By Liz Molomo
Watching silently from the side-lines over the last few months, as our country slowly unravels, many feel the restlessness of a nation at war with itself. It is not a war of guns and bombs. Neither is it a war of the pen and the sword. It is a war of words, slung for political point-scoring, with the hope that a mindless black electorate will be won over by the facade that is our current political leadership and vote them back into government come 2014. It is a war that bases itself on the premise that black South Africans are insane. An insanity born from our collective bad habit of voting for the ANC.
In my moments of naivety, I question the necessity of government, and why governments in Africa particularly are so badly run. On the verge of becoming an anarchist and wholeheartedly deciding that governments are an unnecessary evil, I came across a definition of what government is that struck a chord. Tim O’Reilly defines government, at its core, to be about doing together that which we cannot do alone. It is within this context that I now understand how deeply flawed our national psyche is in relation to our government. We do not vote a party or person into power. We vote them into service. We need a radical shift in our national thinking. A shift away from the flawed premise that we are subjects to the power of the government to the understanding that the government is subject to our power.
In the interests of brevity, I shall not delve too deeply into the current malaise of the ANC, save to say that “the revolution has devoured its children”. A phrase coined by the French counter-revolutionary Jacques Mallet du Pan, in reference to the terror unleashed by French revolutionaries in the name of liberty, equality and fraternity. Those that once led a nation out of the grip of royal tyranny took power and themselves became the tyrants. History is replete with examples of leaders who were once heroic liberators and turned arrogant tyrants. As our current reality in South Africa unfolds, it is clear that our revolution has begun to feed on its own children.
When a disconnected ruling party finds itself embroiled in internal power struggles, shows the middle finger to learners in Polokwane and brazenly loots from state coffers, it is the poor, the overwhelming majority of this country that are sacrificed at the altar of self-serving politicians who have completely lost touch with those they are empowered to serve. To quote Tony Karon: “When people are killed over the distribution of wealth, a new national conversation cannot wait.”
To quote Tim O’Reilly once again, Government 2.0 would be collaborative, open and engaged. If we remember that “government is a mechanism for collective action, a platform from which we jointly manage problems that are too large for us individually and whose solution is in our common interest” we can begin to have a new national dialogue driven by citizens.
Given the number of service-delivery protests witnessed this year, the ANC is on a slippery downward spiral, and to the extent that it continues on this trajectory, is headed towards certain implosion. The current calls from Zuma detractors for “Anything but Zuma” is significant. That Zuma has lost favour with his party is not as significant as the fact that this loss of favour transcends reason to the point where the ANC do not care who leads them, as long as it is not Zuma. The desperation of a party at war with itself, mirrored by the desperation of a nation at war with itself.
History will judge us harshly if we take no action today, and condemn us wholesale if we vote the ANC with its current dearth of leadership back into government. South Africa is at a turning point and our collective futures will be defined by the actions we take or do not take today.
Liz Molomo is a recovering capitalist and project manager.