When a baby cries, usually it denotes hunger, pain or irritation with something or someone, and the quickest way to shut the baby up is with a pacifier or a baby dummy. What am I getting at you may wonder?
Well, just two months ago, all hell broke loose in Mzansi and many of our white citizens felt a huge sense of anxiety and fear. This is it, some exclaimed. Finally, the militant showdown predicted by so many, for years. The blacks have had enough and our private property, our businesses and indeed ourselves are in grave danger. Let us rally around and protect ourselves and our communities.
Almost immediately we saw some white and Indian compatriots gather outside in their respective streets, armed and ready to retaliate if needs be. A frenzy of discussions, reflections and seminars took place to understand these phenomena. The sheer destruction and looting, the anger that engulfed the process, sent shivers down our spines. We are next!
Conspiracy theories abounded, of sabotage, insurrection and/or a failed coup attempt. Ministers were at each other’s throats to define it and what their respective roles were in it in order to quell it.
And for a brief moment, the slightest of seconds, our white compatriots dared to ask the real questions. For just a brief moment, they confronted the ugly truth of the historical injustice meted out over centuries against their fellow black men and women. What must be done? How do we avoid a repeat of such devastation and indeed, how do we avoid slipping into another Zimbabwe. We stand to lose it all. All our white privileges, our private property (land) and for the most part, our ill-gotten inherited wealth.
In the end, we as South Africans stood together black and white, we looked beyond the past and envisaged a united future. We said, not in my name. But this required us all to redouble our efforts in confronting the difficult questions and working towards a shared future. One of equality, free from abject poverty and where most of us live in relative dignity.
But because things calmed down so quickly, because blame was apportioned so fast, complacency crept back in and before you knew it, we were back to pretending that all is well in Mzansi. A Cabinet reshuffle and a R350 grant to the poorest in society and all is well again. Bravo!
No more difficult questions nor difficult acknowledgements of the historical injustice. Instead, we do what we do so well as whites, as liberals and as the middle class, we deflect attention away from the real problems and away from us and we give importance and credence to frivolous things such as the medical parole of an old former president of SA, Jacob Zuma.
While the youth and frustrated unemployed poor in our country are crying due to our triple challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty. While they vent their anger through looting and destruction, we hand them a pacifier to make them stop crying. Make them forget about the real questions, the skewed structural nature of our economy. The fact that large tracts of land remain in white hands, that the largest share of economic might remains in white hands and that the private sector, both schooling and healthcare, by and large, serve their needs and therefore they need not worry about the public sector at all. That public sector is a government problem after all.
I get that we are all upset with Zuma, he made a joke of us as South Africans. He, in only nine years, reversed our gains on so many fronts. As I stated previously, when we pray for the rain, we must deal with the mud. Zuma was the rain which many thought would bring prosperity and growth, hence so many supported the unceremonious and callous departure of Thabo Mbeki in 2008, but instead we got the mud of dirty politics, political killings, corruption, junk status and State Capture.
Ironically, in my opinion, many of you supported this move because Mbeki was a black president asking the difficult questions. He was the one who reminded us of the historical injustice at every turn. He spoke of such a dangerous thing called black pride and the African Renaissance. He had to go, why? Because these were the uncomfortable questions we so desperately want to avoid. And so, Zuma was a good alternative at the time. Little did we know.
I understand the venom towards Zuma, but it does not excuse us to use him as a pacifier in dealing with the plight of blacks in South Africa. Blacks are crying, let’s not ignore it or ignore it to our collective peril. Because if you think what we experienced two months ago was dangerous, wait until the masses come to that simple realisation that we can simply take, like we did in July. And I hear you talking about a failed state because one of the indicators is being able to provide safety and security to one’s population, but what if that security is provided at the expense of the majority? What then?
So let us stop pretending that we are so appalled with the short incarceration and subsequent medical parole of Zuma. Our lives are not going to change in any meaningful way whether he is in prison or at his homestead in Nkandla. What is however going to meaningfully change the lives of the poor and downtrodden is an honest and sober taking stock of what exactly represents historical injustice and how we collectively must make sacrifices to find lasting solutions.
This is what the Zuma medical parole debacle represents as far as many are concerned. A mere pacifier or baby dummy, and we will not fall for it. Do the right thing! You know you must. DM