Disc Dem

Disc Dem

Friday, 11 August 2017

Seeing is Believing – or is it?



In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey points out that, in general, “We don’t believe the world we see. We see the world we believe”.   This sentiment is as valid today as when first published in 1989, particularly when viewed in the South African context of a recent vote of no confidence in Jacob Zuma. The outcome of the vote and its aftermath makes it clear that we are living in a cocoon of self-delusion, or in other words we are living in the world we believe rather than the world we see

The no confidence motion was defeated, yet opposition parties are still claiming victory which, perversely, could be true because their prospects for 2019 are so much better if Zuma stays on as President.  Meanwhile, in the background, pundits have been trying to guess the number of ANC MP’s who broke ranks and voted for Zuma to go. The fundamental problem in trying to guess the number lies with finding a sound basis for making any sort of prediction. Most pundits have assumed that, apart from  8 or 9 MP’s from a couple of pro-Zuma minority parties, all other opposition MP’s voted for his removal, resulting in a “guesstimate” of somewhere between 25 and 35 “rogue” ANC MP’s also voting “Yes” to the motion. The ANC also confirmed there were “more than 25 MP’s who voted with the opposition”

Maggs Naidu has a different take on proceedings tweeting: “20 to 30 opposition MPs voted no. At least 53 ANC MPs voted yes. That's erring on the side of caution”. Putting this together with Julius Malema’s pre-vote bragging that “60 ANC MP’s will vote against “Duduzane’s father” if the vote is secret, begs the question  -  was “tactical” not to mention also secret “No” voting by some opposition MP’s the real reason Zuma is still in place?  South African politicians, across the political spectrum, have demonstrated time and again that political ambition will always take precedence over the wellbeing of the people, so can we trust them to tell us what really happened under the veil of secrecy surrounding the ballot? Herein lies the double-edged sword, do we believe what we see, or see what we believe

If Maggs Naidu is to be believed, then tactical voting by elements of the opposition is responsible for keeping Zuma in place.  53 ANC MP’s voting with a united opposition would have been enough to carry the motion. Now let’s see what I believe. 

  • First belief - Jacob Zuma is more useful to the opposition in-power rather than out – this merely confirms what opposition parties say themselves, and is therefore the primary foundation for a strong inclination towards believing in an opposition tactical “No” vote scenario.
  • Second belief - there is no such thing as an altruistic politician – their agendas are geared to personal and party ambitions with no genuine concern for the plight of our people. This further boosts my inclination towards believing in the opposition tactical “No” vote scenario. 
Recognising that I have an embedded antipathy towards South African politicians of all parties and ideological persuasions, let me try to substantiate why the opposition tactical “NO” vote is the most credible scenario – even if it is only to prove to myself that I can believe what I see, and not just see what I believe. 

To do this it is necessary to metaphorically follow the money. Apart from captured ministers and dim-witted ANC backbench MP’s who could never find another job that pays as much - in the ranks of the opposition, who has the most to gain from Zuma staying on as President? One obvious answer is Mmusi Maimane leader of the Democratic Alliance, and another is Julius Malema leader of the EFF. In 2019 they will both benefit from the inevitable meltdown that will hit the ANC hardest during their electoral conference in December 2017, but of the two I believe that Julius Malema stands to gain the most. With Zuma gone, Malema loses his greatest diversionary asset. While it makes for entertaining listening, his obsession with Zuma distracts us from a bottom line that the EFF has no credible policies or practical vision for the future of our country. How the EFF fare between December 2017 and the National Elections to be held sometime in 2019 will depend upon who takes over the leadership of the ANC. If it is Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma, then the EFF will no doubt slaughter a few more cows in celebration of having another couple of years to target JZ. If an ANC leader of a different faction is elected and Zuma is recalled, then Malema will have to work a lot harder to persuade the electorate that he has more substance than just empty populist rhetoric.

Another indicator that Malema may have influenced a tactical “No” vote is the difference between 60 ANC MP’s he confidently predicted would vote “Yes”, and the post-vote guesstimate of only 35 doing so.  This difference equates to the 25 EFF MP’s holding seats in Parliament.  Coincidence? For the mathematically challenged: 60 ANC “Yes” votes confidently predicted by Malema, minus 25 EFF tactical “No” votes, equals the net 35 post-ballot ANC “Yes” votes guesstimated by a number of pundits. Is Malema capable of such duplicity? His history as an allegedly dubious tenderpreneur with a strong tendency towards tax evasion, would suggest that he doesn’t have altruistic motives, so the answer perhaps lies in whether you believe what you see, or see what you believe.

Strategic EFF “No” voting may also explain the sudden, almost panic-stricken call by Maimane and the Desperate Alliance (as Sunday Times columnist Hogarth so presciently calls them) for Parliament to be dissolved, and early elections to be held. While this might be seen to be because of the ANC’s perceived weakness and disarray, it is also possible the DA realised the secret ballot process was nefariously manipulated. Not forgetting that Malema learned the art of manipulation at the knee of his erstwhile mentor, Jacob Zuma, he has now also deliberately misled many of his followers into believing that if the DA resigns en-masse from Parliament, it will force the early elections they are calling for. This, Malema tells them, is because the number of MP’s would then fall below the Constitutional “no less than 350” members clause, even though he knows this assertion is fallacious. It has also been soundly debunked by Constitutional expert Pierre de Vos but, unfortunately, there are still many who will see what they believe rather than admit to being duped by Malema.

Returning to the DA’s call for the dissolution of Parliament – it does have a feel of desperation to it. Maimane cannot possibly believe he can win a snap election outright, no matter how divided the ANC, so what is their objective? Is it too cynical to believe that the DA want elections while Zuma is still in power because if the outcome is coalition politics, the EFF would be obliged to ally with the DA against a Zuma-led ANC, as was the case with local government metros? Are the DA perhaps running scared that Malema and his EFF might rain on their 2019 parade by throwing their hat into a coalition ring with an “Under New Management” ANC? Do the people feature anywhere in these political shenanigans?

If you believe what you see, then you must by now accept that South African politics is only about politicians, and has absolutely nothing to do with the wellbeing of our people. Political parties are so wrapped up in their internal and external conflicts that we, the people, don’t feature unless it’s an election year.  I have written many times before that our flawed electoral system promotes politics over people, but lately I have become increasingly convinced that even with a change to the system, existing political parties lack the vision to reunite South Africans under a common cause. They are responsible for the divisive politicking that has inflicted so much pain on our national psyche, and are incapable of realising the ambition entrenched in our Constitution. As far as 2019 is concerned, we are in danger of falling into the trap of believing that “anyone but the ANC” will be better for the country. This is also the trap that will allow Julius Malema to sit arrogantly on his laurels just waiting for whichever coalition partner offers him the best deal.

With at least 42% of registered voters being so disillusioned they did not bother to vote in the 2016 Local Government elections, “None of the Above” is the fastest growing segment of our electorate. This is a huge pool of potential supporters for a new movement that can tap into an obvious public dissatisfaction with the present political landscape. Add the significant numbers who vote for opposition parties, not because they necessarily believe in those parties but because they want to vote against the ANC, and there is more than enough encouragement to believe a seismic shift in our political fortunes can be made to happen.

But if you still insist on seeing what you believe, good luck with a Maimane/Malema double-act.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Evil of Three Lesser Options



Take a short time-out from the Zuptagate emails, the imminent vote of no confidence in JZ, and other cause célèbre that are presently occupying our minds, and start thinking about the 2019 National Elections that many believe will deliver the cure for all our ills.  The first question I asked myself was - where can I find really meaningful socio-political engagement in South Africa? The ANC has lost its way and many of the good things they achieved are forever lost in the mire of State Capture, but in my opinion the main opposition parties are also not offering anything that even loosely resembles a meaningful alternative. In general, they appear to be relying upon votes against the ANC rather than votes for themselves in their quest for power.

While not absolving the ANC or making excuses for the dire straits we find ourselves in, politically it is much easier in South Africa to be in opposition than in governance. For example, ConCourt case outcomes aside, for which we can thank Chief Justice Mogoeng and his team of Justices, the EFF has effectively done nothing but loudly criticise the governing party while promising impossibilities in their own manifesto, and simply disappearing from Parliament every time Jacob Zuma showed up. Their seemingly confused grasp of economics has fathered (or should I say parented?) a legion of populist rhetoric resulting in what can only be described as EFFonomics. Their policy call for land expropriation without compensation for example, which is by far their loudest and most emotive call, is one that is completely divorced from reality. They shout “Give back the land” without providing any details of how mortgage bonds will be settled, how improvements on the land will be compensated, or whether it is all rural, urban and suburban land that will be expropriated, what criteria will be used for determining how land will be redistributed, or where the investment will come from to develop redistributed land if there is no ownership potential etc. 

It is more than likely that many of their most ardent supporters don’t realise that under an EFF government they will still never get to own any land - ever. This, along with an unrealistic recruiting rhetoric of promising free everything to 18-24 year-olds makes a recipe for an economic disaster that will only serve to push more people below the poverty line. Their ever-increasing racist rhetoric against minority White and Indian communities is cowardly. They have no vision for unifying the country so, like bullies on a school playground they simply resort to attacking those they think are too small and vulnerable to retaliate.

But then again, when was the last time any South African politician tried to realistically address our everyday problems? Julius Malema has confirmed via Twitter that politics is just a game and he believes he is good at playing this game. But then anyone can be good at a game if they are spoon-fed information on what their opponents are up to. There can be no doubt that Malema has a mole, or moles deeply entrenched within ANC leadership structures feeding him information. So he is not the great oracle he tries to project, but rather has been gifted the political equivalent of playing a lottery after the numbers have already been drawn. Add to this his vitriolic personal attacks on Jacob Zuma, which sound more like the vented emotions of a jilted lover than a seasoned political leader, and the EFF can be recognised for what it is - just a populist empty drum intent on making the most noise. How EFF supporters will react not if, but when Malema goes back to the ANC, either as a coalition partner, or fully-fledged member, will make an interesting debate for another day.

On the other side of the same coin, the main opposition Democratic Alliance has become, to borrow from Winston Churchill, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. I am not sure if they are suffering an identity crisis, or have simply embraced the double-standards endemic to South African politics.  Their reaction to losing a secret ballot vote in Mogale City was outrageous in the context of the imminent Parliamentary vote of no confidence in JZ. Witch-hunting of councillors in Mogale through “voluntary” lie detector tests, while encouraging ANC Parliamentarians to break ranks from the party line and “vote their conscience” is the DA’s most egregious application of double standards. Then again, in a recent article on the subject of State Capture, Mmusi Maimane wrote: “It is one thing to deploy cadres in politically elected positions. Quite another to deploy them to other organs of state....”  This statement implies that it is OK to deploy crooks and incompetents to Parliament, Provincial Government and Local Councils, just don’t let them anywhere near a proper business! 

It is this type of statement that confirms Mmusi Maimane and the DA are also comfortable with maintaining the political status quo, where a deployees’ accountability is to the party (leader) first, and the electorate very distantly second. With the decline of ANC morality, the DA was in pole position to inherit the mantle of multiracial unification, but they have so far lacked the vision and tenacity to grasp that particular nettle. The politically expedient but generally unimaginative compromise over Helen Zille’s colonial tweet saga is a clear example of how not to handle perceived racism.  The internal politics of power became more important to the antagonists than the external perception of racism within their ranks, which served only to damage the DA’s image with their main target audience. They also seem to lack imagination and a cohesive vision, not about what the country needs which is obvious to anyone with ears, eyes and half a brain, but how to satisfy those needs. The limit of their imagination is to ask the electorate to “lend us your vote, and if you don’t see a difference after five years then take it elsewhere in the next election” – no policy substance, just a desperate appeal that stretches credibility a little too far.

So if the ANC is not an option, we can now choose between an unimaginative plea, and a long-ago bankrupted dogma. Hardly inspiring stuff is it? Even less inspiring is the lack of transparency in political party funding where none of them wants to tell us where their money comes from. Their solution to achieving more transparency is to increase public funding to cover the money they can no longer take from dodgy donors they don’t want to tell us about. This particular “solution”, touted on the basis that we South Africans must invest more in our democracy, proves that politicians inhabit a completely different planet than you and I.

We live in the real world of increasing joblessness and poverty, not in the elite world of SA politicians. Their world is so far removed from reality that they should be embarrassed by their ignorance of the plight of our people. Is this the best we can do South Africa - allowing ourselves to be channelled into believing that our only choice is between the relative evils of these three lesser candidates, or perhaps a self-serving combination of any two of them that brings them the power they crave?

We are being challenged to stand up and be counted in the fight against Zuma and State Capture but, as vitally important as this is, it is still only the tip of the South African political iceberg. Until the root cause of the problem, which lies in the almost limitless power invested in party leaders by the Proportional Representation closed list electoral system, is removed, the threat of State Capture will remain an ever present risk no matter who is in power.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Breaking the Mould of Party Politics



My first boss was quite picky about the correct use of terminology. I had just joined the organisation and referred to “doing my best for our clients”. His very direct response was “We don’t have clients, we have customers. Only prostitutes and lawyers have clients, because the end-result of their ‘consultations’ is exactly the same – you get screwed!”. Sadly, politicians can now be added to this category. Bell Pottingers’ South African “project” says we can add PR companies, and the latest KPMG/McKinsey revelations say we can probably also add accounting and consulting companies. The list is growing almost daily, and the only people that this derogatory use of the word “client” should exclude today are sex workers. They consistently deliver their services without pretending they are anything other than who they are, yet ironically they are also the only ones whose career choice is presently defined as being illegal and subject to immediate arrest. Go figure...

Globally, groups such as KPMG and McKinsey are bigger than the Gupta’s “empire” yet they are seemingly prepared to risk their reputations, not only in South Africa, but worldwide. The question is, have they been so corrupted by wealth that they are prepared to “prostitute” themselves to their “clients”, or can they still stand up for their code of ethics and put a stop to this pandemic of corruption? The ethics of Chartered Accountants in particular seem to have been suborned by the enhanced profit inherent in corrupt practises - remember Arthur Andersen’s spectacular fall from grace?

But as far as our everyday lives go, politicians are the worst offenders. On a national level they generously line their pockets with our money, while making the most outrageous promises that either cannot possibly be delivered or, if kept, will destroy the economy and devastate our already fragile society. Then on a local level there are far too many of them dragging service delivery down with their equally exorbitant salaries and corrupt practices. So where do these so-called “professions” draw the line? More importantly, where do we draw the line? Our biggest problem is that too many people are listening only to what they want to hear, rather than hearing many of the inconvenient truths of our divided society, so the lines have become blurred.

If you think we only need to wait for 2019 to ring the political changes we are craving, I urge you to think again. Consensus of opinion is that 2019 will at best herald an era of coalition politics, but can a really workable coalition emerge from our dog’s breakfast of political ideologies?  It is clear that the DA will not win an outright majority no matter what self-destructive actions the ANC perpetrate over the next twenty months or so, and they will probably also require more than one coalition partner to take control. But let’s fantasise for a moment, and assume the DA can take control with only one partner, which we can safely assume to be the EFF. Even then it is delusional to believe that a marriage of such incompatible ideologies can end in anything other than acrimony and eventual divorce. That is unless they both stray so far from their manifestos that they are no longer recognisable as the parties we voted for, with the electorate left powerless to object to such blatant misrepresentation.

In addition, given their antagonism, the EFF had no option but to use Jacob Zuma as an excuse for entering into municipal coalitions with the DA which, by the way, also provides them with a governance platform they otherwise would not have. But with JZ out of the way in 2019, it stretches the imagination to believe that the EFF would choose an alliance with the supposed defenders of “White Monopoly Capital” over an alliance with what would likely be a desperate, although ideologically more compatible ANC (and yes, now that the ANC have dropped “White” the EFF are emphasising it). The whole debate then becomes a numbers game. Heaven forbid that they have enough numbers to cross the 66% threshold that allows them to change the Constitution, a possibility that we cannot just blissfully ignore when it has the potential to cause substantially more damage to our fragile democracy.  Even without such numbers, I don’t think Julius Malema’s ego would allow him to turn down the opportunity to become “kingmaker” to the party that rejected him in 2012. I also have a nagging suspicion that he still dreams of becoming ANC President one day, so wouldn’t be surprised to see an eventual reintegration of the EFF a few years AZ (After Zuma).

The real issue for me, as things stand, is that 2019 may only serve to prove the maxim the more things change the more they stay the same. All parties are guilty of engendering cadre loyalty through threats or patronage, or a combination of the two. Recent events in Mogale City, where DA councillors were subjected to “voluntary” polygraph testing to weed out the “traitor” who did not toe the party line in a secret no-confidence ballot, clearly demonstrates the hypocrisy entrenched in our closed party list system. Until Radical Political Transformation stops party leaders from Monopolising Control over their deployees, you and I will remain nothing more than quinquennial voting fodder. We will also remain exposed to the risk of politicians of any and every party in power, capturing the state through the same fear and patronage tactics JZ has perfected. Politicians are supposed to protect citizens from corruption and rampant capitalist profiteering, yet the closed party list system is the foundation for a symbiotic relationship between them.

Here’s what we need to put the brakes on this politico-centric narrative:
  • We need the national electoral system to be changed to introduce more constituency accountability in the National Assembly - a change which must also include the ability to directly vote for our President of choice;
  • We need the Constitution to be changed to limit the executive powers of the President and his deployees: a change that must also include predefined and meaningful sanctions for office bearers who break their oath of office;
  • We need local government electoral and demarcation systems to be changed to reduce the number of politicians presently consuming service delivery resources. Too many councillors who have no discernible value other than accepting the patronage of their party - paid for by ratepayers out of public coffers;
  • We need to introduce legislation that compels political parties to disclose who their donors are and the amounts they donated. We need to know who is pulling the party’s strings when they take a specific position on an issue.

Simple enough you would think, but who is going to drive these changes? Not the established political elite, that’s for sure. They are too comfortable with the current dispensation where the cards are always stacked in their favour to the detriment of their constituents. In any event there isn’t a single visionary among the current crop of party leadership. None of them has the foresight to unite the country behind an ideology that is founded upon a belief that South Africa Works – not only functionally as an integrated society, but also as a nation that provides job opportunities for all.

Under these circumstances might we look to France for inspiration? The three pillars of French democracy: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity were being undermined by the divisive tactics of politicians. From the far right rhetoric of Marine le Pen, to the extreme left acerbic tongue of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and every shade of ideology in between, division was the order of the day. Emmanuel Macron formed En Marche in April 2016 to refocus attention on the pillars of democracy, rather than specific political ideologies. Membership of the organisation was free as long as the member signed up to the En Marche charter, and they were also not required to give up existing membership of another political party. Its charter states that the political status quo is the root of the country’s problem. It talks of “unblocking” (France) and re-energising a political landscape which had become bogged down by a distant, impractical political class. Sound familiar? Macron recognised that only through applying practical politics not party politics can the country begin dealing with the problems of the people.  

Our situation has many parallels with pre-Macron France, so perhaps we should remind ourselves of the foundation of our own democracy, and see if we can’t find our way back to implementing those principles.  In South Africa we have Liberty and Political Equality in the sense that everyone has a right to vote, but Economic Equality has been stifled by a seriously deficient basic education system and political malfeasance in the form of patronage and corruption. As Economic Equality is the foundation for Fraternity, which would be a South African politician’s nightmare, it is unsurprising that they use this Economic Inequality as a divisive tactic in pursuit of furthering their own ends.

A short 14 months after formation, Macron’s vision broke the political mould and En Marche achieved an absolute majority in French national elections. We have around 20 months to rediscover the ethos of the Freedom Charter “that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people”. It is not too late for us to reach out as they did in France to likeminded people, irrespective of their political affiliation or ideology, to make sure that South Africa Works. Macron showed us that we don’t need to limit ourselves to presently available choices – we have it within us to create a completely new political narrative, so let’s do it!

Friday, 23 June 2017

STOP; BREATHE; THINK; ACT



We are being led by the nose. We are so busy reacting to the latest outrages, perpetrated by our own government against its citizens, that we are losing or have already lost our ability to think clearly about how to counterattack these assaults on the bastions of our democracy. The latest bastion to seemingly fall, the Office of the Public Protector, is for many people the most demoralising. We became accustomed to Adv. Thuli Madonsela speaking truth to power, but now have someone who is supremely arrogant coupled with suggestions of incompetence, or capture.

Coming fast and furious from so many different directions, the new Mining Charter, the nuclear energy debacle that is unfolding in Russia as I write, SOE Boards fragmenting, the PP/MKVA/ANCYL’s seemingly coordinated approach to the South African Reserve Bank’s right to independence, and now the ANCWL pronouncing that constitutional democracy doesn’t work because our courts have too much power, are all timed to keep us off-balance and in a punch-drunk state of paralysis. The surprisingly muted coverage of the Auditor General’s latest report on the parlous state of local government finances clearly demonstrates we are drowning in a sea of outrage, and have nothing much left to give to this equally appalling situation.

Chief Justice Mogoeng’s delivery of the Constitutional Court’s well-balanced ruling that it is permissible to vote on a motion of no confidence in the president by secret ballot should the Speaker so decide, coupled with his timely reminder to politicians that they take an oath to uphold and defend the constitution and not their political parties, provided a momentary ray of hope that MP’s might be swayed to vote their consciences. I say “momentary”, because as soon as the judgement had been handed down, the ANC caucus issued a statement that indicated they had not heard a single word the Chief Justice said about loyalty to the country and its people over loyalty to their party. The most telling extract reads:  “ANC members of Parliament are therefore representatives of the ANC in Parliament and derive their mandate from the political party which deployed them, in the same way as members of other political parties derive their mandate from their political parties. The most recent example of this is in the Western Cape Provincial Legislature where the Democratic Alliance refused to vote with the ANC to remove Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. In the Mogale City Municipality, the DA even went as far as forcing their councillors to take a lie detector test after some of their members defied their party mandate by voting in favour of removing the Mayor. This is the level of hypocrisy of the opposition who expect the ANC to do something which they flatly refuse to do.”

Apart from confirming that all political parties have the same modus operandi, we now also know that the ANC Caucus believes it is mandated to aid and abet the theft of state resources to the detriment of the people they are appointed to serve; and no matter what the circumstances, they must always vote against the opposition, even if it brings further harm to the people. The DA and EFF are also complicit in this party line dance that we naively call “democracy”. Do not be misled by their successful court challenges to the misrule of the ANC into believing they have any greater concern for the people. To quote a senior DA leader in a meeting regarding party politics interfering with service delivery: “I can tell you that when you are in a political fight, party politics will always come before service delivery”. I have consistently held the view that the DA does a better job of local government than the ANC, but the bar is set so low that even they can prioritise party politics before service delivery, and still come out ahead.

Then there is the EFF whose leader, Julius Malema, is still in dispute with SARS over alleged unpaid income taxes amounting to R32.9m. Having already negotiated a “compromise” with SARS in 2014, that required him to pay only R7.1m of a then outstanding R18m tax debt, SARS are now accusing him of not revealing the true source of his income, and also said Malema failed to disclose his interest in a Polokwane property. Malema claimed he had forgotten about the property as he never paid for it – well that sorts out how important the land issue really is to him if he can afford to forget about his own property. Then there is the finding by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in 2012 that Malema “improperly benefited” from a R52-million tender awarded by the Limpopo Roads department to engineering company On-Point, who allegedly then transferred some of the money to Malema’s Ratanang Family Trust. The bottom line is that this champion of the people also appears to be a champion tax avoider; tax that could be put to better use in alleviating the poverty of the very people he claims to represent.

This is the calibre of political parties, their leaders, their deployees and their cadres in this fledgling democracy of ours. It is no longer a question of the State of the Nation: it is the Nation that’s in a state. Political wolves are being held at bay only by the resolute defence of our Constitution by Chief Justice Mogoeng and his colleagues. This is unsustainable in the longer term. However admirable the intent of the Constitution and however often the Constitutional court reminds those laughably termed “servants of the people” how to behave, it contains no enforceable sanctions for those in breach of their sworn duty. As we have seen, and no doubt we will see many times again, this allows for the Justice’s admonishments to be ignored with impunity.

Now tick the boxes if you think these statements apply in South Africa today:

  • Tell the population you have their best interests at heart; 
  •  Have a derisory attitude towards educated people;
  • Provoke (economic) disorder then tell everyone you are capable of fixing it;
  • Promise to create jobs, respect the laws of the land, respect people’s rights etc.;
  • Have your own news organisation that promotes only your views;
  • Demonise a minority that effectively turns citizen against citizen;
  • There is a spurious “belief” that democracy does not work.

Interestingly, these same boxes would have been ticked in 1930’s Germany, and were major contributors to Adolf Hitler’s rise to dictatorship. After a failed putsch, Hitler realised that the route to supreme power was to use the institutions of democracy to destroy democracy. First, get legally established in power, and then erode democracy from within.

Although the scenario might sound familiar, the situational aspects are obviously quite different. We are fortunate to have an independent media community that counterbalances the propaganda of Gupta media outlets for example, so South Africans will not be so easily rolled over. That same independent media also keeps us up-to-date with the level of erosion being suffered by our democratic institutions. But we cannot continually be reactive to events. We must become proactive in defending our democracy, so the issue now is how do we change the political and social narrative in South Africa, and change it quickly?

This is the point at which our home grown version of Emmanuel Macron is supposed to step forward to provide the vision and leadership needed to unite the country, and to steer us into calmer waters. Wishful thinking aside, we are a resilient and capable nation that has the intellectual resources to collectively come up with workable solutions.

Finally, there is a scuba diving maxim used when in trouble underwater: STOP; BREATHE; THINK; ACT, which can also be applied to surviving the political rip currents tearing at our democracy. We must STOP perversely chasing Bell-Pottinger’s White Monopoly Capital plus other distracting narratives, or the latest scandalous revelations about State Capture. The only thing we add to these narratives is the negativity of more outrage.  So, take a deep BREATH to clear your mind, and start to really THINK about the situation we are in. Look at how we might contribute to countering the divisive rhetoric of our politicians, and who we can rope in to help us. Then ACT on your ideas, as well as sharing them as far and wide as your contacts list will allow. Also share with civil and religious organisations.  Don’t be shy about this. You may feel your contributions are too little to make a difference, but never forget that “the little joined up makes for a lot”, and as Albert Einstein said “You never fail until you give up”.