Dark days now frequent visitors
A dark, gloomy day today was, back in 1977. A panic-stricken, thoughtless regime had run out of ideas.
Following a cabinet meeting they held the day before, they had decided to immediately pounce on about 70 South Africans, at the stroke of a pen declare 19 community and political organisations unlawful, and ban two newspapers.
Among the organisations the minister of justice said were a “threat to law and order” were the Black People's Convention (BPC), South African Student's Organisation (Saso), Black Parent's Association, Black Women's Federation and the Union of Black Journalists (UBJ).
The two newspapers that irked the government the most because they couldn’t keep the lid on the ills of the system, were The World and Weekend World, with their editor Percy Qoboza among the “instigators” who were both banned and detained.
It was a desperate attempt – not only to bottle the brewing anger of the stubborn and resilient majority, but also to show the might the rulers thought they still had.
Little did they know that it was the beginning of the end.
A mere 17 years later, they were out of power and many of us thought never again will SA be led by an illegitimate, heartless bunch, who wouldn’t hesitate to use whatever unfair advantage they have over others.
You see, our carefully constructed legislative, executive and judicial architecture is meant to keep dark days at bay.
The drafters of our constitution knew – as all of us should – that evil thrives where there’s silence, indifference, fear and callousness.
At least in terms of our constitution, often hailed as one of the best in the world, South African laws are now supposed to be crafted in independent legislatures, with the active participation of all those affected, where all in power are held accountable and those who break the laws face consequences.
In the words of the first person to be democratically elected to head the state, Nelson Mandela, on the day he was inaugurated on April 27 1994: “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.”
A mere 24 years after Mandela said those words, we’ve chosen to be that skunk of the world, evidenced by the dark days that have become such frequent visitors.
Power’s seduction has brought shame to the likes of leaders, political organisations, student formations and media organisations the apartheid government feared so much.
Instead of continuing to shine the light on the ills afflicting our nation, some of us now stand accused of immersing ourselves in the very wrongs we were supposed to expose.
This week the editor of the Sunday Times, one time the country’s most respected newspaper, had to publicly apologise for the misdemeanours of the publication’s former journalists and return the awards they received for their shoddy work.
This as the national public broadcaster, the SABC, is still reeling from years of chaos and destruction that were brought about by journalists like Hlaudi Motsoeneng and a cabinet with ministers such as one Faith Muthambi, who were prepared to sacrifice such an important national institution at the altar of their personal and financial ambitions.
Every day has been a dark one this past week – each carrying with it revelations of how politicians, government officials, traditional leaders and socalled businessmen not only helped themselves to public funds, but showed such a devilmay-care attitude towards the poor and the most vulnerable.
No one is taking any responsibility for the Venda Building Society scandal, for example, where billions have gone missing.
Instead of acting immediately and decisively, in light of its officials being directly implicated, the organisation calling itself “the leader of society”, the ANC, is still exploring some “internal” mechanisms of dealing with the crisis.
The country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has set up yet another commission of inquiry to deal with another crisis that’s been brewing at the Public Investment Corporation for years now.
As if inquiries are now the panacea for the multiplicity of state institutions’ problems.
With student representative council election season upon universities, political parties have been dispatching leaders – including some of their best known crooks – to higher learning institutions to campaign for their respective student formations.
Where are organisations like the BPC? What happened to student formations like Saso? Do those of us practising the craft of journalism still aspire to the ideals that once drove the UBJs? And do we still have in our newsrooms leaders like Percy Qoboza?
If we do have them – it’s about time they made their presence felt. Or the dark days are here to stay.