SIMON LINCOLN READER: ANC has perfected the race blame game so it does not have to account
If the ANC can claim any accomplishment it would be consistency in rejecting criticism of its behaviour as racism
In an ideal world I would have started this column expressing frustration at the absolute state of VBS Mutual Bank and the avarice surrounding it, but we’re immune to controversy and its political extensions.
Eventually all these things — the arms deal, Nkandla, On Point, the Guptas, VBS and everything that slipped between the cracks — will form a single trail of discharge and you, dear reader, will not care to distinguish one horror from another.
If the ANC can claim any accomplishment, outside of an addiction to scandal, it would be consistency in rejecting legitimate repugnancy over and criticism of its behaviour as racism. No other similar movement in the world has boasted success in this like the ANC — not Jose Mujica’s Broad Front in Uruguay, not Xanana Guzmao’s National Congress in East Timor, not even Lula’s Worker’s Party in Brazil.
From Thabo Mbeki admonishing ANC activist and rape survivor Charlene Smith to ministers Charles Nqakula and Jeff Radebe, to Julius Malema and Ace Magashule, the objective of terminating compromise upon every subject at every level threads itself through the party’s existence and reproduced forms. And this before you examine the litany of poor decisions, and its inability to understand even the most primitive arcs of public service.
But I have reason to believe we could yet see the worst. It is becoming clear that highly influential quarters — alarmingly in the West, of all places — are aping the behaviour and thinking of the party for appearance’s sake, encouraging the idea that your circumstances and past should alter conventional political reproach.
We have come to exist in an age that selectively praises those who claim victimisation — increasingly despite the absence of evidence. Every day “progressive” groups champion the idea of men losing their jobs over baseless accusations; every day some outraged individual demands that contrasting opinions on the subjects of race or religion be censored. All you know of common sense, justice or merit is being manipulated by the modern left to suit the interests of some damaged people — and the governments and institutions you once considered reliable or trusted are buying it.
These and other right-on pursuits of social justice have achieved nothing save to create unnecessary hostility between sexes and races and impair activism into a force for irreparable division. But apply these movements to the future ANC or EFF and their existing reluctance towards accountability will burgeon; not only will they have their own impulsive accusations of racism to deflect scrutiny of chronic maladministration, but a fashionable world view that justifies corruption or nepotism on the basis of historical grievance, before finding someone else to blame.
When Jacob Zuma entered the Union Buildings the world still largely subscribed to cause and effect. But Malema’s emerging political generation is obsessed with the now derogative term “privilege”. This is a far more dangerous instrument with which to exploit dark lust than the kind of ordinary political conspiracy or incapacitation Zuma established his executive and methodology upon.
So, dear reader, how are you to survive this acceleration of hypocrisy through the changing ways of a world that threatens to endorse more of the same — and worse — from the ANC or the EFF? By being more of who you already are. It’s never too late to learn to speak another African language (excluding Mandarin). Choose one lever of power in the government — explore and investigate its procurement channels and dirty secrets until exhaustion — then move to another. Remember the names, learn to pronounce them properly. Write letters and absorb the infantile replies: you have precisely zero right not to be offended.
Persistently challenge so-called social justice campaigners, with their fake indignation and determination to demonise history (with good manners, where possible). Fight the urge to despair by training yourself every day in critical but fair analysis.
Political judgment underwritten by your decency alone enables the most robust and genuine empathy; this demolishes the prescriptive views of embittered race or gender studies academics and self-righteous crony capitalists. Encourage and applaud entrepreneurial capitalism wherever and whenever you encounter it. Be convinced, be excellent.
• This is my final column for Business Day. I wish to thank Peter Bruce, Riaan Wolmarans, Rehana Rossouw, Songezo Zibi, Tim Cohen, Justice Malala, Sikonathi Mantshantsha, Anthony Butler, Jonny Steinberg, Dave Marrs and, most of all, Christopher Reader.