This past weekend Mduduzi Manana allegedly violently assaulted Mandisa Duma. The conduct and actions of Manana, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Higher Education, should not surprise us. Violence against women is meted out each day with very little consequence for those perpetrators. In fact, violence against women in many circles is even celebrated and praised. Importantly, patriarchy and the misogynistic tendencies in our society is not isolated to those that have been sworn to serve as Deputy Ministers or Presidents but extends far beyond those who hold high office.
Mduduzi Manana should have simply resigned on Monday morning as a Deputy Minister and should have presented himself to the South African Police Services. An opportunity to do the right thing was presented and instead we have had his statement circulated by national government as if the personal conduct and actions of Manana form part of government business. Will the national government share the statement of Mandisa Duma in the same manner? However, this is a familiar retreat for those in power as they are often protected at the expense of those that they have violated and abused. Not too long ago Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo was targeted and attacked because she was willing to speak out against violence.
The conduct by Manana highlights an important trend in South Africa generally, which relates to impunity and the lack of accountability broadly within our society. In 2009, Manana, was at the time he was sworn in as a Member of Parliament, one of the youngest parliamentarians and he has thrived in this culture of impunity. The growing trend since 2007 has been that the governing elite have embraced impunity, a disregard for the rule of law, disjointed leadership and a system that is no longer aligned to the interests of the Republic but rather expediency and self-interest.
Manana, and leaders like him, have been raised in this new broad tent where accountability is no longer relevant and instead factional interests are more important than doing the right thing. Manana is but a reflection of both our patriarchal society but also of a leader that has been allowed to grow and advance in a culture of no accountability. The dangers posed to South Africa are far too great especially as the consequences of that culture has dire consequences for all South Africans.
Similarly, Baleka Mbete, Speaker of Parliament and who also serves as the National Chairperson of the ANC, may have confirmed that South Africa will witness a secret ballot, however, there was a qualification by Mbete to the media that she will not be taking questions after making her briefing. The announcement by Mbete and her decision and reasoning on this critical national issue goes to the very root of accountability and responsiveness. In the wake of this decision and after the actual vote, we must demand accountability and the need for responsiveness from our members of Parliament and those serving in leadership structures if we are ever going to arrest the decline that we have experienced.
We have been mistreated in many ways and the conduct by Manana over the weekend highlights an important reminder that so many South Africans are subjected to violence physically. Often the inability to hold those individuals accountable creates an environment that degrades the rights of others but also present a serious risk to society at large. The victims of Marikana were violently slaughtered by the state and again accountability and responsiveness were circumvented. We hold on to hope and the belief that somehow those entrusted to guide our democracy will be up to the tasks for righting the ship. Somehow, we hold on to the idea that a few leaders, still aligned to values and our Constitution, will be able to save the governing elite from the toxicity and self-interest that they have so lavishly embraced. The secret ballot hopefully provides some room for those individuals to do the right thing but a serious concern is whether they will be able to actually muster this.
We can no longer ignore the fact that impunity and ambivalence have swelled in the ranks of the governing elite. An elite that have forgotten that they were sworn into office to serve the interest of the republic and that they should uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land. Instead, we have members of Parliament assaulting women and somehow trying to still hold on to their positions by simply apologising.
On Monday morning, South Africans were reminded of and witnessed what happens when a culture of no accountability is allowed to thrive where people like Manana are allowed to hold on to their positions or power and authority even though he committed a crime. There are moments when South Africans hope for the best and for the possibility there is space to still counter this culture of impunity.
Perhaps Mbete’s confirmation that there will be a secret ballot on the motion of no confidence in President Zuma is one such step. However, politics requires a certain degree of cynicism and we must not forget that Luthuli House has issued very strong statement to its members to abide by the party line. Our leaders have a choice whether to emulate the conduct of people like Manana or whether they are willing to serve the interests of the republic. We will now have to see if members of Parliament are willing to stand against the culture of impunity, violence and self-interest that has been allowed to thrive under their watch. DM
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Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar was born in Cape Town and raised by his determined mother, grandparents, aunt and the rest of his maternal family. He is an admitted attorney (formerly of the corporate hue), with recent exposure in the public sector, and is currently working on transport and infrastructure projects. He is a Mandela Washington Fellow, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, and a WEF Global Shaper. He had a brief stint in the contemporary party politic environment working for Mamphela Ramphele as Agang CEO and chief-of-staff; he found the experience a deeply educational one.
"We spend the first year of a child's life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There's something wrong there." ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson