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Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid...

Maverick Citizen

MAVERICK CITIZEN TUESDAY EDITORIAL

Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of the country

‘Politics both in South Africa and across the globe is in a rut and that rut is getting deeper. All we have been doing for the past many years is recreating, rearranging and reaffirming the very structures that inhibit and block the progress of human connection.’ Foszia Turner Stylianou, widow of assassinated philosopher Rick Turner.

South Africa has a population of 60 million. The overwhelming majority of them are good. They are honest, neighbourly and want peace. Not only that, South Africa has an immense reservoir of human talent. We excel in the arts, in sports, in business, in jurisprudence, in science, in activism, in innovation. 

We inspire! Some of our heroes are heroes to people across the globe. We have a reputation as a resilient people (or rather many peoples), strong enough to avoid the lure and provocation to civil war, visionary enough to adopt a Constitution that seeks to rearrange society around principles of human rights and places equality and social justice at the centre of its ambitions.

We now know that, so far, we have failed in this most recent endeavour. But we are not giving up. 

Most times we bounce back, whether from apartheid, HIV/Aids, state capture or… cricket. Despite what the doomsayers say we refuse to choke.

Yet, as I write, there is a small minority of people, either driven by hate or corruption, or people whose legitimate fear and anger are being manipulated by others, who would – if they could – turn our country into the war zone that we avoided just more than 30 years ago. 

Some of our heroes, such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, are heroes to people across the globe. (Photo: Gallo Images / Roger Sedres)

We had a glimpse of how destructive that war might look like in July 2021. Although the incitement will be in the name of the poor, it is the poor who will pay with lives and livelihoods.

The people who foment violence are cynical, self-serving, scheming and evil. Whether they be the misnamed Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction of the ANC or the leadership of the EFF, both of whom want chaos so that they can escape their own crimes; or whether it be the xenophobes behind Operation Dudula, which aspires to cause terror among black migrants from other countries of Africa; or whether they be thieves and international criminal syndicates like Bain & Company, masquerading as businesses. They are dangerous.

They pose a danger not only to the future, but to the present. To now. To 2022. And, because of the extreme levels of poverty and hunger, inequality, unemployment and despair that we have allowed to take hold in our country, there is a danger that they will succeed. 

As I write, they are plotting. They are at war, even if they haven’t declared it.

Operation Dudula, which targets foreigners, holds its Pimville, Soweto launch on 23 January 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

We can overcome

It’s not that we don’t need change. Our social crisis is deepening by the day. But if we take one thing from last week’s State of the Nation Address, and as we watch the unseemly squabble of political parties as they debate it, it’s that constitutional South Africa is not going to be saved by the political elite. 

For example, while Cyril Ramaphosa spent many words on economic reform and revival, he passed over the collapse in healthcare services (which, as we show in our reports today from the Eastern Cape, is far from the optimistic picture he painted) and basic education (two sentences). Extending the R350 grant for a year is better than nothing (although the purchasing power of this pittance diminishes all the time because of food and petrol inflation), but not better than a Basic Income Grant. 

As we wrote in our editorial on 25 January 2022, the poor can’t eat the promise of more consultations or an “ambition to establish a minimum level of support for those in greatest need”.

Nevertheless, the good majority in South Africa can overcome these threats, but it will take all of us doing things differently to make progress. We have to work out ways to reorganise ourselves based on what we have in common, rather than our differences. 

We will not succeed if we continue as is. The status quo is not an option. 

Good people are too fragmented, each in little ponds of the like-minded, happy to pull an audience of at best a few thousand people behind their campaign. This is true whether it be our important anti-corruption movements such as Defend our Democracy or the Climate Justice Charter Movement, or those like the Treatment Action Campaign fighting valiantly but impotently against the collapse of our public health service; it is true of our trade unions and our different faiths. 

Frankly, working within our predetermined political silos doesn’t work. The satisfaction activists may gain from the knowledge that you and your analysis is politically correct, will not be enough to build the expressions of progressive people’s power we need to overcome the evils we now confront. 

As Foszia Turner-Stylianou, the widow of assassinated philosopher-activist Rick Turner, says of his intellectual and political legacy: in the struggle for social change, Turner taught his students: “to pursue ‘why?’; it’s not about the stating of opinions, but exploration of ideas.” 

From what I can see, these days, everybody seems happy preaching to the converted: “stating our opinions” and shouting past each other. 

The status quo is not an option. Underneath the fray of opinion our emotions have been bastardised; it is a sad fact that many people in our country care more for their pets than human beings who they encounter begging for food or money.

Yet, we are a country with much unfairly distributed and un-utilised wealth, rich in tangible and cultural resources, full of opportunities and ideas to build lives and livelihoods. But without the power to do so.

That is why it is time we worked out what we are for and not just what we are against – and found ways to stand for it together, whatever our class, creed or colour. 

We have to rediscover our humanity, our empathy, our connection, before the human beings whose ennui and despair we continually ignore turn on us, as they are already turning on each other. DM/MC

On 22 February at 4pm the Wits University Southern Centre for Inequality Studies and Maverick Citizen will be hosting a webinar on “Utopian Thinking: Revisiting the Work of Rick Turner in the Current Political Context” to mark the 50th anniversary of Richard Turner’s Eye of the Needle. You can register here.

 

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All Comments 21

  • As well-intentioned as I am sure this article is meant to be, it offers no more than the very same “stating of opinions” that the author laments.

    What more, exactly, should a responsible, working, tax-paying citizen supposedly do?

    And guilt-tripping pet owners who choose to look well after their pets? Really?

    I’m all for helping fellow human beings in need, but no one should be criticised for choosing to keep pets and then looking after them as well as they can. My pets did not vote the same syndicate of criminals into power in election upon election. My pets did not stop voting altogether instead of supporting an alternative to the status quo. Until the latter happens, I fear that the status quo will remain exactly that.

    In my view the average South African has little choice but to continue to do as much good to individuals that cross their path as they can afford, and wait out the post-Exodus 40 year sojourn in the desert that South Africa finds itself in.

    Let’s hope that the promised land will turn out to be worth the wait.

  • I feel that most good South Africans are trying to follow your recommendations.
    I agree, we are very close to a war
    The matter of the pets, I found it anecdotal, sorry, I feel that it’s the same argument that we care more for wildlife than people when for many years (not now) many of that people had a acceptable living conditions thanks to the conservation of wildlife.
    If you can’t love an animal you can’t love your mother
    Coming back to your article, we are impotent in this fight. We don’t have the power or the money to brainwash the people as the “status quo” has, it has the platform to make promises, the money to give food parcels and t-shirts and the advice from professionals to say what people wants to hear… I appreciate your good intentions but my feeling is that we must educate citizens to vote
    Daily Maverick is doing a great job, but how many followers you have
    Hope that 60 million

    • Completely agree, I can see it with our local township that regularly either burns down or floods. They used to receive considerable support from the local community, but of late not so much. I think that people are starting to get fed up with them continuing to vote for the ANC/EFF, last local election, those 2 parties took upwards of 80% of the vote.
      Very frustrating trying to help people that are supporting the very people that cause their difficult situation.

  • Compassion for animals has always been considered one of the outstanding qualities of being a decent human. That apart, the call to citizens to stand together is one we would like to heed/ Most people in this country do not know what to do , how to help solve the huge problems and the general lack of united leadership is a problem. Possibly if NGOs , big business, religious and academic organizations banded together with a coherent plan, that would help

    • Sandra what you & every South African must do is to get involved in your local government structures via ward committees & active participation. Change is not in in the hands of others it is yours eg how many persons have you influence informed of the alternatives available, that is how democracy work

  • I used to think this way some time ago but one can only overlook so many disappointments before realising that hope is pointless. Plato argued with solid reasoning that neither the rich nor the poor are fit to govern and for largely the same reason (when tempted with profitable dishonesty, both will tend to rationalise themselves to be above the law). If we are to consider the collectivist view of the whole of humanity, the last 2500 years have proven only one thing: Homo sapiens is a truly pathetic species.

    I don’t agree that most South Africans are good, quite the opposite, actually. But that still doesn’t answer the greater question of what makes good people do evil things. Is humanity ultimately just a binary subset of good or evil? Or perhaps it is more prudent to say that there are no good or bad people; there are only good or bad decisions. Decision-making is, naturally, an individual thing. It follows that socially celebrated collectivism is thus doing humanity no favours in most cases.

  • I agree we have a vast majority of good human beings here that are being manipulated by a small minority. This is not new in the history of nations – perhaps we can learn how others have overcome a similar scourge? A true Statesman is what we need now to galvanise those who care for our people.

  • Like so many, South Africa is a country out of balance. For countries to function well, they need, to quote Prof Henry Mintzberg, “respected governments, responsible enterprises, robust communities”. This country falls short in all three “departments”. Yet, I strongly believe that changing SA is possible. However, it needs consolidation, or as Mark Heywood calls it, the breaking down of silos within civil society. This sector is engaged and robust, but considering an incompetent, corrupt government, and a business sector, most of which standing on the sideline, only a concerted effort by civil society will initiate the change we need.
    Before you claim that I am dreaming. Just think back to the mid-eighties when the United Democratic Front, which consisted of about 400 different organisations became the catalyst for change. They were up against a much fiercer opponent yet still succeeded.

    • Why would supporters of such a notion stand up against the ANC in a civil structure if they won’t even stand up against the ANC at the polling booth? The latter is far easier than the former and could have been achieved at every election to date.

  • A rather naive and shallow article, not up to DM’s normal standards. I would put it out there that the “honest, hard working folk” have been doing exactly that for 28 years. The responsibility for the worsening situation must lie squarely with the weak, greedy, corrupt & incompetent leaders that have mortgaged this country and its hard working people for their own pieces of silver. Yes, the people have put these leaders in power, but it is the very abuse of that power that is the problem. I see an “Mzansi Spring” on the horizon if the powers that be don’t change their modus operandi very quickly.

    • Can involved in your ward committee inform one voter as to the alternatives available DEMOCRACY need the common man to be involved not politicians etc. they are only servants of creed

  • How do responsible pet owners get to be the villains of the piece? What about errant fathers who do not support their offspring? Admittedly I will cuddle my cat on my bed, but can’t do the same for a homeless individual. Does not mean I don’t care about people battling poverty, I do.

  • Mark, one has to realise that faith in central government is at an all time low and they are the only ones that can change that reality. We can’t live on promises alone and we would be deluding ourselves to have expectations of government at any level. People have already withdrawn into smaller enclaves simply to protect themselves. Your view is incredibly simplistic and conveniently omits to say that the very people that you’re appealing to are the people that are already financing this entire country. Remove a few big taxpayers and see what happens to this country – there’ll certainly be nothing to steal. As for the beggars, they are multiplying on a daily basis where I live. And my major point is, if the entire ANC feels absolutely zilch for them why should I? I’ll continue helping those that I can but no single person can do anything about the absolute mess that the ANC has made of this country. And, by the way, CR will continue speaking out of both sides of his mouth because he comes from a society where being the big chief is far important than anything else.

  • Whilst the thieves in the ANC plot to bring about NHI the UK is talking of privatizing the NHS as it is collapsing. Hello is anyone listening?

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