Space-Time Continuum 168

South Africa is running out of time

President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Moeletsi Mabe / Sunday Times / Gallo Images / Getty Images)

These days, Malema, Floyd and co are downright dangerous for the future of SA: in a country that’s been brutalised by almost a year of pandemic disruption, they are reliable thugs pulling the country towards a greater conflict.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

South Africa has been a playground for some truly bad people of late.

Truck drivers have been merrily burning trucks on the N3 this week, and not for the first time. It’s in the defence of South African drivers and their sole and exclusive right to use the national road, they say. That it is a toll road leading to one of SA’s biggest commercial harbours and that, um, it is not the best practice to slash and burn trucks that also, um again, don’t belong to them, and, um once more, it is multiple crimes that they are committing, is an argument that holds no water with them.

But wait, there is more: The most illustriously brave leader and uncontested champion of the Louis Vuitton rights, Julius Malema, did his best to impersonate Benito Mussolini while threatening to hurt police officers where it hurts the most, in their homes. His performances, as sickening as they are, come predictably on time these days. Just as one media cycle starts forgetting his previous mess, the generalissimo returns to hog the headlines again. A galaxy away and an aeon ago, I called him and his merry fighters a weak but vicious bunch. How nostalgic. These days, Malema, Floyd and co are downright dangerous for the future of South Africa: in a country that’s been brutalised by almost a year of pandemic disruption, they are reliable thugs pulling the country towards a greater conflict.

But even if we are living in lawless times, Newton’s laws of motion still apply.

So for every step in the direction of EFF populist madness, there is a counter-step in the white right-wing direction. Some of it is just pure evil, like sending death threats to parents of the white kids who dared to express their preference for “non-white” movements. Some of them are even threatening our top epidemiologists just for doing their jobs while keeping sane. They are openly organising for war, storing weapons and learning to sound more savage by the day.

One connective tissue for all these excesses, which in any “normal” country in any “normal” times would have resulted in swift action by legal authorities and lengthy incarcerations (because all of the listed actions are indeed criminal offences): the centre that doesn’t hold anymore.

Normal South Africans are a daily miracle and possibly the most peaceful nation in the world. For all intents and purposes, we do not have a functioning legal system, the police are a farce rather than a force for the majority of the people. In many countries, our level of police dysfunction and prosecutorial and judicial emasculation would result in being burned to the ground. Not in South Africa. Here, the overwhelming majority just want to get on with their lives.

But that may change. Possibly soon. The longer the centre of South African society, and especially its government, continues to be ineffective, incompetent and corrupt, the greater the chance that this 60-million people structure will get balkanised into a maze of little warlord- and mafia-run enterprises.

The truck drivers on the N3 know they can do whatever they want, because who is going to arrest them and their masters and quickly throw the book at them? President Cyril Ramaphosa issued a statement of condemnation that sounded more like a plea to stop where he should have ordered the cessation of whatever they were doing and help them march to the nearest prison.

Malema will continue screaming for racial violence that will soon become a reality if unchecked. The right-wingers will continue to send death threats to people they dislike. Who’s going to investigate them, charge them, sentence them?

They can all do it, because they are not afraid of the centre.

Just the other day, a Daily Maverick contributor was threatened with “necklacing” for exposing the xenophobic network behind #PutSouthAfricansFirst. By now you can guess what happened to the perpetrators… nothing.

When the centre doesn’t hold, the country itself gets centrifuged and splattered. There’s only one person who’s powerful enough to make sure it doesn’t happen: President Cyril Ramaphosa. South Africa is currently spinning dangerously around many little axes of power and impudence. It is Ramaphosa’s job to put an end to it and bring back a semblance of government that is competently and firmly in control.

It is in everyone’s interest for this to happen.

The president has been dealt a terrible deck of cards to play with, but this is what we got. The political situation is indeed tough and his multiple battlefields are not easy to fight. But some of the goals must take precedence. Like, the country should come before intra-party fights. A careful and slow player that he is, Ramaphosa may soon find out that while he was grinding out his opponents, South Africa ran out of time. He must act. Now. DM168

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All Comments 10

  • You give a good reason to vote for the DA. EFF are dangerous right-wing fascists, ANC are proven useless left-wing fascists and the dozens of small parties are a waste of votes. ONLY the DA can do the job. Stop trashing the Centre!

  • The first stage, which we have yet to get to, is to acknowledge the problem. Inherent in this is acknowledgment that we live in a failed state. There will be no saving us from our fate – it is now baked in the cake. All that is left now is to speculate on how things will devolve and in this we have plenty of interesting and recent history from north of us to draw down upon. It is going to be fun. I’d suggest that starving the beast is the quickest and easiest means to put an end to it’s misery.

    • Who wants to live in a failed state? There is still much traction and CR still has some leverage if significantly diminished by COVID and recent events. If all else fails back your leader, don’t throw him into the quagmire.

    • WE do not have to acknowledge the problem, THEY do! And that will never happen. The anc will never acknowledge that they have caused SA to be the failed banana republic that we are forced to live in. Doing that will mean that they will actually have to do work to survive. The feeding trough constantly filled and re-filled by willing tax payers will be there for someone else’s benefit.

  • It is clear from the Editor’s article that the ANC has neither the integrity nor steel in its spine to take on the challenges from extremism. Listening to callers on SAFm, it appears that the ANC’s credibility with Black South Africans is also falling rapidly. It is doubtful whether even compelling some of its nefarious leaders to don orange overalls will do the necessary to make them an effective government. There is just not enough real talent in the ANC to give the President the support he needs. At the same time the DA has opted to adopt the purist liberal thinking of the Institute of Race Relations as the only strategy for converting a deeply racially divided country into a non-racial society. It continues to shed important leaders as a result -Mazibuko, Masinga, Maimane, Trollip, Mashaba – and will continue to make very limited progress in attracting Black support as long it is rigid on its stance. It is pathetic to see a member of the IRR and Musi Maimane at odds with each other at a time when the need for ‘good people’ to pull together is critical. There is plenty of talented leadership sitting in the wings in South Africa with the ability to start unifying the centre and offering a non-divisive alternative . The DA clearly needs to be part of it – but seems unable to do it on its own given its determination to ignore the historical and continued exclusion of Black South Africans from the main stream economy in the land of their birth. Someone needs to issue the clarion call to bring past leaders out of hiding at this time of critical need. We need ten ‘Joe Bidens’ who will put aside their retirement comfort zones and for a second time commit themselves to rescue our country. Many of them need to understand that deserting the current ANC is not being a traitor to the brilliant leaders that went to Robben Island and into exile. It is the current ANC leaders who have betrayed those great South Africans.

  • So nice to read from a man of faith Brkic, for that you must be to be still calling on CR to lead. You are right of course, and we need to look for visible ways to back him. Though not squeaky clean, he’s the ANC’s cleanest. Question is, how can you help? Expose detractors left, right and centre. You are doing that Brkic, just do it more and more strategically. So Zondo vs Zuma (game plan?), Ace vs NEC (not CR), COVID lockdown (for Xmas) vs Mkhize (& status quo), CR vs VoNC. Interview the damned president!

  • Hello Branko
    I don’t know if CR reads your assessment but your readers obviously do.
    Activate us with specific ways to demand action and from whom.
    Then more voices can increase the pressure.