NEWS & ANALYSIS

We have become a joke

But, David Bullard writes, few South Africans are laughing

OUT TO LUNCH

If you wrote about what is happening in South Africa today and presented it as the script for an ongoing comedy series I suspect the producers would swiftly send you back to your keyboard with the instruction to make things more believable.

After all, who is going to believe that a man who pretended his mother had died in order to swindle money out of people in an earlier episode and who dances like a demented orangutan would invite people to the local airport to welcome back the man who is largely responsible for the country’s financial woes?

Or that people who are paid over a million rand a year to help run the country prefer to dress in red overalls, shout obscenities and show disdain for the very institution that pays them that huge amount of money?

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Or that the same highly remunerated individuals decide to publicly accuse one another of domestic violence in one episode only to apologise for doing so in the next episode? Or that a clearly incompetent woman who headed up and destroyed our national airline and was paid handsomely for doing so claims she doesn’t have enough money to get to court? Or…or…or…

In our apparent rush to achieve the status of becoming just another African basket case it seems that we are determined to keep the world chuckling while we go down. All very commendable and I have no doubt that the antics of what we laughingly refer to as our “politicians” will continue to amuse and entertain those who live in rather more somber countries.

Gwede (Tiger) Mantashe can always be relied upon to provide a good laugh. He’s South Africa’s equivalent of the late Tommy Cooper who was so ridiculous that he only had to appear on stage in his trademark fez for the audience to start laughing. Cooper was a comic genius and Gwede faithfully follows in his footsteps, whether it’s by wearing an outsize suit with the trouser bottoms overlapping the shoes, lecturing mining types in Australia about the huge reserves of a completely fictitious mineral that SA supposedly possesses and which vastly extends lithium battery life or busking his way through an explanation of how Eskom can be rescued financially without any jobs being shed. Just like that.

Unfortunately the joke’s not so funny if you live here. Our politicians seeming enthusiasm to outdo one another when it comes to loutish and anarchic behaviour sends a strong warning signal to anybody considering doing business with this country to proceed with great caution.

The EFF revolt during the State of the Nation address came as no surprise to most of us. After all, it’s now obvious that the EFF have absolutely nothing to offer when it comes to trying to build a fair and economically viable country. While they may pretend to bat for the downtrodden and needy members of society the reality is that no EFF member of parliament has ever come up with a single idea which would improve the lot of those they claim to represent.

On the contrary. Their anarchic message is one of destruction and, as their elected members so often demonstrate, they are happiest when either smacking somebody, urging their followers to target female journalists of whom they disapprove and trashing businesses who, in their opinion, don’t measure up to their high standards.

The great surprise to many South Africans is that the EFF are permitted to call themselves a political party and for their MP’s to draw a parliamentary salary while so obviously working against the interests of the country.

Maybe Cyril should extend his definition of treason beyond those who deny that apartheid was a crime against humanity and include those who actively encourage their followers to destabilize the country and disregard the rule of law.

That would have to include clowns like ANC MP Supra Mahumapelo who called on supporters of Jacob Zuma to mobilise ahead of the former president's May 6 appearance in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, “no matter the consequences”.

According to news reports Mahumapelo joined several leaders of the ANC, including Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina, ANC Free State chairperson Sam Mashinini, members of parliament Mosebenzi Zwane and Joe Maswanganyi to welcome the former statesman back into the country after his visit to Cuba to cure his “medical condition”.

I think it would be fair to say that Mahumapelo doesn’t have an entirely unblemished scorecard when it comes to clean governance but that applies equally to so many other ANC members of parliament. The problem is that there are now so many scoundrels that, whenever the threat of a court case looms, they band together to call into question the entire legal process. They do this knowing that their own party will not admonish them for fear of losing face.

So the situation we face in this country is that the crooks can continue to give the middle finger to the rest of us while drawing a fat salary plus perks and calling into question the relevance of the judiciary. This is dangerous stuff because when one of the three branches of government calls into question the integrity of another then it’s only a matter of time before the judiciary is nobbled by factions of the ruling party.

There have also been demonstrations in support of Ace Magashule, the central character in the book “Gangster State”. Unless the author of that book has a particularly active imagination or holds a massive grudge against Mr Magashule there would appear to be plenty of questions that ought to be answered in a court of law.

However, his supporters are not interested in strong evidence of corruption against their man so they are determined to undermine the legal process by preventing him from ever seeing the inside of a courtroom. If there is any condemnation of this type of behaviour from the ANC then it is so mild as to be virtually ineffectual.

What ANC MP’s are doing is sending a clear signal to the country that the rule of law is highly flexible and will be ignored when it is one of their own who stands accused. The next step will be the removal and discrediting of judges who fail to toe the party line. And you thought we only had economic woes to worry about?