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Hypocrisy: When corrupt political elites are expected t...

Defend Truth

Opinionista

Hypocrisy: When corrupt political elites are expected to tell the struggling underclass to stop stealing

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Sonwabile Ngxiza is a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town and is SACP deputy provincial secretary in the Western Cape. He writes in his personal capacity.

While the cost of the anarchy unleashed on parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng is still being counted, it is clear that our social fabric, stitched together over many years, risks being rent asunder. In the end, progress in our quest for nation building, common nationhood, patriotism and social cohesion will be severely damaged and even reversed.

In the wake of the 15-month prison sentence imposed on former president Jacob Zuma, thousands of people have blockaded highways, burnt trucks and descended on shopping centres with the sole purpose of looting and destroying.

To many, it appears the pillaging was orchestrated to undermine the rule of law, using Zuma’s plight simply as a ruse. It is inconceivable that the authorities did not anticipate violence might break out. 

In fact, the minister of police expressed concern about the possibility of chaos in KZN and Gauteng, but it is not clear if the police had any kind of plan to contain the economic sabotage and maintain the rule of law. The president has now deployed the armed forces to reinforce police efforts to contain the upheaval.

While the cost of the anarchy unleashed on parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng is still being counted, it is clear that our social fabric, stitched together over many years, risks being rent asunder. 

The phenomenon of ethnic chauvinism and mobilisation is clearly evident in the intensity of violence in certain geographical areas, in particular KZN and Gauteng — although sympathisers of the so-called RET faction might want to instigate violence in other areas as an obfuscation of the real intent.

In the end, progress in our quest for nation-building, common nationhood, patriotism and social cohesion will be severely damaged and even reversed.

The economic cost is incalculable in terms of material losses, financial losses and lost jobs, and more so the reputation of South Africa as an investment destination, particularly as the country struggles to attract foreign investment to assist post-Covid recovery.

The sentencing of Jacob Zuma ostensibly precipitated the unrest, but it is also evident that Zuma’s incarceration provided a convenient excuse to fuel counter-revolution by desperate elements, many of whom are themselves fugitives from justice. The sinister forces stoking the anarchy need to be unmasked. This coalition of the corrupt is preying on the desperation of the majority through subterfuge and diversion, hoping themselves to escape the long arm of the law.

For others, the crisis simply presents an opportunity for a looting spree, which is one of the many pathologies plaguing our society. These acts of criminality must be rooted out. Unfortunately, the roots run deep.

On a broader level, it is clear that what we have witnessed in both scale and intensity is a manifestation of a much deeper crisis. There are many interlocking realities that together form the basis of the deeper malaise plaguing this country. At its simplest, there are two fundamental problems worth highlighting that constitute the root causes of the unrest:

First, there is the government’s failure to overcome and reverse the legacy of colonialism and apartheid. This failure resulted in the inability to transform the economy to serve the majority. The prevailing economic system continues to lock out the majority, in particular the youth, thus subjecting them to grinding poverty. Not only has the government failed to engender balanced economic development, it has also failed to direct the private sector to invest in diversification and beneficiation that could broaden economic participation.

In addition, the embrace of neoliberal economic policy packages has deepened the crisis even further through liberalisation that suffocated local industries, thus destroying industrial capacity, which has led to massive job losses in the post-apartheid era. More recently we have seen neoliberal austerity cuts on spending, the consequence of which is an inability of the state to discharge its most basic functions. For instance, in the ongoing skirmishes the police are clearly and hopelessly outnumbered by the hordes of looters. The ratio of police to population is completely inadequate. 

The confluence of these realities has produced and reproduced a large army of the indigent, unemployed and socially vulnerable. The extent of economic exclusion, social marginalisation and relative deprivation provides a breeding ground for discontent that is a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode.

Second, the depth of depravity that has been manifested in governance decay and corruption erodes public confidence and breeds public anger. If the political and business elites can shamelessly steal and abuse public office with absolute impunity, then what stops the desperate poor — the underclass — from looting? Who will have the moral authority to tell them to stop? 

Wicked politicians and business elites have derailed development through naked acts of corruption, thus robbing people of hope for social progress and economic justice.

Yes, the economic choices have locked the majority outside, trapping them in grinding poverty and joblessness, but corruption robs the people of any hope of overcoming their current situation. None is more dangerous and unpredictable than a people without hope.

Perpetuating austerity, exclusion and depravity condemns the majority to misery. This is untenable. Nation-building and democratic consolidation cannot survive under these conditions. The country needs to return to a people-centred, people-driven process of fundamental change of the economic system to serve the poor.

This situation needs less political ambivalence and more bold and decisive action to restore calm and act swiftly against corruption. Let us use order to defeat disorder and calm to defeat agitation.

Fundamentally, only structural economic transformation provides an antidote to discontent and holds the potential for harnessing hope and agency of the people to defend our democratic gains. DM

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All Comments 4

  • The people of South Africa get what they vote for.

    The only solution is to look forward rather than backward, and to vote for a party on merit rather than colour.

  • “the embrace of neoliberal economic policy packages has deepened the crisis even further through liberalisation that suffocated local industries, thus destroying industrial capacity, which has led to massive job losses in the post-apartheid era”
    Really!!

  • Until all BEE laws are rubbished and labour laws adapted to reality nothing will change. Rip van Winkel is about to overtake cr as our man of action. And it now strikes me that “rip van winkel” has been a popular theme this week.

  • Third world is beginning to overtake first world. We need a Cyril family meeting (please with question time like first world ) to tell us the truth, who are the 12 and why haven’t they all been arrested by Mr Hat. That’s a start.

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