South Africa – Despair and determined courage

It’s undoubtedly one of South Africa’s saddest moments. In the past week, pockets of the country have been rocked by violence, crime and protesting, as myriad individuals made a bee-line for businesses and malls. Over 800 stores have been ravished, 200 shopping malls targeted and 100 completely burned, with the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa claiming that, in total, retailers have lost an estimated R5 billion to date. As South African communities come together to defend their private property, their neighbourhoods and local businesses, many are wondering where our government is. Below, Greg Stewart writes that they were “simply missing” at a time when the country needed them most. “It’s the local citizens in many other towns and villages that have spontaneously gone and protected their local shops and communities.” – Jarryd Neves

By Greg Stewart*

Never before in the history of our nation, have we faced such a bleak future as we do today. Some commentators have said it was the perfect storm while others have said it was a tinderbox just waiting for a spark and that it was inevitable.

Many have been warning that South Africa is heading for a tipping point, most of us have seen it coming, almost everyone was paying attention, that is except the politicians and the so-called leadership of our country.

Leadership’s true nature is always revealed by a severe crisis and we have had enough of those to now know exactly what the character, leadership qualities and true nature of our government and political parties are. The verdict is out and it’s not a happy one for practically the whole lot.

And what were the politicians doing while our country was burning? A quick check up on social media platforms gave me a great insight – a couple were flying around achieving nothing, others were chatting about their national executive committee meeting as if there were no problems at all in SA. Better still some were wishing each other happy birthday and telling their followers to make sure they saw their esteemed “leaders” appear on television while others were making plans to go to court and sue and others were very focussed on ensuring that the voters knew that the voter’s registration dates had been moved. As for our President and the Ministers who are entrusted with our safety, well they were simply missing.

In comparison, the real leadership of our country has certainly emerged and they are divided into two camps: 

The first is a well organised criminal element that has sweeping support amongst a lot of criminal enterprises that includes some political elites, and their beneficiaries. This group have been let loose on our society with a destructive force that has not been seen before. It’s not surprising that this element of society has developed given the years of poor policing (or even worse corrupt policing) and the criminal behaviour of so many of our so-called leaders. Being a criminal has sadly become a celebrity status symbol in some segments of our society. 

One only has to look at the posts on social media and the behaviour it celebrates to understand that this has indeed become an entrenched culture in certain segments of our society. It is this wicked and destructive behaviour with total impunity that has led to criminal behaviour becoming the norm to them. 

Why should anyone follow the law when the political elite and in instances the corporate elite,  can seemingly get away with anything and are even protected and shielded? How many times have we seen ANC leadership openly supporting those in their ranks who have contravened the law?

This group have a singular, if not very short term vision for our country and that is to take all they can and enrich themselves and those around them, at the expense of all others, for as long as they can get away with it. Not a sustainable plan to be sure but sustainability was never a strategy for this crowd.

The vast majority of our society has so far been rather quiet and subdued about this increasingly bold criminal group but this week that all changed.

Because the second group leadership that emerged this week were neither the politicians, the corporate elites, or those with power or standing as we have known it. They are a varied group of ordinary people who after the initial shock of what was happening stood up and have started to take control.

They are leaders such as Emelda Masango (a 25 year old resident of Soweto) who, with a few others started a group called Rebuild SA that are actively getting people and companies organised to help support and rebuild businesses that have been destroyed. Leaders such as the taxi drivers who voluntarily went and protected shopping malls and shoppers in Hartebeespoort. It’s the communities in KZN who have banded together to protect each other and their families and are sharing their food and supplies without any assistance from the SAPS or government. It’s the local citizens in many other towns and villages that have spontaneously gone and protected their local shops and communities.

None of these people are being paid to do this, none have been elected to positions of power, none are going to be awarded medals or thanked by those in power for doing what they should have done.

It is time for the vast majority of our silent society to be heard. Time for us to take back our country from the corrupt and the elite who care only for themselves with the strength that has been shown and the hope that has germinated in the second group of leadership that have emerged. 

For it is they that our children should emulate and aspire to be.

  • Greg Stewart is a writer and former publisher of The Citizen.

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