Opinionista Lemo Monyatsi 24 January 2018

Things we lost in the fire, ZUM’ing into history

Did our silence do any harm, did our indifference leave a stain in the clean cloth of progress of the land? I think it did. Did our patience allow the Gupta episode to come into effect? To an extent I think it did. All is not lost though, the new era is here. We must crush corruption right off the bat.

We needed unity to crush a criminal syndicate under the Jacob Zuma era, but we were polarised.

Time really flies, and with SA, it really did with a lot of things. This period of vacuum, in actual fact vacuum in an understatement, this free-fall from greatness into near total collapse, has really been a lot. For the better part of the past eight years or so, we have been flinching every day. Marked with uncertainty, filled with lows and all episodes of depression. Among a lot that these past eight years was marked with, our economy, our growth prospects and outlook surely took a hit. Some of us, we knew that this was surely going to end in tears. How Zuma emerged painted a glaring picture of what SA was going to be like under his leadership. Like this wasn’t enough of a nightmare, the man got another term to further destroy what’s left of the fabric we took years to create.

With his Mafiasque way of doing things, with a sequence of events resembling something out of Hollywood, we stood in shock while the man ripped this country apart. SA has surely had the hardest eight years since the dawn of democracy. But after all the fire, what lessons are there to learn from this man? After the almost collapsing all key state institutions, parastatals, his own party, the integrity of security organs and after dividing South Africans for so long, what can we learn from this?

It’s been 13 years since Judge Hillary Squires ruled on corrupt elements he identified in Zuma. It’s also been 13 years since the infamous rape trial that saw people holding night vigils in defence of this man. It’s been 11 years since his party saw the most divided elective conference, the one he emerged from. The ones that catapulted his lynch mob in the form of leagues and unions to take down Mbeki. From only these three events where he was made, one common factor can be picked up. Mbeki’s detractors, unions, and all disgruntled at that time allowed emotions to stand in the way of their conscience. People allowed pettiness to get the better of them. Moral conviction, sober judgement, objective decision-making, ethical choices at the rest were alienated and patronage, greed, unethical behaviour became a DNA for his supporters. A stamp of approval. Personality cult was instead used to massage this man and in turn people got access to resources, people sang for their supper at the expense of South Africans, well that’s mostly by his ANC supporters at the time. But what have we learned as South Africans that were at least not involved in this cocktail of a disaster?

Did our silence do any harm, did our indifference leave a stain in the clean cloth of progress of the land? I think it did. Did our patience allow the Gupta episode to come into effect? To an extent I think it did.

Our judicial system is strong enough, our democracy is one of the healthiest, and our Constitution is one of the most progressive if not the most progressive in the world. We needed unity to crush a criminal syndicate but we were polarised over small issues. All is not lost though, the new era is here. There is hope for a better South Africa moving forward. What we must never allow again is the reluctance to act on issues. We must crush corruption right off the bat. DM

Lemo Monyatsi is a Master of Engineering Candidate at University of Cape Town specialising in Transportation Studies. He is a published author of A Dozen Letters of Blackness, an entrepreneur and a freelance writer with a passion for youth empowerment. @bikomfident on twitter

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