Black statism is no better than White statism and both are terrible for South Africa.

From: Lawrence Rosenbloom
Subject: Blundering past the tombstones of apartheid.

November 30, 2011 10:19 pm.

Blundering past the tombstones of apartheid.
By André Brink

South Africa is no longer the place of new hope introduced by Nelson Mandela. Over the past week, after a number of chilling premonitions, the country abruptly turned away from his footprints, preferring instead to blunder past the tombstones and debris of the apartheid era.

The adoption of the Protection of Information Bill by the African National Congress in a parliament shaken with shock and revulsion, cancelled in a single crude stroke the Freedom Charter which – even while wilfully denied for half a century – had guided the country through the murky years of D.F. Malan, Hendrik Verwoerd and the other apartheid leaders towards the new dawn brought by Mr Mandela in 1990.

It dented the proud new constitution built on a foundation of human rights admired all over the world, besmirched the legacy of Mr Mandela and Desmond Tutu, and insulted the legacy of millions who had dedicated their lives to the construction of a future built on the hope of a new beginning. It glorified the myopia, greed and selfishness of a handful of third-rate politicians focused only on their own gain and advancement.

Masquerading as legislation aimed at protecting crucial military and state intelligence, this bill is conceived in such a way as to protect the corruption that has now infested South African public life for years; and the absence of a public interest clause leaves it open to flagrant criminal abuse and self-serving manoeuvring. The vagueness and evasions that persist in the bill after extensive discussion in parliament and by the public suggest that these are not accidental problems or the results of carelessness. Rather they are part of a very deliberate strategy to develop the bill as a measure for covering up corruption and protecting political criminals – which, in due course, may make it a useful tool even in censoring public discussion and the arts, including – particularly – literature.

We should, of course, have been warned. The signs were there for anyone to see when the ANC turned the election of a new president into a mere insulting spectacle or changed their Youth League into a blunt instrument of mass entertainment, only to see how the League in its turn began to dictate ANC policy and manipulate its leadership, or when the Dalai Lama was first denied a visa and a senior minister in parliament petulantly asked: “Who is the Dalai Lama?”

It has never been a requirement for political leadership to be measured by moral integrity. And yet those leaders who have managed to leave an indelible imprint on their time have always brought more than political acumen to the exercise of their functions. Not all US presidents have been Washingtons or Lincolns. But even with their blemishes, an FDR or an Ike could leave a more lasting mark on their time than a Johnson or a Ford.

Perhaps the ANC has been too lucky, or too spoilt, for its own good. How could one expect any leader to step into the shoes of a Mandela. Still, perhaps his radiance could outlast even an ordinary successor, and Thabo Mbeki was not to be scorned (even if, admittedly, his father would have added more gravitas to the role). But Jacob Zuma? Had he not brought with him the shadow of unfinished business in the shape of allegations over a corruption scandal all might not have been as distressing as it now is.

I know that in the years before our political changeover, whenever I met the ANC leadership in exile I could always return with a profound faith in the quality of that leadership. There was always, of course, Mr Mandela. But there were others, and behind them, the shining shades of Albert Luthuli and Oliver Tambo, political leaders imbued with moral force and philosophical depth. But today? Who are the leaders in the ANC who, truly, think?

There were possibilities at an early stage but money or prudence saw them fade from view. With Mr Zuma, it seems, the streetfighters have taken over. Next year the party will be celebrating its centenary. How the mighty have fallen. How the Bright Morning Stars have tumbled into the sulphurous pit! We are back where we started when we believed we had finally freed ourselves from the blindfolds of censorship, and suspicion, and witch hunts, and restrictions on writing and speech and brave unfettered thought.

It could have been a tragedy, but regrettably our play lacks the stature that is indispensable for tragedy. There have indeed been men and women who bestrode the narrow stage like colossi. But it seems that South Africa no longer has space for real actors, only for clumsy and unfunny marionettes.

The writer has with Nadine Gordimer led a protest of South African authors against the new security legislation.