I met a man earlier this year whose name I do not care to remember. He claimed he was an important provincial member of the ANC; and then he said a bit of this and a bit of that.
So I asked him a question that started burning in my heart when Thabo Mbeki was ousted, that has kept burning through Julius Malema’s nationalisation campaign, and that most recently heated up again for me when officials told us they’d halted all investigations into the arms deal.
“What, according to the ANC, is democracy?” I asked the boastfully “important member” of the provincial ANC. All those huge decisions made by people in power on behalf of the nation, I thought to myself — but where are the people themselves?
“No, you tell me what democracy is,” he replied.
This made me wonder if ANC cadres now see in South Africa what they claim to have fought for all those years ago. I’d thought my question was a simple one, deserving a simple answer. After all, are we living in the “Promised Land” or aren’t we?
Meaning of democracy to me
“What I’ve been taught is that democracy is ‘rule by the people for the people’, but what I do not get is what the ruling party — which promised us the Promised Land — thinks democracy is,” I said to him.
I knew I was getting emotional. “Where were the people in the ousting of Mbeki?” I wanted to know. “Where was the consultation, the transparency, the accountability that are meant to be pillars of a democracy? And I bet you there will be no people when nationalisation is finally made the rule.”
He did then reply, but he lost me in all “political complexities”, all his jargon. My question was never answered.
I’m one of the so-called “born frees”, so my experience of apartheid is limited to stories out of books and tales from elders that seem almost fictional and surreal. But the question that always comes to me from these stories is: If I am part of the liberated generation, what exactly have I been liberated for and what have my liberators done for me lately?
If the boastful ANC member had told me what his party thinks democracy is, I would have been able to ask him my next question: “Where has democracy gone?” Because there is surely no milk or honey for my people in this land.
This year alone, a few memorable moments have dramatically heated up the questions burning in my heart. “In my lifetime there’ll be no nationalisation,” Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said in February.
She was reacting to Malema’s campaign, as ANC Youth League president, to nationalise our mines.
In the same month President Jacob Zuma told international investors that nationalisation was not government’s policy but that the debate was welcome.
Yet who is actually debating these matters? Do the people on the ground even know what the consequences, good or bad, of nationalisation are? Do they even have a voice in this process?
Another memorable moment this year: Hawks boss Anwa Dramat shuts down all investigations into the arms deal, the Mail & Guardian reported in October.
So far, Dramat has given us no good reason for recommending that Parliament take “an executive decision” confirming that a 10-year-long investigation implicating a great many politicians, and a whole lot of money, should cease.
More memorable moments this year for me and the questions in my heart:
- Top of the list is our president — all those babies, all those wives;
- Not to be out done was Juju: if he wasn’t singing controversial songs, he was driving with an expired licence, dodging taxes, getting tenders in Limpopo and swearing at British journalists;
- Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda using our money to stay in five-star hotels, dining on oysters and drinking wine at R300 a glass; and
- ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu getting arrested for drunk driving.
Finally, memorable moments since the birth of democracy that also make my questions burn to be answered:
- The ousting of Mbeki;
- The parole of Schabir Shaik from prison on health grounds (he seems very healthy – which is nice for him but not for our justice system).
- Which brings to mind Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s liver transplant; as well as
- Mbeki’s incredible statements on HIV/Aids.
What did we, the people, do when they ousted Mbeki? Nothing. What did we do when Malema started screaming nationalisation? Nothing. What will we do now that they’ve stopped investigations into the arms deal? Nothing.
So what I don’t understand is: When did we sell off our birthrights? If this is a democracy, can the people to put an end to all these acts of power?
I once heard a preacher relate what his father advised him whenever he got into trouble: “There are two dogs wrestling within you. One is evil, one is good. Which one is winning?”
The preacher said he always struggled for the answer. But one day he made a decision: “It’s the dog I feed the most that will win.”
There are two dogs wrestling within our nation. One is evil, one is good. Which one is winning?