Sound values under siege
SOME of South Africa's actors on the political stage resemble Frank Lucas, a thug in the movie American Gangster.
Lucas (played by Denzel Washington) is a philanthropist and a religious man of sorts. He takes his mother and wife to church every Sunday. He donates food parcels to the poor.
A charismatic figure, Lucas enjoys a lavish lifestyle, stays in an expensive mansion and has a chauffeur.
He makes money as a drug dealer, monopolising a huge drug market in the US - far smarter than Sheryl Cwele.
Drugs are destroying the youth of his country. But that's the least of his concerns. For him the important thing is to strike deals with corrupt cops and army commanders to import drug supplies through the US military.
The more his illicit business grows, the more he goes to church and the more he donates to the poor. And, of course, the more he bribes cops.
All this until an unbribable cop - a rare species - appears to save the state security apparatus, the youth and the whole country by busting Lucas's sophisticated scheme.
Based on a real-life story, the movie says something about those who exercise power in society - public and private. If you want to wreak havoc for personal gain, do so in pretentiously nice ways; create a legitimate public image of a caring giver.
You need a façade. Undeserved benefits and legitimate ones have a common necessity: a semblance of moral justification. Legitimacy is an important ingredient.
Some thugs turn to murder as a weapon against those who threaten to expose their hypocrisy and stand in their way to expand the scope of private gain.
It is important for thugs to gain and sustain legitimacy in the eyes of unsuspecting citizens whose children are victims of their schemes. Some thugs turn churches into sanctuaries.
South Africa's political situation has become almost similar to the American Gangster movie.
The targets in the case of South Africa are the sound values espoused in the Constitution.
It would, of course, be funny were it fictional. Unfortunately it's real; some political leaders have become gangsters, dressed in suits, professing loyalty to our beautiful country in order to gain public legitimacy.
But the real intention of the political actors is to spray as much poison as they can, trampling on sound constitutional values for personal gain.
You only have to listen to the rhetoric to understand the desperation to gain public credibility and legitimacy.
If this country were run on the basis of sweet words and flowery commitments, it would be the Garden of Eden.
Listen to the rhetoric on "the fight" against corruption. The sun hardly sets before we hear commitment from our leaders to fight corruption.
But look at what some of them do for private gain.
Read the speeches churned out daily. You will be convinced we have visionaries in our land.
But a snap survey of what they do in practice tells a different story.
Listen to the promises about "scaling up" delivery, "heightening implementation" and other clichés, then you would think our leaders really mean business.
But how they actually exercise public power is a totally different matter. When they say they are scaling up delivery, they are actually talking about delivering public resources to themselves.
When they talk about "heightening implementation", they are referring to fast-tracking the looting project.
Seeing that such false promises are hard to sustain, the desperate actors turn to the graves of political ancestors.
The grave of Oliver Tambo is like a dance floor in a crowded nightclub. There is a stampede.
If you have no sense of history, you would wonder why Tambo's legacy is associated with so much thuggery. Everyone is supposedly the rightful heir to his legacy.
You will also question why there is such a fight over him. The answer is simple: it's the battle for undeserved legitimacy.
The greater the crisis of legitimacy faced by the political actors, the greater there is an emphasis - rhetorically - about their supposedly honourable conduct.
It's almost as if they are trying in vain to convince themselves. Tambo was well-known for his tenacity in keeping a banned and fragmented ANC together in exile.
He was known for his selflessness and commitment to the struggle to attain the constitutional democracy we have today.
Tambo's attributes are attractive to the graveyard dancers, not for the purposes of emulating them, but to disguise the real intentions.
In his grave Tambo - and what he stood for - is under siege from those working tirelessly to create a Gangster Republic.
Unfortunately, he won't wake up to re-launch a new but necessary struggle against the new enemy that is destroying his organisation.
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