First published in Daily Maverick 168
One of the main side effects of our current planetary upheaval is that we are not-so-slowly becoming alienated from each other. Where hope used to reign, fear has taken over. Where reason was appreciated and knowledge was desirable, the hordes of Know Nothings learned that shouting obscenities not only gets you heard, it gets you elected. We’re probably even further away from hearing and understanding each other than we were in the last many decades.
And yet, among the few things I think I can safely claim that connect us is this hopeless desire not to be lied to. We need to believe in someone and something. We all need this bedrock under our feet. Living while the ground beneath us shakes with lies and deceptions is not fun.
Personally, I could never stomach liars.
There are many shades of them, of course. There are liars who just want to slip out of an embarrassing/difficult spot, like Donald Trump. Then there are liars who spin such an intricate web of falsehoods that it eventually takes a gargantuan effort just to maintain the heavy structure.
Many are just plain thieves, from pickpocketers on the lower end to top range con artists who end up being rich and powerful, some of them owning media giants or even running entire countries.
I could spend the entire length of this column just listing different shades and shapes the lies and liars take. But there is an even greater degree of lying that is, morally, possibly the worst. It is when the liars know that you know they are lying, and they know that you know that they know it. And yet, they still continue with the ritual, because they just do not give a damn about you, and on top of it, they want you to know it.
Why am I so preoccupied with this, this week? I received a press release from the ANC on 24 August, issued by Pule Mabe, their national spokesperson. It said, among other things:
“The African National Congress (ANC) condemns in the strongest possible terms the work of fake-news peddlers who are hellbent on sowing divisions within the ranks of the ANC.
“The latest installment comes from those who claim that ANC Secretary General, Comrade Ace Magashule, has distanced the ANC from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s letter addressed to ANC members.
“We are aware that detractors thrive on divisions and despise harmony…”
As I said, I hate lying, and there’s so much of it in this release; but over the years it has become customary for the ruling party representatives to lie to us in ever-expanding circles of shamelessness, so much that we simply got used to it. But something within these reckless words broke my patience, finally.
How dare they? We’ve been watching the country sink deeper by the year. PPE tender corruption was just a final straw that broke the camel’s back.
And now, when the reports surfaced of Trevor Manuel criticising the party’s failed delivery, it is suddenly the fault of the “wedge drivers”, “detractors who thrive on divisions and despise…” wait for it… “HARMONY”.
“Entire leadership of the ANC, including SG, is in full support of the contents of the letter from President Ramaphosa”, the release said.
Was it the very same corruption-hating, Ramaphosa-following leadership that also overwhelmingly supported lifting the suspension of the VBS Scandal-involved Danny Msiza and Francis Radzilane? Surely there must be some mistake here, because at that NEC’s July 202o meeting, the leaders who argued against that disgraceful decision could have been counted on the fingers of one hand.
Or are there two ANC leaderships and we just didn’t know about it: one mystical, united, harmonious and lovingly dedicated to rebuilding South Africa, and the other one, bitterly divided, mostly corrupt, failing the poorest of the poor?
And yet, as grotesque as that attack on basically everyone was, it was not this that angered me. No, what triggered me was that I finally had enough of them knowing that we know they’re lying. And not give a flying toss.
But they better start caring. Nothing lasts forever and nobody is eternal. If the ANC does not decide soon that it is time to respect the people of South Africa, and stop treating them as social engineering fodder, the scrapheap of history might be much closer than previously thought.
If the current leadership want to avert this fate, one of the truly good places to start would be to stop lying so brazenly. DM168