Bruce’s List: A guide to informed reads.
Julius Malema must be exhausted. All the rabble rousing, all the chaos in parliament, all the interviews and marches and threats won him just 98,000 more votes in the August 3 local government elections than his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) won in the general elections in 2014. He needs a million more votes to really make a permanent mark on South African politics. What, he must often think, does he have to do to get there? His remarks outside a court in Newcastle the other day, to the effect that blacks won’t “slaughter” whites, “for now” are typical of the man when he is under pressure. It’s the safest go-to in our politics.
But it is a false premise, or promise, even if he really meant it, which I doubt. Malema’s narrative is that whites landed in this country and disturbed a peaceful indigenous population and then slaughtered them. But that is way too simplistic. The fact is that the life of black people in SA was, in the words of the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, a life of “... continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. Life in SA in 1652, the year Jan van Riebeeck landed here and the year after Hobbes published his most famous work, Leviathan, was just like that as tribes and clans clashed constantly for territory and dominance. The fact that whites then added to the violence doesn’t make the past go away. But it wasn’t just blacks who killed blacks four centuries ago. White tribes in Europe had been slaughtering each other for hundreds of years by 1652. The English slaughtered Scots. The Germans slaughtered Romans. The fact is humans are inherently violent. The question to ask is whether tribalism, or at least the formation of clans and tribes, promotes violence or whether they form as a response to violence.
The liberal writer and thinker Rian Malan has written a forceful response to Malema’s silly outburst in Newcastle. He takes his house in Johannesburg’s Emmarentia as a starting point and wonders who walked in what is now his garden, in the distant past. His answer is fascinating, and needs to be dealt with. While the Daily Maverick’s Stephen Grootes wonders how much longer Julius can keep this sort of thing up and what he’ll do when Jacob Zuma goes, as he inevitably will.
Sipho Pityana, meanwhile, is doing his level best to ensure the president departs sooner rather than later. While the president fights legal battles on every imaginable front, Pityana’s Save SA campaign is gathering force. Perhaps we should all join it. Here’s a speech he gave in Johannesburg recently at the launch of the book Rogue, the story of the alleged rogue unit at the SA Revenue Service that forms the backdrop to the war on finance minister Pravin Gordhan. And here’s an introduction to #savesouthafrica. I think it’s a great idea and a great way for all citizens to get involved in ridding our country of the menace of Zuma and his Gupta pals.
Because if we don’t get this guy out of office economic ruin awaits. Here’s a scary report on the progress, or lack of it, in dealing with changes to the mining charter. If this thing isn’t fixed we can kiss goodbye to the one industry we are really good at.
Finally, just to remind us what is at stake in SA, the wonderful academic digital magazine, The Conversation, takes this extract on our constitution from We, the People: Insights From an Activist Judge — a collection of the writings of former constitutional court judge Albie Sachs. The reminder is that we are a constitutional democracy and that the constitution wasn’t just scrambled together in an afternoon by Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk. It is something that perhaps Jacob Zuma should read. He complains again and again that opposition parties try to govern through the courts. But they only do that because Zuma governs outside the constitution.