First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

We'd like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick

More specifically, we'd like those who can afford to pay to start paying. What it comes down to is whether or not you value Daily Maverick. Think of us in terms of your daily cappuccino from your favourite coffee shop. It costs around R35. That’s R1,050 per month on frothy milk. Don’t get us wrong, we’re almost exclusively fuelled by coffee. BUT maybe R200 of that R1,050 could go to the journalism that’s fighting for the country?

We don’t dictate how much we’d like our readers to contribute. After all, how much you value our work is subjective (and frankly, every amount helps). At R200, you get it back in Uber Eats and ride vouchers every month, but that’s just a suggestion. A little less than a week’s worth of cappuccinos.

We can't survive on hope and our own determination. Our country is going to be considerably worse off if we don’t have a strong, sustainable news media. If you’re rejigging your budgets, and it comes to choosing between frothy milk and Daily Maverick, we hope you might reconsider that cappuccino.

We need your help. And we’re not ashamed to ask for it.

Our mission is to Defend Truth. Join Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

The threat of self-immolation is just a handful of tipp...

Defend Truth


We have allowed depravity and dishonesty to fester, now the threat of self-destruction is a few tipping points away


Professor Charles Villa-Vicencio is the former Research Director in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and part-time visiting professor in the Conflict Resolution Programme at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Without the social tissue that unites the nation across the craters of ideological and economic difference, the possibility of weaving a web of human decency and political honesty is remote and far distant.

Former president Thabo Mbeki reminds us of the abuse of Mohamed Bouazizi, a desperate and exhausted street vendor who became a catalyst for the Tunisian and wider Arab revolution in 2010.

Humiliated and abused, the vendor had his wares confiscated for not having a licence to ply his trade. He doused himself with petrol and burnt himself to death. “How do you expect me to make a living?” he shouted.

His immolation captured the attention of the world, resulting in the overthrow of President Ben Ali, the Tunisian dictator of 24 years. Reversing these democratic gains, last Monday Tunisians voted in favour of current President Kais Saied being given total authoritarian power.

The matrix of transition can be ignited by a disgruntled worker, an onlooker, an avaricious politician, or a politically devious entrepreneur. The stalled Tunisian transition is a reminder of the danger embedded in political change.

South African politics faces the inherent contradictions between the needs of the poorest of the poor, restless students, emerging first-generation middle-class contenders, established professional classes and a political elite – each demanding different kinds of delivery to advance their multiple needs.   

Dominant options for tentative conciliation include: the prosecution of the instigators of the KwaZulu-Natal-based rampage of a year ago, the commitment to deal with alleged benefactors of State Capture, and the redress of the deepening economic crisis. Add to this the Phala Phala fiasco, in addition to the suspicion that the President’s grand plan to tackle the electricity crisis could be hijacked by vested interests.

These realities demand buy-in from political leaders, business tycoons, civil society, apparatchiks of political parties, the unemployed and the indigent. A big ask. The ruling party has (at best) until the 2024 election to provide a semblance of delivery on these demands or surrender power. 

This raises concerns about the nature of events surrounding the looming tipping point.

A pertinent question is whether the loudest voices in political and other structures are a bunch of well-fed wolves in sheep’s clothing, or a more serious manifestation of the loss of integrity embedded in the very fabric of South African society. It is difficult to name primary culprits or identify the good guys and girls among them. We have been shocked too often to be complacent or confident about would-be political saviours.

Perhaps we are all guilty. We have allowed depravity and dishonesty to fester and grow.   

Chief Seattle (in 1854) wrote to the “Great Chief” in Washington DC, saying: “Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand within it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.”  

The South African web is convoluted and obscure. It is easy to name the blunt architects of colonialism and apartheid. The current web is less clear. It is a web that includes RET ideologues and the proponents of Mandelaism that offers the possibility of non-racism, non-sexism and human inclusivity.

The grand schemes of colonialism and apartheid are today the stuff of political cartoons. We cry out for a new messiah, while being ready to settle for a leader who simply confesses his/her limitations and failures, in drawing the visionaries of the golden days of post-1994 prosperity into a pragmatic liaison with a new generation of leaders who leave racist name-calling and fraudulent activities in the changeroom.   

Without the social tissue that unites the nation across the craters of ideological and economic difference, the possibility of weaving a web of human decency and political honesty is remote and far distant.

It proffers the threat of self-destruction. DM


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 2

  • There’s only one reason for this global malaise: we give too much power to too few people. Why? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Too much stupid in the system.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted