What Barney Pityana said about Zuma

Extract from N Barney Pityana, Rector: College of the Transfiguration, Dr Neil Aggett memorial lecture, Kingswood College, September 24 2012:

I have the idea that in our society today we are being subjected to competing one- dimensional theses. One is that of the ANC and its allies that treats with suspicion and with hostility any  ideas or processes  that  do not reinforce  their own stereotypical view of reality. Therefore, Zapiro and the Spear, and indeed it would now seem these days even Julius Malema, must be silenced, banned, imprisoned.

The truths that they seek to present to the people of South  Africa must be suppressed and we, the people, have no intelligence to determine for ourselves what judgments we can make about the works of art, of political satire and the so-called, ‘anti-revolutionary’ opportunism of Malema or indeed the justice of the pronouncements of counter-revolutionary judges!

It is not the fact that we indeed do have a President and Head of State who was charged with rape, was investigated for serious crimes of corruption and who proudly purveys as his  trademark his propensity to surround himself with a multiplicity of wives. The cases were made to go away to the shame of the NPA and the President’s moral conduct is a matter for public record.

That is the truth that the ANC needs to address and what that says about the quality of leadership the party offers to the people of South Africa. This year is the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the African National Congress. What we have seen month-by-month is the revisionist sanitized history being presented by no one else but Jacob Zuma which has become the uncritical party story-line that is boring, rather than an honest evaluation of history, from which lessons may be learnt.

The story of liberation must be told warts and all because it is a human story, often sad and tragic, but never unusually inspiring. It has failures and it has successes. It has high- points and low-points. Yes, we must celebrate that the efforts of so many from all sectors of society brought us to where we are today. Truth is like that it belongs to all, and to none.

Our society today is not without failures that must be confronted and solutions found. That failure is not just the failure or fault of apartheid however evil the apartheid system may have been. I would hope that we have learnt lessons from it rather than, as I sometimes observe, appropriating the faults of apartheid and blessing them with the language of right, as in majority rules, and minorities must just accept it.

A great deal of the failure in our society today is of our own making. It is a failure of our own making for which we must take responsibility. If we continue to elect leaders without vision or possess the basic competences of understanding the dimensions of democratic rule as so many of our local government councilors at least, and many others in parliament are definitely deficient, or an executive that does not inspire confidence.

We must blame nobody but ourselves for the tragedy of our education system, a collapsing health care system, a bloated but inefficient civil service, pervasive crime, and corruption that has become endemic.

That is because we have not only elected a government without any intelligence collectively to understand what must be done, and to draw on the resources of the entire society to fix what is wrong., or that has run out of ideas or lacks the moral capacity to govern for the benefit of others.

We have a government trapped in ideological blinkers, but also that believes and behaves like it is unaccountable to no one but to itself and those who are likeminded. And so we are now being told that we must expect to simply endorse this failed leadership. In the interests of party unity! The result can only  be  continued  chaos,  growing  inequality,  burgeoning  unemployment,  an endemic poverty trap, and all of the social evils that have become characteristic of much of our society.

The other one-dimension is that characterized by AfriForum, and its ubiquitous Kallie Kriel and his ilk. They are the ones who will manipulate every aspect of the law because they believe that white people (especially Afrikaners) are the most deprived of their rights in this democracy. They will therefore hoot and coo about freedom songs, misrepresent and manipulate statistics to give the impression that the most oppressed and discriminated against in this country are white people, especially the white poor.

Sadly our President from time to time falls under their spell and they unearth some white communities living in dire poverty. What they would have us overlook analytically is that white people in our country remain the most privileged and that the structures of Afrikaner greed remain largely in tact.

Their project is to maintain the privileges of the status quo ante even in the democratic dispensation. Let us face it, our country had sooner rather than later, address the problem of poverty and unemployment and deprivation for all citizens regardless of colour. No country that boasts an unemployment rate of 40% and rising would be as smug as our government is, or as unmoved by the plight of the poor , or to shamelessly proffer a social grants system as an end in itself without even a notion of a developmental purpose.

Indeed, the Archbishop of Cape Town recently rightly noted that a country that treats its workers and poor communities the way we do is ripe for revolution, and Zwelinzima Vavi warns of a ticking time bomb that will engulf us all.

Our government is in no hurry to deal with these matters. It is amazingly complacent. There is no sense of crisis or political will to deal with urgency with the pressing social and economic issues of our day. Instead it is reported that public resources are being manipulated to enrich the few, and to build a monument to Jacob Zuma’s  presidency by establishing a new town on Zuma’s doorstep in Nkandla. And through it all, this nation is fast asleep.

The full text of the lecture can be read here – PDF