Woe betide Cyril’s silence on this burning issue

Steadfastly refusing to recite the creed of the angry no-longer-advantaged South African, the Rev Melt van der Spuy, gives the ANC and President Cyril Ramaphosa credit where credit is due, but begs our president to do just one pivotal thing to enhance his credibility. That is to say something, anything, to reveal his views on the recent spate of farm murders. Doing so would hopefully show that his concern extends to all South Africans, minority groups included, given that commercial farmers (historically and still predominantly white) contribute so fundamentally to our food security. Instead Cyril’s silence is deafening and threatens to sully his incipient reputation as a statesman, Van der Spuy argues, by allowing the powder of his opponents to dry and stoke the fires of perception and hatred. It’s hard to gainsay his fact-based rebuttal of the angry beneficiaries of apartheid who claim the ANC has done nothing for this country and its people. In fact, Van der Spuy writes reams on what the ruling party has achieved in the last quarter century – before dropping in what he sees as the biggest fly in Cyril’s ointment; his silence on farm murders. – Chris Bateman

Open letter to Cyril Ramaphosa

By Melt van der Spuy*

Dear President Ramaphosa,

On 15 February 2018, Biznews published an open letter from the Rev Prof Peter Storey to yourself, as newly elected President of the ANC. In the letter Rev Storey called you back to your roots. Rev Storey urged you to a moral leadership of integrity that would see you being the President of and for all South Africans, rather than purely the party loyalist President of the ANC.

“So, my concern, Cyril, is not whether you have the skill to lead us back to prosperity, but if you will have the moral strength to lead us back to decency” (Storey in Biznews, February 2018).

Rev Story ended his appeal with a list of signs that we, the citizens of South Africa, would be watching out for under your leadership Mr. President. Many of those signs have come to pass or are in the process of being accomplished which gives some of us significant hope for the future.

Jacob Zuma’s corrupt infantile reign is no more…

The perpetrators of State Capture and gross corruption are being rounded up, if not necessarily yet being criminally charged, but we continue to watch this space with great hope.

The judiciary is making the kind of calls that would indicate they are independent of and act outside of any party-political loyalties.

President Ramaphosa, you have recently verbalised that you wish to be a President for the people and of the entire county, rather than of the ANC per se. I salute you for recognising that the unity of the nation outweighs any party-political loyalties, even though as President of the ANC you are obviously and rightfully a loyal party member.

I doff my hat to you sir, these are by no means small statements, advances and accomplishments in a country and a political scene as complex and fraught with infighting, as our own.

Mr. Ramaphosa, as you are indubitably aware, we live in a country where our history was littered with conspiracy theories, which were sold to us in various guises to keep us in bondage to fear. ‘Swart gevaar…Rooi gevaar…Televisie gevaar…Roomse gevaar…Boere gevaar’, to name but some of the gevaars we were fed growing up in apartheid South Africa. ‘Gevaars’ being the acceptable South African English plural of gevaar. One of those gevaars led most white men of my age into a pointless border war that I too was conscripted into.

I suspect that all our peoples have a propensity toward conspiracy thinking, generally positing ‘the other’ as the source of the apparent threat. I doubt that Donald Trump himself, could do it better than us, even if he manages to win another term in which to build on his ‘anti-them’ rhetoric.

Not few are the occasions on which I have had to dismantle the twaddle spoken by some unthinking middle-class white person in South Africa. Usually in social settings that have left relationships slightly scarred. The kind of twaddle I am speaking of would be comments like: ‘The ANC have accomplished nothing in 25 years of Government.’

I fail to see how providing electricity to more than 80% of the people (Eskom’s abominable present reality aside) versus the 56.3 % of people with access to electricity on the handing over of power (no pun intended), can be viewed as accomplishing nothing?

So too, I fail to see how providing formal housing to the tune of an additional 2.8 million dwellings, housing some 13,000,000 people since coming into power can be regarded as an insignificant achievement. Credit needs to be given where credit is due. The provision of clean running water into places too numerous to mention too, is no mean feat and could only have come about with the exercising of considerable political will power.

The fiscal policies set in place under the ministry of Trevor Manuel were by general consent, better than anything preceding them, and still serve this country admirably. If van Vuuren 2017 (Apartheid, Guns and money) is accurate, then it seems that apartheid South Africa was able to survive as long as it did, mainly because of greedy and immoral Swiss Bankers pay-rolling our government, and also because of the economic realities of the time that saw our mineral wealth able to sustain the ideology of the day.

Economically the lay of the land has shifted considerably since that time and we only just feature in the top ten of for e.g. Gold (8th) and Diamond (8th) production world-wide. Those two commodities also no longer rule supreme as they once seemed to do. During the apartheid era I don’t think we were never out of the top three in the production of both those commodities. I confess that I am no Economist; Economics I at tertiary level being the extent of my very dated education on that score, but this is as best I understand things.

Prior to 1994, the country was by design, a country that was wonderful to live in if the design and ideology favoured your people group, and if you had no conscience at all, or if you lived in ignorant bliss regarding the suffering of millions, or if you were a white supremacist. If you were a part of the indigenous black majority, or were a white person with a conscience, or a person with a heart for the oppressed, or had a call to social justice, or were just a decent human being, then not so much…

From my vantage point, the country now is a far better place for all to live in, but the previously favoured minority have been called upon to participate on a playing field that, although still unequal, has been substantially levelled.

I love no longer being ‘the skunk of the world’, and being able to participate in the global village, that is reality in the 21st century. I love being part of the Olympics, Rugby WC, Cricket WC (results notwithstanding) African Nations Cup, World 7’s Series and Commonwealth Games. I love being able to celebrate the successes and victories of our national teams and individuals like Wayde van Niekerk on the sports field, and Stellenbosch University Choir on the cultural front.

Thank you for making that a reality for us and for our children.

None of this is to deny the very serious problems besetting Eskom and almost all other parastatals. None of this is to deny the serious issues around clean water provision to the whole country and none of it is to deny the serious economic and many other challenges facing our country. It merely serves to acknowledge accomplishment when that accomplishment needs to be acknowledged and so often isn’t. Accomplishment is often unacknowledged because some people still fail to understand, or more ominously, refuse to understand, the horror that apartheid was. Sometimes it remains unacknowledged because of general disillusionment with the status quo.

Sadly, a few of the “no longer advantaged” people still cling to the abominable myth of a better South Africa under the previous dispensation and are very unhappy at having to participate on a playing field that doesn’t directionally and intentionally favour them any longer. If I were you sir, I would not be too concerned about a vocal minority who are far from objective in terms of what they choose to see, or not to see. Every country in the world has its share of bigots.

I hope that you will notice from my correspondence thus far that I do not generally buy into conspiracy theories that say for e.g. that the farm murders or any other violent crime against the white minority boils down to ANC complicity. Some would say just by silent consent; others go so far as to say by explicit instruction. I cannot for the life of me believe that a moral man such as yourself, who wants to be a President for all the people, would allow either of these to be true? In fact, I don’t believe it; it’s nonsensical.

I believe that most farm attacks have a purely criminal motive, because criminals know all too well the vulnerability of isolated farms. Sadly, it does appear that some of the attacks are also motivated by retribution from disillusioned farm workers.

Mr. Ramaphosa, as much as I get angered when these conspiracy type theories are posited as absolute truth; I am reaching a place where I find myself wondering – beyond any logic of my own – whether there could be some truth in some of these, all too often expressed, theories?

The violent attacks have recently – on four separate occasions – been very close to the bone for us as a family. The closer it gets to home, the more one is motivated for change. It seems that our selfish natures tend to respond more readily when we are affected directly.

How can it be possible sir, that a man of your stature has said nothing, as in; ‘niks, nada, nichts, nichego takogo and lutho’ about the current spate of farm attacks and murders? Your inaction sir belies your recently spoken wishes to be a President for all the people. Your failure to say or do anything, inadvertently gives the conspiracy theorists all the ammunition they need to paint a picture of you, which is horrific. A picture that says things about you that are likely as accurate as stating that Steve Hofmeyr represents the view of the average white Afrikaner, but a picture beginning to be believed by more than just conspiracy theorists, nonetheless. This defamatory picture will enter the mainstream of opinion unless you change it sir.

I do understand that per capita deaths in South Africa are by far higher in the township context than anywhere else and that by comparison, farm attacks are proportionately tiny. But in this instance that statistic is purely irrelevant. We are talking here of a minority group – farmers. Because of the reality of our history, most of those farmers still tend to come from a specific people group that happens to be the group who designed the previous ideology ruling our nation. We are talking too of food security. We are also talking of our country’s credibility in the Global North and in the world, without which any economic resurgence will remain pie in the sky.

Please sir, disarm the conspiracy theorists in South Africa and abroad. In North America where my wife and I currently reside for a season, conspiracy theories abound. Your envisaged economic resurgence will never become a reality once these beliefs enter the realm of normative urban legend.

For God’s sake and for ours, say something Mr. Ramaphosa. And after you have said something, do something. Ultimately, it’s a matter of political willpower. Show the country and the world, that you were serious when you said you will be a President for all the people. Right now, many people at home and abroad are struggling to believe you.


*Melt van der Spuy, IMM, BA, DipTh, MTh, D. Min (cand.)

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