On voting

When the UK PM called a general election recently, I spotted this line on Facebook:

Please god let the “great” British public stay in bed and let the rest of us make a sensible decision.

…which, you know, is a bit demeaning to a lot of people who might not happen to share the same point of view as you do.

The individual in question voted Labour in the last election (they lost) and voted to remain in the EU in the recent referendum (that side also lost). Since then, that person’s timeline has been a cascade of anti-Conservative (they won) and anti-Brexit (also a winner) stories and articles.

And that’s fine. Each to their own.

Really, my only problem comes when “Remainers” protest about the steps that the Government have taken towards the UK leaving the EU. Yes, the referendum was a close run thing, and there are probably lessons that we could learn from that when running future referendums, but it still finished 52-48. That means that a majority of people voted to leave the EU, and thus, the Government should be taking steps to do so. That’s what referendums are for. That’s how they work.

Look, I’m sorry for you that there weren’t enough people sharing your point of view to swing the vote in the way that you wanted. Democracy can be a real bummer when more people vote the other way.

But then imagine, if you will, that the Remain vote had won 52-48 (or whatever). If more people had voted to keep the UK in the EU. Imagine then that the UK Government had ignored that majority and gone ahead with Brexit anyway.

Pandemonium! And rightly so!

Having asked the question and got the answer, how could the powers that be drive their fat political steam roller over the wishes of the British people?

And yet that’s exactly what you’re demanding must happen, simply because the result didn’t go your way. Simply because “the ‘great’ British public” chose to wake up that day and spoke their mind.

No. It’s entirely reasonable that the Government do what the majority of the public demand. Whether you like the decision or the Government or not.

But I find this idea that your side holds some sort of intellectual or moral high ground over the other simply because the viewpoints don’t agree is rather pompous and actually counterproductive. Some people argue that it’s one factor as to why Trump won the US election.

But to be honest, for me, it’s less about the collective effect of these sorts of protest (which has been negligible anyway) and more about me finding out a bit more about people I know on Facebook. And that’s no bad thing either.

Never a dull moment

Just another week in the mad world of South African news.

Triggering just another ANC media release. Except, this one includes this line:

The ANC will leave it to psychoanalysts and scholars of art to debate Mabulu’s narcissistic obsession with the phallus and human genitalia in general.

No matter how crazy you think Western politics has become recently, they are still some distance from matching this sort of banter.

Protest

Bit of a weird one, this. Weird because I’m writing something about a very fluid situation and I’m writing it four days ago*. So it might not make any sense by the time you read it. Hell, it might not make any sense by the time I’ve written it. I’m struggling already and we’re only 50-odd words in.

Today is supposed to be a day of national protest in South Africa. Well, as I’m writing this (four days ago), it is. It’s also a normal day of work (except it obviously won’t be) and right now no-one seems to know what to expect, save maybe for the Presidency and chums ignoring whatever protests do occur.

The thing is, South Africa is such a diverse and divided nation that any coherent mass protest action is terribly difficult to organise. While individual political parties and organisations can raise their own demos, no-one has really managed to successfully mobilise across all racial, political and social classes. And that’s why JZ and friends have happily got away with it all so far. It’s also why things need to change if today’s action is to have any effect.

Look, there’s enough support for the protest, but it’s completely fragmented. Already, as I am writing this (four days ago, remember) people – supposedly on the ‘same side’ – are questioning the basis for people’s anger, arguing and fighting about the legitimacy of some protesters with superb logic like: “if you didn’t protest against (a) then you can’t protest against (b)”. Because obviously there are rules for being allowed to express your viewpoint on any given subject.

It’s a phat, public mess and Zuma must be loving every minute of it.

Obviously, people need to look past their individual grievances and try to find common ground if this is to have any chance of working. And I do recognise that that is much easier to say than to do.

I believe that there are many reasons for getting rid of this rotten, corrupt regime. Whatever yours is, today is a day – even more than any other – when you need to recognise and respect that others may have their own reasons too.

 

* All will become clear on this bit tomorrow. 

Er, Julius…

As Julius Malema heads to the Constitutional Court to ask them to impeach Jacob Zuma, and tells us:

 

We rack our brains to try and remember who the “They” that did the choosing actually were… [link]

 

Or:

The words there of one… er… Julius Malema.

 

Ja. Things change, fair enough. And it’s all very well trying to remove the President now.
Equally, it’s all very well to say that it was a mistake for the ANC to promote and elect him in the first place.

But to pretend that you weren’t involved… No, Julius. That stinks.

Evening politics

We spent an evening with Denis Goldberg and Christo Brand yesterday.
Who they? Well, Goldberg was one of the guys sentenced in the Rivonia Trial in 1964 alongside Nelson Mandela and eight others, and Brand was the prison officer charged with looking after Mandela on Robben Island and in Pollsmoor Prison.

Their memories and stories of Apartheid from different sides were compelling, and it was strangely disturbing that Goldberg, as a commander in Umkhonto we Sizwe, would likely have considered Brand a legitimate target for assassination back in the day. But there was none of that last night.

Brand’s memories – while very interesting – were solely of his time Mandela (and if you’re not going to click through on the link above, then I should perhaps mention that they became good friends, despite their circumstances), with limited extra insight into “The Man”.

Thus, Goldberg was the star of the show, telling us of his childhood influences, his communist parents and the freedom fighters in Europe in World War II, of his inception into the MK, detailing the trial and his time in prison. He also accentuated the leadership qualities of Mandela, but reminded us that the ANC’s struggle against Apartheid was a joint effort and that Mandela’s greatest strength was recognising that many people had a part to play.
Despite being 83, he has an incredibly sharp mind and very dry sense of humour. His tales were factual, but obviously deeply personal too. It was a privilege to hear him speak.

When the opportunity for questions came, they were more on the politics of today than back then – he’d spoken of the past. He came down hard on Zuma and his lying and corruption, but reminded us how much the ANC and South Africa had achieved in the last 23 years, “although they could have done better”. He took the fact that the ANC – his ANC – might not get a majority in the 2019 elections as a triumph that the democracy that they had fought for was working. He warned the audience not to moan about the “polarisation and lack of dialogue” in recent global politics, but rather to become active and do something about it.

I wanted to ask lots. Questions about when or if he felt that terrorism was ever justifiable (especially given the events just a couple of hours earlier in London), about whether he felt that children should necessarily follow their parents’ political views (he did), after all, surely:

Thou shalt choose a political party based on their policies, as opposed to just going with who your family’s always supported; they are not a football team. [link]

Questions about whether he saw that the “collaborative leadership” he had described in Mandela’s ANC anywhere else in the world, and who – if anyone – he saw demonstrating good leadership in South Africa.
And then – given that he had declared himself “left of everyone in the room”, and given that we were all still tiptoeing around the eggshells of the thorny Israeli elephant in the room – maybe a slightly tongue in cheek question about what had gone wrong in Venezuela. Why would he continue to follow and promote a system that clearly has failed given every opportunity to succeed in its purest form?
I’m not quite sure how that would have gone down.

There simply wasn’t the time. Next time. Maybe.
But see here, the thing is, Goldberg is 83 and is one of just three of the Rivonia trialists still with us (Ahmed Kathrada (87) and Andrew Mlangeni (91) being the other two). There might not be a next time.

I learned a lot of things last night, but maybe that’s another important lesson to take home: act while you still can.