Look at the orators in our republics; as long as they are poor, both state and people can only praise their uprightness; but once they are fattened on the public funds, they conceive a hatred for justice, plan intrigues against the people and attack the democracy."
—Greek dramatist Aristophanes (446 BC - 386 BC)
THE image of Nelson Mandela on the podium alongside captain Francois Pienaar lifting the Rugby World Cup in 1995 is one of our most iconic moments, especially because Mandela was president.
When Cyril Ramaphosa did the same in Paris last weekend with Siya Kolisi, there was a general feeling that he didn't belong there, that he was trying to capitalise on a significant national moment for political gain. And that was despite the fact that Ramaphosa is still regarded as the most popular politician in the country.
Memes started spreading everywhere of the national leader sharing a moment with Cyril Ramaphosa, like this one from Nic Dawes, former editor of the Mail & Guardian:
There was also widespread irritation with Zizi Kodwa, the Minister of Sport, who tried to insert himself in the spotlight at the final against the All Blacks. (This is the same Kodwa whom Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said should be dismissed due to his suspicious dealings with the corrupt businessman Jehan Mackay.)
With the unprecedented joy and celebrations of black, brown and white South Africans after the Springboks' victory, the nation said: It's ours. This is us. It says something about us as South Africans. You politicians must keep your dirty claws off it.
As I read the national mood, people are also saying: We want Siya and Rassie. And Eben and Bongi and Ox and Handrè and Damian. They represent the best in us, not you politicians.
We feel Rassie's tears, not your empty words.
The disillusionment with politicians has been ongoing since the Jacob Zuma years. Even ANC supporters were disgusted by the way Zuma and his cronies sold off pieces of our state to the vulgar Gupta brothers and wasted money on his Nkandla villa that could have been spent on feeding hungry children.
And the ANC's parliamentary caucus and the cabinet stood firmly behind him, even gaslighting us in a video where they tried to camouflage his expensive swimming pool as a “fire pool". And senior ANC politicians publicly humiliated Zuma's victim during his rape case.
“The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage and whip their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy — then go back to the office and sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.”
― Hunter S Thompson
We were willing to believe in our political leadership again when the Golden Son of the 1994 settlement became our president. He was indeed a significant upgrade, but we quickly realised he had traded in his spine during his years as a super-rich capitalist.
He reappointed state capturers and corrupt individuals left and right, with the excuse that he was playing a “long game". We were patient, and we gave him and his New Dawn a chance. Then the joke was on us.
Ramaphosa passively watched as Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma deprived us of our basic freedoms when the Covid pandemic broke out, with absurdities like the ban on cigarettes, roasted chicken and open-toe shoes.
And all the while, the cadres were stealing a fortune from cooked tenders for personal protective equipment. They stole hundreds of millions of rands while thousands of small businesses went under and hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs.
The rot began during the Zuma era but the collapse of state-owned enterprises such as Denel, Eskom, the Post Office and Transnet gained momentum during the New Dawn regime.
Government politicians blame apartheid, but they are solely responsible for workers now having to use taxis and buses because commuter trains have come to a standstill, our economy cannot grow due to the lack of power, and rail freight and ports no longer function properly.
Fikile Mbalula, the man who oversaw the crumbling of railway infrastructure as the minister of transport, is now the secretary-general of the ruling party. And what a buffoon he is.
On Wednesday, the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, said the collapse of rail freight has cut 5% off our GDP, with losses of R50 billion in the minerals sector alone.
“I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician."
― Charlie Chaplin
We ordinary people suffer from load-shedding but our national and provincial politicians are oblivious to this problem — our tax money ensures they have uninterrupted electricity.
And we watch helplessly as the inept, bloated Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe, builds his coal empire and accuses André de Ruyter of high treason.
Every time one of our TV news channels goes to neglected townships or rural communities for interviews, the people say: we only see those bloody politicians before an election; they don't care about us.
But the politicians drive around recklessly in blue-light convoys and spend billions on bodyguards and upgrading their official residences and limousines.
In KwaZulu-Natal, ANC politicians incited emotions surrounding Zuma then sat back and watched as they exploded in widespread anarchy and looting, resulting in 350 deaths. And no prosecutions.
The debate and behaviour in our highest legislative body have completely undermined respect for parliament. It's a tedious, pretentious talk shop, often a circus, but with little entertainment value.
It's not only the ANC politicians. Julius Malema, Floyd Shivambu and others from the EFF stole from the VBS bank and parade in workers' uniforms while living like kings.
They threaten racial violence every time they open their mouths and disrupt parliament and local authorities with disorder and violence on a regular basis.
Like this week in eThekwini again:
The EFF did something this week that precisely shows what kind of party it is. It appointed the disgraced, ousted public protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, as its representative on parliament's portfolio committee on justice and constitutional development. This is after she lied under oath in court, faced repeated sharp criticism from the highest courts and attacked the constitution and the judiciary.
Nothing but a fat middle finger to constitutionality.
The other opposition parties are not quite as bad, although the constant shrill bickering by MPs such as Leon Schreiber and the reckless statements by Helen Zille on social media (less so in the last month or so, thankfully) do the DA no favours. Oh, and voters are very weary of the DA and ActionSA's constant childish squabbles.
I had to think for a long time before I could come up with a few names of politicians who would qualify as exceptions. Songezo Zibi of Rise Mzansi is one, the two DA mayors Geordin Hill-Lewis and Chris Pappas as well, and perhaps Build One SA's Mmusi Maimane, even Corné Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus. Anyone else?
The intervention by senior business leaders and the self-help movement gaining momentum all over the country are other indications that the people have lost their political innocence. South Africans refuse to accept that, in Donald Trump's words, we are becoming a typical third-world shithole.
[WATCH] Captain Siya Kolisi challenges President Cyril Ramaphosa to use the spirit of diversity displayed after the #Springboks Rugby World Cup victory for the entire country. "We need to use our diversity a bit more." #Newzroom405 pic.twitter.com/FcGyHy0725— Newzroom Afrika (@Newzroom405) November 2, 2023
I read an article the other day that might shed some light on the matter. Jim Kouri, vice-president of the US National Association of Chiefs of Police, found from all his research and from the FBI's archives that serial killers and serious criminals have certain common characteristics: “superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others."
Then Kouri adds: “These criminals are psychologically capable of committing their dirty deeds free of any concern for social, moral or legal consequences and with absolutely no remorse. This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want.
“Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society, including political officeholders."
To hell with the politicians.
The euphoria after the World Cup may be just a lucidum intervallum, but what I've seen in the last few days with the welcome of the Springboks tells me the people of Mzansi are okay.
♦ VWB ♦
BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION: Go to the bottom of this page to share your opinion. We look forward to hearing from you.