Virtuous victims take the stand
Some time between writing last Tuesday’s column and sitting down to write this column, those folk who I likened to Benito Mussolini’s “virtuous victims” picked up their game.
To all but fellow travellers, they only affirmed just how pestiferous they were to institutions and society, and to a process of restorative justice.
Ernst Roets, of Afriforum, and Markus Jooste, formerly of Steinhoff, presented to parliament that rather noxious logic – where the villainous assume positions as victims and innocents – that is keeping the country from making meaningful and sustainable changes to society and institutions.
Roets was given the opportunity to make a submission to the parliamentary constitutional review committee that is investigating whether or not section 25 of the constitution should be amended to address land reform. He was, of course, not allowed to get away with logical fallacies, unsubstantiated claims, and rather expedient and spurious historical references.
Columnist Pieter du Toit explained that the ongoing debate on land was “rooted in search for justice, the country’s fraught and contentious history, and the moral imperative of redress and restoration”.
This, Du Toit wrote, was “something that neither Roets nor AfriForum seemingly understands or wants to understand. That much is apparent from the tone-deaf, ahistorical and antagonistic performance Roets ... delivered.”
Roets’s presentation was, indeed, rather the performance art of the virtuous victim than an intellectually coherent presentation – unprotected from critical scrutiny, or from being exposed for reproducing false beliefs and misrepresentations.
There were people in the audience, men and women, black and white, members of parliament from the ANC, DA and ACDP who would not let him get away with his claims.
Of course, he had the right to speak. The audience was, however, not passive bodies.
Their responses looked beyond the drama, the sanctimony, the pretentions of “virtuous victimhood” and the overall bad faith. In one of his statements, Roets accused MPs of being “drunk” on ideology.
Wrote Du Toit, “Roets was aggressive, he looked across the aisle to parliamentarians with barely disguised disdain, and then proceeded to insult both MPs as a collective and the parties which they represent”.
Du Toit, as did members of the committee, saw clean through Roets’s arrogance, selfrighteousness, sanctimony, confabulation and egregious misrepresentation, and his attempts to discredit the transformation process, and of negating restorative justice.
ANC MP Nicolaas Koornhoof described Roets as a disgrace to SA.
Roets, as Du Toit, Koornhof, and almost everyone else in the room was willing to say, was a bumbling fool with his poorly concealed racism hidden behind language of victimhood, bad history and crass duplicity.
They knew and were prepared to expose the way that Roets pulled that great trick of “fronting”.
They conveniently and strategically “use” black faces, and concerns for black people, as tokens, to demonstrate they were not racist or were not simply trying to shore up their ill-begotten gains.
Where Roets was overtly mean and, well, anyone vaguely intelligent could see right through his charade and meaningless quasi-intellectual rubbish, Jooste,t he St ellen boschu berm ench,w ass lick and smooth.
Recall that Jooste is the disgraced former CEO of Steinhoff.
He was called to parliament to explain his role in the process that took Steinhoff down a dark hole of corporate disaster.
Jooste’s response to parliament was to plead ignorance and innocence. He, too, was a virtuous victim.
Last week, Jooste was Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal.
Ro et sw asJRTolkien’ s Sméagol, the horrific (if tragic) figure, deformed and twisted in both body and mind.
They are two sides of the same coin formed of privilege (both shaped by apartheid’s old hegemonic, structurally racist public institutions like Stellenbosch or, say, Spoornet).
While Stellenbosch produced the intelligentsia, the smooth operators, companies like Spoornet gave us the mouth-breathing knuckledraggers, like Sméagol.
In 1995 Gerald Boshoff, at the time senior human resources manager at Spoornet, said: “There was so much wrong with the company. It was rulebound, authoritarian ... We were the custodians of apartheid, we kept it in place.”
Jointly they remind one of Mary Shelley’s hideous, cruel and ugly monsters who cannot fit into society, but will not cease until their vengefulness has fully retraumatised South Africans.
Some of us, locked in golden cages, are too scared to speak out against these monsters lest we lose our livelihoods.
This has just emboldened them – from Roets in his field of dreams, to the innocence of Jooste – and turned them into Mussolini’s “virtuous victims”.
We should raise a glass to the MPs who saw the disgrace last week, and chose to speak out.