Letters to the editor: February 19 to 25 2016

EFF plays a very dangerous game

I disagree with Professor Susan Booysen in her piece, The accidental constitutionalists, about the Economic Freedom Fighters.

The EFF announced beforehand that it would disrupt the State of the Nation address. After having warned that spurious points of order made to disrupt the address would not be permitted, the speaker in the House, Baleka Mbete, should have immediately taken action to enforce this.

This was not done. In this regard, Mbete demonstrated a weakness in her authority.

The EFF gained sought-after publicity at the cost of the reputation of South Africa. Incalculable harm was done internationally and domestically to our image as a stable and effective state, an image essential for economic recovery. The EFF’s conduct not only damaged our international reputation but also did harm to the office of the president.

The EFF must be dealt with decisively and firmly when it oversteps the mark, as occurred when it threatened the Gupta family and the journalists of the New Age newspaper with violence. If this is not done the EFF has the potential to damage or even destroy democratic government in South Africa.

It must be made categorically clear to the EFF and its leadership that it has to exercise its rights within the parameters of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The EFF, in encouraging its members to occupy land and business premises such as banks illegally, and declaring that “all whites are criminals” because they “stole” the land is constitutionally and legally unacceptable.

The EFF and its members are entitled to the rights set out in the Bill of Rights, but when it, as a party, abuses the freedom accorded to it in the Constitution, it must be called to account in no uncertain terms.

Democracy is not self-executing. We have a profound duty to ensure that it works for all our citizens and for the multiparty system of government guaranteed by the Constitution.

The freedom provided by a system of constitutional democracy involving an entrenched Bill of Rights is unfortunately open to abuse. Weak government can easily be overwhelmed by unscrupulous forces and individuals. This is, indeed, what occurred in 1933 with the ill-fated Weimar Republic in Germany, based theoretically on an exemplary Constitution that, in practice, led to paralysis in executive government, allowing Adolf Hitler to take the gap. – George Devenish, Durban

? After watching the circus that transpired during the State of the Nation address, it is clear to me that there are numerous important discourses that must happen in our various societies to consolidate, protect and promote our young democracy.

The democratic dispensation marked a new era, shaped by the transformation of sovereignty from Parliament to various institutions, including society as a whole.

Yet strong public participation in nation-building is lacking, and it cannot be because a certain political party representing a minority of the population disrupts an important event such as the State of the Nation address because it has issues with one individual.

President Jacob Zuma is not Parliament; he is not the state, and therefore he cannot be the reason that the address is disrupted. The State of the Nation address belongs to South Africans, and disrupting it is an insult to all of us.

The authentic consolidation of our democracy will only be possible through the economic emancipation of the working class and the poor, because they are the most vulnerable of the masses. They could easily vote demagogues into the National Assembly and forget to hold them accountable.

When the economic emancipation of the poor masses is real, demagogues will lose relevance, because they are neither revolutionary nor a vanguard of the working class and the poor. – Bhekithemba Mbatha

This is why it is vital to raise level of racism debate

I do not usually respond to readers’ criticisms of my articles, but the gross distortion in the letter by Thulani Ngcobo (Skewed grasp of racism in SA), compels me to answer.

I invite readers to compare his letter with my article so that they can see the important omissions in his argument, the extraneous issues he raises and the false claims he makes.

Ngcobo offers no rebuttal whatsoever to my two interrelated arguments: that black people are also capable of racism and that not all whites are necessarily racist. Instead, he raises extraneous issues with no bearing on my main points.

His claim that my views on racism are similar to those held in Europe and the United States is rubbish. He sounds like Andile Mngxitama: if not homogeneously contrasting black and white in South Africa, they contrast Africa with Europe and the US in a sterile, binary fashion.

I did not equate the perpetrators and victims of racism when I drew attention to the fact that black people have also made racist comments.

This does not in the least trivialise the oppression of “Africans”, but I see Ngcobo does not mention other black people such as coloureds, many of whom live in dire poverty too.

Ngcobo sounded like he was revealing unknown truths about the race/class differences between Sandton and Alexandra, or about ongoing racism in sports and schools.

What is profoundly theoretical about pointing out these obvious facts?

His letter ironically also served to reinforce the conclusion of my article: we urgently need to raise the level of debates about racism. – Ebrahim Harvey

Valuable lessons from the past

I found Chris Mann’s article (Rhodes and Shaka: Myths and lessons) most enlightening about the lives of Cecil John Rhodes and Shaka and the impact they had on South Africa in the past.

I am deeply concerned that so many young people seem to be so ignorant of, and even uninterested in, any era earlier than their own.

Consequently, when someone seizes on something they do not appreciate about a historical figure, it can be blown out of all proportion in order to attract a following that will cause chaos and disruption. This often happens in centres of learning, where students are likely to follow “a man with a mission” and the gift of the gab, rather than a cause they are deeply concerned with.

I recently saw Suffragette at the cinema and was deeply moved by what those women suffered in order to follow their deep convictions. We women have them to thank for our right to vote and for our opportunities to be respected and honoured in business, politics and academia.

Our government would do well to recognise the first steps taken by those brave women, and move towards the recognition of women, especially black women, in our democracy. – Rosemary Sundgren, Somerset West

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