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Of Heroes and Villains

Race. It is a taboo in today's society to make any kind of causal distinction based on this subject matter. Until now, I have tried to shy away from including this as subject matter in any of the pieces I've written but, is this a subject we should be speaking about? Today, everybody tries to be so politically correct. People seem to be so determined to avoid subjects that they think will offend others, but is this a reasonable reason to pretend that these issues don't exist?

Prior to 1994, South Africa was run by a whites only government, which legislated according to racial distinctions. Back then, race determined where you could go, what profession you could practise, and what social station you can aspire to. It dictated where you could live, who you could marry, and where you could attend school. Apartheid was a system largely condemned as a crime against humanity. Yet, looking back now, one has to acknowledge that the South Africa of 2023 is, in many ways, in worse shape than it was under the National Party. So, what changed?

Today, South Africa is run by a classic Marxist party, the African National Congress. While they will say that they are nonracial in terms of their make-up and policies, their membership is 99% black by demographic. Is there any reason to think that black people are, necessarily, unable to effectively govern a country? Should race even be a consideration when having this discussion? Is it fair to say that, as a group, black people are less able to be stewards of a modern, sophisticated style of governance that is inherent to running a country successfully?

Last week, the latest in a long slew of scandals hit our airwaves. It was divulged by the outgoing CEO of our power utility, Eskom, of how deep the rot of corruption goes within the organisation that he oversaw for three years. Talk of Mafia style cartels siphoning up to R1 billion per month. Accounts of an assassination attempt on his life. Suggestions of government ministers being involved. The account was truly terrifying.

How, then, does one make sense of what is happening and, by extension, what needs to be done to ensure a future for what was once a shining jewel on the African continent? Do we stick our collective heads in the sand, saying that to make choices based on a person's race takes us back to where we started? Do we, perhaps, call the difference that we observe between how Afrikaner white people operate and how black people operate as more of a cultural consideration? And, if so, do we collectively paint certain groups with the same brush - that of having a predisposition to criminality or corruption?

As I have experienced with my client, Mr Maren de Klerk, the life of a whistleblower is a lonely one, especially when you point the finger at those in government or other positions of power. Mr Andre de Ruyter, like Mr de Klerk, chose to leave the country of his birth after the expose aired on national television in fear for his life and the lives of his family members.. And, as has been the case on social media, certain groups within our society have subsequently gone out of their way to point the finger back at him, as if he were the one culpable for the missing money and the prevalence of malfeasance within the organisation. This, it seems, is the way of things in Africa. When they point the finger at you, point one straight back!

More and more, I am starting to believe that, as a South African, we all need to start preparing an exit strategy. 2024 is an election year, and the writing is firmly on the wall that the ANC will not be getting a 50%+ majority at the polls. Last week, a political pundit by the name of Moeletsi Mbeki came out and said that "the closer the ANC gets to losing power, the more corruption we will see." I am of the opinion that the blackouts will get worse before they get better and, right now, the ruling party is viewing the next 12 months as their last chance to feed at the trough.

It has been my fervent wish that, by now, we could have moved past a narrative based on race in South African politics but, it seems, that, for at least the short to medium term, it is going to be something that is used to drive division within our society in an effort to garner votes from those blinded by hatred or deafened by ignorance. I, for one, will be formulating my plan B just in case. I will hope for the best, of course, but I will also plan for the worst. Only a fool will place their future in the lap of the gods.

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