BARNEY MTHOMBOTHI: How the ANC reinvented the Bantustan system
'In a democracy, the voter is in charge; under a chief, the voter is a subject. Putting the two together is like mixing oil and water'
The political elite continues to put these troglodytes on a pedestal. The first thing Cyril Ramaphosa and the others in the ANC's top six did after their election at Nasrec in December last year was pay homage to King Goodwill Zwelithini at his Osuthu palace in Nongoma. Remember their little tribal shimmy with the king, in their Sunday best and with kierie in hand? The ANC was soon followed by Mmusi Maimane and his entourage. There was no shimmy this time. White men can't dance, I suppose.
Julius Malema, who as usual beat the two bigger parties to the punch, didn't arrive empty-handed. He brought four pregnant cows and a bull as a birthday gift for the king. We'll see whether that romance will survive the land reform debate.
Why have the tribal chiefs who were apartheid's handmaidens not so long ago and on the run from comrades during the turbulent '80s suddenly become assertive and even bellicose in the era of democracy? They lived large under apartheid and they're still, as it were, lords of the manor in the new dispensation. Chieftainship is the very antithesis of a democratic system; it's autocratic, domineering and takes no account of others' wishes. In a democracy, the voter is in charge; under a chief, the voter is a subject. Putting the two together is like mixing oil and water.But the new South Africa is always an experiment. We're always eager to try new things. And democracy makes for strange bedfellows. It was in search of votes that the ANC rehabilitated these unelected tribal dictators and indulged them with every comfort and attention at the taxpayer's expense. The result has been the formation of almost dictatorial enclaves within our much-vaunted democracy, a recreation of the bantustan...