pauw reveals in his book, The President’s Keepers, during his tenure former president Jacob Zuma entrenched his kleptocracy by cosying up to the nation’s most notorious gangsters.
Zuma’s administration also oversaw a coordinated and scrupulous scouring out of the country’s crime intelligence facilities under the notorious Richard Mdluli. These are but two of the significant contributing factors in the disintegration of the capacity of the police force, and the simultaneous rise in crime.
Zuma and his cronies looted the country, giving rise to the now notorious term, ‘state capture’. All the while, they were brewing something more sinister and devious – policies of ‘Radical Economic Transformation’ (RET), aimed at changing the ownership, control and very structure of the economy. And, contrary to popular belief, the ‘New Dawn’ has not only sustained these policies, but accelerated them.
Cyril Ramaphosa drew criticism for his role on the sidelines in the events that led to the massacre at Marikana. He led a ‘war room’ under which Eskom continued to sputter, and be looted. He sat in the Union Buildings, not budging, while more than 140 mentally ill patients died as a result of the actions of his own comrades’ administration. And now he sits at the helm, offering mere homilies to the people who look up to him for inspiration. A nation, desperate for leadership, is being hoodwinked, blinded by charm and charisma as he seeks consensus from his cabinet of communists and kleptocrats, seeking to push through policies of RET.
The consequences of these destructive policies – onerous labour laws, race-based empowerment, and the erosion of property rights – have brought this country to its knees. As if rubbing salt in the wounds of the nation, Ramaphosa’s ANC government is going one step further, and now wants to use the hard-earned savings and retirement funds of ordinary citizens to fill its bottomless pit of debt and to grease its patronage machine.
In the fourth week of the hard lockdown, we received a letter from a woman who was concerned about her husband whose business had caved in due to the lockdown:
‘He is genuinely suicidal. I watch him all the time,’ she wrote. ‘He feels hemmed in and that there are no end dates, and things keep changing for the worse, that there is no reason to go on. He is bound by these stupid laws. Meantime as we scramble to at least get food, he is unable to [do] his bit.… So while they [the government] play their little game, they are destroying the mental states of their people.’
When the lockdown was announced, we consented. We embraced temporary self-isolation, working from home if we could, doing daily exercise in our backyards, sipping on our stocked-up beers and rationing our cigarette supplies. Fearful of a disease we knew little about, we ceded our civil liberties and agreed to a social compact to save the lives of our fellow citizens.
And then the social compact began to unwind.
A minister broke the lockdown regulations.
Citizens were being made to frog-hop for not remaining confined in their shacks.
A man died after being assaulted by security forces for drinking beer in his own backyard.
We were told cigarettes would be sold again, and then we were told they would not.
We were told the lockdown would be ended, but it was extended.
We were allowed to exercise, but only during the coldest daylight hours.
We were put under a curfew between 8pm and 5am.
We were told that we were not allowed to buy slip-slops or slap chips.
We were told we could buy books, but only if they were ‘educational’.
We were told that if we wanted to hand out food to those facing mounting hunger we had to get a permit.
Ideology matters. In recent months, the communists and socialists in the ANC – guided by the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) – seem to have been given renewed vigour. Under a likely unconstitutional National Coronavirus Command Council our hard-earned freedoms, which we had taken for granted, have been peeled back.
Choice and freedom are vital tenets of liberal democracies, and, in these 12 weeks (and counting) of lockdown and 10 years of policy lockdown, we are witnessing how fragile these ideas are, and how quickly they can be taken away by an unscrupulous and spiteful government.
My senior colleague Frans Cronje, CEO of the IRR, argues that if this country failed, ‘we will look back and know that too few people with the ability to influence the climate of public opinion actually made the effort to do so’. His predecessor, John Kane-Berman, has remarked of the mainstream commentariat’s misperception of the policies of the NDR that they are ‘sleeping through the revolution’.
Bad things happen when good people do nothing. To borrow a term from the recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, for this is an apt application of it, ‘silence is violence’. As a society, we can no longer be silent about the attack on this country, while innocent people are being murdered in the streets and in their homes, businesses are being needlessly jeopardised, and the livelihoods of millions are being wasted by bureaucrats.
While all of this is going on, President Ramaphosa has the audacity to tell the world that his government is against racism and stands in solidarity with the BLM movement. The cognitive dissonance is astounding, given the role of its own security forces in the death of an innocent black civilian in his own backyard, and its perpetuating destructive policies that will leave a legacy of enduring hardship, particularly among the poorest and most vulnerable, the majority of whom are the very people the government claims on the global stage to support.
We can ill afford to continue being mutely acquiescent in the face of empty slogans and ‘social compacts’. The destructive policy decisions and pervasive dishonesty of our leadership needs to be exposed and fought.
Wake up, South Africa – the New Dawn is not a dream, it’s a nightmare.