Friday, March 23, 2007

"Questions we must start asking to bring SA back from the brink"

A friend's blog, mhambi, mentioned an excellent article recently published in Business Day, 15 March 2007. Mhambi also posts a satirical take on the ANC's logo, have a look - it's really good.

In the article, titled rather ominously "Questions we must start asking to bring SA back from the brink", Xolela Mangcu provides a well reasoned and researched summary of how South Africa's present and past politics may be analyzed. Using a thorough intellectual approach he quotes from socio-political-philosophical works to raise interesting angles on the subject. Mangcu is executive chairman of the Platform for Public Deliberation, and a visiting scholar at the Public Intellectual Life Project at Wits University.

He quotes
Alain Badiou:

"Badiou explains why political parties betray their people by first asking the question that has preoccupied many of us over the past few years: “We must ask the question that, without a doubt, constitutes the great enigma of the century. Why do the most heroic popular uprisings, the most persistent wars of liberation, the most indisputable mobilisations in the name of justice and liberty end in opaque statist constructions, wherein none of the factors that gave meaning and possibility to their historical genesis is decipherable?”

His answer is what he calls “political unbinding”. He says that political representation is a fiction through which politicians pretend to represent the interests of others."

Granted, Badiou's take is rather pessimistic. However, in South Africa we're still suffering a little from the so-called 'honeymoon syndrome'. That is there's still a lingering euphoria about our emergence from Apartheid, making criticism -especially stinging criticism- of the government seem a bit like treason. In the mean while the door is left open for corruption. Mangcu points out that Jean Francois Bayart & Co. refers to corruption as “the privatisation of public resources”. This reminds me of a recent article, mentioned in this blog, in the Financial Mail under the heading "ANC's soul for sale". What the latter article describes, a network of patronage on all levels of government, can very well be referred to as "the privatisation of public resources".

Mangcu also decries the government's stance on Zimbabwe, in which it acts very much in line with Badiou's perplexing question above. Pitched in our contemporary context Badiou could very well have asked how on earth the ANC, that fought (in effect) for human rights for all South Africa's citizens, can be so tame in it's response to Zimbabwe's
atrocious treatment (including torture) of the political opposition? I touched on this in a recent post - "Robert Mugabe - credible partner for quiet diplomacy?".

My only criticism on Mangcu's article is that I would have loved a few more pages of it, it's way too short! If I get the time I'm going to dig around and see if some of his academic papers are available online. It should make for very interesting reading (click on this post's heading to read his article).

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