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How far we’ve fallen

By Rafique Gangat

As SA’s first career diplomat of colour, I am pained to learn of what is happening to my beloved country.

I took part in the painful struggle for freedom and eventually shared in the joy of liberation and democracy in 1994 and since then worked tirelessly to build the new SA.

My recently published book, Ye Shall Bowl on Grass alludes to the beginning of this malaise in a chapter that is bound to be “explosive” — describing South African politicians visiting Dubai in the early days of liberation, where I served, on official pretexts but in fact for dubious motives.

Reading comments made daily by fellow South Africans on various reported stories leads me to believe that there are many paining like me as well.

What happened to meritocracy?

Replaced by cadre deployment under the guise of affirmative action and BEE, at the expense of service delivery, that is the price the country is paying today. This story of the dumping of school books makes my heart bleed for the children denied and my blood boils when the perpetrators of this abominable crime are still in business.

Generally I read that we have taken our hard-earned freedom and democracy and sold it all for a life of debauchery and hedonistic pleasures, fuelled by the abuse of power, corruption etc at the expense of the suffering of the silent majority in whose name a nouveau riche elite, selfishly indulge in egoistic rituals, like the incident in Cape Town — feasting on sushi off the naked bodies of white models.

An information bill has been in the offing for a while to silence the mainstream media that has created an awareness of the rot that has set in the body politic of the nation after politicians and their erstwhile spin doctors have failed dismally to sweep away the excesses of the ruling elite, which continue ad nauseam.

What happened to the principles of a free and egalitarian society in post-apartheid SA that was supposedly the end-game for all in the struggle and then led by Mandela who, by his own sterling example, energised our morale during those heady and inspirational days?

On my last visit to Johannesburg a friend and senior ANC cadre responded to my questions about the corruption, wastage of monies and valuable state resources, tenderpreneurs and the brain drain with “you sound just like a white liberal”. I jokingly responded with “you accusing me of being an agent?”. A term that Julius Malema added notoriety to. On being pressed further, my good friend said “so what?” He continued with this strange metaphor: “You want us to use a typewriter when we live in the age of the computer?”

Then reflecting on the euphoria of the Mandela-era — eventually curtailed by BEE and affirmative action policies of Mbeki — and noting the times I selflessly and with honour served my country as a professional career diplomat, often placing my life on the line, my good friend sarcastically laughed, adding: “You were stupid that you did not cash in as you had many opportunities to do so!”

Today I grapple with the question: Have the liberated simply sold it all to the excesses of capitalism at the expense of those who entrusted them with the privilege and responsibility to lead? And not a day goes by when I read South African newspapers screaming out with yet another story on corruption, abuse of power, wastage of millions etc etc and I note sadly that big business/corporations still run the show and all they have done to stay in business is co-opted a black elite connected to the ANC, with the distinction between the two even having faded into oblivion.

For some time Malema harnessed the rising anger of the majority and created the illusion that he served their aspirations for a better life but his own opulent lifestyle gave the game away. There was no magic in the illusion he had created, save his clownish antics which fixated mainstream media and perpetuated the making of his myth.

The reality is we live in a world where greed and profit are the highest good, where self-worth is determined by the ability to amass wealth and power at the expense of others, where laws are manipulated and broken, where the endless treadmill of consumption defines human progress, where fraud and crimes are the tools of business.

In short, South Africans have also taken their place in the international community of nations, all of whom are fast heading down the slippery slope to ruin and damnation as capitalism approaches the end of its journey.

Rafique Gangat is a former SA diplomat. He blogs on http://rafiquegangat.wordpress.com

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