• The new is not yet born

    From Steve Hayes@21:1/5 to All on Thu Jul 12 05:23:08 2018
    XPost: soc.history, alt.history, za.politics
    XPost: za.misc, soc.rights.human

    The new is not yet born
    Nomboniso Gasa
    City Press,7 July 2018

    Transitions are inherently complex and uncertain. They bear the weight
    of expectations at a time when the curtain has not been fully drawn on
    the past. This is true of transitions from one regime to another as
    well as intra-party leadership change. Often it depends on the
    character of the men and women who come to office and those who

    The shredding of the truth

    There are many reasons for the fraught nature of transitions. For
    example, when the National Party was voted out of office, it is common knowledge that it worked shredding machines to breaking point.

    There is a lot of information that was lost and destroyed forever.
    Information vital to South Africa’s history and understanding of many apartheid crimes.

    Despite meticulous research by top academics and investigative
    journalists, there remain many gaps in our country’s collective

    That was the intention of a government exiting after four decades of
    inhumane, repressive and brutal rule. Although destruction of
    documents is unacceptable, it is easy to fathom why the party did it.

    It had strongrooms full of files recording unspeakable atrocities. It
    had spies and units the mission of which was dedicated to the
    obliteration of liberation movements, creating and fuelling conflict
    in communities.

    Who can forget the internecine violence in the townships of Cape Town
    – Crossroads, Khayelitsha, KTC? Some parts of this land are still
    drenched in blood; violence is deeply etched in the land in
    KwaZulu-Natal’s townships and the Midlands.

    The deadly 1980s remain part of Gauteng’s ugly history, the hostel
    dwellers in deadly fights with neighbours in the townships, mine
    conflicts, people thrown out of moving trains because they happened to
    get on to the “wrong” carriage.

    With the help of dogged investigative journalists, such as Jacques
    Pauw, Max du Preez and many others, some of apartheid’s operations, as
    in Vlakplaas, were unmasked. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission
    lifted the lid on other crimes that were hidden from public view.

    Yet, despite all that we know today, we know that we do not know
    nearly enough and perhaps will never know the full extent of
    apartheid’s brutality.

    There are crimes which remain hidden, unspoken and unacknowledged.

    These took place in rural parts of this country. For example, in a
    small sleepy village just outside of Indwe villagers protested against
    former Bantustan “Paramount Chief” Kaiser Matanzima. The response was
    a series of actions, including scorched-earth tactics. Homestead
    kraals were set alight with domestic animals inside. As people tried
    to help the bellowing cattle and whimpering sheep trapped in fire,
    they noticed that their huts were on fire. Many families lost
    everything. To this day many people who were born in that period are
    named Nomlilo, after isiganeko, the terrible incident.

    The land of Lady Frere and its surrounds is marked by history that
    remains unwritten. Human minds are often incapable of coping with so
    much trauma. There are important details we have forgotten. With state documents shredded, it is difficult to close the gap between memory,
    buried truths and the actions of the apartheid government and its

    From apartheid to democracy

    So it was in this void that the Transitional Executive Council stepped
    in. Even in that period, files were still being destroyed. Most
    importantly, the first republic after apartheid had to use the civil
    servants who worked for the previous government.

    This was not because the new government was naive. Sometimes the times
    in which we live offer us very few choices, if any at all. It was that
    a balance had to be struck between the incumbents and the new
    bureaucrats. Besides a bloated civil service, in some instances there
    might have been other costs – sections of the bureaucracy who did not
    accept the agenda of the new government.

    By this, I do not imply that everyone who had been apartheid public
    servants tried or succeeded in sabotaging the new government. In many
    ways, the current conjuncture in the country is as complex as the
    transition from apartheid to democratic government.

    Graceful exits

    When Nelson Mandela’s time to leave office arrived, he honoured his
    word to serve one term. Long before he left office, it was clear that
    he was paving the way for Thabo Mbeki and gracefully receding into the background.

    When Mbeki was recalled after the Polokwane conference, he honoured
    the wishes of the party which elected him to high office.

    He encouraged his Cabinet colleagues and those who were loyal to him,
    to put party and state above their personal grievances. He left behind
    solid state institutions and systems. Whatever the criticisms of
    Mbeki’s leadership style and policies, no one can deny his dignity in
    facing humiliation, sometimes at the hands of people he had groomed
    and helped grow in stature and office. Once he left office, Mbeki
    spent a long time away from domestic politics and allowed the new team
    to lead.

    Ramaphosa’s albatross

    Cyril Ramaphosa has not had a similar space.

    His leadership, which he won by a small margin, was contested from the
    outset. Intra-party contestations can be brutal. There is horse
    trading, back stabbing and compromise to hold the party together. Some
    of the compromises have far-reaching negative consequences with little

    This is obvious in the way former president Jacob Zuma has conducted
    himself since he left office. He has made it clear that his presence
    looms large. Many of his lieutenants remain in office today.

    They pledge loyalty to the ANC and its president. In reality, they are
    loyal to themselves and probably Zuma.

    While steps are afoot to clean the administration and to build
    institutions that were hollowed out during the Zuma period, it is
    impossible to move more quickly. Many of Zuma’s people remain in key positions.

    Even if they wanted to change, they are conscious of many ways in
    which they are deeply compromised. It is a matter of public record
    that many disreputable ministers from the Zuma era are serving in this administration. They are now part of Ramaphosa’s headache and will be
    linked to his legacy.

    As Zuma saw his days were coming to an end, he booby trapped Ramaphosa
    with the land question and free higher education, which increased the
    deficit by billions, knowing that the state was bankrupt.

    His populism paid off – it increased Ramaphosa’s difficulties. There
    are many issues facing the Ramaphosa-led government. Health is hanging
    by a thread. Education, especially basic education, is in a desperate

    Strong vision needed

    It is time for Ramaphosa to take decisive steps. He does not have
    sufficient time left. Generally, the early months in office set the
    tone. He and his team have taken important decisions and established
    the SA Revenue Service commission of inquiry into state capture and
    other important steps relating to state-owned entities (SOEs).

    But this administration needs to develop a strong vision and
    communicate it. We need to know what the substantive difference
    between this period and the Zuma era is, as it affects people’s lives.
    A solid programme with clear time frames, deliverables and
    consequences will show us this administration is committed to act in
    the interests of the people.

    Not the only game in town

    Land is one of the first issues that should be looked at closely. That Parliament is busy with public hearings on section 25 does not mean
    other programmes must stop. South Africans deserve to know the state
    of various land programmes.

    A thorough audit of efficacy and rationalisation of programmes and
    policies of the rural development and land reform department is long
    overdue. Whether this is done by a special swat team or by officials
    depends on how the administration sees this strategic issue. Existing
    land claims must be finalised and land given to its rightful owners.
    These delays have been painful for families and communities who have
    been waiting for decades. This must be addressed with the urgency it

    In 2016 I met a man who has 365-plus cattle and a large number of
    sheep. He did not want a government handout. He wanted help to get a
    farm through a loan. By all standards, he qualifies for a farm under
    land redistribution, but his pleas to Bisho fell on deaf ears. He was
    not the only one. After the meeting, we stood in the hot sun,
    listening to people who spoke of seeing government trucks with
    fertilisers skipping their communities and delivering these to
    “special farms” in the area. These people had put everything they had
    into their projects, yet they did not receive government assistance.
    They, too, watched water tanks driving past to deliver water to other
    farms while their vegetables were dying because of drought.

    Rebuild the state

    The current conjuncture is difficult, both at the intra- party and
    state level. It is important that this administration finds ways of
    dealing with the issues that are pressing for South Africans,
    especially poor people, in whose name much is done.

    Strengthening institutions, administrative instruments and building
    capacity of the state are all important.

    The Ramaphosa-led government will succeed only if it goes back to the
    drawing board and looks at the fundamental issue of statecraft.

    Are the institutions in place aligned with the vision that will take
    us out of the mess left behind by the previous administration? What
    needs to be realigned, changed and fixed? What human resources are

    There are institutions and functions that are weak, such as the Deeds
    Office and Land Administration. These require attention because they
    are critical to a functioning state.

    Two weeks ago a friend told me of a horrendous experience at her local
    home affairs office. When she asked why people were told to arrive at
    5am, three hours before the office opened, she was told “it is because
    of cutbacks. We have fewer stations and do not have mobile units.”
    Yet, these same officials close at 2.30pm and leave throngs of
    unserved people.

    And why should they not? The callousness (that started with apartheid
    and continued under Zuma and still does today) starts at the top. The
    actions of our leaders send a message that it is okay to treat people
    with contempt.

    It is up to the people

    Regrettably, Zuma is gone but he is also present, and he is still
    multiplying. In the interregnum, not only are the morbid symptoms
    alive, not only is the new not yet born, but new dysfunctionalities
    and opportunism threaten to kill whatever hope we have of digging
    ourselves out of this mess.

    We all fear the ever-present, greedy hand of Zuma and his Gupta
    friends. The only way we can prevent that setback is through focusing
    on what needs to be done now. Yes, the president might have to tread
    lightly, but there is a need for balance and it must tilt towards the
    people. Ultimately, it is the people, if they are organised to act,
    who can stop the tide of populist demagoguery which is being visited
    on the republic.

    Nomboniso Gasa is Adjunct Professor at School of Public Law at the
    University of Cape Town and a Senior Research Associate at UCT. Her
    work focussed on Land, Politics, Gender and Cultural issues. Prof.
    Gasa has a long history in politics and women’s rights activism
    extending before the dawn of democracy in South Africa. She has
    published widely, in newspapers & academic journals.*****

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