Category Archives: Politics

Apartheid denial, the reader and rage

I.

Former ambassador to Argentina and Business Day columnist Tony Leon said in a radio interview with Eusebius McKaiser yesterday that he agreed with the statement: Corruption was rife under apartheid. However, that is not what he said in his column, the subject of the radio interview.

In the column, Leon argued that the National Party did not tolerate corruption and, to the extent it did, those caught were not shielded from punishment by their political party affiliation. He also said that corruption and the lack of consequence for it came in the wake of democracy in 1994.

Tell me, how can corruption be rife yet not tolerated in a system that doesn’t let perpetrators get away? There’s a leak in the logic here only explainable by saying that the National Party, to a large extent, turned a massive blind eye to corruption, which would undermine the premise of Leon’s argument. Hold up his view that the present-day sickening cycle of corruption with no consequences came in the wake of 1994 against his agreeing that corruption was rife under apartheid and you’ll realise that precious little of what he’s said makes sense.

Here is Leon in his own words, emphasis my own:

The NP promoted and prosecuted a political system which oppressed and disfigured this country, and its security apparatus did far worse. But it was not so forgiving of its own members who looted public office for personal ends. And to the extent that it turned a blind eye, it did not interfere when the departments of justice and correctional services indicted and processed its members, some of them very prominent indeed.

Like the entire column, the statement is an elegant cascade of questionable elisions and untruths couched in truths and built on a false premise that caused those who rightly read with the context of Leon’s time in public office to question his motivation for writing it.

Continue reading

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Do the honourable thing and step down, Mr Vavi

At the time of writing Zwelinzima Vavi is still general secretary of Cosatu, the country’s largest trade union federation and powerful ally to the governing ANC. He is reportedly scheduled to appear before some form of Cosatu internal process today to answer to charges of sexual harassment in the workplace and other additional charges are being lined up. Before the news broke, he laboured for months to publicly portray himself as the target of various political conspiracies and now, after the story went public, he maintains that what happened was an act of sexual infidelity between two consenting adults for which he is sorry.

However, from what he as admitted to so far, there is a strong prima facie case against him. Continue reading

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Book review: Thoughts on the New South Africa, by Neville Alexander

I used to believe that if you did not know history and how our societies came to be as they are, the world must be infuriating and scary. But from observing ease of those afflicted by the contagious South African moveonism, partly owing to the poor education system, partly from memory’s natural degeneracy between generations, partly from the convenience of forgetting, partly from the various ideologically driven projects to induce forgetting and misremembering, I’ve had to reconsider. Those with that knowledge and understanding are a minority amid a multitude of people who start each new day as though the previous had not been. These few are the only sane people in a room of amnestic madmen. As such, I’m now convinced that it’s only for them, these few who understand the past, its effects on today and what must be done to create a better future, that this world full of forgetting is a maddening place.

Neville Alexander’s collection of essays, Thoughts on the New South Africa, published posthumously in February, six months after his death, bristles with annoyance and a heavy undertone of frustration, understandably so, given that he was among the few I’ve described.

Adding to Alexander’s frustration, I glean, is that his thinking was, no, is far ahead of our time—and, compelled by the sense of community and humility that drew him into an active role in the country’s liberation movement, he could not reasonably withdraw into the insular existence that many in his position might find tempting and mollifying. Continue reading

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