Of demagoguery and white agendas

What does it mean to imagine a new society, its resurrection, re-creation and nurturing, especially as it relates to a black society such as ours emerging from the ruins of great injustice and dispossession brought about by colonialism and apartheid?

What can we say about the devaluation of a black person by white hegemo-nic forces that continue to wrongly see Afri-can people as incapable of doing any-thing praiseworthy?

My mind is on the DA, and how it has, especially in recent times, consistently chosen to frame a negative discourse about black institutions, a matter I will attend to later, as I conclude my column.

Two months from now, South Africans will go to the polls to choose a party to be entrusted with running the political affairs of the next government after the May 29 national and provincial elections.

South Africans still hanker for a metaphori-cal promised land of plenty, land of milk and honey.

But all life is about depending on others and the wisdom that comes in the form of exchanging ideas. There is no such thing as monopoly of wisdom. We are all dependent on others around us, enriched by their insights and expertise.

Stanley Hauerwas, the author of A Community of Character, reminds us that for society to earn success we must depend on each other – friends, colleagues, and others from all walks of life, to build good communities through their criticism and urgings “in the hope that I will not only know what I think but be able to say what I think well”.

The creation of a better society is a function of all members of communities working in harmony to develop, in the words of Hauerwas, “the community that pledges to form its life” based on the truth.

In a nutshell, we are endowed with different perspectives and skills, striving towards achieving the common good for the sake of the many, which is society.

We must be prepared to listen to others’ constructive criticism and be willing to be open-minded to take counsel from outside forces, including political rivals.

A pledge to work together, and to listen to wise counsel of all who are committed to truthfulness and justice, is always preferred over being inclined towards dogmatic disposition.

The weakness of society is exacerba-ted by dependence on demagoguery -rather than rational assessment of political arguments – a rationality that debunks the ideology of democratic centra-lism.

This kind of thinking makes us to be subservient to those we perceive to be our masters, shutting off any form of dia-logue and consensus decision-making processes.

This weakness is not only confined to political principalities or authorities but is also prevalent in the church.

The Roman Catholic Church has its polity centralised in scripture, tradition, and the magisterium – an authori-ty that lies in the hands of bishops led by the pope and guided by the holy -spirit – a dogmatic perspective cast in stone and not subject to criticism or to be contradicted by anyone who adheres to Catholicism.

In any constitutional democracy, this seems absurd, in contradiction to the -tenets of democracy which must be seen as a guiding light in any democratic dispensation.

The period of the past 30 years has been a learning curve for the governing party, but sadly this was also marked by practices that contradicted democratic principles, especially during the period between 2008 and 2018, when the looting of state resources appeared to have become a norm.

Mistakes were made, and the country was made to honour and not question demagogues. This was because of how the principle of democratic centralism had been abused by those in authority.

I now turn to the DA. The leadership under John Steenhuisen is increasingly becoming a political party hell bent on undermining the ANC government and the Independent Electoral Commission of SA(IEC) as entities not to be trusted.

They have no evidence to support the rant that both the ANC and IEC cannot be trusted as far as the elections are conducted. But more seriously, this suggests, according to them, the two organisations could work in cahoots to rig the elections.

This also is not supported by any hard evidence.

What prompts Steenhuisen to behave in this manner? Does he think blacks are fundamentally crooked? Or should we see racism in his words?

For the past 30 years the IEC, a Chapter 9 institution, has been diligently truthful in exercising its mandate of mana-ging elections and ensuring they are free and fair, with no deviation.

Former president Thabo Mbeki is probably right to see “white agenda” in Steenhuisen’s rants.


  • Mdhlela is the acting news editor of -Sunday World, an Anglican priest and former editor of the South African Human Rights Commission journals

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