Conrad Steenkamp
Conrad Steenkamp

On attacking Tutu: Bile, heaps of audacity and heart burn

Not too long ago Bishop Tutu (and many others like him) were taking on the moral corruption of apartheid. Particularly Bishop Tutu became a voice of reason and hope at a time that many thought that things would never change.

In response the regime deployed the overcoat brigade and propaganda machinery to discredit him (and others like him). They dragged his name through the mud, tried to destroy his moral authority and stop people from listening to what he had to say.

They succeeded in turning him into the pet hate of about every white South African that cared to listen to the radio or read a newspaper. But – in spite of rigorous control over the media – they failed. They could not stop the majority of people from wanting to hear what he had to say as his words resonated with their daily experiences.

Of those that are old enough to have experienced the seventies and eighties most, I think, will remain unmoved by Memela (recent blogs) and others’ scurrilous attacks on Tutu, such as that he is merely trying to score points; that he is trying to stay in the limelight to win more American prizes; does not know what he is talking about, etc. More than unmoved in fact — they probably felt the bile rise in their throats. Attacking Bishop Tutu’s immense integrity will not make the critique go away.

There is a dreadful similarity between the tone and strategy of Memela’s article on Tutu (and the one about the nasty minorities cabal that was keeping blacks out of high positions in the newspapers), and the Hlophe and Zuma court cases, on the other; smoke and mirrors, all the same blithe, untested allegations of conspiracy that butter the route to “victory”. They themselves do not believe what they are saying. They know and we know that they are not telling the truth. It is utterly shameless …

From now onwards it is simply a combination of time and the body count before we have some change. I use this phrase “body count” very deliberately, as unconstitutional regimes inevitably become oppressive and slide into civil war as the one faction overcomes the other. Among the first victims are freedom of the press and speech.

Those who are dismantling our constitution already know this, but do not care. It’s the same kind of gung-ho recklessness that preceded the Afrikaner nationalists’ rise to power, the main difference being that the latter actually believed in what they were saying.

Corrupt government officials and politicians steal first of all from the poor and vulnerable. Worse than that, for when corruption becomes systemic, as it now certainly has, then the system that feeds us all become unsustainable. Enter the secretive politics of distribution, as opposed to production; a downward spiral of competition for diminishing resources right down to the unseemly squabble for the last banana (need I say “ Zimbabwe”?). Mobilise the masses, then rob them blind.

The trump card, of course, are those arch-democrats, the mysterious Mandarins, who will support them no matter what. It would not surprise me the slightest to read a decade from now (in the state-owned newspaper, which is the only source of news around since Google helped the government to plug the internet), about Chinese “advisers” (officially “only” some ten thousand strong) helping “victorious” government forces battle “counter-revolutionary, terrorist separatists” in the South African outback.

Further news: Helen Zille’s appeal against her life sentence for “high treason” was today dismissed in the Constitutional Court (a division of the Supreme Court). Handing down judgement Judge Hlophe dismissed the argument that the operation of an “opposition party” was protected by the Constitution. “That clause” was removed during a confidential meeting of the presidential management collective about two years previously. “She’s in there for life. And that’s that,” he said. Then he grimaced and pressed his hand against his solar plexus, releasing an abrupt puff of acidic air. “Sorry, heart burn.”