SA is not falling apart. The old order is
Thabo Mbeki’s former spokesperson responds to The New York Times article saying the country is ‘falling apart’
Last week, William Shoki penned an article for The New York Times which suggested that “SA is falling apart”.
Though a more circumspect headline would have served the article and readers better, only a dyed-in-the wool propagandist could accuse Shoki of outright misrepresentation or malice. Grappling with the legacies of colonialism and apartheid, and with the many obstacles it has encountered since 1994, SA is undoubtedly juggling several challenges at once.
One of them is corruption and maladministration, which has exercised the public mind for some time now.
This is no utopian idealism; it is the quiet determination to take a stand.
While the protracted struggle to end apartheid represented a contestation between humanist values and the unjust, unsustainable social relations of the old order, tragically, some of those who helped bring about the new dispensation now stand accused of colossal acts of corruption among other things. Acting together with the most unscrupulous local and international businesspeople, some of the liberators of yesteryear have become predators. Rather than yield to legal processes, some are determined to poison the broth so that no meal is served at all.
After a decade of the systematic neglect and adulteration of public life, as evidenced in the testimonies in the courts and commissions of inquiry and outcomes of corruption investigations by our law enforcement agencies, the damage is profound and visible, and has deeply infected the national mood. Yet the various actions to understand and unmask these acts demonstrate our collective determination to uproot corruption and its multiple effects.
This is the single biggest thing that counts to our favour — the political will and institutional courage to change things. Across the political, racial and other divides, there is a critical mass which understands that doing nothing is not an option. This is no utopian idealism; it is the quiet determination to take a stand, draw the line somewhere, and build a citizens’ momentum to stem the rot and effect change in the South African body politic.
So, whereas the dramatic events of recent weeks reflect some of the problems we face as a society, they also illustrate our courage in pursuing the democratic path undergirded by the sacred principle of the rule of law. That the state has refused to kowtow to a process which would have put paid to the rule of law reasserts a principle without which modern society would simply not function.
And so, thus far, the glass is half full — and drop by slow drop it is filling. But as Thomas Jefferson counselled, we are “determine[ed] never to idle”, for much more needs to be done.
So, whereas the dramatic events of recent weeks reflect some of the problems we face as a society, they also illustrate our courage in pursuing the democratic path undergirded by the sacred principle of the rule of law.
One area requiring urgent attention is the need to accelerate inclusive economic growth. This not only affirms the equal worth of all South Africans, it would also help to avert internecine strife that would split our society along the racial fault lines bequeathed by the nefarious social engineering of our past.
The question from all social actors — government, business, labour and civil society — is: what are the requisite investments, economic and otherwise, required for our society to safeguard democracy?
Since the end of apartheid, the world, including the US, has played an invaluable supportive role to SA. We need greater support in the form of investments in the wider South African economy, technical cooperation in a range of fields and much more.
In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, we need renewed global discussion, consensus and practical action among the peoples of the world about how better to respond to global challenges, including constructing equitable societies that help to sustain and improve the human condition. The pandemic provides the opportunity for new urgency and thinking about the regeneration of the world.
Like the US, SA is a land of indigenes inasmuch as it is the common matrimony of immigrants from all over the world. And like the US, our stability and success speak to something powerful about the human capacity to create and coexist in diverse settings, providing important lessons for the future of the human species. Far from falling apart, SA must and will succeed; she will enhance her cooperation with the world and stand as a beacon of the resilience and potential of diverse human societies.
*This piece has been republished from a Facebook post by Mukoni Ratshiṱanga, the former spokesperson of former president Thabo Mbeki.