Opinionista Branko Brkic 5 November 2012

One Hundred and Sixty-Eight

Another powerful newspaper delivers a blow to SA; Blade remains blunt; the Farlam Commission's ability to deliver the facts under severe doubts; the Alliance re-discovers the true enemy, while the police stick with he-who-pays-their-salaries.

Ever since the Marikana massacre, President Jacob Zuma has used the Farlam Commission as an effective shield against every probing question about the event that saw 112 miners shot, 34 of them fatally. You know, the “Let’s wait for the Farlam Commission” response. It was good politics at the time: direct the news – and justice – by appointing the Commission. Cool temperatures, control the media’s attention, and keep Zuma’s chances at Mangaung alive. 

All very nice, except that the Farlam Commission’s work and its success appears to be in jeopardy. Let’s put it bluntly: For the Commission to ascertain the truth, all sides should submit their arguments free of fear and in a well-prepared fashion. It recently came to my attention that the advocate representing the 78 wounded miners, the 270 miners that were arrested immediately after the massacre, and ANC councillor Pauline Masuhlo’s family, Dali Mpofu, has not been paid since he began two and a half months ago. He works in a climate of the ever-increasing police intimidation that includes arrests and torture of his clients and witnesses. 

Does that seem fair? It is not. What’s more, it is so patently unfair that it renders the chance of Farlam Commission’s coming up with the truth nigh impossible. Of course, it all comes in the wake of government’s newly-discovered care about the way the taxpayers’ money has been used, just as the need to fund getting miners’ families to the commission had to be met. (Reluctance to pay the transport and accommodation was only abandoned after the severe public criticism.) 

Dear Justice Farlam, will you accept as a fact of SA life that the police can torture your witnesses, that the legal representation for the very same beaten, battered and bruised is not funded? Will you accept that the justice in South Africa is now a preserve of the mighty and rich?  The country’s eyes are turned on you to deliver the justice it so craves. 

*****

On Sunday, the Alliance re-discovered who the real enemy was, courtesy of the DA. I will not dwell on the importance and positioning of it all, as Ranjeni Munusamy did it already much better than I could ever have.

No, I want to point to a small part of it all: the role of the police. It is probably for the better that Zille and Co. were stopped before the place erupted in violence; an angry crowd does not care about the long-term consequences of its acts. 

But then again, it was also clear that in Rustenburg last Saturday, as the Cosatu and SACP column descended on Olympia Stadium, that the rally was going to erupt in violence; the striking Amplats workers were looking for physical confrontation. The police acted as a battering ram, forcing the protestors back to allow the Cosatu rally to take place – as is Cosatu’s right. 

The predictable violence between the unionists and the miners took place, and predictably the miners were chased by the police through the suburbs of Rustenburg by rubber bullets.

(Let me make it clear here: I believe that Cosatu had every right to hold its rally and Amplats workers shouldn’t have tried to intervene, violently or in any other way. One of the Cosatu officials, Billy Zulu, was severely beaten and was only saved by the intervention of Sunday Times photographer James Oatway and our very own Greg Marinovich. What Amplats workers did was deplorable.)

Still, why were the police acting as a fighting force when the Cosatu and SACP’s right to demonstrate was endangered, essentially providing a shield for their rally, and why, in Nkandla, were they acting as brake to DA’s constitutional right to do the same? Who is the SAPS serving? Us, the citizens of South Africa, or the most-privileged political elite? 

*****

Another week; another pearly, crisp, entertaining attack by Blade Nzimande. You heard all about his speech and you’ve heard it from the Chief Communist before. The media: bad, horrible, duplicitous, anti-revolutionary, racist: pick any other hateful word and you will find it there; Blade is a quite the master. On the other side, The Alliance: good, clean, beyond reproach. Perhaps his inclusion of the SABC in the list of the baddies came as a bit of a surprise, but there was probably more disappointment than anger in his words. The mere fact that, after 18 years of trying, the SABC would still not publish every SMS he has sent to it must have made good old Blade feel rather aggrieved. 

After all, it took Joseph Stalin only a couple of years to completely control Pravda (The Truth), and Soviet Union’s media with it. So much so that he could produce fake issues of Pravda to be delivered to a dying Lenin. Blade, Blade, as much as you have tried, the times have changed. The freedom of expression became an accepted human right since your beloved dictator died in 1953, and Blade, as much as you try, Joseph Stalin you are not. Thankfully.

*****

Finally, just as the Economist’s powerful story on SA’s current grim reality started to recede from our trouble-saturated memories, we’re hit by another powerful newspaper’s feature: the team that once brought Nixon to his knees, the Washington Post, turns its eyes to South Africa and does not like what it sees. Just short of 2,000 words, the story doesn’t spare the ANC in any way:

“In newspaper columns, on radio talk shows, blogs and social media, the ANC is facing a public outcry, accused of being corrupt, ineffective, wasteful and out of touch with the hardships faced by South Africa’s impoverished masses. Even prominent anti-Apartheid figures are publicly disparaging the ANC leadership, calling its credibility into question. Meanwhile, other critics, including senior ANC leaders, say the party is divided and facing a crisis of leadership, as President Jacob Zuma battles allegations of misuse of public funds to renovate his private residence.”

We can blame racism, neocolonialism, evil media; we can even blame Bugs Bunny for our global media woes – it will not help. Until the reality of South Africa is changed, this country will be portrayed as a close-to-failed state. It’s as simple as that. 

Face it: the denialists are up against an opponent that is simply impossible to fight: the truth. DM

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