Thanks, Kolisi, for reminding us we can change SA despite our ...

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Thanks, Kolisi, for reminding us we can change SA despite our 'leaders'

Politicians' racially divisive words bring despair, but ordinary people inspire hope that SA will overcome its challenges

Columnist

Every so often South Africa breaks your heart. Sometimes this beautiful country fills your heart to bursting point with hope and inspiration, then the next moment it – and its politicians in particular – will drive you to the point of despair.
On Saturday, Siya Kolisi and his Springboks came back from 20 points down to an exhilarating, unbelievable victory that made fans of the national team believe in it again. For a few moments, a country that has descended into mainly destructive social-media racial warfare was reminded that we are all human, all South African. For a moment, hope beat hard in our hearts.
For a moment we united behind a bunch of young people representing our nation, forgetting that it was just a few days before that Floyd Shivambu, a leader of the EFF and member of parliament, had insulted the minister of Finance, the director-general of the National Treasury and other officials by saying that they were cowed by, specifically, a South African of Indian origin. His racism was palpable as his party started circulating propaganda about “Indian influence” in the ANC. Idi Amin, where are you?Despair settles in one’s heart at the utterances and actions of politicians such as Shivambu.
Meanwhile, the economy contracted 2.2% compared with the prior three months. The rand, together with other emerging-market currencies, took a beating last week. Jobs are and will be lost, food prices will continue to increase while the cost of living will be higher all round. This is what the delegates to the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial conference on Friday should have been obsessing about.
Instead, they prevented their own leader, national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, from taking to the podium to address them. They sang their favourite ditty at him: “Tell us what (Jacob) Zuma has done!”
The conference collapsed. The party’s provincial leaders – themselves illegitimately elected two years ago and their structure nullified by the courts – are now hoping to mount another conference in the next few weeks. Don’t hold your breath for success of that meeting, either, as they have been implicated in the collapse of this past weekend’s conference. This is leadership? One despairs.And yet at the same time it was such a joy to see South Africa represented by Cyril Ramaphosa at the meeting of world leaders in Canada this past weekend. With all his shortcomings and lack of support from within his own party, Ramaphosa is the sort of president one wants to see representing our nation rather than the sordid, incoherent, scandal-soaked mess who has soiled our leadership on the world stage over the past 10 years. From the United Nations to the African Union, Zuma destroyed whatever credibility South Africa had. He was a joke wherever he went. He made one despair.
Zuma was in court again on Friday, claiming that those who spoke against him must not “provoke” him or he will fight back. The man can say this because for 10 years the ANC allowed him to destroy the Scorpions, the National Prosecuting Authority, the intelligence services, the SA Revenue Service and other key state institutions, and remake them into his own tools. Of course, he has “the dirty goods” on all his comrades: they kept quiet as he used the intelligence services to spy on them and the rest of civil society.
Meanwhile, in municipalities across North West, residents have no water, no electricity and no sewage disposal. The Sunday Times reported that the mayor of Koster constructed a road to her business rather than to the local health facility. Idi Amin again, anyone? The man who destroyed North West, Supra Mahumapelo, stood by Zuma on Friday and sang his praises. Mahumapelo should be in jail, but no, he is in North West helping Zuma foment dissent against Ramaphosa.Where is the opposition?
Shivambu is playing dirty race politics while the Democratic Alliance’s leaders are fighting over their shrinking cake when they could be sitting on a much bigger cake after next year’s elections.
Thankfully, Jacob Zuma taught us that our future is in our own hands. Over the past 10 years civil society has become more organised, more vocal, more prepared to stand up against the cant and corruption of state players. South Africa will sail through its myriad challenges not because of its so-called leaders, but because of its people. What ordinary people achieved over the past 10 years, against state capture and rampant corruption, is testament to the fact that our future is in our hands, and not of the politicians.

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