Winning over critics and influencing people.
22 October 2014 01:49 (South Africa)
Opinionista Ivo Vegter

An open letter to President Zuma

  • Ivo Vegter
Inspired by... no, angered. Inspired and angered by recent events, I decided to respond the way any socially-conscious citizen in a democracy should respond. By writing an angry and inspired appeal to the president to do something.

Dear Jacob,

No, wait, that’s too informal. As Chris Rock, the US comedian declared about his own president during a demonstration of leadership about gun control: “The president of the United States is – you know – our boss, but he’s also you know, the president and the first lady are like the mom and the dad of the country and when your dad says something you listen...”

You’ll appreciate that sentiment, no doubt, having earned somewhat of a reputation for virility as a patriarch yourself. So, let me begin again.

Dear Father Zuma,

I write this letter because I feel angry. And confused. Angry and confused. And betrayed. I write this letter because I feel angry and confused and betrayed. And I have a fanatical devotion to not feeling that way.

In other words, I (or should I say “we, the people”) demand that you do something about the scourge of rape and murder. Although it happens all the time, it has happened again, and this time, like every time, we’ve had enough.

I join my voice with the millions who demand that you show leadership. “The country looks for leadership during these times,” writes Judith February. “The DA called on Zuma, in his address, to show leadership,” reports City Press.

February works at the Human Sciences Research Council, which no doubt qualifies her to pronounce on what it is that we, the people, need. The DA has a leader of its own, so if even they want the ANC to lead them, their need to be led must be strong. Who am I to question the experts about my need for a strong man to lead me?

Clearly, we all agree that what will prevent the horrible things we read about in the newspapers is leadership. Say something meaningful like, “violence against women has to stop”. Or, “stop wearing tarty clothes, you provocative sluts”.

Assure us that you really aren’t secretly in favour of violence against women, unless they’re asking for it. Then, leadership shown, you can get on with doing something.

Do what? you may ask. Well, if we knew what, exactly, we wouldn’t need a father figure to demand leadership from, now would we? We could do it ourselves. Just do something that will make all the awfulness go away.

Perhaps reassure us how outraged we all are. If you do that in one of those multi-billion rand football stadiums we have left over from the World Cup, it would make you look like a leader who can tell us what to think and feel.

Most people will surely listen if a leader asks them to stop being criminals. The rest will listen if you tell them there’s something in it for them, because that’s capitalism, which, like all principles, can be very moral when it conveniently suits one’s political aims.

So, ask nicely and offer an incentive. Say, five years without raping or killing someone, and you get a free house. Ten years, and the government will create a job, reserved just for you. If you need money to fund the rewards for all the not raping and not killing, just tax those self-important graduates and the companies they work for. Don’t let them take the moral high ground, and pretend that they don’t all secretly harbour aggressive behaviour towards women, or wish death upon their customers, competitors or corporate overlords. They’ve got oodles of money, and if they run out, they can always dig up more gold. It’s for a greater good, and it would end rape, and end the killing.

Here’s another idea. Make rape and murder illegal. That would send a stern message to rapists and murderers that what they’re doing just ain’t right.

Also, bring back the death penalty for murderers. Then they will know that if they get caught, and the crime gets investigated, and the evidence holds up, and they’re found guilty beyond reasonable doubt, and a higher court can’t drive a prison bus through the holes in the lower court’s handling of the case, they will face serious consequences.

Castrating rapists is also a good idea. You can’t rape if you don’t have the equipment to commit the crime, now can you? Some say that this would give a rapist a motive to kill their victim, who is often, inconveniently, the sole and traumatised witness. But that’s just stupid, obviously, because murder is against the law.

Until you impose sin taxes on them, you’ll hear from a lot of graduates who criticise you without official permission or democratic mandate. Some of them – rich white elitists fondling their law degrees in their ivory towers – will take to their blogs to say that, constitutionally speaking, people have the right not to be “punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way”. But ignore them. By pointing out what the constitution says, they’re obviously racists implying that you can’t read. Besides, most of us will agree that, given the cruelty, inhumanity and degradation of their heinous crimes, no rapist or murderer deserves our mercy.

In fact, you’ll probably win a lot of votes for the ANC by taking such a strong stance on judicial vengeance, or at least staunch the bleeding of supporters disillusioned with your lack of leadership. Polishing your electoral credentials seems important, what with counter-revolutionary interlopers like that jumped-up educator, Mamphela Ramphele, starting political parties. Perhaps underscore the seriousness of your leadership by changing the fusty old shield and assegai on the ANC crest to a torch and a pitchfork.

Not that you can’t learn from uppity losers who don’t have a mandate to speak on behalf of the people but still presume to trespass on private property to embarrass the ANC. Take Helen Zille, for example, the leader calling for your leadership. In justifying the intent to throw the book at a skateboarder who upset the Western Cape nannies, she said that the public keeps asking her to “do something” about road safety. The appeal to “do something” gives her provincial government cover to “do anything”, as her MEC for transport, Robin Carlisle, recently made clear, when he answered a question about whether a particular law enforcement proposal was legal: “I have no idea, but I don’t care either… We’ve got no option but to pull out all the stops, whether illegal or legal… I just don’t know what else to do than to become very rough.”

(Cue elitist degree-fondler:”Power does funny things to people.” Sure, but what’s the point of power if you can’t wield it with impunity? If it doesn’t stop the DA, why should it stop you, the legitimate patriarch of the true majority party?)

Speaking of the means to commit crimes, it is also time that we ban guns. Guns kill people. They seem like inanimate objects of cold steel, without a will of their own, but deep down they’re quivering with evil intent.

True, there are a lot of guns in South Africa. I’ve read long, serious-sounding reports by groups with long, serious-sounding names, that studied South Africa’s violent crime in light of Apartheid and the political violence during our “peaceful” transition to democracy, and the “mental and emotional dispositions and pathologies” this might have caused. If there’s one thing they all agree on it is that our society is awash with guns. A “metric boatload”, is the technical term, I think.

Once guns are banned, just instruct the security police to systematically search all vehicles, commercial premises, industrial sites and private homes for guns, and confiscate them. You’d better make it illegal to bribe the police, too, so criminals can’t buy the confiscated armaments from bent cops.

It’s not like South Africans will complain. We submit to police-state road blocks all the time. I was recently stopped while trying to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the scenic route from one small town to another. I didn’t complain. They ordered me to get out of my car and open my boot. I didn’t complain. They opened my bags and rifled through my dirty laundry. I didn’t complain. They said they were searching for drugs, and since I was coming from Greyton, with Knysna plates, on a gravel road, that’s probable cause right there, innit? I laughed it off. What’s a little warrantless police harassment on a deserted back road when it might stop my local Rastafarian community from obtaining the holy herbs they use in their devilry? I’m sure South Africans would welcome the police into their homes to search for weapons, and if they don’t, well, then it stands to reason that they’ve got something to hide, doesn’t it?

As for those who want to defend their own lives, loved ones and property against criminals, well, they won’t need guns if the criminals don’t have them, obviously.

Now some sentimental softies who studied sociology and other such unscientific hogwash will claim that the real problem lies with deep-seated psychological factors, such as a machismo culture that glorifies men’s physical and sexual prowess, deeply embedded patriarchal traditions that devalue the role of women in society, or a political history of trauma, oppression and violence. This may all sound very unAfrican, but don’t dismiss them out of hand.

They will start petitions asking that you spend lots of money on them. Mostly, this will pay for advertisements that say murder and rape are bad things and that we’re bad people if we do them. A few will strongly disagree, and spend the money educating us about the fact that all of us are bad people, and we ought to stop it, this instant.

Spending some of the graduates’ money on these organisations will keep them quietly occupied theorising about the memetic manifestations of inter-gender violence in society and the appropriate post-feminist response. This may not sound like something you’ll find interesting, but think of it this way: what better way to get support for the claim that we are all to blame for the crimes of the few, so draconian measures against all of us are the hallmark of a true leader, doing something?

As a famous inventor of bifocals once said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve a Dear Leader.”

Be our Dear Leader. Remember that gunslinging sheriffs made America great. Rudy Giuliani’s zero tolerance policy cleaned up New York. Under Stalin and Breshnev, crime was limited to cases of mental retardation, poor upbringing, and capitalist influence. Like mist before the morning sun, crime vanishes before a leader, busily doing something.

And in the unlikely event that none of that doing something actually does something, why not just abolish taxes on beer, wine and spirits? At least then we, the people, will be free to drink ourselves stupid and forget about all the horrible newspaper stories.

Oh, wait, some famous people turn out to be ugly drunks. Better ban booze too.

Yours sincerely,

Dazed and Confused

South Africa DM

  • Ivo Vegter
IvoVegterBW

Ivo Vegter is a columnist and the author of Extreme Environment, a book on environmental exaggeration and how it harms emerging economies. He approaches issues from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets. He grew up in the deep south of Johannesburg, and learnt his politics reading the Weekly Mail and Vrye Weekblad at Wits University during the early years of the country's transition to democracy. He recently left the city for the lower cost of living of Knysna, where he continues to write about everything under the sun. He is always right.

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